The success of the Pitch Perfect trilogy brought harmony singing back into the spotlight and gave birth to a completely new acapella movement. That rich and full sound you hear when multiple singers are singing the same song but using different notes is known as harmony – a long-time staple of the classics, including musical and opera theatre.
In this article, we discuss tips on how to sing harmony. If you’ve always dreamt of singing in a musical or acapella group, continue reading for more details.
6 Tips on How to Sing Harmony
Tip #1 – Learn the Fundamentals of Music Theory
You do not have to know all aspects of music theory to become a brilliant singer. However, by learning the fundamentals of music theory, you’ll better comprehend the concepts that bring music to life. For instance, you’re going to learn how to identify intervals and learn how to train your ear – a vital step for beginners.
Harmony singing isn’t too different because it warrants a clear understanding of musical intervals. Even though some may be able to grasp it solely by ear, the truth is that the majority of singers need to train their ears in order to understand why they’re doing things as they do.
No matter which group you’re part of, spending time learning the fundamentals of music theory is going to help you become a more versatile singer and allow you to master new concepts quickly.
Tip #2 – Sing Along with the Harmony of Your Most Favorite Recordings
Start off by singing along with the harmony lines that are already there in the recordings. In order to help lock yourself into the harmony line, pay attention to the timbre of the artist’s voice. In case the same singer sings both the harmony and melody, you should pay attention to hearing the lowest or highest voice.
Once you’re confident and feel comfortable singing along with harmonies, you should try to create your own. For instance, try to harmonize with all the vocals you hear.
Here are a few recordings you can use to practice harmony singing:
- Laundry Room by The Avett Brothers (Above the Melody)
- The Eye by Brandi Carlile (Below the Melody)
- Long Time Traveler by The Wailin Jennys (Three-Part)
Tip #3 – Pay Attention to Timing
Timing in harmony singing is super important. Even if all the singers in a group are on-pitch and know their intervals, there’ll be no sense of harmony if they do not sing at the same time and at the same tempo. Rather, the singing is going to sound uncoordinated and messy.
It’s important to identify the clues in a song and time your entrance accordingly. It requires practice. However, once you’re used to identifying the clues in the melody, your timing is going to become impeccable.
The most common approaches to identifying the join-in points include listening to the rhythm section of a song, particularly the percussions or drums. They add frame and structure to a song, and the queues are easy to follow. Identifying a snare may be an excellent clue that it is time to join in.
Tip #4 – Practice Harmonic Ear Training Exercises
Sit at your piano or pick a guitar. Play a chord and aim to distinguish every chord tone. Ideally, you should start off with major triads (root position and then incorporate inversions). First, try singing in the lowest voice and then aim to sing the highest note. After you can hear the bottom and top notes, go for the middle note. (P.S. the middle note is the most difficult to hear.)
Move from one chord to another, trying for a different chord tone every time. For example, play a C major and try to sing the middle note. Next, play a G Major chord and go for the top note, and so on.
Tip #5 – Practice in Groups
If you want to sing harmony like a pro, you need to spend time practicing in groups. While you can use recordings to learn how to sing harmony alone at home, you need to keep in mind that it is not always the same in reality. For instance, different singers have different preferences, styles, and several quirks that can possibly mess up your timing.
By practicing with other singers, you’ll build chemistry and acquire a better understanding of your role in the group’s performance. It’s also going to give you a boost of motivation and a feeling of accomplishment as you polish your skills and sound with fellow artists.
The best thing about singing in groups is that it’s a great chance for you to get advice and mentoring from other, perhaps more senior, singers.
All in all, through practice, you can get rid of all the quirks that come with a live performance and singing harmony.
Tip #6 – Keep Listening
Always try to imitate the greatest singers. When you spend multiple hours listening to songs by legendary singers that sing harmony, you’ll better comprehend its importance and value. Plus, you will also gain a more comprehensive understanding of how songs are composed. Remember, learning never stops, and there are always better and more senior singers who can help you improve yourself.
One of the best ways to spend your time listening to songs is by selecting a couple of songs with great harmonies that you truly enjoy. Play the song on repeat and try identifying the harmony, chords, dominant melody, and intervals in the song.
The more time you spend with music, the easier it is going for you to understand new concepts and grasp new techniques as you polish your music acumen and voice.
Last Few Words
There is only a small number of people who are born with an intrinsic ability to imitate tones and pitch or grasp advanced musical concepts through the earn. The majority of us need to invest time and effort to improve our singing abilities. But, at the same time, we also need to work smartly. The learning process entails multiple components, including reflection, motivation, and self-assessment.
Learning how to sing harmony isn’t any different. You need to start from the beginning and follow a systematic approach. Make sure to begin with basic songs that are going to help you learn the process swiftly and teach you how to identify harmony, melody, chords, and intervals. Once you are able to follow these fundamental concepts, you can start applying them to more advanced songs.
Moreover, bear in mind that learning how to sing harmony is a process that doesn’t take place overnight. It warrants dedication and passion, along with the will to move yourself forward mentally. Progress is a long journey, and people who embark on the journey to sing harmony usually have difficulty getting their desired results instantly. Step back on occasion and look at what you’ve accomplished already. Record your singing practice, and you will improve slowly and gradually.
We hope you found this guide informative and useful as you step ahead to learn how to sing harmony! Trust us, it’s going to be worth it!
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.