The technical dimension to vocal production is important, but the human dimension is even more so.
Whenever I get asked about vocal production and my process, I am often met with questions about how I use compression, my “favourite microphone”, and various other technical aspects. I suspect that producers and aspiring engineers are asking these questions because they describe the elements of recording that can be reduced to a straightforward choice, or problems that can be ‘solved’ by buying something. However, one of the most crucial parts of vocal production — and any recording session for that matter — is reading the room, then navigating the unspoken boundaries that you identify in order to build trust with the artist. This ability to read the room involves picking up on non‑verbal cues, knowing when to contribute to conversation, and being adept at responding to people’s micro‑reactions, probably before anyone in your session even recognises they are reacting.
Every vocal production session is about etiquette, creating connections, and maintaining a safe space for an artist to fully immerse themself in their track. These concepts, unfortunately, are rarely taught. These habits are learned. At entry level, we are used to being the observers in sessions, always wanting to see what pieces of gear our favourite engineers are using, what their settings are, and how they address the room. But once we are part of someone’s process and are responsible for capturing the sound of their record, we are no longer observers. We become preservationists.