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BLENDING THE BACK-UPS - Part 3 - by Jeannie Deva
Hello and Happy New Year! With the earlier two parts of this article, we've taken a look at such things as how to assign parts and some variations to this depending on the style and sound you are going for, as well as the elements that go into a having a good professional sounding blend.

In this last article on blending the backups, we explore a few approaches to your rehearsals that will help you to economize on time and get a higher quality product from your allotted practice time.

HOW TO PRACTICE
If you're not gigging, you may find rehearsal time can become a bit of a substitute for performing. I used to do that as a kid when practicing piano. So badly did I want just to play, that I found it difficult to concentrate on the detail work. Of course, that method never paid off. I continued practicing mistakes and poor habits, until I forced myself to realize the difference between practice and performance time, and how to use it accordingly.

It's can be difficult to be sure of what's the right thing to do to get your vocals happening. I've seen some stunning arguments break out over who sang what wrong note or other problems amongst the backing vocal parts. As a team of musicians putting your trust in each other, you want more than just your music to harmonize. Agreements have much to do with how smoothly you all work together, how far you go together, and how long you stay together. Here are some things you can do to causatively enhance your vocal blends, rehearsals, and group relations.

VOCALS ONLY REHEARSALS
Trying to practice everything at once, as you may already know, is confusing and results in slower progress. The time to put everything together is during actual Performances and performance prep rehearsals (like dress rehearsals for theatrical productions).

Schedule vocal rehearsals. Get someone who is not singing to play guitar or keyboard for this rehearsal. Or pre-record the group playing the songs without vocals, and use this tape. During this rehearsal, it is important for all the singers to be free from playing any instruments. Any music used should be low in volume so you can concentrate on listening to each other's voices.

TAPE YOUR REHEARSALS
It's true. It's much easier to be objective about your overall sound after listening to a recording of yourselves. In this way, you can zero-in on exactly what needs work. If your recording equipment is not of excellent quality, you'll need to keep in mind that the recording won't sound exactly like you. But you will still be able to hear if anyone is off pitch or otherwise blending poorly.

Sometimes it's difficult to hear where the mistakes are being made in the back-ups. In order to spot which singers need work, it can be very helpful to raise the mike volume of one singer for each recorded run-through of a song. Re-record the song (saving the earlier recording) until you have copies with each singer's mike volume boosted.

USE VOCAL BLENDING EXERCISES
Singing through your material is very important. Similarly important are using methods to raise your vocal potential as individuals and as a group. To achieve unity within the backing vocals, a sensitivity and awareness of each others voices must be developed. Spending time on this in the setting of your vocal rehearsals will help you to carry it into your songs when you add the rest of the instruments.

1) Pick a basic chord that is in an easy range for all of you. Assign a different pitch of the chord to each singer. Sing with an open Ah and hold the note for 4 beats. You can also use other vowels; Ooo is also a usual back-up sound. Sing this chord over and over. Work on everyone beginning and ending at exactly the same time. Trying to blend by listening to all the other voices at once can be overwhelming and throw you off. Blend your voice to the part closest in pitch to your own, or to the melody line. As well, apply any relevant tips previously covered in last month's article.

2) Now change parts. Get to know the sound combinations with each of you singing each of the parts. Take notes on any differences of quality and any you like better than others.

3) Have the voice on the top harmony part be a bit breathier than the other voices, as suggested last month, and decide if this supports the overall sound you're looking for.

4) As you become proficient with these exercises, use actual words instead of open vowels. Choose key words used in any of your own material. Also use the following words: You, Try, Please, Soon, Why, Stay, Long.

Hold each word on pitch for 4 beats. While doing so, ensure you are holding out the vowel rather than closing your mouth on the consonant(s). The ending consonant(s) should occur after the 4 beats, not during. Note that the sound of the vowel you are sustaining may have a different pronunciation than how it's spelled. For example, long, why, and try are held on an Ah. You and soon are sustained on a U like the pronunciation of "could". Stay is sustained on an Eh sound. Correct use of these "Shadow Vowels" should help to open the quality of your sound, relax your throat, and assist your group vocal blend. Is it practice time yet?! Wishing you fun and success!

Jeannie Deva is known as one of the top vocal specialists. She is the founder of the Deva MethodŽ, a Non-Classical Approach for Singers, and author of The Contemporary Vocalist, a home study course with book and CDs. She has also gained respect as a vocal producer and recording session vocal coach. Jeannie DevaŽ Voice Studios. Boston, has a team of certified Deva Method Instructors and an International Clientele. Jeannie Deva's Private Voice Studio is located in Los Angeles. Want a FREE copy of some of her most recommended vocal warm-ups? For information on services, to order her vocal products and receive your FREE copy of some excellent vocal warm-ups, visit: www.TheVoiceStudio.com

Contact information:
Jeannie Deva Voice Studios
Contact www.JeannieDeva.com
Info@JeannieDeva.com

Boston: 617-536-4553
Cape Cod: 617-413-0243
Los Angeles: 1-800-920-8220

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