Session singers are professional musicians who can get the job done with minimal takes, ideally. However, there are ways to make their job easier, which will in turn make your project easier and make the end result better. Here are some simple tips to make sure your session singers know what you need, right away!
What Session Singers Need to Know
Whenever I’m hired onto a project, I of course want to give it my all and do a great job. I assume we all do, because this is our job and also we want you to be happy. However, there are times when we might interpret the song differently than you envisioned. To avoid this, here are some tips before we start the project. If you’ve already started and it’s derailed, you can help us get back on track with these tips.
1). Provide a Reference Artist
This is SO HELPFUL and I really can’t stress enough how much we appreciate it. I recently did a project where I was not given a reference artist, but I went ahead and sang it in the way I thought would work. The client wasn’t happy, so I asked for a reference artist (I should have done this at the beginning, my bad). The client’s artist was WAY different from what I thought would fit the song, but knowing that helped me go back and deliver what the client wanted. In the end, he was happy and my performance was exactly what he wanted, which makes me happy.
2). Get Even More Specific with the Reference Artist
All artists have different styles they sing in. Let’s say you want a Christina Aguilera impression. Do you want the growl she does? Should I do the super loud slide notes? Do you want her softer falsetto? All of the runs? Feel free to get even more specific. You can even reference specific spots in songs. Anything that helps us deliver the song the way you want it! Christina is a great reference for me since I took her whole singing course, but any artist is fine! We can just look them up on YouTube.
Note: You don’t HAVE to get this specific, especially if you’re not sure. If you *are* sure though, this is helpful info.
3). Coach Us Thoroughly
Don’t be afraid to give us too much information. I’ve had clients give me an entire written page of instructions, videos, audio files, all explaining in great detail what they need. They always apologize for giving “too much information.” I don’t mind it! If you know that specifically what you need, I appreciate you giving it to me.
Again, if you’re not quite sure what you need, that’s fine to let us know as well. It’s helpful when clients say “make it your own,” because otherwise I’m not sure if you want me to follow your demo exactly.
4). Provide Helpful Feedback
“This isn’t right” is not helpful. We can’t possibly make corrections based on that. Where, exactly (noting the minute and second mark) do you need changes? What, exactly, needs to be changed?
Hopefully, this won’t be necessary if you’ve already given us a ton of info up front. However, sometimes we won’t do something quite the way you imagined it. Just let us know! But let us know specifically.
5). Tips for Harmonies
I’m often hired to sing backups for someone who already has a lead. I could write a whole separate post on harmonies (actually, I probably will). Here are a few quick tips for great harmonies:
- Specify what octave you want them in (if you already know or care)
- If you know what notes you need and where, feel free to provide a reference track
- Let us know if you want anything specific, or if you want us to do our own thing
I’m often told to “do my own thing” and then when they hear it, they suddenly want something specific. This is totally fine if you didn’t know you wanted it until you heard it, but I’m not a mind reader! If you already know what you want up front, please tell me!
6). Specify the Deliverables
This may not apply if your singer doesn’t record themself, but I record my own takes so I need to know what you need. If you don’t know or care, that’s totally fine. I have a standard I use if I don’t know. If you want to learn, here is an article on it. You don’t need to specify if you don’t care though!
I had a client once tell me, months after the song was complete, that I didn’t send the files in the format they wanted. I mean…what can I do at that point? I’m happy to send whatever you like, just let me know when I send it!
7). Other helpful Info
The BPM of the song and the key are always helpful. Honestly, the TL;DR of this post is “let us know absolutely everything possible.” Deadlines, inspiration, goals, etc, it’s all helpful!
I really want to stress though, if you don’t know some of these, that’s totally fine and don’t feel bad about it. If you DO know them, it’s always helpful!