Those of us in this trade know that pro singers always seek help and training to help them sound their best, particularly in preparation for recording and in the studio. Your final vocal lives forever on that record! Best to be prepared like a pro with these…

5 Secrets Record Labels Use to Get Powerful Chart-Topping Vocals On Hit Records

1. Hire a Pro Vocal Coach

Many times throughout my career I get a call from a record label wanting me to get their artist’s voice in good shape for their record or to fix a problem that pops up. Those of us in the trade know that pro singers always seek help and training to help them sound their best, particularly in preparation for recording and in the studio.

I always recommend training your voice 3-6-9 months prior to recording an album whenever possible to give as much time to strengthen the voice. Even 1-2 months makes a difference, but when you can get ahead of it, miracles can happen :). Your final vocal lives forever on that record! Best to be prepared.

2. The Right Microphone: Large Diaphragm Microphone

There are three main types of microphones used in recording: dynamic microphones, condenser microphones, and ribbon microphones. Dynamic microphones will be the most familiar model to most music fans. They’re the vocal mics you see at the front of the stage at most rock concerts. Condenser microphones are most used in the studio.

Most vocalists on hit records sing over large diaphragm microphones such as a Neumann U87, Telefunken, Shure, Rode and others.

What microphones were used on famous songs?

  • “Superstition” – Electro Voice RE20.
  • “I’m Yours” – Telefunken ELA M 251.
  • “Thriller” – Shure SM7.
  • “Rolling in the Deep” – Rode Classic.
  • “Imagine” – Neumann U87.
  • “Hey Jude” – Neumann U67.
  • “Imagine” – AKG C12.
  • “Every Breath You Take” – AKG c414.

What microphones do your favorite singers use:

  • Billie Eilish: Neumann TLM 103
  • Drake: Neumann TLM 103
  • H.E.R.: Shure SM58-LC
  • Ariana Grande: Telefunken U47
  • Eminem: Sony C800
  • Lady Gaga: Shure Beta 54
  • Leon Bridges Neumann U 67
  • Adele: Sennheiser’s flagship Digital 9000 system microphones

Neumann U87: It is said that few would bother to debate that there was any other microphone that had been used more often, or had featured on as many hit records.

3. Hire a Chart-topping Record Producer

The choice of record producer on an artist’s record is an important choice. Production can make or break the success of that record. Keep in mind that even if you are signed, no one will care more than you about your producer choice. Be sure to be vocal about it if you are not satisfied.

A common mistake artists make is thinking that the producer will read their mind, or leaving creative decisions too much up to them. Be sure to also be vocal about what you like and don’t like. Your opinions are extremely important in the process of production. That said, don’t overreach and be a back seat driver either! Your producer should feel like a partner in the making of your record. If they are intimidating, they are not the best choice. Choosing the right person who can create the sound you are looking for is critical. We have a label services company where we vet our producers and love to match the right producer to the artist. Makes a world of difference. For more information visit https://ccvm.co.

4. Half-inch Tape

One of the best kept secrets in the industry, is the process of running the final mix through half-inch tape (the real machine) which makes the instruments and the vocal sound like velvet. I used that technique for my Circle of Fire album and was blown away at how much it warmed up the highs and the power it gave the vocal. There are plugins that can accomplish a comparable sound, but I’m a die hard fan of the real thing. Digital tends to be a colder signal. Running digital through analog is the perfect mix!

5. Vocal Arranger (in the studio)

Record labels have long used vocal arrangers in the recording studio to help the vocalist bring their very best vocal to the record. Most artists have never heard of vocal arranging. I never had either until many years into my career. A vocal arranger helps develop the right vocal arrangement for the singer and the genre, pulling out the emotion and expression in the song vocally. Building a strong dynamic vocal arrangement is key to a great recording.

Come join me and 2 vocal arrangers from my team show how we build arrangements and work with the vocalist to get a great vocal recording. Or come work with our team of vocal arrangers and pro coaches – we’d LOVE to help you on your next project!


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