Vocal Hacks

By Cari Cole

Tried vocal arranging on your latest EP or release? Wait, vocal arranging? Not surprising if you haven’t heard of it (unless you’re a Cari Cole convert ;)). I hadn’t heard of it until I was in the business for quite awhile, and then realized I was one already (a vocal arranger that is) ;).

A vocal arranger decides how the artist will sing a song. It might be a line that the arranger thinks sounds better if the singer uses a straight tone in their voice, or a vibrato at the tail end. Maybe the note should be sung an octave higher, or add a breathy tone to the words. Add a riff here or there. All to bring out the singers voice and emotion more powerfully.

A great vocal arrangement basically designs the vocal, reveals the singer, generates bigger emotion, and overall, increases the impact and power of the song tenfold.

No record should ever be without arranged vocals, not if you want to really blow people away. And keep in mind, that a great vocal arranger —  like moi (blush) — won’t make you sound like anyone else, but a much better, and improved, you. Like a 100x better you.

I also get the question: “what is the difference between a vocal arranger and a vocal producer?”

Very little, but there are some distinctions. Typically, but not always, a vocal producer is someone who is a music producer who produces great vocals. It is a signature of theirs (not all producers are “vocal producers” ~ hence why a vocal arranger/producer matters even more on your project.)

Sometimes vocal coaches or arrangers call themselves a vocal producer. Whatever you call it, a vocal arranger, or a vocal producer, they are often the most important person on your record ~ for the vocalist. Because your vocal is the most important thing on your record. It’s what everyone hears above all else.

And a subpar vocal will kill even the best record.

Here’s a quick process to help you prepare for your next recording, finding a vocal arranger, and getting a bigger and better vocal than you ever would on your own. Do this right! Here are some of my favorite vocal hacks:

1. Sing a Song 50-100 Times.

Don’t just write the song and let it sit. You gotta work that puppy. Train it, improve it, give it a chance to reach its potential. Songs need to be worked into your voice just like any routine does. The more you work it, the easier (and better) it gets.

Tip: Record during this process. This gives you the opportunity to “hear yourself.” Once you listen back you can work out details like phrasing, the right key (use Transcribe to transpose keys ~ even a half step can make a huge difference in how you sound), work on perfecting your intervals and pitch, work out ad libs, as well as tweaking lyrics & melody to fine tune your song (it’s not done ‘til it’s just right.)

2. Hire a Great Vocal Arranger.

Sometimes your vocal coach can substitute for a professional arranger, BUT — if you really want to pull out all the stops and crush your vocals on your recording, hire a great vocal arranger. This is not a place to skimp. It’s better to spend more and get the best. Mediocrity won’t do the trick here.  

Tip: You can Google vocal arrangers — but if you’re looking for one of the best vocal arrangers in the world — look no further. Mama’s got you covered. I’ll cover all your bad habits (the stuff that makes you cringe), coax you outta your shell, dial up your signature sound, draw those big ol’ emotions outta you like you never imagined, and make you sound fierce as a lion! Rawr.

3. Pre-production Vocal Arranging Sessions.

I like doing vocal arranging pre-production sessions getting the singer ready ahead of time for the big day. It gives the singer an opportunity to work out all the kinks, get in the saddle right, and get comfortable. We fix any issues with pitch & pronunciation, tweak phrases to sit just right, build the dynamic arc, smooth out kinks and get you sounding 100x better than you ever have before ~ no joke. And no, you won’t lose the magic by preparing ahead of time ;). You’ll only gain it ~ guaranteed.

Sometimes these pre-production vocal arranging sessions are all the singer needs to prepare, and they don’t even need me at their session ‘cause they’re so happy with the results!

And it’s not just our opinion. Here’s what recording artist Robyn Cage said after our vocal arranging session:

“Recording vocals is always super personal.  There’s always that feeling of vulnerability, and nervous excitement — to tap into that memory and pull up those emotions so they are present in the music. One of the vocal coaches I work with is Cari Cole, in New York City. She’s also a vocal arranger. A vocal arranger goes through every single word, vowel, syllable, phrase and accent, until it’s as good as it can possibly be. But the amazing thing about this experience, is that it helped bring out the emotion. I thought I would be overthinking it, and it wouldn’t be organic anymore, but it was actually the exact opposite. It actually freed up the emotion in the song.”

4. Vocal Arranging Recording Sessions.

But if you’re the kind that wants white glove service, then having a vocal arranger at the studio with you is the way to go. It’s not cheap, but then making a killer record requires an investment. Why gamble with it? Remember, subpar vocals will kill a record’s chances. No doubt. Your vocal is the most important thing on the record. Don’t let it go undelivered.

If you’re interested in finding out what it takes to get Mama on your next record, click here to talk to Team Cole or email us at info@caricole.com. Keep in mind that we’re often booked up 4-6 mos ahead — so be sure to inquire ahead of time to lock in a schedule. Every once in a blue moon, we have a last minute opening too. Contact us to find out more.

For a less expensive DIY approach, join our Vocal Freedom Circle where you’ll learn all the insides of vocal arranging and improve your vocal skills tenfold along the way. VIP & Featured seats get vocal arranging “live” from Mama #priceless.

Stop Shredding Your
Voice & Take Control
of Your Vocal Health

Grab the Vocal Road Warrior 3-Part Series.

5 Truths About Making it Big...
that most record labels won’t tell you