There are two distinctly different sides to New York-based producer/DJ Matthew Dear: his lengthy excursions into DJ-friendly techno (most commonly heard under his Audion guise) and his eponymous pop-oriented side, with which he's explored playing as a live three-piece with his Big Hands band, and has crafted two critically acclaimed full-lengths. If there's one major element that sets these sides apart, though, it's singing. Dear uses more of his voice than ever before on the just-released Black City, so who better than the illustrious Ghostly/Spectral co-founder to give us the lowdown on how to get the most out of vocal recordings? Here are a few tips from the techno-pop singer-songwriter himself.
1. Consider your location
I've recorded vocals with a microphone in an oven, in the corner of brick walls, shower stalls, and on the street. When you change the environmental factors and wave patterns coming into the mic, you're rewarded with all sorts of uncontrollable benefits.
2. Make some physical changes
Stretch your neck back and sing upside down into the mic. Record the same verse in the morning and at night and notice the difference a day of living will have on your voice. Sing a couple of takes through clenched teeth, or after you drink a cup of tea. Take a shot of whiskey and sing while sitting on your hands. All of this will change the result of what ends up in your song.
3. Layer your vocals
Now blend all of those various takes and positions onto one verse. You'll get an immense amount of depth. Play with the volume levels and panning. Sometimes I'll put a very guttural and almost inaudible groan under the regular vocals and get a strange result.
"Soil to Seed"
4. Use effects
Treat your voice. Chorus is always helpful, whether thick or thin. I like to use an AMS-DMX clone preset in the Eventide H8000 Ultra-Harmonizer, which slightly delays a panned pitch-shift on my voice. Subtle delays on the last word in a verse or only on certain frequencies can also add a lot of dimension.
5. Pen your lyrics creatively
Write cryptic lines that you can't even figure out. Draw from the depths of your soul and write from the core. Confuse yourself. Listen to your own music for the answers you want to find. Give people something they'll have to listen to again and again. Find your own methods that work for your voice and singing style. Everyone has their own pocket. Find it, and you'll be happy with the results. Others will be as well.