Talk­ing vo­cals with Donna Marie

Computer Music - - Make Music Now / The Essential Guide To Perfect Vo - don­na­

Multi-tal­ented War­ring­ton­based mu­si­cian Donna Marie has plied her trade as a ses­sion vo­cal­ist, mu­sic pro­ducer and song­writer, with re­leases on top tier dance mu­sic im­prints in­clud­ing Min­istry of Sound and Club­land. Donna also runs her own in­de­pen­dent record la­bel, Climb­ing Moun­tain Records, and you can work her awe­some vo­cal tones into your own tracks with this is­sue’s Vo­cal Ses­sions sam­ple pack, which you can find on the cover DVD or down­load from Filesilo.

: Tell us about your back­ground and pre­vi­ous projects…

DM: “At the be­gin­ning of my mu­sic ca­reer, I never as­pired to be a vo­cal­ist. It hap­pened out of cir­cum­stance, as I be­gan writ­ing songs and go­ing into the lo­cal record­ing stu­dio. I started to find my voice when I was around 16, and went onto play­ing reg­u­lar solo gigs and in var­i­ous bands after be­ing spot­ted by an agent.

“While I was study­ing mu­sic tech­nol­ogy at uni­ver­sity, I an­swered an ad­vert from UK hard­core DJ Scott Brown and sub­se­quently worked with him as a vo­cal­ist. This led to work­ing with sev­eral other pro­ducer/DJs from the dance scene. Fol­low­ing on from that, I’ve played as a singer/song­writer across the UK, sup­port­ing artists such as Amy Mac­Don­ald and Sam Isaac.”

: When you record your­self, how do you bring out your best per­for­mance?

DM: “I record my­self all the time in my project stu­dio, lay­ing down vo­cals and guitars for the most part. My setup is rel­a­tively sim­ple, con­sist­ing of a com­puter with Avid Pro Tools 10, a Uni­ver­sal Au­dio Apollo Twin au­dio in­ter­face and a large di­aphragm con­denser mi­cro­phone. I record in an acous­ti­cally treated space, and also have an sE Elec­tron­ics Re­flex­ion Fil­ter, which helps to limit the sound of the room.

“I take sev­eral ap­proaches to get­ting my best per­for­mance down on tape. Typ­i­cally, I record mul­ti­ple takes for each track and comp them, be­fore re­work­ing things where nec­es­sary. In terms of vo­cal record­ing styles, I some­times find mul­ti­track­ing the lead vo­cal and plac­ing that in the mix works well, while a sin­gle-tracked vo­cal per­for­mance with no over­dubs can give great re­sults too. It all de­pends on the track, and what sound I’m try­ing to achieve.”

: What ad­vice would you give any pro­ducer read­ing this who is new to work­ing with a vo­cal­ist?

DM: “It re­ally de­pends on the vo­cal­ist. Gen­er­ally, we’re very sen­si­tive peo­ple, so pos­i­tiv­ity is the way for­ward if you’re look­ing for a good per­for­mance. Let­ting the vo­cal­ist work in a way that makes them feel com­fort­able is im­por­tant, but if this isn’t work­ing, for what­ever rea­son, I’d say mak­ing po­lite rather than force­ful sug­ges­tions as to what you’re after may help.

“I’ve worked with en­gi­neers and pro­duc­ers who try to push me out of my com­fort zone, which is fine for the right project, but if you’re work­ing with a vo­cal­ist be­cause of how they sound, then let­ting them stay in their com­fort zone will give great re­sults. After all, the sign of a good pro­ducer is that they can bring out your best per­for­mance, rather than show­ing off their tech­ni­cal know-how.”

: What’s more im­por­tant to you in the stu­dio: a great sound­ing vo­cal record­ing, or a great per­for­mance?

DM: “Per­for­mance is hugely im­por­tant, but if the sound record­ing is com­pro­mised, it’s bet­ter to get that right be­fore con­tin­u­ing. After all, a great per­for­mance with a dog bark­ing or car alarm in the back­ground won’t nec­es­sar­ily work in the mix. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, us­ing cor­rect gain struc­ture is paramount; this will help to elim­i­nate un­wanted room noise and cap­ture the tone of the vo­cal. Mi­cro­phone prox­im­ity is also part of achiev­ing the right per­for­mance, as it has an im­pact on how the end re­sult sounds.”

: What’s next for Donna Marie?

DM: “My new sin­gle, Shel­ter, was re­leased on December 20, with drums and pi­ano recorded at the amaz­ing Parr Street Stu­dios in Liver­pool. Next year, I’m back on tour with A Coun­try Night In Nashville, with more solo shows and mu­sic in the pipe­line.”

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