Harmony vocals

SirionSirion Posts: 3,115
edited December 2016 in Songwriting
After almost 10 years out of the saddle I am now ready to start getting a band together again, and to write original material. This time around I want to get all the matters that didn't work out previously around, the most important being harmony vocals. 10-15 years ago, nobody except myself would accept having to sing. Now I have a band of at three musicians willing to do backing vocals (hopefully we'll get a main singer on top of this), so that should give considerable freedom. I should be decently equipped for the task: I've studied classical harmony and composition, and can dash out a workmanlike (= correct but unremarkable) facsimile of a Bach chorale or a Palestrina motet. To convert it into a rock context is another matter, but one I hope to work intensely on as we write new material. Getting the harmonies correct shouldn't be a matter.

Do any of have any experience with writing (or performing) harmony vocals in a dino context? This is one of those topics I think tend to be given short shrift, but it is an essential part of a lot of the music we all listen to, so if we could get a conversation running on the topic that would be great. (Even if I eventually put this in songwriting perspectives on performance would certainly be more than welcome.) Any starters?
Post edited by Sirion on


  • EugenicScumEugenicScum Posts: 5,323
    For that you're going to want Amy here. :smiley: 
    Check out my band: Bevar Sea
  • Dinosaur David BDinosaur David B Posts: 18,377
    edited December 2016
    For that you're going to want Amy here. :smiley: 
    Yeah.  I spent part of this afternoon mixing a track where Amy's backup vocal parts are are so mindblowing it made the hairs on my arm stand up and left a lump in my throat. When you guys hear it, you're gonna be blown away. 

    Not sure what you want to know specifically, but Amy can probably answer any specific tactical questions you have -- so compile them, and I'll send her to the thread. 

    I can tell you this from the production side of things: It's great that you have the knowledge to get the harmonies to work -- that's important. But composing great background vocals is like any other artistic venture.  Anyone can do gang vocals ala Accept or Thin Lizzy, but it's another thing entirely to take background vocals to the levels of bands that sing REALLY WELL together like the Beatles, The Beach Boys, Yes, Elton John's band in the 70s, the Eagles, CSN, or Queen (and you could certainly go back further to Motown, girl groups, Doo-wop, and above all else GOSPEL, be it pure, or in a rock context). But before you ever harmonize, it's about coming up with compelling vocal parts -- the same way a guitarist comes up with compelling guitar parts.  

    How do you do that?  

    It's like trying to teach someone how to write a riff.  There's no specific how-to.  You have to lean on your own personal listening experiences and influences, combined with your own skill, and talent.  The problem is, unless you've been paying GOBs of attention to vocal parts over the years, your ability to think of compelling vocal parts may be about as good as a singer's ability to come up with a compelling guitar riff. 

    I don't know what kind of music you're going to be doing, but in your shoes, I'd be thinking about what kind of backing vocals suits your music (by referencing some bands that achieve what you want), and what can you guys realistically pull off.

    If you can come up with a rough goal, and some specific questions, I can send the master your way. 
    Post edited by Dinosaur David B on
    I threw me guitar out. Why bother? Why bother? Use it as a coffee table. Because I can't play it like that. 
    -- David St. Hubbins.
  • TravisWTravisW Posts: 1,058
    edited December 2016
    I have some experience, mostly from my solo stuff which is somewhat dino-ish. Kinda. I wouldn't consider myself anything close to an expert, as my method has often consisted of thinking "I can think of a harmony part that'd work here", putting it in, and either keeping or dumping it. If anything, I've just tried to make sure that those parts are emphasizing an important aspect of the lyric and that the harmonies make that section stand apart. I also think about voice leading, just so the parts themselves are carrying my ear to a satisfying resolution. 

    All that said, this thread made me think of the Turtles, which make me think of Flo and Eddie. 

    ^^^^Actually - that's a pretty decent use of harmonization in a rock context. 
    Post edited by TravisW on
  • I put my last three days playing a long the last Live DVD from Mr. Big.
    The diference about a big vs great band are the harmony vocals. Having four, FOUR! great singers in the same band is a real luxury.

    You should study some Mr. Big work in that departament.

    Queen is the biggest band in harmony vocals, but, they are actual song arrangements, and in the most part are very dificult to write and even more to a live performance.
  • Seven MoonsSeven Moons Posts: 8,955
    Try to have Michael Anthony playing the bass in your band  :)
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