Singing Tips and Tricks ~ Singing Harmonies in a Band

By November 18, 2014BLOG, Singing Tips

HEAR THE CHANGE – Two very different singers. Listen as Paul’s character’s voice (he’s on the left) slowly changes and becomes more warm and round… By the time these two get to 2:46, they sound like they are blending.

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Singing tips and tricks for live performers

Some singers are enamored by the lush and smooth harmonies of such bands like the Eagles… others of us might lean towards the more contrasting, yet effective harmonies of say, the Beatles. Others still prefer to have Steve Perry sing every track and call it a day. What ever the case… we seem drawn to the harmonies.

I know that, for my entertainment dollar, harmonies are what separates the amateur bands from the professional bands! If a band takes the time to work on, work up and work out the harmonies for something like Any Way You Want It, or any Bruno Mars hit…. They have me. I’m a fan.

Problem: Sloppy, dissonant or un-blended harmonies

Live bands that fumble through the group harmonies or botch them altogether.

Tips & Tricks

Time and effort… It goes without saying that rehearsal is critical, that… and a good ear. Practice makes perfect.



Singing Harmonies, Denver Wedding Band, Mannequin

HARMONIES (left to right) Dana Wield, Alan Currens, Amanda Ray

Harmony assignments

OK the first order of business is to get the harmonies assigned. Let’s take a three part harmony and pretend I am the singer, you and a band mate are singing the harmonies. I take the melody, leaving you each to find a note that works with me. I personally like one higher and one lower when singing harmonies because I think that provides a complete “bed” for the melody to lay on.

The higher harmony is usually only a third of a fifth above the melody. So if we are in the Key of C, and the melody note is a C, the upper harmony would either be an E or a G.

The lower harmony I find most commonly sits on the fifth. So that is the G below the C I am singing.

That’s an example… the important thing is not that you stack harmonies like this, it’s that you thought about it, planned it and now have assignments!

Sloppy

I get very distracted when a group is sloppy with their timing while singing harmonies. It’s something that is so easily remedied… I’m talking about when words that are being sung are started and ended NOT together. This is especially bad when the lyric is quick, like in Treasure’s chorus (Bruno Mars)… “You know you could make my dreams come true”. Very quick and percussively sung and if the singers are sloppy about their timing you can’t make out the words! So DO WHAT THE LEAD SINGER IS DOING 🙂 That’s the simplest rule I can tell you. At first watch their face as  they sing… if you do that while your singing you’ll assign a visual memory to the muscle memory of your part.


WARM UP! Gaga gets a bit pitchy, but listen to the backup singers ~ awesome.

Dissonant

Self explanatory. If you are flat or sharp on a harmony note, a dissonance occurs that is like fingernails on a chalk board. It’s harsh… and audiences will NOT forgive this or tolerate it. Tweak your work! Use your phone to record the rehearsals and listen back. You’ll hear the bad parts!

Blending

My singing in the Towhead Demons is huge on this. I’ve sung with him for 24 years and we blend quite well. He has taught me to shape the vowels like he does. Now… in blending you have to consider a lot of things, like the “timber” of a voice or the weight of a voice… the warmth or any other creative adjectives producers like to use, but the number one thing I can tell you in this short blog is to shape the vowels like the lead singer. If his O’s are big and round and he looks like he or she is singing opera… mimic their instrument by doing the same thing or similar thing with your own face. Open wide and pretend you are impersonating them. You’ll hear that you are blending. If they are nasal and quiet, sing through your nose and sing quiet. Picture a harmony where the singer is singing nasal and quiet and the harmony person is singing like their in opera… you don’t even have to hear that to know it’s going to be bad!



Try these singing tips and tricks and see if they help. You’ll be glad you invested the time in harmonies!

Keep calm and sing on ~

Alan
Mannequin

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