Sneak in a vocal session at random times.
Some interesting advice here, although I think it reflects a sense of helplessness on the part of the producer.
One of the most important roles of a producer is to get the best performances out of the musicians on the session. I’m of the firm belief that people do their best work with deliberation and iteration and – often – with expert guidance and advice. People don’t do their best work by accident. Unless they’re amateurs. Consider your own work as a mix engineer. Would you deliver a great mix if your artist surprised you in the middle of your day and made you do a mix then and there? Or would you prefer to clear a few hours, get yourself into the headspace, lead with a discussion about sound and creative direction, and then work iteratively with the artist to deliver a mix they’re pleased with?
Of course, sometimes people get anxious. And that anxiety can certainly hold back a great performance.
But it is the job of the producer to make sure the musicians feel comfortable enough to make their best work possible. That might include adjusting the temperature, giving the musician time to get used to the room, kicking out anyone who is distracting or intimidating, burning a scented candle, etc. It might mean taking a lightweight location recording setup to the musician’s home or favourite place. The producer should take the time to understand their musicians and artists and get to know what to do to get the best performance out of them. Some people need a low-pressure relaxed approach “Don’t worry, we can record it a few different times and then go over some of the more difficult sections”. Other people need a firm hand to push them to their best “That take was about 40% there. Do it again, but better.”
Björgvin says “Next time you feel that your vocalist is feeling too stressed about performance, try to take the load off by refocusing the session on something else.” I think that – as a producer – if your vocalist is feeling too stressed about performance, you need to develop your interpersonal skills.
If you record a vocalist and your best take is the surprise/warmup/fun take, I think that says something very unflattering about your skills as a producer. Furthermore, how will the vocalist feel if the best take was the unprepared one? What does that say about their control and poise? How will they feel about their ability to deliver a killer vocal?
Don’t leave it up to chance.