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This week’s vocal tip is gonna come in handy the next time someone starts the “Happy Birthday” song in a key you don’t fancy but you’d still like to sing along “fashionably” – vocal harmonies.

If you’ve always wondered how people like Alladin & Jasmine sing duets in such harmonies or how group artistes like Boyz2Men sing magically in perfect harmony, this video’s gonna help you get started down that very same path!

Of course, there’s much more to mastering vocal harmonies, but this would be a great place to start.

Let’s do this!

Step 1: Identifying Vocal Harmonies

In singing vocal harmonies, it’s important to first identify what notes would make the harmonies to the melody of a song. If this already sounds incredibly daunting to you, not to worry, it really isn’t all that terrifying 😉

The notes that would normally be the harmonies are the thirds and/or fifths. Although in some songs, depending on what type of mood we’re trying to achieve, the harmonies might be sung in the fourth, sixth or seventh.

The third means the third tone counting from the current tone played or sung. So for example, if the note sung is C, the third would be the E. If the song’s in a major chord, we’d normally be harmonising the note in E, where as if the song’s in a minor chord, we’d be singing it the Eb instead. If musical terms are completely alien to you, a major chord is a chord that generally sounds happier, while the minor sounds sadder. Of course, there are many other chords. In any case, any understanding of the basics of chords would help in harmonising.

Why?

Because chords are usually played by playing the root (the first note), the third and the fifth. So for example, a C chord would be played with C-E-G. And singing harmonies along to the lead vocals are pretty much like adding ‘chords’ along to the original melody, because we sing the thirds and the fifths of the melody.

Watch the video to see how you can figure out the vocal harmonies of song by memorising the arpeggio scale I demonstrated. You can apply the scale to any note and find the third and fifth of any note sung to you, just like that!

So to identify the vocal harmonies, you really have to identify the vocal melodies first (the original melody of the song). And then figure out what notes to sing using the arpeggio scale to help you find the third or the fifths.

Step 2: Focus On Singing The Harmony (Not The Melody)

Once you figure out the series of notes you have to sing in singing in harmony, the next thing to do is to be able to hear the melody (the original melody of the song), but sing the harmony.

This will take quite a bit of concentration, and to a certain extent, selective hearing, if you’re performing with a group of singers who are singing more than one vocal harmony part.

Single out the notes that make your vocal harmony part, play it on the piano a couple of times (if you play the piano), if not sing it out a couple of times to memorise the melodic pattern of your part. In a way, this will feel like you’re singing a different song of which will somehow blend in nicely with the original song.

Step 3: Practice With A Song & Someone

Once you figured out the vocal harmony and memorised it, it time to sing it along with the song or with someone who’ll sing the lead melody of the song.

At the first few attempts, you might find yourself easily distracted and wanting to follow the singer in the song or the lead singer’s part, but it just takes practice. Singing out of tune as a result of this is perfectly normal – you don’t have to kill yourself over this.

Start with a simple song, such as “Happy Birthday”, which is a song you can sing with anyone 🙂 And if harmonising is new to you, you don’t even have to start by harmonising the whole song, but single out parts of the song to harmonise instead.

Check out the video to see how you cant start!

For instance,  you can harmonise just the parts highlighted in blue to start with…

Happy birthday to you…

Happy birthday to you…

Happy birthday, happy birthday…

Happy birthday to you….

So again, start with steps 1 & 2 – identify what the harmonies are and then memorise the harmony parts.

Then, it’s time to practice with someone!

In case you don’t have a singing buddy to do just that, there’s always the recording app on your phone you can depend on (as shown in the video).

Record the lead vocals (yourself singing the original melody of the song) to create your singing buddy 😛

Then play it back, and while it’s playing, sing the harmony part you’ve memorised! The advantage of having a recording is that you can replay it as often as you want without your singing buddy complaining…muahahaha.

Do this a couple of times and as often as you can. Master harmonising that one song first before you go on to harmonise others – this will help you get the hang of it faster and instill in you more confidence to harmonise other songs sponatenously eventually 🙂

And that’s it!

Drop your comments below and share how your first harmonising attempt went.

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How To Sing Vocal Harmonies