Phrasing choices should sound natural and make emotional sense while working rhythmically with the instrumental parts and lead vocalist. Ragged phrasing is the commonest reason that back-up harmonies may sound amateur. For the optimum back-up blend, each singer's rhythmic phrasing should be identical. Listen for and decide on mutual rhythms for each word and syllable so that they synchronize.
A good vocal blend includes matching the way you pronounce your words. Even small differences in pronunciation may result in clashing intonation and sloppy rhythms. As a rule, sustained words should be held on the vowel sound, not the ending consonant. Be sure all singers end their words at the same time. Many singers close off on the consonant too soon. If this occurs at the same time as trying to sustain the pitch, you may sound strained and/or go off pitch.
I look forward to your comments and suggestions for other blog posts.
on July 7, 2014 at 9:02 PM said:Any tips for tightening male/female harmonies? Especially difficult as I am a mezzo and my partner a bass-bsritone. And what about harmonies in which one voice is obviously the lead vocal?
on July 8, 2014 at 11:45 PM said:Hi Sandy, Really, the same tips given here apply to any voices. But the arrangement (who takes the top note and who the lower harmony) is both a matter of taste as well as style. Example: If the bass-baritone sang a harmony to you in his upper range, his voice obviously wouldn't sound as deep. There would be a significant difference in tonal blend as he'd sound closer to your range than if he sang a harmony in his lower range. When one voice is the lead, it should have prominence in volume: the harmony part should sound lighter or in some way recede in volume as it is playing a role that is supposed to support not overshadow the lead. Have I answered your questions?