I started going into recording studios
with singers in the 80s.
And one of the things that I would
frequently hear from producers,
as I came into do the vocal coaching for
the album production,
is that the backup vocals were terrible,
needed to be unified and were ruining the
This also happens live on stage
And it can, interestingly enough, a bad
vocal blend in the harmonies in the backup
singing, can make anyone who's
singing the lead line seem like they're
the ones who are singing out of tune.
When it's actually coming from the backing
So if you're singing, lead, and you've got
some backup singers singing along
with you or harmonizing with you, and
people are saying that you're out of tune,
it may not be you, it may be the other
In which case, as a lead singer, it
It's your responsibility to make sure that
the rehearsals for
the backing vocals happen and you know how
to guide them.
We'll be getting into all those elements
in the lessons
of this section singing harmony and
But let's take a look at what are the
elements of blend, what makes for
a good blend.
So get the idea, there's a bunch of
they've got a melody and they've got
There's also how they're going to phrase
which has to do also with rhythm.
Now rhythm can break down into some
like, is everybody starting at the same
Then, how the words are sung.
Are they lining up rhythmically the same?
So, for example, if I, if I was singing a
line that was let me see you smile,
and somebody else was singing it, let me
see you smile,
that would not blend.
So starting, the rhythm of the words,
and then how is the last word ended so
that it's unified and not ragged?
We can have a ragged beginning, a ragged
ending, and then off tempo.
Pronunciation, let's call it, rythmacizing
of the words.
That has a lot to do with phrasing,
phrasing is the rythmacizing of a word.
And giving the important words that carry
the meaning of what you're saying or
singing, the emphasis.
And not on the words that mean little to
are needed in order to have a full
Tone is another thing.
So if one person has a dark tone and
another has this tensely little bright
Depending on the parts, the brighter tone
might be really nice on top,
or you might wanna put that voice on the
bottom where it doesn't stand out so,
in a shrill manner.
Again, these choices are made based on
what is the style that you're singing.
What are the notes that are going to be
used for the harmonies and
all that good stuff, but tone is another
If I'm belting my part.
And the person singing the other harmony
is singing breathy,
you'll never hear that other part and I'll
probably be overshadowing the melody.
So finding that unification of volume
that's appropriate to,
to support the melody is very important.
Remember it's always the melody needs to
stand out and the harmonies couch it.
Or, you could have a group like, for
example, Crosby, Stills,
and Nash where the volume stayed pretty
what I call a shoulder to shoulder harmony
And there are other types like doo-wop
which is a much older
style of a capella singing where it's very
And, these are really good things to
to open the imagination and hear what's
been done before,
as you get familiar with some of our music
history, which is so rich.
Pronunciation is another thing.
If you are, perhaps, a blue grass singer.
Or have gone to a lot of bluegrass jams.
Country music, or Appalachian, has a
certain kind of Southern pronunciation.
Match that up with a singer who has a New
it's going to sound pretty terrible, I
think, or at least humorous.
So if you're not trying to sound humorous,
finding that middle ground of
pronunciation that's musical style
appropriate as well as
singer to singer, homogenizing the sound
The next thing of course, has to do with
Which also, could be called, intonation.
When a singer is singing, pretty much on
pitch, but is a little bit flat, or
a little bit sharp, a little below, or
above the note, it is said that their
intonation is off.
Now, sometimes, that's because the singer
actually doesn't know
the vowel sound of the word or syllable
that they're singing.
We get into that in earlier lessons in the
school, with exercises for it.
Important to know in harmony singing,
because every part
needs to be on its own correct pitch and
pathway of melody.
And stay in the correct lane.
So, if you think of each part as being on
a, on a railroad track,
it needs to move ahead note by note where
each next note is the correct relationship
to the next note.
That is what makes melody as a, as
different from, like,
when we're just talking, hopefully none of
us only talk on one note.
[LAUGH] We, we carry different pitches,
and we don't usually even think about it.
We just do it because it's part of the
A well-written melody is going to have an
ebb and flow of melody notes,
kinda similar to how we talk and the rise
and fall of emotion.
And it shows it in the melody, but now a
as you may well know, a specific
relationship of notes.
Those are called intervals.
That has to do with the space,
so to speak, of sound between one note and
For example, I'll, I'll play something on
If you go here versus here.
There's more notes in between these two.
Those are the notes that are in between
In western scale,
there is nothing else in between those two
That's what's called a half step.
In Asian music and in some of
the Middle Eastern music and Indian music.
There are actually [LAUGH] interesting
enough little notes in between there and
you hear them in, in the music that
But in Western music we don't use those
we're not accustomed usually to hearing
So that's called pitch relationship and as
long as the relationship of each
of your notes is exactly how it should be,
you'll be singing on pitch.
Those are the main
ingredients with the final one having to
do with dynamic.
So, a unified vocal of vocalists,
is going to, they're all gonna know,
they're kind of like a, like an ocean
All rising and falling together.
Now, one person can interpret a song in
Another person, might interpret that same
song very differently.
So when you bring a group together, no
matter whether it's two or
more voices, an understanding of where
you're gonna raise the dynamic and
where are you going to bring it needs to
And it is one way of doing this is
actually printing out the lyrics,
having a pencil or pen, and singing with
your fellow singers,
and marking where you're gonna raise the
where you're going to lower it.
So you may, might
be going, whoa.
So you've got a rise and a fall, and it
then communicates even
more because emotion doesn't say static,
And as you, of course, communicate a
message through the song,
whether your singing harmony, whether your
on, just a backup,
just a backup signer, whether you're
It all needs to unify to communicate the
message of that song.
Which ultimately has emotion.