One of the most neglected aspects I’ve seen with live bands over the years is the backing vocals. I’ve seen plenty of bands that have an excellent lead singer or even multiple lead singers that nail the lead vocals every time. But they are severely lacking in the backing vocals. Too many bands just don’t take the time to learn and then fix problems with their backing vocals.
I’ve written many times on Live Musician Central that the ability to sing is crucial to your skills as a band musician. It’s up to you as an individual player to take ownership of singing backup vocals in your band. Along with your regular, personal practice on your instrument you need to take the time to practice your backing vocals. I often practice my singing while I’m driving as it’s something I can do without my hands. Make sure you take the time to learn your individual backing vocal part before you have a band rehearsal.
The next step in getting your backup vocals in shape as a band is to have a dedicated, Vocals only band practice. Set aside at least one practice a month to work solely on the band’s backup vocals. If your band really struggles with singing backup vocals then you’ll want to have a dedicated vocal practice more often. Spend the entire practice working on vocals only.
When working on vocals it’s a good idea to have a keyboard handy to help you pick out individual parts. Using a keyboard is an easy way to isolate individual vocal parts and help the weaker singers to find and follow their part. With a keyboard you can hear how the parts should all sound together. You can also use a guitar to strum chords while the band practices vocals. This will help you hear how the vocal parts fit in with the chordal harmony.
When rehearsing vocals in my band, the first thing we do is find all of our vocal parts using a keyboard. Then we’ll make sure each individual singer can sing his part. After that, we’ll strum the guitar and have everyone sing their vocal parts with the guitar. Finally, we’ll sing everything Acapella to make sure that everyone is listening to each other and singing in tune with each other. It’s honestly a great feeling when vocal harmonies come together because they sound so awesome when sung well!
It’s also a great idea to practice backup vocals for a few minutes every single band practice. It warms up the band member’s voices and helps get everyone focusing on singing. If you have a song that everyone struggles with, give it extra attention. Practice those vocal parts before and after you play the problem song as a band. By following these simple steps and having a dedicated vocal practice, your band will easily separate itself from all the bands out there that are lacking in the vocal department. Your band will be the one getting the most gigs!