How to Produce Vocals (Part 5)

Last week we took an insightful visit into bass production. At this point we know what to do with all of our instruments, so now we’ll start making our progression into vocal territory. There are a few simple techniques that will really help your songs to shine, so grab a pen and get ready to start taking some notes on how to produce vocals!


Motifing is something I talk about a lot. But what exactly is it? Motifing is keeping a pattern to your vocals both melodically and syllabically. An easy  example is in twinkle twinkle little star. Think of the line “Up above the sky so high”… it motifs perfectly with “Like a diamond in the sky”. It’s the same melody and same rhythmic pattern. The benefit of this is that your songs are more prone to get stuck in a listening audience’s head. Verses tend to mirror one another, as well as certain lines in the chorus. This way by the mid point in a song, listeners already know what to expect and are more likely to remember the tune. This is how you create an ear worm.

Feel the Emotion

When producing vocals, you’ll want to keep an ear out for raw emotion. Vocal cracks and quivers can actually add a huge dynamic to the vibe of a song. They show a side of human frailty that can hit listeners right in the feels. Always be on the listen-out for for vocal takes that have that extra “special sauce”.

Pay Attention To The Lyrics

When listening to vocals, you’ll want to pay specific attention to what the lines are actually saying. If the first and second lines of a verse are contradictory, ask yourself why. Was it done intentionally? Does it make sense in the context of a song? If not, help your artist to make sense of it. And remember to use a lot of imagery. Don’t just describe something as it is, think back to english class and use those similes/metaphors!

Vary the Dynamics

Remember to match the vocals with the music itself. At softer parts of the song, have the singer sing breathier. At more intense spots, ask them to sing through gritted teeth. This brings a lot to the song. Don’t forget to play around with different vocal speeds as well. If your verses are slow moving, try picking up and singing quicker lines on a pre-chorus. Adding that push and pull can bring some well needed tension into your music.

Background Check

Adding background vocals can really help your songs to pop. Background ooo’s and ah’s can lift a chorus. Lower harmonies can warm things up. Overdoing backgrounds can make songs sound very produced, but some bands are looking for that overly processed sound. Listen for what works with other bands in similar genres, and borrow ideas from different styles. Remember not to throw background vocals on intimate parts of songs, it can really take away from the raw emotion we spoke about earlier.

Next time you’re looking to track some vocals, you’ll want to think of all these things. You’ll be amazed at how some small changes will improve the overall quality of your final mixes. Which techniques are some of your favorites? What else are you listening for when tracking? Leave me a comment below and let me know!


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