how essential are backing vocals in a band?

Gottliver

Senior Member
So much good advice here. Just wanted to add that a good first step would be setting up mics at your next rehearsal and giving it a try. It may sound good, it may sound terrible, but it can only get better.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I guess it depends, but if you have the ability to make something out of it, it'll make a big difference. With the right music you are essentially doubling the number of instruments.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
In my opinion, backing vocals are huge. A band with only one vocalist is going to sound the same in every song. You can make it work by choosing songs with no backing but, since the vocals are the most important part of the song (my opinion) they need to be strong and versatile.

Almost everyone can contribute if the put the work into it. I was in a decent 3 piece several years ago but the bass player refused to put any effort into helping out on the vocals. I knew he could sing a bit, as could I, but he wouldn't work on it. That kind of lack of effort is what pushed me away from that project, even though they were great guys and good players.

You mean, you're in a band with mature, talented musicians who share responsibly? You are indeed very, very lucky. In fact, this may be the one and only time this ever happens, from Craigslist!
I landed in a great band via CL. My overall experience has been very positive.


There's another option. Harmonizer pedals. My former longtime band leader used the harmonizer pedal and it actually worked well.
I tried them in a couple of bands but, once I started playing with people who could sing together, the difference was day and night and the harmonizers sounded like crap.
 
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BruceW

Senior Member
My primary band is vocals-based. Its what sets us apart from most of the other bands in our little sphere of the world. We have 5 players: guitar, bass, keys, drums, and lead singer. But all five of us sing lead, and all five sing backup, including harmony (even 4 and 5 part at times).

None of us are virtuoso's. We play well enough, and play well together. Having all those voices makes a big difference.

Of course, the material you are playing will determine how much value back up vocals will provide you. Some genres, it simply isn't as important as others. So there is that.

Good luck!
 

Living Dead Drummer

Platinum Member
I really depends on the material you play.
If you're doing covers, and those covers have backing vocals, than I think it's a must. If it's original material, then it's kind of up to the band if they want to add layers or not.
 

davor

Senior Member
I really depends on the material you play.
If you're doing covers, and those covers have backing vocals, than I think it's a must. If it's original material, then it's kind of up to the band if they want to add layers or not.
Here's what we're working on:

Rolling Stones x 5 (Gimme Shelter, Satisfaction, Jumpin jack flash, Start me up, paint it black)
The rover – led zep
God save the queen – sex pistols
Turning Japanese – vapors
London Calling – clash
Jimmy jimmy – undertones
In the city – jam
Psycho killer – talking heads
 

Woolwich

Silver Member
Here's what we're working on:

Rolling Stones x 5 (Gimme Shelter, Satisfaction, Jumpin jack flash, Start me up, paint it black)
The rover – led zep
God save the queen – sex pistols
Turning Japanese – vapors
London Calling – clash
Jimmy jimmy – undertones
In the city – jam
Psycho killer – talking heads
I’m not very au fair with the Stones songs but without going to listen to each of the other songs in depth they strike me as having more of the “gang vocal” elements, i.e members striding forward to shout “God Save The Queen”, “London’s Calling”, “Jimmy Jimmy” etc. All pretty easy in theory, in practice I’ve found that even extrovert performers in bands can be shy about their voice in the context of a song, no problem playing their instrument and bantering with the audience but there’s something about singing that in my experience can really put some people off.
I’m not sure that not having backing vocals in these songs is a deal breaker, it’s certainly not worth recruiting a member specifically for BV duties, all I would suggest is to keep your eyes open at gig times and if members suddenly start adding vocals (because let’s be honest it’s easy and makes you look cool!!!) then suggest if a jobs worth doing then it’s worth doing right in rehearsals too.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I’m not very au fair with the Stones songs but without going to listen to each of the other songs in depth they strike me as having more of the “gang vocal” elements,
Indeed. I was in one band where the sole reason for my mic's existence was for me to shout "sweat" once a night.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
I'm no incredible singer, but I can hear and hit harmonies, and I have a very low gravelly voice that's usually an octave down from male lead singers' ranges. So I decided to get out of my comfort zone and mike up. It adds texture to the sound and makes the band sound larger than it really is.

Having said that, if the music you're playing doesn't demand it, there's no real reason to do it if you're not comfortable doing it.
 
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