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Vocal Producer

Vocal Producer in the Recording Studio - What's That?
Does it have a Meaning and Significance Conveyed in the English Language, or Should I Perhaps Communicate in 'Avatarian'?

Everybody knows now that after the premier of the movie 'Avatar', people started to learn what's called now 'Avatarian' language.

If you ask me, they've spoken Avatarian for quite a while now and even much before the movie was premiered. I certainly have difficulties to understand some of my potential clients and, seems to be, our languages are not corresponding with each other, since I'm still speaking pure English, in a better understanding of that word.

Similarly, when I'm still speaking English, and trying to plead to the music industry professionals, music producers included, they think that I speak Avatarian, whatever that's supposed to mean. They're simply unable to understand why they would need a vocal specialist/vocal expert/vocal producer for God's sake, in the studio with them. Meanwhile, some of those producers who never sang a note themselves ever before, are trying to give instructions to the vocalists how to produce the certain sounds to their satisfaction.

Obviously, if we're talking about Celine Dion or Peabo Bryson, then granted, they just needed the direction from their producers, as they were extremely vocally sound and did not require extra vocal care. But that's the exception of the rule, especially if we're talking about up and coming artists. Those music producers, at best, know what they want to hear, but in the majority of cases, they do not know how to pull out the best performance from the vocalist of almost any calibre.

That's where I come in and try to explain that I can do exactly that, and while obeying the instructions given to me and the artist by the producer, nevertheless, produce exactly what was asked of both of us. It sounds very simple, but not easy at all. Not easy, because the majority of those producers are getting into competitions with me playing the role of the vocal producer - instead of being thankful for a very much so needed skill in the recording studio, they're simply being ignorant.

All of this also reminds me of a television show Rockstar Supernova in 2006. Needless to say that my most talented student Lukas Rossi has won this competition with the flying colours and put to shame the bass player Jason Newsted of Metallica, who in some similar to Avatarian language then, was trying to explain to Lukas how to release his 'gift' while dropping his jaw down to his knees to look and sound like a 'pregnant ballerina'. Lukas, to his credit, was very much so resistant to those comments, as he knew better than that. His argument back to all of them involved in the production was, 'I've been singing for over fifteen years now and never lost my voice'. The hired vocal coach and Jason Newsted were insisting that Lukas would 'open his throat' to produce what they were looking for. All of those comments were completely against and irrelevant to all of what Lukas knew by that point and what made him a successful artist in the first place.

I could compare all of this to the precedent of me coming up to Tommy Lee, the greatest drummer of all times, and telling him to lift his drum stick in a certain way while myself never having played the drums in my entire existence. How valid would my comments be and what expertise would I base my comments on?

Meanwhile, back to Rockstar Supernova television show, quite often, before the beginning of the show, there were scrolls showing up with the saying, 'Lukas knows some kind of unknown vocal technique. Let's find out what it is'. They found out alright, and to their credit still chose the best of the best, Lukas Rossi.

However, on a positive note, there are engineers and producers that are still in existence who embrace exactly that - the coaching, consulting, expertise and production in the studio during the vocal session.

I've been working in Canada in numerous studios for over 30 years now. From one very prominent engineer/producer, I've learned that in the old style console, there is a magic button - fader - which could do wonders, especially if it's done manually, hands on console. That's what the old school producers and engineers call 'Classic Mix' or 'Vocal Ride'. Almost three decades ago, I was offered to 'play' with that button and now I think I mastered it as good as nowadays' population mastered the Avatarian language (lol).

Just recently I sent my production to one of the prominent producers in UK, who, seems to be, has a much more open mind and more than adequate expertise. The version with no rides was vastly different from the version with rides and he acknowledged that. Yes, the fader button could be mistaken for the volume button, but not only volume and dynamics could be achieved while subtly and with care and knowledge moving that button along the vocal lines.

Working with that magic button creates dynamics, inflections, emphasis, separation of the syllables and other benefits, which come out and become apparent once I am done with it. Since I do it manually (hands on the console) you can literally hear and sense my feel on top of the artist's performance.

The UK producer added after listening to the demo sent to him of my up and coming artist who he will be working with down the road. 'Riding the vocal is a great technique as it usually means you can get away with less compression and, like you say, bring out particular details of the performance.'

That said it all, pretty much, and confirmed my belief, one more time again, of my usefulness in the studio above and beyond producing the sound and extracting the best possible and authentic vocal performance out of the artist.