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Backup vocalists are the unsung heroes of music. Their job seems simple, but to do it well requires plenty of observation and practice. They have to support the lead singer’s voice while blending in with the music, all without drawing attention away from the lead vocalist.

Backup vocals can be challenging at first, but there are some ways you can make your backup vocal performance shine. Try these helpful tips:

   Tip 1: Watch & Listen

To support a band with your vocals, you’ll need to listen to them play. Pay attention to their energy level, common notes, and volume. Watch the lead singer closely to get a feel for their pitch and phrasing.

Listen to the band’s recordings before you even get to a rehearsal, if possible. That way, you’ll be familiar with their style and you can jump right in.

   Tip 2: Learn to Harmonize

Backup vocalists have to harmonize with the lead vocalist and with other backup singers to produce a smooth sound. Harmonizing is more than just a matter of blending voices, though; it means singing complementary notes with other singers.

Harmonizing vocalists sound a bit like a chord played on a guitar. Different notes are sung simultaneously for a rich, vibrant vocal effect. Practice harmonizing with other vocalists, or with pre-recorded tracks.

If you’re using a track, turn down the volume until you can just hear the vocals. Try singing various notes to harmonize with the melody. If you’ve got a friend to help you, stand apart from them so that you can concentrate on singing higher or lower.

Once you’re able to harmonize effectively, you can start working on blending in with the lead vocalist during songs.

   Tip 3: Blend In

A backup singer should not be the center of attention. It can be embarrassing to start singing too soon, or finish singing too late, leaving your vocals in the spotlight when the lead singer has stopped.

The best backup vocalists know how to stop and start along with the lead singer. To do this, you must be able to see the singer’s face clearly. Take a position on stage where you can watch the lead vocalist for cues.

While the lead singer sings, you should be singing along in your head the whole time. This will help you know when to start singing, and will help you match the lead vocalist’s energy level and emotions when you come in.

   Tip 4: Perfect Your Phrasing

Proper phrasing is a big part of being a successful backup vocalist. You have to sound a lot like the lead singer in order to blend in and not distract from the lead vocals. You can do this by matching the lead singer’s phrasing.

Observe the lead singer and take note of their vocal habits, inflections, and vowel pronunciations. For the best blending, you’ll need to imitate them as much as possible. You want your voice to be like an echo of theirs, simultaneous and on pitch.

Some sounds, like ‘S’, naturally stand out when spoken or sung. To avoid an overly sibilant sound, try leaving off the S’s when you sing backup. For example, if you would normally sing, ‘Sally saw something sad,’ you could instead sing ‘-ally -aw -omething -ad.’

This technique might sound funny at first, but it comes across well during live performances and recordings. It works with any harsh-sounding letter.

As you can see, there’s more to being a backup vocalist than meets the ear. Just take your time and practice as much as you can. Taking advantage of singing lessons can help a lot. Remember that your voice is an instrument that helps the band produce beautiful music.

 

 

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This entry was posted on Saturday, February 5th, 2011 at 11:39 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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