” Backing Vocals “
What does that mean exactly ? If you are starting to work in the music industry or you just like to take an interest in the music production process, you have probably already heard about backing vocals. Knowing what it is exactly can be very interesting if you like music and extremely important if you want to become professional in music.
In music, backing vocals represent one or more vocals that support the lead vocals by singing the same melodies and notes or incorporating harmonies. Backing vocals often give more punch and power to the lead vocals.
The history of backing vocals is quite dark, in the sense that, in its early days, the world of backup singing was extremely exploitative.
The story goes back to the early 60’s, when the term “pop music” exploded and audio technology allowed more and more tracks to be recorded separately. The first people to get behind the microphone were black people, often exploited, poorly paid and uncredited.
They were often women, the best known of whom were Lisa Fisher, Darlen Love and Merry Cleyton.
For a long time, the backing vocalists remained women, which made it a still sexist environment. Afterwards, the world of backing vocals became more diverse. But it has remained a field in which singers are often underpaid.
What are backing Vocals
As you may have read above, backing vocals are there give more punch and power to the lead voice by doubling the melody and rhythm sung by the lead singer.
Nowadays, especially in pop and hip-hop music, backing vocals are often sung by the singer himself and rarely by external singers as it was very often the case a few decades ago.
You can generally hear 3 types of backing vocals :
- End-of-sentence support : Generally used in hip-hop, especially to call out the most important rhymes and words.
- Whole segments : When a certain part of a song has to be highlighted, backing vocals become very useful
- “Choir” : You have probably already heard it many times in some songs in which the artist or the group tends to imitate a crowd, an audience or a choir singing in unison. This type of backing vocals is obviously much more obvious and less subtle.
Do you know how to mix backing vocals? I explain everything here: How To Mix Backing Vocals ?
This is obviously not an official list, but simple points of comparison that will help you listen more accurately to the backing vocals of your favorite songs.
If you are a music producer or sound engineer, this will also help you to have much more precise artistic directions during the recording and mixing processes.
Backing vocals all have the same purpose : supporting the lead vocal by singing the same notes and melodies. But the magical thing with this type of vocals is that, especially in 2022, they can be used in many different ways. The important thing is to know where you want to place them in your mix, and to be creative!
If you have any questions about backing vocals or about anything in the field of music mixing, please contact me, I’m always very happy to help!