There’s no doubt about it—whether you’re on stage, at a concert, in the middle of an empty field, in the shower or on stage, singing is good for the mind, body, and soul.
While some people are blessed with angelic sounding pipes, not all of us find singing natural, or even easy, to sing in public or lay our vocals down when the recording light comes on. But, if you’re a home recording enthusiast, part-time songwriter and secret singer, there are some simple yet effective techniques to bring your vocals—particularly those in your choruses—to life when it’s time to record your songs.
You don’t have to be an Ella Fitzgerald to try these simple yet effective techniques for recording backing vocals, you don’t even have to be a Joe Strummer—all you have to do is have the passion, the recording rig, and some basic musical ability.
The aim of a song’s chorus
Studies suggest that the human mind is built to favor repetition in a musical context. Whether it's a sound, a word, a syllable, a hook, or a melody, we thrive on repeated parts or sections—and the chorus plays into the hands of that very notion.
While a great deal of most songs are repeated (chants, verses, bridges, vocal lines, etc.), more often than not, the chorus is the section of a tune that defines it—becoming deep-rooted in the head of the listener from the first listen or two.
That said, in most cases, the chorus is designed to convey the main hook or message in a song, giving the song a point from which the arrangement can flow and as a result, truly get under the skin of the listener.
Whether dynamically the song builds up to the chorus and it becomes the loudest part, or vice-versa, this particular part should stand out and be by its very nature, repeatable. And, these tips for recording backing vocals will help you make your choruses more interesting, more powerful and more memorable.
Each of these sound clips has been recording using my Spire Studio with a little Acoustic Shaper Reverb applied, with the backing vocal track panned to the right and brought down in the mix slightly. Also, for a little extra bite, I’ve added a light dose of Verb ‘65 amp effect to the backing vocal track in each example.