Singing Lessons- Lead Singing vs. Background Singing

"Know Your Role, And Perfect It"

By: David Randle
When you take singing lessons, you want to become the best all-around singer that you possibly can. You have no idea in advance of all the opportunities that could present themselves to you. That is why it is so important to find a voice teacher who has gotten the complete download. Because there is a massive shift in techniques that you would use depending on the function you are attempting to fulfill. If your teacher is too one-dimensional in their approach, you will miss out on some great stuff that would have kept you in constant demand in the music community where you perform.

The dream is to be the star, the focal point, the “it” factor. And toward that end, singers are working tirelessly to get an edge. Something unique, something quirky, something that will make them stand out. They play with their voices, developing affected sounds, asking the world to “look at me,” all the while weakening their true talent for actually singing. I would never deny the singer their shot at the attention that they crave; however, I want to tell the other side of the story.

As a record producer, I have worked with many different vocalists over the years and I acknowledge that an edgy, unique sound can “cut” through the production and that it can be a desirable aspect to someone’s “sound.” The challenge is that not every gig that you get hired for will be as the lead vocalist, no matter how good you are, and now all those years of training yourself to cut through are wasted. Because the main thing a producer or arranger is looking for in the backing vocal tracks or the secondary harmony to the lead line is “blend.” An edgy lead voice stands out like a sore thumb in backing vocal tracks. It is so important as a background singer to discern what the other voices are doing and sing in such a way as to match that timbre or tone. You must be able to control pitch flawlessly as well as control tone and phrase volume to match the other singers and give the producer what they want.

Even greater in importance is the ability to sing without vibrato. As beautiful as vibrato can be on the lead, solo line, it is a curse for the background singers. Since everyone has their own unique rate or speed at which their vibrato cycles, imagine trying to get a tight three part harmony backing vocal to sound good with three totally different vibrato speeds. It creates the “wow” from hell. If you haven’t studied and mastered the ability to modify your tone, sing in pitch, blend and match the phrase timing, and most importantly, learned to sing well without vibrato, don’t bother showing up for a background vocal session. You’ll just get sent home.

However, if you have a desire to be master of your sound, your chops, and your fate, find a vocal instructor who can help you learn both lead and background singing. It really is part of being the best that you can be. And even if, as a lead vocalist on your own recording, you end up sing all your own backgrounds in the studio, you’ll be ever grateful you acquired these skills.

If you want to develop a complete singing skillset so that you can further your singing career, the Singing Lesson Expert is your best choice.


(760) 652-5823 

Rebeca Randle, vocalist

  Singing From Your Soul Workshop