We’ve dug into the depths of vocal harmony from the composer’s perspective, touching on how to write gorgeous vocal harmonies, breaking them down. Now, let’s talk about the vocalist’s interpretation of harmony.
As a singer, it’s your job to know how to be both the lead vocalist and a solid backing vocalist. This is where harmony comes in. In our opinion, the first step to becoming a soulful, supporting harmony starts with the idea that less is more.
When you’re mixing your voice with others, it’s important to lessen the harshness of all the usual elements that make you a unique vocalist. This will help to blend your voice with others. The greater picture/sound is what you’re going for here. It’s a community effort to create one layered and textured sound,
Live About gives us these tips. “Use sheet music. For some, the best starting point is to plunk out a harmony on the piano. That means buying sheet music, sitting down at a piano, and learning your notes. Sing your harmony of choice several times, then learn to sing it without the piano. Then, if you have the ability, play the melody on the piano and sing the harmony with it. You may also bring the tune up on YouTube and sing harmony with whomever you find singing the melody of your choice.”
If you'd like to get a little more technical, let’s visit Live About’s thoughts on the matter. “ Sing a third up or down. Commonly, musicians harmonize by using an interval of a third, which is a space of three or four half notes. In The Dixie Cups version of "Going to the Chapel," one singer sings a third above and the other a third below the melody. The third interval is also found in the first two notes of "Kumbaya" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
A hidden tip that we love to abide by is the theory that you should let one element shine at a time. By following this idea, one would “Avoid skips to start. There is a harmonic rule that says basses are allowed to make large skips and the rest of the voices should avoid them. Rules are meant to be broken, but not when you are a beginner. A typical exception is when you sing "Sol-Do." You might recognize this movement in the harmonies found in "I Hope" by the Dixie Chicks.“
Finally, if you’re looking to really hone in on your harmonizing skills, you may not realize that your very best asset is your very own voice! You can record incredible vocal layers by just stacking your own versions. This will not only make you a better singer, but a better writer, because you’ll be able to really put the time in and learn the ins and outs of interweaving vocals.
We vote enlisting your very best singing friend and spending some solid time harmonizing within one another’s ranges. If you don’t have a friend or collaborator who is a vocalist that you vibe with, we suggest harmonizing with the radio. This is a fabulous place to start. You’ll learn a lot about your own voice, including it’s dynamics and nuances, while exploring working with other’s talents.