5 tips for backing vocalists [+ free harmony backing track]

5 tips for backing vocalists [+ free harmony backing track]
  1. If there are two of you then STICK TO YOUR PART. Learn that discipline if you haven’t already. Talk to the other singer and decide together whether you will go for the 3rd or the 5th (the higher or lower backing vocal line).
  2. Space is just important as filling it- sometimes more important! Just because you have a beautiful voice, does not mean you have to sing BVs all through the song. Especially if you are singing sections of the song in three part harmony; think about just allowing the other BV to sing alone so that the song only uses one harmony part where appropriate or even having no BVs at times if the song asks for space. Put the song first and think musically about what the overall sound needs, not just what you fancy singing ;). I find just asking God what and where to sing helps and being connected to him throughout. Again, kind of an obvious one but it is surprisingly easy to over-think and disengage the spirit.
  3. Consider varying between a harmony and improvisational licks (according to how connected you are with the song and what you therefore naturally hear in the wider arrangement).
  4. If you are a lone BVer then do the opposite of top tip 1: Be adventurous! Jump between high & low harmonies as you feel the music expresses.
  5. Try ‘Inverting’ as a harmony tool for effect. For example, if you are the only BV then you could start on the lower harmony and invert up to the higher harmony later in the song to lift the chorus and bring more ‘umph’ and dynamic into the song. If there are two of you, you could both invert. Don’t be afraid to try stuff out in the rehearsal and go for it- you are as much part of the band as keys or guitar so if you need a minute to work something out then ask for it!

Harmony backing track for Beautiful One

The video below is a clip from the Harmony & Backing Vocals Course. This course (available on DVD, online download and via our subscription site) are a bit of a departure for us in as much as these are more about a copy and play along style of learning rather than a comprehensive video tutorial in our other products.

So for each song you get a short video lesson outlining the technique that was used in the building of the Harmony, then 3 versions of the song; a high harmony, a low harmony and then a normal version to practice to. The clip above shows one of the harmony versions – you can hear that the harmony line is louder in the mix so that you can hear it, copy and learn. As you progress through the songs (there are 10 on each DVD) the techniques get more complex so by time you’ve learnt the 40 parts to the 20 songs you’ll have an arsenal of useful real world backing vocalist’s techniques. You can greatly improve your singing skills, 3rd and 5th harmonies, head and chest voice, using unison, octaves, pedalling and 7ths to add colour, dynamics for tension and release, creating smooth voice leading, plus the crucial skills of blending and matching.

Other posts you may find helpful:

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts – Backing Vocalists

Vocal warm-up exercises explained

Learn to sing the harmony part to Beautiful One – video lesson

The art of backing vocals

Ask the expert – How do I get my backing vocalists away from the sheet music?

Ask the expert- how do I get my singers away from needing sheet music? part 2

Learn to sing harmonies in worship