Two or more voices singing together will always boost any performance but why do harmonies or those in backing vocals sound so amazing and how can we use this in our performance?
When we create a harmonious musical interval it not only pleases the brain as it creates a ‘sweet sound’ but also has the ability to form human connection whether it is just two voices singing in duet or a full ensemble choir.
When two or more notes are played or sung together from a chord and the sound is what you could call ‘pretty’ - this is a consonant harmony, for example this could be the third or fifth note above the melody and works well in soft ballads such as ‘Jar of Hearts’ or ‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perri or alternatively, a happy, up-tempo pop song (think One Direction!)
However, if you wanted to create a more eerie sound, you would use what is called a dissonant harmony, this could be the major 7th in the chord against the root note. This is an unpopular choice for harmony in the pop style as it sometimes creates an unpleasant or annoying effect, although could work in some songs and make a very unique sound!
But how do we know which harmony or interval to use?
My suggestion would be that the less singers you have, for an example if you are singing a duet, keep the harmonies close together – you could use the third above, the fourth below or maybe a perfect 5th for your perfect cadence ending. This will create a close sound and create the image that the two singers are singing closely together and also give a more emotional meaning. The more singers you have, the more harmonies you can then build on.
Give it a go! Next time you are able to sing with other singers, maybe even your tutors, try and add a bit of colour to your performance with some harmonic sounds or backing vocals. If you are on your own, try recording yourself and adding some harmonies over the top either in a cover song or even your own original song!
Vocal Coach Harriet x