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Backup vocals

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by perfdavid, Apr 13, 2006.

  1. I am in a modern rock band and have to do some backup vocals, but honestly, i suck. I try really hard but sometimes i am in key and others times I sound like David Lee Roth, meaining I suck.

    I know as a bass player, it really helps if we can do back-up.

    I have tried to find a vocal teacher here in town but have not had much luck.....Has anyone used a cd to train, if so, which one and how well did it help. Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks guys!!!
  2. FriscoBassAce


    Dec 29, 2004
    Frisco, Texas
    Independent Manufacturers Representative
    Hey Dave...

    I also sing backing vocals in my classic/modern rock cover band. Sometimes it's difficult to play bass and sing at the same time. I don't have any CD resources for you, but there is an excellent thread in this forum for bassists who need to sing: It's called "A Bassists Guide to Singing", and is at the top of this forum as a "sticky." Here's the link if you want a shortcut:


    What I've found to help me the most is to learn your bass part inside and out, and then learn the vocal parts the same way. When you're practicing the song, try to do both at the same time. If you have problems putting them together, try to think of the vocals as a function of the piece.

    I would recommend trying to find a vocal coach in your area. You could even take a class at your local community college. A friend of mine did that and he learned how to sing correctly.

    Good luck!
  3. hey man,
    thanks for the reply. Yeah, I read that thread a while back, but ther eis only so much reading can do.....As far as playing and singing, its not a problem....its the singing thats the problem. I have tried to call some people but no luck so far.
    i will keep on tryin'
  4. BluezBassist


    Aug 5, 2004
    I totally know what you're talking about..The guitar guys in my band won't even consider doing backups.. That leaves me and from the sounds of it, we're both about as qualified to be doing backups. Not that that stops me. :bassist:

    What has helped me with learning to hit certain keys or knowing which you're in, is practicing with my electronic tuner. I can be pretty much anywhere and try to hum whatever note and see how close I come.. I think doing this has also helped my ear as well..It also showed me that I should only do backup on some songs and that others are way out of my range..
  5. Great idea. I have never thought of using my electric tuner to see if I am hitting the right key. Novel.
  6. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    You can use the tuner, but you can also use your bass to match the pitch.

    Also for singing harmonies, use your bass. Play the root on your bass, and sing the 3rd, 5th, 6th, etc. If you can't hear the third in your head, then play it on your bass.

    BTW, all this is covered in the sticky on this forum.
  7. Lol, did you say harmonies??????
    hahahahahahahahahahahhhhhahahahahahahahah, I couldn't harmonize with a buddhist monk.
  8. ric1312

    ric1312 Banned

    Apr 16, 2006
    chicago, IL.
    Being a lead singer, I can tell you what doesn't work for backing vocals.

    1.Being too loud. Even if your backing vocal is good it should be in the background. if the soundguy has your mic real hot backoff.

    2. Trying to imitate the lead singer. Thats not a backing vocal and will make you sound like the chipmunks.

    3. Bad diction. Prounounce what you are singing well, otherwise you muddy up the lead vocal.

    4. Being off time and creating an echo effect when that's not wanted.

    Now here are some tips.

    1. Learn mic technique, know your mic. How to position it so it doesn't feed back. How to sing into it. Some mics boost low end if you get right up on the grill and sound boomy. Depending on how loud you want it before feedback though mics work better when you are just touching the grill or a couple inches away.

    This is especially important if you play loud, and it thus makes it hard to get mics loud over the music.

    2. If you aren't really a good singer there a couple of backup tricks......

    A. find your head voice, that's when your voice breaks trying to go higher in a full tone but you can't, and sing in that. Anyone can sing in head voice and very high to boot. head voice is great for backups. And it is hardly stressfull to do at all, also easy to sing in key. Its what most people sing in when they are mimicking something on the radio.

    B. Then theres the whisper vocal. Whisper with a lot of breath for effect. Experiment to find out what sounds best. Again easy to sing in key. But, actually lots of whispery vocals can wear out the voice if you do it alot. Very easy to put a lot of character an emotion into. I see some bands using this for leads as well.

    C. The backgroud scream. Back off the mic, a good foot and just scream. But, please do it in key, higher or lower or right on. I see bands doing this, not on key, and it sounds like crap.

    D. The chesty shout. Just shout in key in your normal talking voice and don't rasp it out and scream. With this one either right into the mic or a foot away depending on the effect you want.

    O, and listen to what your lead singer has in mind if anything. Most lead singers have ideas for background. Nothing more annoying than a guy with a background vocal trying exactly the opposite of what you want or trying to sing over the lead vocal.
  9. hellsgate


    Dec 27, 2005
    I've found that practicing with ear plugs helps me be able to hear what I'm singing so I then find it easier to stay on-pitch. Give it a try (plus you won't end up as deaf :D )
  10. ric1312

    ric1312 Banned

    Apr 16, 2006
    chicago, IL.
    Second the ear plug thing. Especially in very loud environments where your monitors or lack thereof aren't cutting it. It's like having an instant in ear monitor, sort of.

    Actually with ear plugs in you hear everything in the room better, very flat without the nice boucearound.

    Takes getting used to though, and not as fun sonically as playing without in a room where the volume is adaquate but not too loud.

    Actually with ear plugs you can do away with some vocal monitors to aviod feedback problems if the stage is tight.
  11. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Earplugs really help me sing in key, other than that it's about monitoring yourself and making sure you're not pushing yourself. I have about 2/3 an octave range, and my vocals tend to modulate a lot, but it sometimes really helps the song.
  12. +1 on ric's note.

    I'd add too to sing along with CD's/radio/etc. as much as possible, esp. in your car where you can be as loud as you need; that helps a lot with your ear and can also extend your range--at least it's done that for me. There are a couple songs that I use as benchmarks to see if my range has gotten higher (Bohemian Rhapsody and Your Love for example) and it definitely has. I'm no vocal coach but I think it's a good workout for your vocal chords/diaphragm too. So practice practice practice!!

    Also, I know you said harmonies are out of the question, but have you really tried picking out harmonies in songs and singing along with them? Start out with some Everly Brothers tunes (it's real easy to hear the harmonies in their songs) and work your way up to the tougher stuff. Pretty soon I bet you'll be able to create your own harmonies even.
  13. I tried on one song we do, cumbersome by seven mary three. There is a harmony on the part that goes, I have become Cumbersome. I am suppose to sing the higher part, but I am a baritone. So, its a no go. When I think of good harmonies, I think of Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith. So, that song will never get played by us.

    Thnaks for the tips guys. We practice tonight and I am definately going to wear earplugs and see how it goes. However, I have a head cold right now and probably don't even need earplugs.
  14. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    I had to learn it too - it's not easy!

    one thing I've done is downloaded karaoke tracks of our songs whenever possible - they usually (not always) have the harmony tracks isolated. I created a CD with these (and regular) tracks and I reherse in my car whenever I'm in it. It allows me to go full volume in privacy. Practice, practice, practice.

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