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One of The Wives, the backing vocalists for English singer Ebony Bones

A backing vocalist or backing singer (or, especially in the U.S. and Canada, backup singer or sometimes background singer or harmony vocalist) is a singer who provides vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists. In some cases, a backing singer may sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist's entry or a counter-melody.

Solo artists may employ professional backing vocalists in studio recording sessions as well as during concerts and other live performance routines. In many rock and metal bands (e.g., the power trio), the musicians doing backup vocals also play instruments, such as guitar, electric bass, drums, or keyboards. In Latin or Afro-Cuban groups, backup singers may play percussion instruments or shakers while singing. In some pop and hip-hop groups and in musical theater, the backup singers may be required to perform elaborately-choreographed dance routines while they sing through headset microphones.

While some bands use performers whose sole on-stage role is performing backing vocals, it is common for backup singers to have other roles. Two notable examples of band members who sang back-up are The Beach Boys and The Beatles. The Beach Boys were well known for their close vocal harmonies, occasionally with all five members singing at once such as "In My Room" and "Surfer Girl". All five members would sing lead, although most often Brian Wilson or Mike Love would sing lead with guitarists Carl Wilson and Al Jardine and drummer Dennis Wilson singing background harmonies. The Beatles were also known for their close style of vocal harmonies[opinion] - it should also be noted that all Beatles members sang both lead and backup vocals at some point, especially John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who frequently supported each other with harmonies, often with fellow Beatle George Harrison joining in. Ringo Starr, while not as prominent in the role of backup singer as his three bandmates, can be heard singing backing vocals in such tracks as "Hello, Goodbye" and "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill". Examples of three-part harmonies by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison include "Nowhere Man", "Because", "Day Tripper", and "This Boy" The members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Bee Gees all each wrote songs and sang back-up or lead vocals and played various instruments on their albums and various collaborations with each other.

Former guitarist John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers sang all backing vocals (few songs were recorded without backing vocals) often singing some parts without accompaniment from lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis. Frusciante usually sang a song by himself during concerts. Another example is "No Frontiers" by The Corrs, which is sung by Sharon and Caroline. Other backing vocalists include Sebastien Lefebvre (rhythm guitarist at the same time) and David Desrosiers ( Bass guitarist, also at the same time ) for pop /punk band Simple Plan, John Petrucci, Per Wilberg and guitarists Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates of heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold.

Lead singers who record backup vocals[edit]

In the recording studio, some lead singers record their own backing vocals by overdubbing, because the sound of their own harmonies will blend well with their main vocal. One famous example is Freddie Mercury singing the first part of Bohemian Rhapsody himself by overdubbing. Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, Wednesday 13, in his own band, and as the lead and backing vocalist of Murderdolls, also Ian Gillan of Deep Purple and Brad Delp of Boston recorded lead and backing vocals for their albums.

With the exception of a few songs on each album, Dan Fogelberg, Eddie Rabbitt, David Bowie and Richard Marx sing all of the background vocals for their songs. Robert Smith of The Cure not only sings his own backing vocals in the studio, but also doesn't perform with backing vocalists when playing live.

Many metalcore and some post-hardcore bands, such as As I Lay Dying, Alexisonfire, Haste the Day and Silverstein feature a main vocalist who performs using harsh vocals, whilst the backing vocalist sings harmonies (clean vocals) during choruses to create a contrast. Some bands, such as Hawthorne Heights and Finch have the backup singers do harsh vocals to highlight specific lyrics.

Pop and R&B vocalists such as Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Beyoncé Knowles, Brandy, Faith Evans, D'Angelo, Mary J Blige and Amerie have become known specifically for not only recording their own backing vocals, but for arranging their own multi-tracked vocals and even contriving highly complex harmonies and arrangements. When they perform live, they may have backing vocalists that impersonate their voices.

Unusual backing vocal styles[edit]

Some bands use backing vocals in order to contrast with the lead singer who may be performing an unusual vocal technique. For example, Brian "Head" Welch, the lead guitarist of the band Korn, performed backing vocals on several songs, and notably on the song "Ball Tongue", he screams the chorus while lead vocalist Jonathan Davis sings incomprehensible scat vocals. Similarly, the Canadian deathcore group Despised Icon uses two vocalists, one performing screams and another performing low, growling death grunts who alternate, and sometimes sing in unison to highlight certain lyrics. In rap music, a background rapper who chants and rhymes to support the main artist is often referred to as hype man.

Career paths[edit]

Working as a backup singer can give a vocalist the onstage experience and vocal training they need to develop into a lead vocalist. A number of lead vocalists such as Ace Frehley, Richard Marx, Mariah Carey, Cher, Gwen Stefani, Pink, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, Sheryl Crow, Trisha Yearwood, Dave Grohl, Jerry Only, Jerry Cantrell, Jason Newsted, and Elton John, learned their craft as backup singers, or singing backup vocals as part of a choir.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backing_vocalist — Please support Wikipedia.
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The Role of A Backing Vocalist/Singer with Denosh Bennett

http://www.shedlightevents.com: Professional singer, Denosh Bennett, discusses what the role of a backing vocalist/singer is. She should know she's sung behi...

MICHAEL McDONALD - A Tribute To The Greatest Backing Vocalist Of All Time

Rick Moranis does a great comedy impression of the blue eyed soul singer of Yacht Rock fame. Don't ever lose the smooth.

Vocal Tutorial // Being A Backing Vocalist // Jono McNeil


Under The Bridge - Backing Track for Guitar - (With/Vocalist)

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The Police/Roxanne Cover - Christine Wu on Cello backing vocalist Kandace Lindsey

Violinist/Celllist Christine Wu backs singer Kandace Lindsay in a live performance cover of The Police's Roxanne. March 13, 2013 at the WitZend in Venice, CA.

Denosh Bennett (Robbie Williams backing vocalist of Robbie Williams) singing Empire State of Mind.

(intro to New York, New York) 5th of May 2014, Ziggodome Amsterdam. Robbie Williams Swings Both Ways Live.

The traits of a good backing vocalist with Denosh Bennett

http://www.shedlightevents.com: Professional singer, Denosh Bennett, discusses what the traits of a good backing vocalist/singer. She speaks from her profess...

Eleftheria from Greece sings Aphrodisiac with Iris (Belgium) as backing vocalist

Powered by http://www.eurovision.tv Eleftheria Eleftheriou, the Greek representative for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, visited Belgium to promote her ent...

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Heavy TO 2012 brought back Slipknot, and Toronto was more than ready to welcome them. We got to a chance to speak with the ever so outspoken Shawn "Clown" Cr...

Ky-Mani's backing vocalist firing up the crowd @ Gröna Lund 31st July! Great vibes

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105 news items

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 01 Sep 2014 05:39:14 -0700

Hardy has been compared to everyone from Karen O to Mø, and grew up in Dorset in a musical family – her mum was a backing vocalist for Roger Chapman of 70s prog/blues anomalies Family and her older sisters had their own band. Ostracised by her ...
The Seattle Times (blog)
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 18:45:11 -0700

Backing vocalist Ariana DeBoo had the spotlight on a couple of numbers. She delivered some blues-y torch-song fare, including a slowed-down duet version of The Eurythmics' “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” with Terry. Both are talents to watch.
U-T San Diego
Tue, 26 Aug 2014 15:00:16 -0700

But when this charismatic salsa music superstar began his career back in the 1980s, it was as an unseen backing vocalist at concerts by the Ricky Martin-led Latin teen-pop group Menudo. Make that, as several backing vocalists for Menudo. Or, as New ...
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 06:30:00 -0700

Like so many singers from that part of the world who emerged in the 60s, Staton's influences were firmly rooted in Gospel music, and she first came to prominence as a backing vocalist for the blind singer-songwriter Clarence Carter, who she ...

The Independent

The Independent
Fri, 29 Aug 2014 05:51:25 -0700

For the most part, soundchecks remain closed affairs, which saves the disappointment of watching musicians trying to play along to a backing tape, or a backing vocalist taking instrumentalists through their paces while the nominal frontperson ...


Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:07:30 -0700

... detailed the history of this band, so I won't get into that; but this is the first and most important album by Captain Beyond (drummer/songwriter Bobby Caldwell, lead vocalist/songwriter Rod Evans, guitarist Rhino and bassist/backing vocalist Lee ...

Coventry Telegraph (blog)

Coventry Telegraph (blog)
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0700

The band - who are set to release their sophomore LP in October - will be touring the country in promotion of their forthcoming album, with support coming from iconic guitarist and My Chemical Romance backing vocalist Frank Iero. Iero formed his own ...
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:30:00 -0700

Potifa said he started music in 2003 when he joined Zinawa as a backing vocalist and featured on a six-track album titled "MbiraDzakondo". The musician has released videos for his debut album "Runyararo". However, it remains to be seen whether or not ...

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