Put your money where your mouth is


SHOCKINGLY, the sun is shining in the capital the day I go to the Sing Factory, ruining my premeditated title for this article, “Singing in the rain”. Perhaps “We’ll sing in the sunshine” might work – not as well known, but Dolly Parton does a good 1980s cover. I resolve to leave the weather out of it as I go downstairs to the Georgian basement on Merrion Street Upper, where the Sing Factory studio is located.

I am here to record my own demo, to lay down the tracks for future stardom, I hope. I have been singing scales and humming siren noises to warm-up as I walk here, startling a group of German tourists at one set of traffic lights. I avoided chocolate at lunch (bad for the voice) and I didn’t have tea this morning for fear of dehydrating the vocal chords. I am already looking forward to tea and biscuits when I finish: not exactly rock and roll.

The Sing Factory opened a couple of moths ago and allows anyone can book a session to record their voice in a professional studio with experienced sound engineers.

Daryl Moorhouse set up the service to cater for “anyone who feels they have a good singing voice and wants to take it to the next level”. It’s generating interest already, he tells me, mainly with teenagers but everyone is welcome. Before me, they had a 17-year-old girl from Glasgow come in and sing.

“She was good.” says Moorhouse. Musician and sound engineer Danny Greene agrees. You have been warned: there’s a Scottish singing sensation coming to a YouTube video near you. Move over SuBo.

It’s not just for aspiring pop stars. They also had a man enquire about recording a rap to be played as part of his wedding speech. They’re happy to take anyone in.

“We try to create an environment where people can perform to their optimum. So that what they come away with is the best showcase of their talents.” I hope the bride agrees.

I am singing The Water is Wide in the style of Eva Cassidy. I usually sing classical or musical theatre, so I’m not going to try belting out Beyoncé now, although I am tempted to do a rap myself.

I’m a little nervous, although the atmosphere is relaxed. Singing is an exposing art form, and with no guitar or piano to hide behind, it’s just me and the music.

In a soundproof room, with headphones on, I read the lyrics from a screen and can hear my voice over the track as it is picked up by the standing microphone in front of me.

“It’s just like karaoke,” says Moorhouse.

Alone in the room, I relax. It is like karaoke. Even better, it’s like singing in your bedroom: definitely an environment where you can perform to your optimum.

The guys say I might be a one-take wonder after I sing through the song for the first time. I am pleased, but hope it’s not a slippery slope to being a one-hit wonder, my mind racing ahead to contracts and royalties. Then we break the song into various segments and record them individually. When they mix the final track they can use the best bits. We do another take for insurance purposes, and then I’m finished. Easy.

The track is then mixed in the studio and the final version is sent out on CD and can also be uploaded to websites such as Sound Cloud, YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. In the internet era, where singers are as likely to be discovered on the web than at a gig. But why not just record on a camera-phone or laptop?

It’s about “putting your best foot forward,” says Moorhouse. “We can give our talent the means to share their music, but we also want to make sure what they are sharing is the best it can be.”

The package also includes feedback from Sing Factory’s affiliated vocal coach, Maureen-Victoria Ward. She emails the next day with comments under the headings breathing, tuning, timbre, style and general. They are positive, encouraging and fair.

Some singers might take the feedback onboard and record again in a few months, says Moorhouse. It’s not a bad idea, if you can afford it.

Either way, it’s best to be prepared first time around. If you’re keen to put yourself out there, you need to get the most value for your money. Sing something that suits you, even if it means some extra work getting the right backing track and key. Record yourself and listen back so you know how you want to perform the song. Do as many takes as you need to get it exactly right: being a one-take wonder won’t appear on your CD cover.

Moorhouse offers me a chocolate cupcake when I finish. How did he know?

“The Irish are nation of a singers,” he says as I leave. “There’s a lot of latent talent out there.”


5 Ways to Make the most of your Recording

From vocal coach Maureen-Victoria Ward

* Warming Up Warm up all the notes in your range, all parts of the vocal instrument and your body.

* Scheduling When making your booking, consider what might be the best time of day for you to perform.

* Food and drink Avoid chocolate, dairy, coffee and tea. Still water is best and a spoon of honey.

* Rehearsal There is such a thing as optimum rehearsal, you should always practise but don’t over-rehearse. It’s important to take direction.

* Microphone positioning Your position relative to the microphone is key. Your recording engineer will be able to advise you on on the day.

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