David Combes performed backing vocals for Beyoncé on the Queen Mary 2 in New York, and has recently returned from Mauritius coaching a local choir.
David returns as our ‘Vocal Coach in Residence’ for April to share his wisdom about backing vocals and harmony.
Quickest way to hurt your voice
Speak badly. In my experience, it is so much more likely to get tired if you spend large amounts of your time speaking loud in noisy environments
Best way to a healthy voice
Realise that there is so much more to singing than just the vocal cords.
Is there anything all vocal coaches agree upon?
Singers need to be aware of hydration.
What should a vocalist know about tech beyond their mic?
The man on the sound desk is your friend, you can only make it as good as when it leaves you, after that it is up to them. Learn their name and don’t be rude.
Best advice you’ve heard on dealing with nerves
Don’t believe the old wives’ tales. There is help out there but science is the way forward not imagining your audience naked.
An unforgettable vocal performance you witnessed
Every time I see Take 6 – possibly the most overwhelming was seeing them up close at Ronnie Scott’s (yes, I cried, and have done every time).
What made it so?
They are all such great singers, and together they bring a sincerity and a joy to their vocal delivery that goes beyond singing.
Best coaching experience in the past year
Watching an actor work hard and grow for a film role. He had been told he had a terrible voice as a child, and had many issues with singing that were more to do with self-belief than ability. He even secretly went out and did karaoke after a few lessons and discovered a love of singing that went deeper than having to sing for the film.
Best advice about tech you ever received?
Don’t point the mic at the monitor! (We all start somewhere and it was a LONG time ago).
Good thing to say to your backing band/group
I love working with you!
Most important thing to know about singing in the studio
Everything goes down the mic, if you are not singing don’t stand there practicing the next phrase, yodeling into the mic, or start chatting to your band mates directly in front of the mic.
One way a singer can find their unique voice?
Quote about singing that inspires you
‘Inside my voice there is a soul, and in my soul there is a voice’
India Arie – ‘Strength, courage and wisdom’
David Combes has backed Beyoncé Knowles, Chaka Khan, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Lionel Richie and many more. He’s sung on several series of “The X Factor” and “Britain’s Got Talent”. His vocals have been in films such as “The Corpse Bride”, “Transformers”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Nine”, and “Pan” (end of 2015). He is also a solo performer and a tutor on the vocal faculty for The University of West London and for The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance. www.davidcombes.com