- Backing vocalist
A backing vocalist or backing singer (or, especially in the U.S., backup singer or sometimes background singer) is a
singerwho provides vocal harmonywith the lead vocalistor other backing vocalists. In some cases, a backing singer may sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist's entry.While some bands use backup singers who only sing when they are onstage, it is common for backup singers to have other roles. In many rock and metal bands, the musicans doing backup vocals also play instruments, such as rhythm guitar, electric bass, or drums. In latin or Afro-Cubangroups, backup singers may play percussion instruments or shakers while singing. In some pop and hip-hopgroups and in musical theater, the backup singers may be required to perform elaborately-choreographed dance routines while they sing through headset microphones.
Band members who sing backup
Guitarist John Fruscianteof the Red Hot Chili Pepperssings all backing vocals (few songs are recorded without backing vocals) often singing some parts without accompaniment from lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis. John usually covers a song by himself during concerts. Another example is No Frontiers by the Corrs,which is sung by Sharon and Caroline. Other examples include Adrian Smithand Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, Synyster Gatesand Zacky Vengeanceof Avenged Sevenfold(along with The Reverend Tholomew Plaguewho occasionally does lead vocals), Pete Wentzof Fall Out Boy, Mike Dirntof Green Day, John Nolanof Taking Back Sunday, Mike Shinodaof Linkin Park, HIM (band) Joe Perryof Aerosmith, Malcolm Youngof AC/DC(along with Cliff Williams, who joined the band in 1977), Nick McCarthyof Franz Ferdinand, Keith Richardsof The Rolling Stones, The Edgeof U2, Pete Townshendof The Who, Mick Jones of The Clash, Jason Newstedof Metallica, Benji Maddenof Good Charlotte, Michael Anthony of Van Halen, Nikki Sixxof Mötley Crüe, Dusty Hillof ZZ Top, Daron Malakianof System of a Down, and John Petrucciand Mike Portnoyof Dream Theater.
Among the pioneers of metal music two producers should be noticed for their work with backing vocals –
Jason Newsted, who used b vox (backing vocals) and crushing, heavy riffs (supplied by guitarist James Hetfield) to create a widely known heavy metal sound – and Adrian Smithof Iron Maidenwho composed some of the most intricate vocal harmonies in metal music. Both producers have influenced the vocal harmony style of many large bands.
Lead singers who record backup vocals
In the recording studio, some lead singers record their own backing vocals, because the sound of their own harmonies will blend well with their main vocal.
Ian Gillanof Deep Purpleand Brad Delpof Boston recorded lead and backing vocals for their albums. Lemmyof Motörheadrecorded his own backup vocals following the departure of Eddie Clarke. Other examples include Justin Hawkinsof The Darkness, Steven Tylerof Aerosmith, Rob Halfordof Judas Priest, Kurt Cobainof Nirvana, Ronnie James Dioof Dio, Robert Plantof Led Zeppelinand Thom Yorkefrom Radiohead. Many metalcoreand some post-hardcorebands, such as As I Lay Dying and Alexisonfire, feature a main vocalist who does the lead singing/screaming, whilst the backing vocalist sings harmonies during choruses to create a contrast. Some bands, such as My Chemical Romanceand Hawthorne Heightshave the backup singers do harsh screaming to highlight specific lyrics.
Unusual backing vocal styles
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 former lead guitaristof the band KoRn, performed backing vocals on several songs, and notably on the song " Ball Tongue", he screamed the chorus while lead vocalist Jonathan Davissang incomprehensible scatvocals. Similarly, the Canadian deathcoregroup Despised Iconuses 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".
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
Mariah Carey, Cher, Gwen Stefani, Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, and Elton Johnlearned their craft as backup singers.
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