Full Guide to Session Vocals

Contrary to what many regular listeners think when they hear gospel music that is recorded and mixed in a studio, many artists still use session vocalists for their projects. What does this mean? Sometimes musicians, bands - even songwriters or producers will hire these singers to help produce musical masterpieces in the recording studio.

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Whether it is background vocals, choral vocals, or even lead vocals, having a session vocalist is extremely important and benefits a full mix. Other than what we’ve mentioned, what are session vocals? How does one go about finding session vocalists? How are they recorded? Once session vocals are recorded, how does the mixing & mastering process work to incorporate their vocals into a complete mix?

 What Exactly Are Session Vocals?

As mentioned earlier, in a nutshell, session vocalists and singers are merely hired contract workers for the recording and production process. But in detail, there is a lot more to it than just singing into a microphone. Session vocalists are meant to not only lend their voice – some can utilize a special sound to their singing and be able to adapt to various musical styles. In the gospel music category, it’s important that session vocalists can bring a strong and soulful message to your production. Whether it is Southern gospel or classic R&B gospel, or even some more contemporary styles of today, a gospel session vocalist needs to be able to cover the genre with exemplary tones and harmonies and have a history in singing.

recording session vocals

It may be important to hire a session singer that has opened for familiar acts that your music is inspired by. You also want to make sure that they can incorporate all elements – some are primarily lead singers, and some are just background singers. There are even full choirs that can provide session singers.

How are Session Vocalists Hired?

There are many ways in which this is attained. In many cases, a recording artist or songwriter will hire someone to sing their song for them or appear as a featured artist. Other times, they’re hired by the recording producer or studio themselves. This is the way we operate here at VIVIDTEMPO. We hire a unique set of matching sounds to your desires so you can get the record-breaking hit-potential release that you’re looking for. Having this extra “OOMPH!” to your product can give your gospel recording that finishing touch, whether you’re on the big top or just a local artist.

What About Bands?

One thing to remember about session vocals is that it isn’t just limited to singers. We can touch on that topic another time but remember – even a full band can be hired that can also record background vocals while they’re playing. This is great if you’re a solo artist or a solo singer-songwriter.

drummer in a band

5 Benefits of Hiring a Session Vocalist

There are many reasons why you can benefit from having session vocals for your recording. Even the Beatles and other top names in the music industry hire session vocalists and musicians for some of their most famous records. While it may cost money, it saves you on the primary thing that many bands and songwriters don’t have – time.

working in the studio

1.  Shaving Time Off the Studio Price

Hiring a session singer is like hiring a contractor with a full team vs. building a home for your house by yourself. Even some of the most experienced musicians would take longer to get the recording, mixing, and mastering of a song done than if they hire a session vocalist.

save time off the studio price

This is because session vocalists are used to recording and performing in these fast-paced studio environments (and they do it well). You can even save money by lessening your studio time simply by spending a bit on having a session vocalist bring in their expertise.

2.  Giving The Labels What They Want to Hear

Another thing to remember about the music industry…

Labels and consumers want to hear what they’re familiar with.

know what you want to hear

That being said, by providing some familiar sounds to a recording, using session vocalists that have worked with major artists or productions can give people a certain sound that they’re used to – all while providing that polished sound that other major labels expect from a demo recording or EP recording.

In the older days of the music industry, it was nothing to simply record a demo yourself and send it in to a record label. These days, thanks to technological demands, producers and record labels want to hear that fully produced sound.

3.  They Can Play it By Ear Well

When you hire a session singer, there are things that you need to know. Most session vocalists can use their skills to create their melody along with yours. If you don’t have sheet music, some can punch some out quickly so they can follow the sound you want to the exact note, octave, time, and more. Gospel session singers can provide that soul your project needs to provide multiple sound levels – and they know when (and when not to) belt it out.

singer in the studio

4.  You Can Keep Full Copyrights of Your Song

By hiring a session singer, they have many contract policies to cater to the hiring musician or songwriter, but they also allow you to keep every bit of your copyrights. They know that this is your baby, and they want to feed it and nurture it. They get paid for their time. They may ask for credits on the thank you section or “featured” artist in the performer’s section of your song’s credits, but you get to keep the full copyright of your collaborated works and sell it to earn your profit.

Many gospel singers also know that things cost money; they are more than happy to help others and provide by just having their name out there. Helping someone to create their legacy by leaving their own is one of the most important things – and they love doing it.

5.  This Isn’t a Hustle for Session Vocalists – It’s a Career

Some musicians are merely performing as a side gig (such as tribute bands, singers, cover artists, etc.). By having session vocals in your full song, you hire a professional who takes the job extremely seriously. They take pride in their work, and while it may seem to some like they have a diva mentality – many of them have earned it by their hard work and appearances on major record productions.

How Does VIVID TEMPO’s Process Work?

When it comes to session vocals and musicians, our primary packages that include this feature are the Release Ready Package and Emerging Artist Package. These packages include additional features that our DIY Artist Package doesn’t come with by default. Music Production can be a lengthy process, but it is possible to get that polished sound without spending a fortune that you would at a “major label” studio. We try to fast-track it, so you get the high-quality service you deserve. Here’s a breakdown of how the process works.

At the VIVIDTEMPO studio, we use top-of-the-line hardware and software (Mac operating systems, Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Antelope Audio, Rupert Neve, AKG, Waves Audio plug-ins, to name a few) that industry leaders use to provide a full range of recording, editing, mixing, and mastering processes.

1.  Get Your Free Consult

Contact us to get your free consult and quote. This is where you will be able to discuss with me the best options for your recording needs, find out the best package, and find out what services you need. If you aren’t a gospel musician or artist, don’t fret! As long as your music is clean and fits within the boundaries of our studio policy, we can work with you – regardless of genre!

2.  Choose Your Package

Once you decide on your package, you can fill out our proposal contract after reading over it in detail, pay the deposit, and choose your payment plan. We can work with you to provide a payment plan option!

3.  The Discovery Process

We will collect any reference materials and “notes”, artist references, and more during the first few weeks. This will help us find the right sound, so you get what you’re looking for. We’ll create a basic concept of a song (usually with a piano track, simple synth elements, etc.) We can include an acapella (rough draft vocal track) in the concept if you have an acapella.

4.  Music and Background Vocals

The next step is where our session vocals come in. We’ll work on getting the song concept approved and building the remaining elements for your song. This includes session vocalists. If you aren’t providing your lead vocals, we’ll find a session singer for you. Constant updates keep you included in the “mix” to ensure that we’re holding your vision strong. Both of these packages also include basic mixing and mastering.

Our professional session vocals include hired singers that can provide the right melodies and harmonies your song will need. We can record two stacks per session for six background vocal tracks (all isolated).

If you choose the Emerging Artist Package, we’ll provide additional songwriting coaching with the studio and singer-songwriter Chevon Corlew-Coleman to help get your lyrics and arrangement release-ready. This package also includes four stacks (12 tracks total) of vocals and background vocals.

5.  Lead Vocal Production

If you are not hiring us to provide all lead vocals for your project, you will visit your local recording studio and record your lead vocals. If you can travel here, you may be able to record in our studio. You can then send us the exported vocal files (comped, of course). We’ll put them into our song sessions.

6.  Editing and Mixing (if Purchased)

We’ll do the track editing and song mixing during the final weeks, and if you decide to get the editing and mixing part of the package (this is entirely up to you). If you’re having a full EP or multiple songs, we’ll show you the first mix as a reference for all further songs as much as possible. This mix includes beats (or drums), guitars, bass tones, and overall mixing levels. Once it’s complete, you’ll receive a master full mix draft to review. We use some of the best industry-standard software (AutoTune Pro, Melodyne Studio, Revoice Pro, etc.)

7.  Revision Time

During the whole process, and especially towards the end phase, this is the time where revisions come in. You’ll often get a full mix, then spend about a week reviewing and gathering minor revision lead notes. Then Sam will add this revision request to his to-do list and get them available at the next revision calendar slot. It’s best to make a list of revisions and gather them as much as possible (such as “turn up lead guitar or vocals at xx:xx time”, etc.) Having a list makes it so there are fewer revisions which will lengthen the time before you get your final mix of the product.

8.  Mastering (if Purchased)

Mastering is the final process of the song. Some artists choose to have their own mastering studios do this work, and that’s perfectly fine! If you want this process, though, it’s the final stage to provide that master mix. Revisions are often completed by this time, and it’s when you can receive high-quality full compositions of your songs. We provide final masters in 24-bit, 48kHz wave format (studio-quality .wav file). If you want to produce your own CDs, we can provide a 16-bit, 44.1kHz .wav file (CD-quality) as an alternative. We may be able to work with you on other file formats or sizes if need be.

That’s it! Enjoy your fully-mixed song!

Whatever your recording needs are, our full-service session vocals are the right option for you! If you need additional services, musicians, mixing, and mastering, keep in mind that this can be utilized when you speak with Sam for your consultation. What are you waiting for?

Get ahold of us today and get your quote to get the major label quality production that you deserve at a fraction of the price!

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