These guys would’ve kicked
butt on American Idol.
If you’re in my age group, I apologize if you read this post’s title and cannot get a certain Elton John song out of your head.
Let’s talk (I’ll go first) about singing harmony. A band’s harmony singer is like a baseball team’s #2 pitcher: They may not get the spotlight as much as the lead singer, but you’re not really going that far without one –and he’ll occasionally prove invaluable. I admit I’m biased because I primarily have this role in one of my bands. My singing voice is pretty accurate, but I wish I had a wider range and more strength (Roger Daltrey-ish, please). I try to compensate with the ability to vary my voice a bit to approximate some of the artists we cover; I’m unsure if I’m simply a good listener or if my perfect pitch (technically, absolute pitch) is at work here. So I think I’m a decent part-time lead singer. For certain songs. At certain times. When Mercury is retrograde.
But Heavens to Murgatroyd, I’m one heckuva backup singer! I’m pretty darn proud of that. Singing harmony is usually harder than singing lead (assuming either is in one’s range). Pick a song with at least two voices from your teenage years that you know but never performed in a band. You already know what the melody sounds like! How about the harmony? For example, let’s consider this song that was filmed before a live audience…apparently at a cherub convention (view the clip to understand that reference):
The collarless suit would not be popular again until centuries later, when Star Trek: The Next Generation latched onto it for the first few voyages of the Enterprise-D.
If you have the slightest trace of singing ability (i.e., a non-lethal voice), you can sing the melody, or at least recognize it. At least in the chorus.
Now try the harmony. Did you (a) recognize it and (2) sing it without drifting into the melody? Half the time my biggest problem singing harmony is avoiding drifting into the melody. Beatles songs especially have really nice parts that are sometimes difficult to discern harmony and melody. Ditto for Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys… Hmm, I notice a trend. Those are all artists with great vocals.
Yes, I enjoy taking a few lead vocals per set, but it’s more rewarding for me when the harmony rings. It’s quite a challenge to harmonize well on songs like “If I Fell” or on this number by the Dave Clark Five:
You counted the band members, didn’t you?
So whether you sing lead or harmony, sing like nobody’s listening. Unless you’re on stage in front of people. Then you should either sing well or call yourself a rapper.