Here at RSL we often talk about how to excel as a solo vocalist. We love that! But it’s about time we put the spotlight on those who don’t choose the lead singer life. There’s plenty to shout about when you’re a backing vocalist, so we wanted to deliver some of our top tips to nailing this profession.
Let’s get stuck in!
You’re probably thinking, yes, RSL, WE KNOW! It’s no secret that being a backing vocalist requires you to be able to harmonise with other sounds and voices, but we still felt it was important not to glaze over this here! Being able to stand firm in your harmony part when there’s potentially lots going on around you is a real skill and – shock! – it’s going to require some practise.
That being said, practising this can be so much fun! Be sure you’re very familiar with the main part first, but then go wild and experiment with different harmonies. We can probably all agree that there’s no better feeling than when a harmonisation comes together.
Listen, listen, listen!
We’ve all been there. We’ve all heard some harmonies that are a little off, and it can be jarring! A key element of success in being a backing vocalist is about listening as closely as possible. That can be difficult if there’s a lot of other sound going on, especially on stage, so make sure your monitors are giving you everything you need to get that perfect pitch!
The clue really is in the name, but being a backing vocalist does ultimately mean that we don’t want to stand out from the crowd. So, with that in mind, there are some things you should think about when singing as a backing vocalist.
First up is making sure you’re never singing alone! That means starting and ending your phrases perfectly in sync with the other singers around you. Coming in even a fraction early or late can feel a little mortifying – another reason to listen hard!
Secondly, you can reduce the impact of your consonants when singing. That means singing your T’s, P’s and S’s super softly, or even omitting them entirely (S’s can be particularly noticeable!). Doing this will ensure you’re completely blending with everything around you, allowing the harmony itself to do the work.
On top of all that, you may want to consider mirroring the phrasing, vibrato and tone of the other backing vocalists to create the smoothest possible blend.
We hope this has given you some food for thought, and maybe you’ve learnt a thing or two! If you enjoyed this, check out our blog about taking care of your vocal chords, which is important for all singers, whether at the front of the stage or just behind!