What do Backing Vocalists do?A Backing Vocalist or Backing Singer is a singer who doesn't sing in the lead but sings in harmony with the lead vocalist, other Backing Vocalists, or alone for effect on the instrumentals rather than singing the lead. Some Backing Vocalists also work as session singers. Most Backing Vocalists work on a contract basis, but some may be contracted full time to an agency or production team.
Some Backing Singers may specialise in harmony. They are skilled in hearing harmony lines over and around the music and can vocally reproduce what they hear to create a harmony vocal line without requiring written sheet music, or direction from the songwriter or producer. Some singers have natural talent in this, but it is possible to train people in these skills.
Backing Singers are often supplied with sheet music which they sight read and sing the notes as directed. A versatile and competent Singer can find work in recording studios to support a recording session, singing advertising jingles, and singing with backing bands and artists. Studio time costs money and an artist who can go in and do the job quickly and competently is highly regarded.
Singing by ear and reading sheet music are both important skills for Backing Vocalists, as is good vocal control. Any type of voice may be required from a Backing Singer. The important thing is that it is the right voice for that particular project, and that the voice is compatible with the other vocalists.
Many solo vocalists and lead singers start their careers as a Backing Singer with a band. It offers good experience and helps build contacts in the music industry. It also offers the chance of being noticed by other musicians and A&R. Backing Vocalists can broaden their experience and even supplement their income by joining choirs, teaching adults or children and participating in community music events.
Experience, talent and commitment are the main ingredients of success. There are a number of professional qualifications and a variety of training courses available at schools, universities and specialist music schools. Many singers also offer private tuition.
Creating a demo to send out can be helpful. It should include a few of your best songs to show your vocal range. Include one simple vocal track with you singing the melody line as well as examples of your backing and harmony singing abilities. Using the Internet to browse classifieds is helpful, and creating your own website or profile on the internet can also create opportunities and help showcase your talent.