Vocal Production Techniques for Singers


Authored by Stephen Kowalczyk


Course Code: OVOIC-400

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 4

Level 4

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


The goal of this course is for the student vocalist to develop technical skills and confidence in the use of a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) in collaboration with other musicians. The course will explore the process of file sharing for collaboration, digital recording with the use of home recording hardware and software, studio singing techniques, recording technique for vocals and other common instruments, the use of common effects plug-ins and exporting a rough mix.

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The course will connect different scenarios and situations with appropriate music production approaches, in order to take advantage of the diverse tools available in music technology. Collaboration between classmates will enhance the learning experience in this class.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Set up a workable Digital Audio Workstation for recording at home
  • Record MIDI and other basic instruments other than vocals
  • Effectively and seamlessly file share with other musicians and engineers
  • Develop vocal techniques specifically for lead and background vocal production
  • Improve decision making in the use and purchase of microphones
  • Develop skills for basic or rough mixes
  • Develop skills for digital editing
  • Develop skills for employing plug-ins and other digital tools
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: The DAW and Setting Up Your Sessions

  • The Basics: Setting Up Your Recording Equipment
  • Defining Session Parameters
  • How to Import and Use Cue Mixes/Stems
  • Getting Good Input Levels for a Clean, Professional Vocal Recording
  • The Basics of Bouncing Your Session as a Stereo or Mono Mix
  • Assignment 1: Setting Up Your Recording Studio

Lesson 2: Microphones

  • Types of Microphones
  • Microphone Pickup Patterns
  • Proximity Effect
  • Microphone Technique in the Studio
  • Assignment 2: Testing Microphone Distance

Lesson 3: Manipulating MIDI and Audio

  • Audio Regions
  • The Audio Waveform and Audio File Types
  • MIDI
  • MIDI Regions
  • Can We Use the Voice as a MIDI Instrument?
  • Creating Contiguous Audio and MIDI Files on Beat 1
  • Assignment 3: Manipulating Audio Files

Lesson 4: Preparing to Record

  • Recording Scratch Tracks
  • The Role of Plug-Ins While Recording and Applying Them on the Channel Strip
  • Sharing Tracks among Different DAWs
  • Creating Stems from Your Session
  • Assignment 4: Setting Up Session for Collaboration

Lesson 5: Recording and Working with Pianos, Guitars, and Percussion

  • Miking a Grand or Upright Piano
  • Miking Acoustic and Electric Guitars
  • Recording Hand Claps, Tambourines, and Other Cheap Percussion Toys
  • Conforming an Existing Audio File to the Session Tempo or Vice Versa
  • Assignment 5: Conforming Your Session Tempo to an Existing Audio File

Lesson 6: Preparing for Your Studio Performance

  • Vocal Health in the Studio
  • The Mic Shootout: Determining the Right Microphone for Your Voice
  • Assessing the Trial Run or Scratch Track
  • Headphone Mix for the Performance
  • Assignment 6: Creating a Compelling Scratch Vocal

Lesson 7: Recording Vocals

  • Developing a Strategy for Recording
  • Two Ways to Collect Multiple Vocal Takes
  • Assessing Your Vocal
  • Alternative Monitoring
  • Naming and Renaming New Performance Tracks
  • Backing Up a Session
  • Assignment 7: Recording Vocals

Lesson 8: Recording Background Vocal Sessions

  • Background Vocal Recording and the Proximity Effect
  • Panning Background Vocals and Doubles
  • Exploring Varied Tone Qualities
  • Using Varied Tone Qualities for Wider Sounding Background Vocals
  • Using Consistent Tone Qualities for Transparent Background Vocals
  • Assignment 8: Recording Background Vocals

Lesson 9: Recording Background Vocals (Part 2)

  • Doubling Lead or Background Vocals with Vibrato or Straight Tone
  • Doubling for Rhythmic Accuracy
  • Dynamics and Vowel Changes for Background Vocal Emotional Lift
  • Call and Response vs. Doubles and Static Block Background Vocals
  • Assignment 9: Doubling Background Vocals

Lesson 10: Vocal Editing

  • Comping a Vocal
  • Digging into Shaping a Vocal Comp
  • Fixing Plosives
  • Tuning Vocal or Instrumental Performances
  • Assignment 10: Fixing Vocal Tracks

Lesson 11: Vocal Mixing (Part 1)

  • Plug-Ins Through Channel Strip vs. Aux Channel
  • How and Why to Use a Compressor
  • Reverb vs. Delay
  • Working with an EQ Plug-In
  • Assignment 11: Vocal Rough Mix

Lesson 12: Vocal Mixing (Part 2)

  • De-Essing
  • Leveling a Super Pop Un-Dynamic Vocal
  • Track Automation and Grouping
  • Vocal Riding and Presence
  • Prepping Final Takes of Background Vocals
  • Assignment 12: Final Mix


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Production Fundamentals or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.
Students should be able to:

  • Troubleshoot basic computer problems
  • Install and uninstall computer applications
  • Understand basic computer functions
  • Locate audio and MIDI resources on their current Operating System



  • Full-featured Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), such as Pro Tools (Studio or Ultimate), Logic Pro, Cubase Pro, Ableton Live (Suite or Standard), Reaper, Reason, or FL Studio (Producer or Signature). Note that GarageBand is not acceptable.
  • Melodyne (any edition sufficient; Essential edition is included with Pro Tools)


  • Audio interface with at least two mic preamps
  • 2 XLR microphones (one should be suitable for recording vocals, and the other suitable for general purpose use)
  • Closed back, over-ear studio headphones such as Sony MDR-7506 or better

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact support@online.berklee.edu with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Stephen Kowalczyk

Author & Instructor

Steven Kowalczyk Santoro is a singer, composer, producer, and arranger from Massachusetts. Having grown up in a musical family, he started playing the horn, transitioning later to the piano, and writing songs. He became interested in Afro-American music and Jazz, which led him to the University of Massachusetts. He has toured the US and Europe extensively, playing and recording with artists such as Sting, Clarence Penn, Lee Ritenour, Joe Porcaro, John Patitucci, Paula Cole, Chris Botti, among others. Steven is an associate professor at Berklee College of Music, in the Voice Department.

Paul Pampinella


Paul Pampinella, a graduate of Berklee College of Music in Boston, is a veteran vocalist, arranger/composer, and clinician with two Boston-based a cappella ensembles; Vox One and Five O’Clock Shadow. Paul has written, arranged, and produced songs on nine CDs between the two groups. As a clinician, he lectures on topics such as vocal technique, performance skills, and arranging. Currently, Paul is on the faculty at Berklee College of Music in Boston and Indian Hill Music in Littleton, MA. He also teaches voice, guitar, bass guitar, piano, and theory/composition privately, and continues to work with both groups on a part-time basis, giving performances and workshops in the U.S. and Japan. 

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Vocal Production Techniques for Singers can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Major


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at advisors@online.berklee.edu.

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