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Backing vocalist

One of the Wives, the backing vocalists for English singer Ebony Bones

A backing vocalist is a singer who provides vocal harmony with the lead vocalist or other backing vocalists. A backing vocalist may also sing alone as a lead-in to the main vocalist's entry or to sing a counter-melody. Backing vocalists are used in a broad range of popular music, traditional music, and world music styles.

Solo artists may employ professional backing vocalists in studio recording sessions as well as during concerts. In many rock and metal bands (e.g., the power trio), the musicians doing backing vocals also play instruments, such as guitar, electric bass, drums or keyboards. In Latin or Afro-Cuban groups, backing singers may play percussion instruments or shakers while singing. In some pop and hip hop groups and in musical theater, they may be required to perform dance routines while singing through headset microphones.

Styles of background vocals vary according to the type of song and genre of music. In pop and country songs, backing vocalists may sing harmony to support the lead vocalist. In hardcore punk or rockabilly, other band members who play instruments may sing or shout backing vocals during the chorus (refrain) section of the songs.


Alternative terms for backing vocalists include backing singer, backing vocals, additional vocals or, particularly in the United States and Canada, backup singer, background singer, or harmony.


While some bands use performers whose sole on-stage role is backing vocals, backing singers commonly have other roles. Two notable examples of band members who sang back-up are The Beach Boys and The Beatles. The Beach Boys were well known for their close vocal harmonies, occasionally with all five members singing at once such as "In My Room" and "Surfer Girl".

The Beatles were also known for their close style of vocal harmonies[opinion] – all of them sang both lead and backing vocals at some point, especially John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who frequently supported each other with harmonies, often with fellow Beatle George Harrison joining in. Ringo Starr, while not as prominent as a singer due to his distinctive voice, sings backing vocals in such tracks as "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" and "Carry That Weight". Examples of three-part harmonies by Lennon, McCartney and Harrison include "Nowhere Man", "Because", "Day Tripper", and "This Boy". The members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Bee Gees each wrote songs, sang backup or lead vocals, and played various instruments in their performances and recordings.

Lead singers who record backing vocals

In the recording studio, some lead singers record their own backing vocals by overdubbing with a multitrack recording system, record his or her own backing vocals, then recording the lead part over them. Some lead vocalists prefer this approach because multiple parts recorded by the same singer blend well.

A famous example overdubbing is Freddie Mercury's multipart intro to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". Other artists who have recorded multitrack lead and backing vocals include Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 and Angels and Airwaves, Wednesday 13 in his own band and Murderdolls, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran, and Brad Delp of Boston.

With the exception of a few songs on each album, Michael Jackson, Prince, Dan Fogelberg, Eddie Rabbitt, David Bowie, Harry Nilsson, and Richard Marx sing all of the background vocals for their songs. Robert Smith of the Cure sings his own backing vocals in the studio, and doesn't use backing vocalists when performing live.

Uncredited backing vocals

Prominent vocalists who provide backing vocals in other artists' recordings are often uncredited to avoid conflicts with their own recording agreements, and for other reasons. Examples include:

See also

This page was last updated at 2022-09-05 22:19 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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