About recording primal vocals

I am attempting with these music tracks to explore what I am calling primal vocals.

This may not be a good name for what I am trying to get but this is what I have been calling the results.

What I mean by primal here is singing without words and where there is some emotional content.

I am suggesting that some of the sounds that (for instance) a baby or an animal makes have a primal content which communicates something even though there are no words. I am hoping to make some of these types of sound myself and keep the less ugly examples for use as music.

I would also claim that adult humans who HAVE learned speech also sometimes make primal sounds. Pain, grief, bloodlust, sexual arousal etc etc.

All effective vocal music relies on the primal element. I just want to try to isolate the primal.

My method so far has been to get some chords going in a minimal backing. Then to improvise some non-lexical vocals for about 20 minutes. Then I spend hours and hours editing and auditioning any snippets that I think may be usable.

I do that editing in stages. First I break the long parts down into ‘possibles’ then I mess with those over the backing track until again choosing a shortlist of about 30 or 40 snippets. After messing around with these it quickly becomes obvious which are the 3 or 4 final choices.

This editing bit needs to be intuitive really. I may claim that I am looking for some emotional content in the snippets but it also at the end comes down to the snippets I can’t live without. The ones I like. The ones that I think sound good, because I just do.

Very often these final takes have a melancholy feel and also (possibly importantly) they usually have reached a place where I no longer think it is me singing. I want them, where possible, to also be slightly unusual or experimental sounding.

By that I mean that they could be in some foreign tongue or be an animal’s cry or whatever.

When doing the actual improvised original takes I set the loop going and then without thinking too much or preparing very much I start singing anything at all. And I mean here that I have to let go and let out any sound or noise that comes. This can be difficult and it can be embarassing and during the singing I always think that what is coming out is completely unusable. But amazingly after the editing there is always something in there.

You really do have to make sounds that are awful in order to find accidentally great snippets.

This is totally different to writing a line and then applying learned musical techniques to get the best rendition.

I do have, believe it or not, some proper singing technique (I’m in a choir) but in this ‘primal’ context I need to let things happen automatically. I am full also of bad habits but these can produce some of the happy accidents also.

I am not saying here that good technique is a bad thing I am saying that a combination of automatic elements (both learned and unlearned) may produce some gold amongst all the dust.

The important thing is to let go when improvising and you should know that this is best done with nobody listening. I will never release those unedited takes. In fact they are erased usually.




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