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Learning to sing harmony vocals.

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Tim Cole, Sep 14, 2004.


  1. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    Anyone have any suggestions? As of now, my singing experience is zero. My current band is pretty vocal oriented, and already have 2 great singers, but I am wanting to add a 3rd vocal to it.

    Obviously, doubling one of the other guys +/- an octave is a possibility, but where else is there to go? Major 3rds usually work, 5ths as well. Any other suggestions? Way to train your ear to know what it needs before you get there (other than the obvious, practice)?

    PS, my spot will be bass/tenor part. I need to figure out a way to do this well, or I wont be able to do it at all.
     
  2. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Work with the two great singers in your band. Pick some sections of songs where the bassline isn't too demanding and ask them what they suggest. Since you're the third voice, it should be possible to give you an easy part, maybe releasing one of the other singers to do something a bit more extreme.

    Wulf
     
  3. fastplant

    fastplant

    Sep 26, 2002
    Connecticut
    Listen to songs with cool harmonies. I used to listen to Alice In Chains alot to get ideas for harmonies. The best harmonies are usually not just a 3rd or 5th above the melody. They are alot different than the melody. Train your ears first.
     
  4. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    The bass part is going to be the easiest ot sing, especially if you're the bass player.Stay simple at first using mostly roots.The third above the lead is the next easiest as you can usually pick it out by focusing on the lead singer.The 5th or inside harmonies are always the hardest and you should probably leave them to the more experienced singers in the beginning.Try singing together "acapella" as often as possible, or with just an acoustic guitar.Don't get frustrated, nobody does it well in the beginning.With our female lead singer, I had her double my part (third above melody), for a long time until she could hear the parts for herself.If you have a piano or a guitar, play chords in different inversions and listen to what they sound like.A good vocal band is a wonderful thing, good luck.
     
  5. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    Thanks guys......I am going over the live acoustic recordings we have done trying to find my spots in it. I'm having a hard time remembering pitches though, I'll repeat a song 5 times in a row, and do okay with it. Go to something else and come back, then I am lost again lol. I'll sit down with my bass and take notes when I get the chance, so I know what pitch I need for reference. The vocal sound we have is along the lines of country (re:Alabama), or like the huge vocals found in some bluegrass.......even though we are a rock band, and play neither of the before mentioned music. Playing and singing at the same time......haven't even tried that yet!

    Wulf: We never have time to practice unfortunately. The lead singer/gui**** is pretty cool...he says just do it, it will come. The drummer on the other hand, seems to have a bit of a spotlight syndrome, and I don't think will offer much help. But, he will pout if it is off I am sure :)

    Fastplant: I know exactly what you mean...Jerry Cantrell is a great harmonizer, crossing paths with Layne, and making it sound awesome. Like "It aint like that" from Facelift. PS, sorry to read your band split...I downloaded some tunes off the site a while back, and you guys were pretty good!

    Mel: That's my thought too, but the previously mentioned drummer does the 3rd's, and other high stuff. Double up and bury his sound, and I know he will bitch. I guess that's his problem though. I just bought some monitors for the band to use, if he complains too much, I'll just unplug him :)
     
  6. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    If you don't get time to practise with the band, just practise with the recordings and grab a mic on the next gig. I got into singing and playing when I moved to a new area, got involved with a new church and they pointed out that I was welcome to use the mic in front of me. After a few weeks I realised that no-one had removed the mic and I've gradually increased in confidence (and, hopefully, skill!) ever since (although I'm still not great at it).

    Wulf
     
  7. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks!

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    Hey Tim,


    The third is usually the easiest to hear, but if that's already covered you don't want to double it that would sound really bright. The best sounding thing you could do is sing the 5th of the chord, if you sang it below the melody then it would be a 4th down from the melody. That would make the "biggest sounding" chords.


    What I do to train my ear is to just sing harmonies. The car is the best place for it (if you're alone). I sing along with tunes that don't have harmonies just for practice. I sing along with tunes that have 2 parts and add the top voice(I'm a high tenor). You could record a rehearsal/gig without singing the parts and practice singing along with the recording. When you feel comfortable ask one of the guys to listen and make suggestions. I know it's hard to find the starting pitch sometimes, but after a while it gets easier. The more you do it the more comfortable you'll be with it.


    Good Luck

    Chris A. :rolleyes: :bassist:
     
  8. Petebass

    Petebass

    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    I've found that the lower harmony doesn't necessarily have to follow the melody of the other harmonies. For example, they other 2 guys might sing a line that jumps around 7 or 8 different notes, but you may be able to anchor it with a simpler melody line of only 1 or 2 notes. This is really hard to explain, mush easier to demonstrate...........
     
  9. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    There were alot of good points brought up here by everyone.I have to laugh because I had this whole message typed up for you last night with more hints on it, and the power went out just before I sent it (I'm here in Florida, and the power has been going out alot)Anyway , I feel like a stooge, because I thought it was pretty good.
    If you are singing simple 3 chord country type songs, you could (as previously mentioned) take the note that moves the least, for example.If you are going from a C chord (C-E-G) to an F chord (F-A-C), depending on the melody, one not might move from the E to an F, only a half step, or one note might move from a G to an A,or down to an F,in either case , only a whole step.If you stuck to the parts that move the least for a while, you might catch on faster.
    Don't be too hard on yourself, learning to sing harmony is not that easy, it's kinds of unnatural at first, everyone wants to gravitate to the melody.You're also going to encounter all of those beginning problems, like you'll probably need your monitor louder that the others so that you can hear yourself.Then when you add the THUNDER AND LIGHTNING as I like to call it, of all the other instruments , and you have to play too.Just as it took you time to learn to play the bass, it will take time to learn to sing harmony.Your bandmates should be happy and try to help you as much as possible as it will ultimately make the band better.Just keep in mind, even your drummer ,with the big head ,was in the same position at one time as you are now.Everyone has to learn to sing harmony at one time or another, he probably had someone giving him looks at one time too.
    Keep in mind that harmony tends to repeat itself alot also, so it's not going to be like pulling your teeth forvever, after a while you will start to recognize situations.It will get easier.This is the "paying your dues" side of playing, you'll get it and then you'll be much better (and in demand) for it.Good luck, and don't sing wimpy, support your tones from your diaphram and sing out, sure you're gonna blow a few clams every once in a while, but at least they'll be memorable ones.
     
  10. tim99

    tim99 Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2003
  11. Think of something like the Beatles' "If I Fell."

    Because my vocal range is so limited it's much easier for me to take the higher and falsetto harmonies. Bad thing about that is that I always end up slipping into falsetto.
     
  12. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    Golden Boy.Falsetto is not a bad thing at all to slip into, the pitch is usually more accurate than straining to hit a note that is on the upper end of your register, also it seems to give a brilliance to the vocals thet is very pleasing to the listener.
     
  13. I don't practice much with the working cover band I play with, but I am using their gig time to work on singing. I generally just turn myself up in the monitors but don't have myself very loud in the front of house mix - it seems to work for practicing it while starting out.
     
  14. The problem is most of my backup vocals are around falsetto- I'd like to be able to do more NOT in falsetto.

    Which brings up another issue- if you're not sure of your part or you know you're on the cusp of your range listen well and back away from the mic- stop singing if need be. Low or no vocal is better than a bad vocal when it comes to backups.
     
  15. fastplant

    fastplant

    Sep 26, 2002
    Connecticut
    Thanks man, I'm actually much happier with the new band, nameless as we may be, haha.
     
  16. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    Golden Boy. I am a singer first and a bass player somewhere else along the line.If I may be so bold.A vocal exercise I was taught many years ago to strengthen headvoice and also the bridge between headvoice and falsetto can be done as follows.
    If you have a piano,I prefer to use that, if not, use what you have.You spoke before of finding your upper range, so I assume you know where that is.Star about a fourth or fifth below that and work your upper range a couple of times.I use (do-ra-me -fa-sol-fa -me-ra-do notes), although I do not say those vocaleses, I use vowels -e-e-ah-o-ah-ay-ah -o-ooh.(or whatever works vor you, vowels are easier to sing than consonants).Then go back and do the same exercise using your falsetto ONLY.Work it up high, but more importantly, work it down as low as it will go before it cuts out completely.If you do that everyday for a while, you will not only have neighbors that hate you, but your upper range will will be dramatically stronger both in head voice and falsetto.I don't mean to sound like a pompous fool here, but it really works. Funny side effect though, my dog likes to do it with me now, I should tape it and let you hear it, it's quite funny.Again, I mean no offense, I am only relating a vocal exercise that I learned and still do.
     
  17. No offense taken whatsoever!!

    My vocal range is pretty much entirely covered in something like ohh.... "Something" by the Beatles. I think that's all within less than an octave, but I still struggle with the "high" parts of that. :D
     
  18. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Gawd I'm horrible at harmony vocals. I gave it a shot without a bass w/my uncle's band and damn. My voice got pulled to either the harmony my cousin was singing or the lead. When I sang lead it sounded great, but I can't harmony for beans.
     
  19. Something is just over an octave.

    If you are really interested in singing better, singing lessons with a good teacher will do WONDERS. I used to hate singing because I hate my voice, I still don't love it but I am confident enough to sing solo, because I really am a much better singer for it.
     
  20. check out alot of sixties pop rock- such as Beach boys, Zombies, etc... great harmonies on them, should give you a good idea of how to sing em.