Recording Lead Vocals

John Legend

Lesson time 22:55 min

John takes you into the recording booth to lay down the lead vocals for “Free.” Learn his techniques and follow along by recording your own demo.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Warm Up Your Voice • Planning Your Vocal Session • Recording Techniques: "Free"


JOHN LEGEND: (SINGING) Go down, Moses, way down, Moses. Welcome to the vocal booth. We're here. We have a mic. We have headphones. We have padded walls. All of these things are here to make sure that we isolate the sound that you're making with your voice, so that no other extra noise corrupts that. So you can hear exactly what you're singing, and also, later be able to manipulate it individually rather than as part of an entire recording. So we're going to record the vocal, lead vocal, and backing vocal right here in this vocal booth. So what's in the vocal booth? What am I using? Really, it's as simple as the microphone and the headphones. Usually, when you have a headphone set up, you have some sort of controls for your headphones. Some are just volume controls, where you want it louder, or you want it softer. Some actually allow you to mix the levels of the instruments, or your voice, or the click track or the drums, or whatever other elements are in the song. It allows you to have some control over that mix. So we have a microphone. We have headphones, and sometimes, we have a little, tiny mixing board for our headphones. So we can control our own levels. And then after that, have what you want in there. I like to have water. I like to have, sometimes, some tea, depending on how my voice is feeling. SPEAKER: All of that said, you don't need a professional vocal booth to record your vocals at home. Find a room to make the best sounding recording you can and make sure you can communicate the content of your song. JOHN LEGEND: And you can still through engineering and all the other things make it sound good, but I guess the ideal circumstance for recording vocals is in some sort of booth. But don't let that stop you. (SINGING) Yeah, yeah, oh. I think everyone should warm up before you try to record a song, before you try to sing any time. I even warm up. When I'm on tour, I warm up before my interviews, because you have to get your voice used to working. And particularly, when you're singing a two hour show the night before and you've got to do an interview the next day, your voice is kind of tired and a little beat up. So you've got to warm it up so you're ready to vocalize again. So what I usually do, sometimes, I'll do a live video chat with my instructor, and we'll do, like, 45 minutes to an hour, where we warm up. And we work on specific vocal techniques. And then, a lot of times, I don't have the time to kind of schedule with him, but I'll use the recordings that he sends me. And I'll listen to him in my car on the way to the studio, or I'll listen to them, while I'm taking a shower and sing in the bathroom, while I'm getting dressed. But either way, I want to warm up for, at least, a half hour prior to recording any vocals, prior to me writing, prior to me going to the studio for that day. So some of the things we do, usually, I'm listening to him tell me to do it, and then I s...

About the Instructor

When 12-time Grammy winner John Legend released “Free” in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, he called it a prayer for peace. Now the recipient of the first-ever Recording Academy Global Impact Award teaches you how he wrote and recorded the song—and his process for creating hits like “All of Me” and “Glory.” Layer melodies and lyrics, develop your musical point of view, and make music that makes the moment.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

John Legend

John Legend, the EGOT-winning music icon and coach on “The Voice,” teaches you his process for creating music with impact.

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