Best way to train backing vocals

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Tom Sklenar, Jul 31, 2017.

  1. Tom Sklenar

    Tom Sklenar SS.org Regular

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    Hi, as a bass player I want to bring a benefit of great backing vocals to each band I am in. But I struggle with it a lot for many years. What are best ways to learn vocal technique? How can I make the fastest and most effective progress? Do I need to study it on professional basis or should I do just a few simple steps? I don´t need to sing like a superstar but as a reliable player who can add value to his playing by reliable backing vocals.
     
  2. Tom Sklenar

    Tom Sklenar SS.org Regular

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    I mean pure singing, not growl, screaming or things like that...
     
  3. Strobe

    Strobe SS.org Regular

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    The fastest way is to find a vocal coach. There are many things from how you breathe, your posture, and so many other things that you can benefit from having feedback and a practicing regime. This might be more time or money than you are willing to lay down. Let me give you one super important tip that you can use either way.

    You need to be able to hear yourself. If you are straining to hear yourself, it is going to make you sing too loud, and you are going to sound terrible while simultaneously losing your voice, and in the long term, doing damage to your voice. My recommendation is getting a wireless monitor and some kind of noise suppressing ear buds. This will protect your hearing (important), while also allowing you to hear. I sing for a metal band, going to this was a game changer to me.
     
  4. Element0s

    Element0s Low Fantasy/Black Denim

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    As a guy who does backing vocals in all his bands (metal and otherwise) I can tell you that the hardest part for me is separating the harmony from the melody in my head. I can hear the melody clearly and I can imagine the melody+harmony together just fine, but hearing just the harmony parts in my head can a challenge for me even after years of ear training experience... especially if the harmony is doing something other than diatonic 3rds.

    I feel like if you can get good at this element and follow it up with the control and support needed to hit the notes consistently then you've basically got the tools you need. I would maybe start by singing in diatonic 3rds and 4ths as those tends to be the most common types of vocal harmonies for pop/rock. Make sure you practice singing these intervals both above and below the main melody.
     
  5. Mark Lykkos

    Mark Lykkos SS.org Regular

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    Hey Tom!

    As a singer who has studied privately with several teachers AND has done my own learning, I'd definitely recommend finding a good vocal coach to work with. A vocal coach will be able to guide you out of any bad habits you may have developed from trying to teach yourself, and steer you toward good habits and proper technique!

    As a self-teaching supplement I highly recommend The Right Way to Sing by Linda Marquart. Much of what I read in that book went in line with what I was learning at the time with my private teacher, and the way she writes is in a way that accommodates both novice and learned singers.

    Don't worry if anything you learn seems more oriented for "classical" or opera voices because proper technique, posture, breath control, producing a good tone, and doing all of this without breaking yourself is a foundation for ALL styles of singing!

    Hope this helps!
     
  6. Mark Lykkos

    Mark Lykkos SS.org Regular

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    Oh and another thing to bring up in support of finding a good vocal coach is that a good vocal coach will most likely know how to pace things with you so that you're learning a little bit of a lot of things little by little so that you're not overwhelmed with a huge amount of knowledge all at once. Sometimes when we try to teach ourselves things we can overwhelm ourselves with either not knowing where to start or falling into way too much information all at once.
     
  7. Matthias Hornstein

    Matthias Hornstein SS.org Regular

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    Hi Tom,
    i think a daily routine to strengthen your voice would be a great beginning.
    Searching through the internet i found that link that you should definitely check out:



    It's free (at least some of the videos) and helped me a lot. Make sure to do this routine every day to strengthen your voice. Once you get better you should think about a professional vocal coach
     
    crankyrayhanky likes this.
  8. Tom Sklenar

    Tom Sklenar SS.org Regular

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    Thank you very much, guys! All of your tips and suggestions are helpful and beneficial. I appreciate them a lot!
     
  9. Tom Sklenar

    Tom Sklenar SS.org Regular

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    I see, that my biggest mistake was thinking that for learning “only” backing vocals I won´t need a teacher. I thought that I can learn it myself. And that´s probably the reason number one, why I struggle with it for many years.
     
  10. Matthias Hornstein

    Matthias Hornstein SS.org Regular

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    Sounds obvious. Having a teacher always helps to figure out things much faster and learning it the correct way right from the beginning. Assuming that the teacher knows what he is doing...
     
  11. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I see no difference between training for "backup" vocals and lead vocals. Singing is singing, regardless of your role in the band. I think that, like anything else, some people are going to be able to self-teach their vocals, and others will need a coach to get there. If your focus is on backing vocals as a skill, then definitely try to work on keeping melody lines separate from the lead notes being sung. I know a guy who sings backup pretty often who is entirely unable to harmonize - he always just hits an octave away from the lead and calls it a "harmony", and argues when you tell him that's what he's doing.
     
  12. Matthias Hornstein

    Matthias Hornstein SS.org Regular

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    It also depends on the level you want to do your singing / musical stuff.
    I mean, if you just want to sing a bit backup in local bars or private events, beeing self-taught could be good enough. But it will sound to a certain point amateur - what is absolutely o.k. if you just do it was a hobby or something.
    But if you want to be / or plan to go professional there is no way other way then getting professional help to reach your goals as fast as possible
     
  13. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Gonna disagree on that one. "No other way" is just not true. Lots of pros/semi-pros/etc. out there who never got formal vocal training.
     
  14. Tom Sklenar

    Tom Sklenar SS.org Regular

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    I definitely don´t want to look like an amateur. Prefer to do it as best as I can or not to do it at all. I choose a first possibility. Even if I will play and sing backing vocals in local bars, I want to act profesionally.
     
  15. Mark Lykkos

    Mark Lykkos SS.org Regular

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    I've watched performances where sometimes depending on the band or artist the backup singers are pretty prominent to a point where sometimes they're just duetting with the lead vocalist, so even if you just plan to support your band with backup vocals there's no reason to not work on your voice to make it still sound good!
     
  16. Tom Sklenar

    Tom Sklenar SS.org Regular

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    It sounds logical. I really don´t know, why I refused it before. But I have my eyes open now - because of you. Thank you :)
     
  17. Tom Sklenar

    Tom Sklenar SS.org Regular

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    That´s right. But in all cases it must be people with huge natural talent. That´s not my case, definitely not in singing.
     
  18. Mark Lykkos

    Mark Lykkos SS.org Regular

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    Regardless of the level of baseline natural aptitude for singing someone has, it's not the same for everyone in terms of how they get their voice to where they want it to be.

    If someone happens to sing perfectly without having had a minute of formal training or by watching some videos on YouTube, that's perfectly fine because that works for that person. But not everyone functions and grows like that. Tom knows his end result and now it's up to him to figure out the best suggestions that he believes will work for him.
     
  19. Matthias Hornstein

    Matthias Hornstein SS.org Regular

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    I agree that the words "no other way" were not choosen wisely. But notice that i wrote "as fast as possible".
    A lots of ways lead to rome, but wouldn't you agree that, let's say most of the time (for regular not with talent blessed people) you will get there faster with an excellence guidance?
     

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