Background Vocalist – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Musician Glossary

Who is a Background Vocalist?

A background vocalist, also known as a backing vocalist or a backup singer, is a musician who provides vocal harmonies or supporting vocals to the lead singer or main vocalist in a musical performance. Background vocalists are an essential part of many musical genres, including pop, rock, R&B, gospel, and country. They add depth and richness to a song by complementing the lead vocals and enhancing the overall sound of a performance.

Role of a Background Vocalist

The role of a background vocalist is to support and enhance the lead vocalist’s performance. They may sing harmonies, counter-melodies, or ad-libs to add texture and depth to a song. Background vocalists also provide vocal support during live performances, helping to create a full and dynamic sound on stage. In the studio, background vocalists may be called upon to record backing vocals for a track, adding layers of vocals to create a polished and professional sound.

Skills and Qualities of a Background Vocalist

To be a successful background vocalist, one must possess a range of skills and qualities. These include:

1. Strong vocal abilities: Background vocalists must have a good ear for pitch, tone, and harmony. They should be able to blend their voice with others and sing in tune with the lead vocalist.

2. Versatility: Background vocalists may be called upon to sing a variety of vocal styles, from soft and subtle harmonies to powerful and dynamic backing vocals. They should be able to adapt their singing style to suit the needs of a particular song or performance.

3. Team player: Background vocalists must be able to work well with others, both on stage and in the studio. They should be able to take direction from the lead vocalist or music director and collaborate effectively with other musicians.

4. Stage presence: Background vocalists should have a confident and engaging stage presence, even when singing in a supporting role. They should be able to connect with the audience and enhance the overall performance with their energy and charisma.

Training and Education for Background Vocalists

While there is no formal education required to become a background vocalist, many successful singers have received training in vocal technique, music theory, and performance skills. Some background vocalists may have a background in music education or vocal performance, while others may have gained experience through singing in choirs, bands, or other musical groups.

Many background vocalists also receive on-the-job training by working with experienced musicians and vocal coaches. They may attend workshops, masterclasses, or vocal training sessions to improve their skills and expand their vocal range.

Career Opportunities for Background Vocalists

Background vocalists have a range of career opportunities available to them. They may work as session singers, providing backing vocals for recording artists in the studio. They may also tour with a band or artist as a backing vocalist, performing live on stage and providing vocal support during concerts and music festivals.

Some background vocalists may pursue a career as a lead vocalist or solo artist, using their experience as a backing vocalist to launch their own music career. Others may work as vocal coaches, music educators, or studio musicians, sharing their skills and knowledge with aspiring singers and musicians.

Importance of Background Vocalists in the Music Industry

Background vocalists play a crucial role in the music industry, contributing to the success of many hit songs and iconic performances. They help to create a full and rich sound in a song, adding depth, texture, and emotion to the music. Background vocalists often go unrecognized for their contributions, but their talent and skill are essential to the overall success of a musical performance.

In conclusion, background vocalists are an integral part of the music industry, providing vocal support and harmonies that enhance the sound of a song and elevate the performance of a lead vocalist. With their strong vocal abilities, versatility, and stage presence, background vocalists play a vital role in creating memorable and impactful music that resonates with audiences around the world.