Episode 054 - 8 Vocal Tips for Better Performances



  • The August Edition of the HSS Song Contest is over with Mark George coming out on top as the winner. Although it was incredibly hard to choose a winner, Mark’s song,  “The Other Side of Sound” was picked due to its arrangement, it’s clarity and balance, as well as the interest it generated even as an instrumental piece. You can hear the song and listen to my comments on it here: (https://youtu.be/AN9DeEWihcw?t=3988)


  • The September Edition of the HSS Song Contest is on! 


Here are the guidelines for the contest.

  • Original non-copyrighted work 
  • No lewd lyrics or vulgarity 
  • One submission per entrant 
  • File submission in WAV or MP3 
  • Deadline September 25th 

Upload your songs here: http://bit.ly/September-Submission

  •  Why would you want to upload your song? 

      The main purpose I started the song contest was to inspire musicians to release more music and to generate interest in others music, while providing insight and constructive dialogue from a professional standpoint on how to improve the song submitted.

     Now, a few months into the HSS Song Contest routine, this segment of the channel has taken on a life of its own! The community it has created and the feedback that has been generated from within the community is amazing! There have been collaborations, friendships, and professional connections made as a result of the contest and so many have claimed that they are learning more and more every single time around.

      The song that is chosen as the winner receives a free mix/master of the winning entry from yours truly and the results are shared on the channel to help everyone benefit from knowing what went into it.    

From time to time I am asked to help out on a project or need some instrumentation for personal client work. While I can play a Bass, I am not a Bassist. That said, I am creating a list of Session Players that I can call on to work on projects. If you’d like the opportunity to work on some projects and collaborate with other like minded musicians. Sign up!


     Every guitarist knows that becoming a better player takes lots and lots of practice. Positive Grid’s “Spark” amplifier is a Bluetooth-connected practice amp/speaker packed with features including tons of onboard effects, a nice assortment of I/O ports, dual speakers, and a wealth of panel controls and presets. 

     It gets better: With the Spark’s free companion app, you can play along with tunes that you stream through the amp and have your mobile device display which chords to play as you go. Or, you can have the app lay down an accompanying drum and bass track for you to jam along to. The Spark mobile app (for Android and iOS) gives you access to a massive library of amp models and effects that let you emulate the sound you get from classic tube amps, acoustic amps, bass amps, and other types of amplifiers. You can also create customized effects using virtual pedals for Overdrive, Noise Gate, Delay, Modulation, and Reverb, or you can access Positive Grid’s BIAS-powered tone library that contains more than 10,000 amp and effects presets that let you mimic the guitar sounds of your favorite players such as Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and many others. 

     If you’re a guitarist and you’re looking for an affordable mobile rig to practice with at home, at work, or even on your commute, the Spark may be the solution you;re looking for..

-This months 3 FREE Plugins-

1. Temper

Temper is a modern digital distortion plugin featuring a rich saturation stage and a unique phase distortion. Use the variable saturation curve to add warmth and edge to your sound, and let the phase distortion bring character and clarity through your mix. Temper also features a simple resonant lowpass filter and a feedback path to drive the intensity of the tone. Watch the Temper Video demo here.

2. Alter/Ego

Alter/Ego is based on the award winning technology featured in chipspeech but instead of targeting Vintage voice technology, it focuses on more ‘modern’ (1990+) singing synthesis algorithms and research. It is specially tailored for musical needs – simply type in your lyrics, and then play on your MIDI keyboard. It’s a true synthesizer, the sound can be extensively modified for easy and expressive performances. 

3. Driftmaker

Driftmaker is a delay disintegration device that parses incoming audio, recalls certain parts and adds analog deterioration to the signal.



1. Consider Using Auto-Tune

The name “autotune” can have what some people would consider to be negative connotations. The artificial, robot-voice style that is popular in some genres is wildly unpopular with other people. But the truth is that modern auto tuning software is capable of far more subtle vocal correction than simply turning your voice into a robot. For a start, it’s variable, meaning you can apply a little or a lot. And then there’s micro pitch controls, formants and other smaller tweaks that can take individual notes or whole clips and pull them to where they need to be without sounding like they have been processed. Antares is at the forefront of these kinds of tools but there’s also Melodyne, and DAWs like Cubase (VariAudio) and Logic (Flex Pitch) have very powerful tools built-in. Used with care, they can rescue almost any vocal.

2. Warm Up

This is something you can do to help your performance at the source, regardless of any processing that may come later in the chain. Professional singers have all kinds of techniques and routines they use to keep their voices in shape and prepare before recording takes. You don’t necessarily have to go as far as copying them, but singing a few scales, regulating your breathing and making sure you are hydrated before starting will all help you to nail a better performance than if you just turn up and begin.

3. Generate Harmonies

You can bolster a vocal performance by adding harmonies, but you may not be confident in singing them yourself. The good news is that there are several ways to do it in software. Cakewalk is one DAW that has a tool for doing just this, and any tool or plug-in that lets you pitch shift audio without changing its speed (i.e. most DAWs these days) can be utilised to create harmonies on a new audio track. However, simply pitch shifting a clip to use as a harmony may not always sound great, and it’s better to get access to individual notes so you can truly control the way they interact with your main vocal melody. SynchroArts Revoice Pro 4 is another very powerful tool for working with the pitch and timing of vocals.

4. Use Dedicated Vocal Plug-Ins

Recording while monitoring through software insert effects is much less of a hassle these days, with computers powerful enough to operate at very low latency, or indeed interfaces with onboard DSP and direct monitoring available. But it’s usually advisable to record a vocal clean and then add processing afterwards so that it can be tweaked and edited in the most flexible way possible. Specialist tools like iZotope’s Nectar provide a multitude of controls tailored specially to vocals like breath control, saturation, de-essing and more. Waves also makes some excellent vocal processors and if you don’t want to spend too much, you can use your DAW’s bundled plugs in a chain to combine things like EQ, compression, de-essing and saturation into a ready-to-use preset to apply to your vocals.

5. Consider Software-Generated Accompaniment

If you’re not happy with your own performance it’s always an option to get someone else in to sing for you. But if that is not a possibility, you could look at software-generated backing or even lead vocals. Instruments like EastWest’s Symphonic Choirs, Hollywood Backup Singers, Voices of Soul and Voices of Opera use something called WordBuilder, a technology that lets you type in text and then has the instrument recreate it using its sample library. Yamaha’s Vocaloid is another “virtual singer” that lets you build up authentic sounding vocal parts from a large library, bypassing the need to sing for yourself.

6. Process More

Not necessarily just the kinds of processing that you would ordinarily do like adding compression and reverb, but consider more weird and wonderful options. A vocal that is perhaps lacking in body can be run through all kinds of effects to change the way it sounds including guitar fx, delays, lo-fi effects and much more. It’s true that this approach might not suit a pop single for example, but for many other genres of music it can help to blend a vocal into a track in interesting and unusual ways. Since plug-ins are all virtual, you can always experiment and try a few things, undoing them later if you decide down the line that they aren’t right.

7.  Learn Mic Technique

The way you interact with a microphone can have a big impact on the way a vocal is recorded. Obviously to begin with you’ll need a decent quality studio mic and a recording environment that’s as soundproofed as you can reasonably make it. If you find it necessary to move closer to the mic because your vocal projection isn’t so strong, you need to mitigate the proximity effect by making sure you have at least one pop shield, and possibly even two if you are very close to the mic. Some mics also have internal popshields, though every vocalist should really own an external one as well. It’s also vital to maintain a consistent distance from the mic while singing - around 6-8 inches is recommended but this will depend on the power of your voice. Moving around while singing will affect the recording level, so is to be avoided if at all possible.

8. Sing Like Nobody’s Watching 

For a less experienced vocalist, singing live into a mic, even in a studio, can make them self-conscious. It’s natural to be a little nervous but it can also affect the quality of a performance. You might find that clearing the room of people - the control room if you’re in a studio - can help with this. You may need to keep the engineer around to stop and start recording, but they could also set a loop around the track, activate recording and then you could try several takes in a row, all without anyone else around. 


Home Studio Simplified exists to simplify the complexities of the Home Studio and to help you make professional music in a less than professional space. We can Dream alone. We can Create alone. But Together we can achieve so much more.