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I've been singing and playing guitar and writing songs for years with neither fame nor many complaints, but when I started trying to record myself a couple of years ago I noticed how terrible my vocals are. I am pretty happy with the quality of the recording, but my singing is full of warbles, cracked notes, poor pitch, bad enunciation, and general suckiness.

It's a little bit off-topic, but does anyone have any tips for improving my singing? Should I just stick with the instrumentals or find someone else to sing? Is there anything I can change with my setup to foster good vocal performance? I noticed that standing while singing sometimes helps.

I am not trying to be Pavarotti or anything... Bob Dylan would be fine. I couldn't even sing "Silent Night" to my satisfaction (Here's a sample; I'm the tenor). I would like to be as happy with the vocals as I am with the instrumental parts.

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Sorry, but this is decidedly off-topic here. Wish I could help! –  BenV Dec 22 '10 at 23:58
    
Oh well, I thought it was worth a shot. Any ideas where to ask? –  Nathan Dec 23 '10 at 0:03
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Are you asking how to be a better singer, or how to record vocals in the studio that sound good despite not having vocal chops? These are very different questions. (Also, there's a Musical Practice and Performance proposal at Area 51, you might consider commiting to it.) –  neilfein Dec 23 '10 at 1:49
    
I am asking either question, really. I'm under the impression that I can sing tolerably, but when I record I notice so many problems I hate it. Is there anything I can do either technically or vocally to improve the result? Warmup tips? Multiple tracks? More cowbell? –  Nathan Dec 23 '10 at 1:55
    
I think if the answers are kept to how you can use recording and mixing techniques to make your bad singing sound better it's on topic for the site. –  Ian C. Dec 23 '10 at 15:05
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2 Answers 2

Melodyne is a bit of a miracle tool when it comes to fixing bad vocal tracks. The "essential" version is only ~$70 and can be used to stretch and smooth out warbly vocal lines in addition to the usual pitch correction stuff that auto-tuners do. The results are remarkably natural sounding even if you get a little heavy handed with it. It's only when you go to the extremes in pitch correction and stretching that you start to detect.

I remember using v1.0 on a track I recorded for a friend's wedding. It was going to be the song for their first dance. Her sing was, how to put it delicately, amateur. With Melodyne I was able to make it sound too good. I ended up just using on long, held notes to keep them mostly straight and on pitch. It was scary how easy it was to make her sound practiced, perfect, without losing her voice on the track.

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Being an amateur singer with limited range and tonal quality myself, I can recommend a few things for recording purposes:

  • Stand up for vocal takes. Don't point your chin down towards the ground. Have the mic so that your chin is straight or pointing ever so slightly upward.

  • Use a pop filter on the mic.

  • Assuming you're not trying to go for a whispered Elliott Smith style delivery, it sounds like some of your problems may be due to not pushing yourself enough. Warbles, poor pitch, and general suckiness could be alleviated by singing with more force, to help you hit notes and hold them longer with better quality. If I don't push it and really open up and sing, I sound like Tiny Tim when I go above Middle C, and not the one with the ukulele. (Note, I'm talking about really singing here, not pushing into a yelling style delivery)

  • In the mix, experiment with compression to even out the vocal track, and reverb to help smooth out the bumps and help the vocal fit better in the mix.

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