3 Steps to Better Background Vocals

Background vocals are a pretty important part in a lot of recordings.

Imagine Justin Timberlake’s recent release with only a single lead vocal, or “Respect” by Aretha Franklin without the catchy background vocal part.

Things just wouldn’t be the same.

A lot of times, however, we don’t spend enough time writing and perfecting these crucial parts. Sometimes, backgrounds are the last step before mixing, which means they can be brushed over a lot easier and not get the attention they deserve.

Here are three tips to help you get better results when it come to background vocals:

1. Instead of recording a lead vocal then background vocals, record a scratch lead vocal, then perfect the background vocals, then record the lead vocal.

This will help you to focus on the background vocals as a necessary step before lead vocals are recorded. You’ll also be sure to get them right – otherwise it would be too difficult to record your lead vocal!

2. Write your background vocals out in some form of notation.

Even if you’re not working with a traditional staff and notes, writing out your background parts can really help you to visualize what you’re doing. Use regular notation, a system like the Nashville Number system, or even your own “made up” notation. This rough idea of what your parts look like will help you to understand how they are working and how they can better work together.

An alternate/additional thing you can do to achieve this is to play them as chords on your instrument – usually piano is best for this. This can help you to visualize and hear what the overall chord structures will sound like.

3. Make your background vocals stronger than your lead vocal.

This is of course a mind trick, but a good one at that. You want your background vocals to be as strong as your lead vocal. It’s too easy to slack off on them because you know they’ll be “turned down” in the mix and only there to support the lead vocal.

But a mix is only as strong as it’s weakest track! Even if it takes four or five attempts, keeping recording and editing your BGVs until they are perfect.

You’ll be even happier with your recordings if your background vocals are solid. Then it’s on to mixing. Become a member to start learning with the pros on how to create incredible productions and mixes!

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