I often hear people talk about their favourite songs, or their dream role to sing. I don't often hear them talk about the songs that they have to sing that they don't like. I sometimes work as a studio musician. I sing harmony lines or I sing the lead vocal line for songs that are used in educational settings or youtube channels. Often I don't know where the song will be used, as it's more common to tell me what it won't be used for and for how long it will be used.
Recording studio work requires a precision that isn't always needed in live performance. We forgive artists who are emotional in the moment or who sing a different word or modify a vocal line, but not in the studio. It also involves singing music that may not be appealing. Either because of the genre, or the melody, or the oddly translated words.
I have been working on getting better at preparing for these types of jobs.
Listening To The Songs
If I am sent recordings in advance I try to play these in the background while I am doing other things. I find that this really helps me when I go to sing through the song as I am more familiar with how it feels, both rhythmically and melodically. I will also take time to listen to them without any distraction, but sometimes I struggle with this as the recordings are of poor quality or are simply midi files played with computerized instruments that are very off-putting.
I work on my sight-singing ability and try to set time aside to do this every week. I find it particularly useful in the studio when changes are made - as I can read them quickly. It's also very helpful for harmony singing, as there are so many patterns in harmonies that I quickly recognise and can sing. This saves me a lot of time as I don't need to practice every part of a song.
Using A Straw
I use my voice a lot and getting tired causes me to do things that are not good for my voice. If I have been working all day, and need to prep at night, I vocalize through a straw. This doesn't help me with the words, but it does help with getting the tune correct and it causes no strain on my voice - so I feel like I can do this at the end of the day and not be worried that my voice will give out on me the next day in the studio.
Little By Little
I find I learn better if I do this over a number of days. It can be tempting, when a new job first arrives, to try to learn the song right away, but learning it smaller chunks over a number of days, works better for me. Though I don't always get that much notice, so can't rely on this, but when I do get music a week in advance I learn it over the seven days.
And now you know why I'm writing this post with a jazz song playing in the background with a straw in my mouth.