Backing vocals !!

Discussion in 'Beginner's Q&A Forum' started by BrO`'kEn_SwOrD, Sep 20, 2005.

  1. BrO`'kEn_SwOrD

    BrO`'kEn_SwOrD New Member

    hello friends,
    as u know in rock ( now a days everywhere ) , the backing vocals play a vital role. if they r used effectively , they can make a big difference in song quality. i just wanna know frm scratch about the backing vocals.... how they r composed n sung.
    when i sing backing vocals i usually sing in the same scale but at higher pitch. for time being it is OK, but .... u know. so plz anybody explain in detail !
    rizaaj likes this.
  2. bjr

    bjr Lady of the Evening

    I can't believe no one has replied to this. Backup vocals are not very easy to do without practice but are great fun.

    Okay...I can give you a basic run.

    Firstly, I want to congratulate you for realizing the importance of backing vocals in songs.

    If you know how to play chords, you'll know that you're playing the first, third and fifth note of the scale together. This is all you need to know.

    Imagine three voices singing the three different notes of the chord instead of playing them on a guitar. That, essentially, is what backup vocals are.

    What bands like Backstreet boys usually do of them sings the melody, another sings the same melody but starting from the third note of the scale and the third person sings the same melody starting from the fifth note of the it often sounds like a chord going up and down.

    eg- suppose the melody in C scale is:


    The second guy will sing:


    Note here that the difference in intervals has changed....if he did the exact same thing as the first guy, he would sing E-F#-G#-F#. However this would be outside the scale and would sound bad. It is important to stay within the scale.

    The third guy will sing:


    see? The pattern is remaining same but since they are starting at different points of the same scale, it gives us a beautiful harmony.

    One of my favourite tricks which I got from the Beatles song "I'll be back"....where they were singing the harmony in a minor chord....therefore the harmony was in a minor scale. So on an A minor key, the notes would be according to the notes of the A minor scale (ABCDEFGA)

    I hope all this doesn't confuse you. If it does, feel free to ask me any questions you want to related to these topics...and if required I will post a recording of harmonies. I don't have a good voice but I can harmonize reasonable decently (Used to give backup vocals).
  3. Gaurav Bhatia

    Gaurav Bhatia New Member

    i must say bjr that u have explained it very well.
    Yes i know that chords are combinatio of 1st 3rd and 5th note of the scales together. But i am unable to understand the following theory :
    eg- suppose the melody in C scale is:

    "Note here that the difference in intervals has changed....if he did the exact same thing as the first guy, he would sing E-F#-G#-F#. However this would be outside the scale and would sound bad. It is important to stay within the scale."

    how come ?? please explan for me....
    Thanx a lot
  4. bjr

    bjr Lady of the Evening

    See the intervals that we are playing in the original melody:


    If you look at the gaps in the frets, there is a space of one fret between every note in the pattern.

    Logically, if we were to repeat the exact pattern from 3 frets higher....what we would play would be:


    see...between E and F# there is a gap of one fret and same gap is there between F# and G#.


    However, the pattern we are following does not depend on the frets. The pattern we are following depends on the notes we are playing. This now would be the correct method of finding the harmony.

    The first melody is


    so the notes of the scale being played are 1st,2nd,3rd and again 2nd.

    Therefore, when we play the same melody starting from the third note of the scale...the notes we play will be the 3rd,4th,5th and 4th.

    The notes of the C major scale are: C D E F G A B C

    so the melody for the second singer will be:


    similarly for the third singer:

    Notes to be played:5th, 6th, 7th, 6th

    I hope that helps...I'm not great at explaining so it is highly possible that you might be confused so keep asking if you do not understand something and I'll try to explain it differently.
    sayanakaharry and rizaaj like this.
  5. rizaaj

    rizaaj Forum Leader

    indeed very informative thread... reps for both ov u :beer:
  6. sayanakaharry

    sayanakaharry Forum Leader

    fantastic job bjr. kudos.
  7. bjr

    bjr Lady of the Evening

    thank you.

    However, keep in mind this is just the first lesson...there is a lot more to it when it comes to the real thing.

    Just for fun, I made a recording where I'm singing and then when I'm singing plus giving backup vocals....this might help a n00b or two.

    The song is summer of 69...I'm using a nylon string because my steel string is out of order and I couldn't be arsed to connect my electric and multi-track it twice.

    I'm giving the harmonies on these parts:

    Standing on your mama's porch......
    Oh and when you held my hand......
    Those were the best days of my life.

    The first recording is just the song, and the second is with backup vocals. Like I said, I'm not great with either vocals or backup.
  8. Gaurav Bhatia

    Gaurav Bhatia New Member

    Thank you bjr.....thanx alot......u have explained it too good........great
    hey i wanted to ask u one thing......till now(in a span of 2 months) tutor has taught me basic chods C Dm E Fm G A B C C# D Em F# G# and so on.....he has also taught me how these shord are made...i mean 1+3+5 notes......and differnce between major and minor.......and about fretboard,name of each fret....and yes....rythems too....i am now able to play chords of "musafir hun yaaron" properly with shifting of chords in rythem.......
    and i also knwow what does G#7 mean.....means to make 7th note flat.....
    He has also taught me few fingers excercises.
    Please tell i going right .....and should a beginner move this way only?? or some more theory is involved in starting??.......
    Thank you

  9. bjr

    bjr Lady of the Evening

    Dude, there is no right way or wrong way. I think you should put trust your teacher completely and if you can't then get a teacher you trust.

    You've accomplished quite a decent bit for just two months.

    As for theory...the only "adequate" amount of theory is as much as you need. There is no need of knowing something you will never ever use....but then again, unless you try to get to know these things you will never know whether you want to use them.

    It's a vicious circle really ;)
  10. leftyzayed

    leftyzayed New Member

    yeah its a good idea.i dont know it before.i works for it but it is now clear to me
  11. bjr

    bjr Lady of the Evening

    If anyone is actually interested, I can post some more advanced "lessons" in back-up vocals. Just PM me or reply right here.
  12. Gaurav Bhatia

    Gaurav Bhatia New Member

    hey bjr.....thanx alot for giving me confident....hey hey i am not saying that i dont trust my tutor ....i trust him alot ....only then i am able to learn this much...and yes he also trust me too:)
    yes i would love to have advanced tutorils on that and i will show it to my tutor....he will b very glad to see those tutorils and we will both work on them:)
  13. BrO`'kEn_SwOrD

    BrO`'kEn_SwOrD New Member

    thanx a lot bjr,
    btw sorry fr replying so late.
    well, wat u have posted is very informative.... but i knew all these things. the main prblm with me is - while singing with lead singer i loose my pitch/scale....i miss many notes there. i m trying to sing backing vocals fr lst 2-3 alone i can sing them.... but while singing with the some other singer, i become 'besura'. plz help me out.
    n plz provide all the gyan about backing vocals.... backing vocals kill me n i m desperatly want to learn them.

    haan, one more thing... when i asked my music teacher abt this ( long back, before 2 yrs ) then he told me u can sing backing vocals in any scale fr any chord, provided they should nt be dissonant.
    i searched a lot abt backing vocals on net, but cant get wat i want. so it will be more beneficial if u provide some net links or recommend some sites fr more information.
    thanks a lot.
  14. rocking_devil

    rocking_devil Banned

    yeah,, many indian bands lack back vocals.....xept a few like zero n so on....!
  15. shsnawada

    shsnawada Cyborgs & Pasta

    Chaos Theory has two of them.
  16. bjr

    bjr Lady of the Evening

    That's's supposed to happen. The reason you are getting besura is because you are listening to the lead singer far too closely. If you'll notice people who are trying to give backup vocals, they will (a lot of times) close their ear which is close to the singer with their finger and then give backup vocals so that they can block out the singers voice. Otherwise it is a natural tendency to sing what the singer is singing and then to try and sing differently makes us go besura. So the best thing to do initially is block out the singers voice to a certain extent. As you continue to practice backup vocals, you will later find that you can focus on the harmony even with the vocalists voice right next to you and that is when you can be reasonably confident about your backup vocals skills.

    He is quite right. However, you have to pick your note in an educated way. You can't play a major chord and then sing a harmony on the 4th or the 7th of the scale since those are the more dissonant notes.

    But if you ever play a jazz/rock fusion or just jazz....this dissonance your teacher was speaking of becomes desirable sometimes. But once again, the choice for the harmony is not is selected in a very educated way. You have to know what you're doing with it.

    I'll try to write something more on backup vocals a bit later.
  17. BrO`'kEn_SwOrD

    BrO`'kEn_SwOrD New Member

    thnx bjr
    sometimes the backing vocals r called as 'seconds' or 'contrast' . so seconds means to sing frm 2nd note like 4th or 7th?
    one more thing.... can u give some examples of the jazz/rock fusion songs, so that it will become more clear.
  18. bjr

    bjr Lady of the Evening

    All my backup vocals knowledge is pretty much self gathered so I have no clue about the terms used.

    Perhaps contrast might mean dissonance....i am not sure.

    Jazz/rock fusion....I'm not very sure. Sting, in his unplugged performances, uses a lot of these ideas of fusion so you can check him out. Then people like John McLaughlin (with the Ja Mahavishnu orchestra) are good to check out too.
  19. vini

    vini Repeat Offender

    just two words for u bjr>>

  20. vini

    vini Repeat Offender

    ^ oh no..need to sp

    but its honestly amazing..where did u learn all this from? u must be a professional :shock:

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