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.
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?
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:
- Buy a processor with harmony capabilities, preferably one that can use the guitar chords as a guide.
- Set up the processor with the desired harmonies (3rd, 5th, etc.)
- 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.
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 - 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 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.