• Earn More As A Background Vocalist

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    If you want to know how to earn more as a background vocalist, this lesson is for you.

    If you read through our previous lesson, you will notice that there is a difference between a lead vocalist and a background vocalist. An alternative name for a background vocalist is a session singer, harmony singer, backing vocalist, backup singer, or studio vocalist.

    A Short Note On The Role Of A Background Vocalist

    The primary role of a background vocalist is to provide vocal accompaniment to the performer, either in the studio, or on the stage. Follow me as I show you other peculiar functions of a background vocalist.

    The value of the product or service you provide is quantified in monetary form, and the more value you create, the more money you can earn. I want you to appreciate the numerous value propositions and earning options available to background vocalists.

    Backup For Singer On Stage

    The first and most common value a background singer provides is backup for other singers on stage. This is a very vital role in that it validates the role of the lead vocalist. As a backup singer, you not only complement the singer, you also complement the instrumentalists. You are the bridge. Take note of this.

    Backup For Singers In A Studio

    The second role is close to the first, but slightly different and more tasking. Here, you back up for singers in a studio. This role may demand that you multi track- that is, recording and hearing your vocals play more than one role in the final mix.

    Multi tracking is necessary at the studio, especially for digital recordings where you have to sing more than one harmony. Singing different harmonies is another skill set that you must train to develop if you must earn more as a background vocalist because it puts you ahead of others.

    Involved With Recording Of Jingles

    Another role of a backup singer is to record jingles, commercial, and do voice overs for any other purpose in the studio. Here, a studio vocalist is directly interfacing with the studio engineer and producers. That is a skill that puts more money into your pocket.

    The amazing discovery is that you can do this and earn a living, and still not be loud. You get can get jobs very frequently. All you have to do is get acquainted with producers and tell them what you do, follow up, and before long, you will have jobs lining up for you.

    The background vocalist profession demands a lot of training and preparation because when you get to the studio for instance, you could be asked on the spot to sight read and deliver. If you are not music literate, you will just lose the opportunity to work and get paid immediately.

    That is not all, a background vocalist also provides background vocal music for films and TV. You didn’t see that coming. ‘What is worth doing is worth doing well,’ and I tell you, develop yourself in this profession, and see opportunities spring out at every turn.

    How To Develop Yourself As A Background Vocalist

    What do I mean by develop yourself in the profession?

    • Get vocal training
    • Learn how to sight sing
    • Develop the ability to sing different harmonies
    • Study different music styles
    • Learn how to effectively interpret different music styles
    • Draw up a career plan

    Get Vocal Training

    Music education and vocal studies, is a must for a background vocalist. You need training to be able to discover your unique voice tone, and vocal range, at the fundamental level. You need professional guidance to help you practice effectively.

    You need music training to understand sound and how it works. Music knowledge will open your ear, and also train you to write, so that you don’t make mistakes when assigning harmony or sight singing.

    Learn How To Sight Sing

    You cannot tell me that you have received musical training when you do not know how to sight sing. Any singer that has not learned one musical notation or two, is like a scholar that does not know how to read or write.

    The job description of a studio vocalist demands that you read music because when you are called to work on a project in the studio, a score sheet is prepared for you to work with. If you don’t learn how to sight sing, you will lose that earning opportunity.

    Develop The Ability To Sing Different Harmonies

    By now, you must have realized that a good vocalist should be able to sing any harmony. You can start from the three basic harmony types and progress with practice. This is an ability that can be developed with constant practice.

    When you score a repertoire of 100 songs, you will discover that harmony is subjective. Yes, it is a different melody that begins a couple of intervals from the original tune, these intervals vary from song to song, from genre to genre, with consistent practice, you will experience the difference.

    Study Different Music Styles

    You must be versatile to earn well in this background-vocalist profession, and one of the ways to express versatility is breaking away from your most preferred music styles to explore other music genres.

    Study music styles to know their origin, function, effect, essence, and composition. You can even dig deeper. Seek to get in depth knowledge, and begin to apply them when occasion demands. When you do this, you are ahead of your peers in the profession, and that will bring increased earnings.

    Learn How To Effectively Interpret Different Music Styles

    Now that you have taken time to study different music styles, begin to interpret them by purchasing the audio and video recording of different artiste according to music style. Watch them, see how they interpret the music style, know why they do so, and mimic them.

    Take note of their costume choice and stage mannerism, and apply same when performing live as a backup vocalist to a singer. When you do this, you bring life to the background stage. It makes you stand out, and effective delivery can attract patronage to your profession.

    Draw Up A Career Plan

    To be able to make and sustain a cash flow, you need to develop a cash-flow plan. In that plan, you will have a section for marketing. That is where you project an amount you intend to make, and how you can generate same from the value you are offering.

    Planning helps you maximize the resources around you. You will be amazed to find out that with a career plan in place, you can even earn much more than a lead vocalist. A career plan will help you identify multiple streams of income that you did not see initially.

    Final Words

    Having gone through this lesson, it is discovered that being a background vocalist requires some level of development and training in vocal skills and musical knowledge.

    However, a careful and strategic planning towards development in this regard could achieve the goal of becoming a professional background vocalist,  and create a source of generating income from this profession alongside one’s daily task and responsibilities.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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