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3 Steps to Mastering Harmony With Technology

3 Steps to Mastering Harmony With Technology
Utilize this simple process to learn harmonies and make your sound huge –says Jaime Vendera

I am in love with multiple vocal tones and harmonies, which is evident in my own music (Vendera & Stith) and the music I love – by bands like bands like Earth, Wind, & Fire, Journey, Saigon Kick, and Alice in Chains.

After hearing songs like Lisa or Casual Suicide, people always ask my what type of vocal harmony processor I used when recording these songs to get such rich harmony blends and unique tones.

The truth is that I sing every single line with no harmony processing, no octave shifting, and no special vocal effects. How is it done?

Scott Stith instinctively picked up on the harmonies being created by the processor and started to sing along

Scott Stith instinctively picked up on the harmonies being created by the processor and started to sing along

The Secret Teacher
I must admit, I’ve had a great teacher guiding my vocal artistry development- a vocal processor (TC Helicon’s VoiceLive series).

By using these amazing processors, my ear for harmony has improved tenfold.

When I write songs with my partner Scott Stith, I not only hear the lead vocal line in my head, but I also hear multiple vocal lines blending at once.

Playing around with a processor has also allowed me to experiment with unique tones, from gritty sounds to banshee wails to intimate smoky tones, all which I’ve learned to create myself.

Unfortunately, I’ve rarely had another musician in my band that could harmonize with me to bring these songs alive.

A few years ago, as I rehearsed cover tunes with my guitarist, Scott Stith, he instinctively picked up on the harmonies being created by my processor and started to sing along.

Over the course of several months, Scott had developed an amazing ear for creating harmonies naturally.

This addition of a harmony vocalist completely changed our approach to songwriting. Instead of him rigging and me vocalizing, we now sit with an acoustic guitar and both sing along.

Once I find the melody and form words, he’d begin harmonizing, bringing our songs to a new level.

How to do IT

So, how can YOU utilize this process to learn harmonies and make your sound huge? Easy, it is three simple steps:

  1. Buy a processor with harmony capabilities, preferably one that can use the guitar chords as a guide.
  2. Set up the processor with the desired harmonies (3rd, 5th, etc.)
  3. Make sure you (or each band member) pick a specific harmony and always sings the same harmony – along with the processor.

Over several months of rehearsals, each singer will naturally develop an ear for harmony. Soon, you’ll be able to turn the processor off and the harmonies will continue.

Over several months of rehearsals, each singer will naturally develop an ear for harmony

Not only will the harmony processor be a guide to keep the singer in key, but it will also make the sound much bigger, while training each singer to harmonize.

Does it really work?

Well, Scott and I recently recorded one of these songs in Nashville with producer Dallan Beck.

Unfortunately Scott had been battling a bad sinus infection during our trip and when it came time for him to sing his harmonies he’d written (all from learning to harmonize from singing along to a processor) he didn’t feel he had to magic to blend.

I hadn’t really focused on his parts so I had to instantly go into “vocal processor” mode in my mind, and BAM, out came the tightest, perfect harmonies to turn our song, Lisa into a piece of art.

My Reaction to This Week's Singing Competition Entry

Mara from Karmafree Mara from Karmafree - Fragile

Hey Mara, digging the vibe you’re putting out on this song. Great voice, great music! Love your vocal runs. They have a slight Egyptian feel to them, which I always thought was cool. They set a nice emotion to the song and show your strengths. I also like how you lighten up and then lean into the tone of your voice to change between falsetto and full voice. It further adds to the vulnerability you’re projecting emotionally for this tune.  If I had any suggestion, it would be to enunciate just a hair more. But honestly, that’s not eve a criticism because I do understand that some words are not meant to be over-enunciated, depending upon the song. So, it is just a suggestion and may not work for you depending upon your overall goal for this song. I do have one complaint though, well, it’s more of a request from a whining vocal coach, ha-ha. I am a harmony freak, so as I am listening, I yearn for more harmonies, which your friends don’t kick in until the end of the song. If you could work with your backing singers and lock in more harmonies, more often, this would sound even more awesome. 

Jaime Vendera Bio

Jaime Vendera is a Vocal Coach, world-renowned for his wineglass-shattering voice as seen on shows like MythBusters, Dr. Oz, and Super Human Showdown. He is a contributor to The Ultimate Guide to Singing and author of ‘Raise Your Voice’ 1 & 2, ‘The Ultimate Breathing Workout’ and the ‘Sing Out Loud’ series. He also runs the Vendera Vocal Academy. His new App, Tuned XD, is the ultimate multi-tool for musicians.

Website | Tuned XD

  • I have been singing harmony since I was about eight years old and believe that I was just lucky to have been born with an ear for it. Both of my parents were very musically inclined so I have quite some belief that my musical bent is due to my genes. I spent four years in the church choir where we had two groups of boys singing in what was then termed “Cantoris” and “Decani” ….which sounds more like a couple of latin lovers than it does to describe harmony singing. The male voices included Bass, Alto and Tenor.
    I can never forget those uplifting presentations we put on for the congregation. We were very good perfomers musically both in tempo and homogeneity of purpose, and they loved it.
    In Sydney Australia in the late 60’s I formed a vocal/guitar duo with a young soprano name Christine Bird, and after a year of rehearsing almost every evening for a few hours, we did gigs at the many public social clubs and Sports & Social club venues. We were battling for attention in some ways against the likes of a very young Olivia Newton John (who later gained international fame starring in the movie “Grease” with John Travolta). Also a very young John Farnham then prouting his hit song “Sadie The CLeaning Lady”, and not forgetting of course, “The Seekers” quartet with Judith Durham as the incredible soprano.
    Our forte was our Harmony singing. Chris sang “straight” and I did the harmony.
    I always wanted “more harmony” but we never got around to finding anyone else to join us. then we both went our separate ways. I carried on clinging to my desire to participate in and listen to harmony singing, but only involved myself in music peripherally to my full time work in Electronics.
    Now comes the good part !
    At 71, I am now supposedly “Retired”……..but I prefer to term myself, “Re-invented and Re-oriented” into the world of music and song composition as a solo artist with my own home studio set-up and DAW. This I got into with gusto and have released some albums which are mainly music, but with a few songs released.
    Then one day I stumbled across TC Helicon quite by mistake. I had never heard of the company and had no idea about what I had been missing out on.
    The immediate purchase of a VoiceLive GTX changed my life forever.
    I am now my own solo singer and choir, and this Saturday I shall be wowing my fellow geriatrics at their Annual Fete, with my renditions of Harmony singing …….both Al Capella, and along with some of my own “Songs with Music” compositions.
    So….this is to say, THANKYOU SO MUCH TC Helicon for the wonderful tool you have created for us Singers to perform not only at our very best, but also in ways that all those years ago, not only I, but singers worldwide could never have imagine would ever come to be.

    My next step is a VoiceLive 3 Extreme…….and those who know what THAT can do already know what I am talking about as to why, without saying one more word about it !

    Happy Gigging Folks !

    Poppa – Queensland – Australia

  • keith

    I loved (!) my various old Digitech vocalizers and dropped the big bucks on the VL3. It was great, but the pre-amps were mediocre, the harmonies and reverbs of modest quality, but built like a tank, deep and very user-friendly. Everything I wanted except really good harmonies with a half decent reverb. I’m waiting for their next generation of processors, maybe they’ll get it right then, and ya, I’ll pay the $1000 on it (like I did with the VL3).

  • FL-Wolf

    I’m a lead singer but always loved to harmonize with others on stage or on recordings. There’s something about ‘fitting’ a second or third voice in a song. I have even found additional voices on some Eagles and Beach Boys songs. It comes natural to me. I think it’s something you have or don’t.