How much should you experiment when recording vocals in the studio?
Prepare carefully for the "must have" and experiment with the rest.
It's not "black or white".
There are several factors that can influence the answer.
1. WHAT IS THE GENRE?
Some genres are meant to be more "produced" which means controlled or optimized than the others, right?
For example if you are recording mainstream-radio-pop you possibly want to attract the listener ASAP
so you need to develop a strong hook right at the beginning of the song, you need to build very straightforward,
clear and possibly simple chorus. The goal is to get right into listener's head and never leave it, righ?
You want to achieve the state when listener sings with you from the 2nd chorus.
For this kind of production you need to be 100% prepared for the vocals recording and there is usually not much space for experimenting.
On the other hand, if you are recording a blues-rock song there could be more space for experimenting,
not every verse or even the chorus has to be exactly the same and the melodies dont need to be as clear, simple and produced.
For some genres a bit of experimenting and improvisation can even be a nice welcome.
Some bands are even writing lyrics during the first couple of takes recordings and being inspired by the moment when the recording process has just started.
2. PAYING FOR A PRODUCER?
If you decided to hire a producer to work with you on the song and to coach you during recording session(s),
then my strong recommendation is to make at least 1 round of test-recording at home and send a (amateur) record to the producer before you enter the studio.
The record can be done on a cellphone, the quality of sound does not matter at this stage.
There can be a ton of basic improvements done remotely before recording session(s) start and it can save enormous amount of time and money.
The producer will write down some basic notes and the singer can improve and prepare for the recording session.
When the recording session starts, there can be a lot of space for experimenting and improvisation, search for alternative melodies or backing vocal lines.
The producer doesn't need to fix the basic problems, the vocals already work well for the song.
You both can concentrate on building even better vocal lines without the need for correcting basic stuff.
This means that preparation before the vocals recording session is the key for bigger space for experimenting.
Well, for different genres the preparation can mean different tasks.
And always start with the "must have" important things so you and the producer are happy with all the basic stuff and then the experimental part can begin while everything important for the song is already done.
For experimenting you need to feel safe, right?
3. DOES THE SONG REALLY NEED IT?
Less is more or more is more?
That's the question here.
It's a bit about the philosophy of the song, the goal of the song, the message of the song and for who the song is being recorded.
Usually I meet with the singers that are very obsessed by more is more.
Every song needs to have like 4 or 8 main vocal tracks layered.
Every song needs harmonic backing vocals.
Every song needs all the doubling and harmonic backing tracks in every part of the song.
The quantity over quality, right?
The more tracks are there, the less intimity is there.
The more tracks are there, the less micro-emotions are there (no easter egg in the song?).
The more tracks are there, the less micro-dynamics are there.
The more track are there from start to finish, the less gradation and macro-dynamics are there.
But this can be the goal of the song, so it really depends on the song nad the philosophy.
Some genres don't need any micro-dynamics or intimity.
For some songs more is more, definitely.
But you need to think about it.
And you need to know why you are doing it that way.
Why the song need it?
And is the answer aligned with the goal of the song?
Or some singers are obsessed by over-melodic vocal lines.
They are melodizing the melody so much that it's not a melody at all, its overwhelmed and not listenable.
Still trying to not be on 1 note for too long.
Every long note needs to be melodized.
It's usually very cheasy.
Because more notes don't mean better melody.
If the melody is boring, more notes at the end of the phrase will not fix that.
Re-writing the melody is better way to get more melodic vocal line.
I rather like the less is more approach, because it forces me to write better melodies.
How much and how are you usually preparing for the vocals recording session?
How muchdo you experiment when recording vocals in the studio?
Do you create only what the song needs?
Or do you know about another big factors that influence this?
May the muse be with You!