I’m a much better singer in my head than in actuality. Most of us are. I guess I’m beyond being a shower singer, but not too far beyond it. And working with the people that I have the chance to work with nearly every day is an experience that would make just about anyone who can carry a tune clam up and keep silent.
I guess you might say I have the passion for singing and the ability to carry a song as an actor, but just don’t have the instrument. Also I don’t exercise my voice on a daily level.
So I have such a deep respect for anyone who can sing consistently on pitch, with great rhythm, emotion and control. Also the ability to control one’s vibrato is a mystery to me. My studio singer friends can sing with a straight tone, a wide vibrato, a narrow one (or fast vibrato) or a note that starts with a straight tone and emerges into the vibrato of choice.
They can also match vibratos when singing together. They have that kind of control over their instruments.
They are also, most importantly great blenders. Their voices are gorgeous individually, but when they sing in a group of two and up they know how to create a sound so that none of them stick out above the rest and are able to sacrifice their individuality for that of a group sound whether it be R&B, pop, Rock or classical.
One particular vocalist that I work with all the time, Margaret Dorn, is known as “the glue”. She makes any group sound better because she is able to glue them together with her own voice into a unified sound.
Not all Studio Singers are great sight-readers. Some don’t read at all, but have such amazing ears for harmonies that they can either make up the appropriate one on the spot or learn it from the vocal arranger immediately upon first or second hearing.
The cream of the crop are all vocalists who are fast as lightening at learning their parts, amalgamating them then instantly into a sound and then double tracking, triple tracking and sometimes repeating the same homogenized performance again and again as they build up a choir of sound. They can also switch parts instantly in the vocal booth enabling the choir sound to sound like more people. They all have more than 3 octave ranges and are usually proficient in all octaves.
These are people at the top of their craft – often the people that add gloriously to a star’s sound and blending into that particular lead voice. Every star has their favorite back-up singers and the best of the best simply work with the best of the stars because they are the most versatile and have the ability to create the sound of choice. They are also usually smashing looking people who can instantly fall into the right look and feel in a performance.
They are also on time. Unfortunately, about half the singers in NYC I can’t work with because they can’t seem to make it to the studio on time, so I simply go with the pros – the ones who are dependable, who show up on time, sing beautifully, work hard, don’t make the kinds of mistakes that drag a session down and bring with them the proper joy of singing and professional vibe that makes them a pleasure to work with.
After all, they’re there to make music. It ain’t just about how good your voice is; it’s about the inspiration that you bring to the music. If you bring technically proficient abilities and great inspiration to the sessions, you get hired a lot. If you get hired a lot, you get known as one of the cream of the crop and then you gain the necessary experience over time to move into the higher circles of music and work with the best.
This past weekend I had yet another rich opportunity to work with this special group of people as we built a 50-voice gospel choir with 6 people – 3 men and 3 women.
We stacked part after part on top of one another repeating and changing parts to create a choral sound of many people. We did a 6:45 in length opus from my new CD repeating each part six times or more building up track after track of vocal harmonies. They learned a very difficult vocal chart arranged by superb vocal arranger Margaret Dorn and recorded and multi-tracked their voices all in a four-hour session working non-stop, recording the song section by section.
Only one time in the course of probably hundreds of takes did I have to stop them and re-do a take because there was a pitch problem. Once they had their individual parts down, they sang them in perfect pitch every time only re-taking the take to get the rhythms right, to get the nuances right, to give Margaret and I what we wanted to hear.
I watched and listened to my song come alive and soar. They arrived on time, finished on time and absolutely thrilled me with their sound, abilities as vocalists and brought all their own expertise to the session in terms of their own creativity. Often one of them would make subtle suggestions of how to sing a word to make it better – slide it, crescendo it, grease it, funk it up. They brought great attitude and style to the song.
It was a gospel song that we recorded so they all brought their own impressions of “church” to the session and added those colors to the music. Simply put, they brought their passion for singing into my studio and gave me my money’s worth.
And they were not cheap! The sessions cost me a bundle, but they were worth every penny because they came with their deep professional experience and gave of their talents freely above and beyond the call of duty.
I’ll hock my soul to have them back again. Those four-hour sessions have stayed with me for days – they were that engrossing, that productive.
And, best of all, I have it all recorded in 24 bit pristine digital fidelity.
I can’t wait for each of you dear readers to hear their work. Look for this album, Goin’ Home, to hit the street runnin’ sometime this late spring. In the meantime I’ll be savin’ my pennies to get ‘em all in here again soon to record the next song.
For more inspiring music you can download
and information about Peter Link, please visit Watchfire Music.