Recently I’ve been asked by a few of my students who sing with local bands if they could have help with working on harmonies and backup vocals.
I have a few pointers to work on harmonizing with singing when learning how to develop your harmonization skills as a singer:
- Practice often, and be ok with failing. Practice in the car, at home alone, or in the shower. Play your favorite songs and try your best to sing along with complementary notes. You will likely fail at it a few times, but as you practice, and remain consistent, it will get easier.
- Work on your solfege. Remember the song from Sound of Music, Do Re Mi? These syllables are supremely helpful to understanding the distances between notes when singing. Practice exercises that use solfege to increase your understanding of the spatial relationships between notes.
- Use sheet music at first. Use written notes and repeatedly sing harmony parts in small chunks until they become familiar. Coming up with your own harmonies off the cuff is considerably more difficult. You’ll want to master singing harmonies that someone else has written first.
- Use technology to your advantage. There are many great pitch matching apps and tools out there that will give you real time feedback on how you are doing matching notes and help you work on your pitches, and keeping them steady. Listen back to recordings of yourself singing also so you can critique your ability to find a harmony, and perfect your ear.
- Make sure you’ve mastered your technique first. It’s very difficult to work on singing harmonies when your breathing isn’t correct, or you have excessive tension in your voice. Make sure you have a solid grasp on your technique so that when your brain is focusing on hitting tough to hear notes, your technique won’t be an added mental burden.
- Be able to read music. Reading music is going to be very helpful in matching pitches as most harmonies are a third or sixth apart from the melody. Confused? Make sure you learn your notes and understand a little about intervals before trying to harmonize.
If you still need work on harmonizing with singing, feel free to ask DMA for help!