The indie vocal sound is annoying for both listeners and sound engineers, especially in live settings. I’ve heard it a million times. Everyone’s doing it. Please stop it.
What is the “indie vocal sound”?
It’s a heavily layered lead vocal effect. It includes digital distortion, digital delay and digital reverb. Here’s a male and female vocal example:
Wait, that sounds cool to me!?
I agree. It works well on a record. There is plenty of space in your headphones to interpret all of the layers and it has a big, dreamy quality. The problem arises when trying to replicate this sound live.
When you show up to a venue with your vocal effects unit, you are making the job on the sound engineer much harder because you’re giving them a processed, “wet” signal which causes tons of feedback problems in the house.
Stop doing it.
But, I love the reverbz!
People go to shows to hear your voice. They want to understand the message of your songs. They want to sing along while having a cocktail. It’s not that complicated.
They don’t want to watch you croon into the laptop screen and struggle to understand your lyrics under a pile up of feedback loops and washy reverb. Remember, most folks haven’t heard your tunes before. Don’t make it difficult for them.
In sort, you’re muddying up your sound and diluting your message. You don’t look confident as a singer and more often than not, you’re pitchy. 🙂
How can I fix it?
1.) Write strong songs:
If the story of you song doesn’t resonate with folks with an acoustic instrument, then it’s not a good song. Adding vocal effects won’t help you. Start with a fantastic song and strong lyrics. I recommend Patt Pattison’s songwriting course on Courcera. It’s fantastic.
2.) Sound more “live”:
Be willing to let your “live sound” be different than your record. It’s live folks! That’s why people enjoy it. If it sounds identical to your record, I’ll just stay at home and watch House of Cards, thank you.
3.) Own a microphone:
I recommend all vocalists own their own microphones. Not only can you pick a mic that is suited for your voice and musical style (dynamic or condenser), but over time you will “get to know” the microphone’s sweet spot. Start with checking out: SM57A, SM58A, Electro Voice RE20, Telefunken M80.
4.) Trust your engineer:
If you’re looking for that popular “wet sound”, tell the sound engineer. It’s relatively simple to add “Delay+Reverb” to a vocal and when the engineer is in control of the mix, he can send a louder, dry signal to the stage monitors (which will help you sing more on pitch). Everyone wins.
Dru Cutler lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn and writes songs that highlight the best of the past and present. He’s fascinated by the power of nostalgia and lives by his own mantra: “We can’t escape it, so let’s embrace it.”
As a DIY enthusiast, Dru and his roomates converted a giant warehouse into a live/work space called Unit J Bushwick. They host live music events, film screenings, recording sessions and much more. Check out more from Unit J here.
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