Jump to content

Backing vocalist

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Backup singer)
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 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. In a capella performances a backing vocalist can be said to be singing 'backapella'.[1]


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 backup 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.


In the lyrics, the backing vocals are standardly written in parentheses to differentiate them from the main vocals, which are written without any markup. The backing vocals for a line may come in mid-line, or even after the main lyrics have already been sung. Vocalizing is fairly common so as to not detract from the meaning of the lyrics of the primary vocals. The sound of the backing vocals is often in a differing style (e.g., either more muted or pitched up) so as to complement rather than compete with the main parts.

Lead singers who record backing vocals[edit]

In the recording studio, some lead singers record their own backing vocals by overdubbing with a multitrack recording system, record their 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".[2] 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, Janet 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[edit]

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[edit]


  1. ^ Back Pocket.
  2. ^ McAlpine, Fraser (10 October 2015). "10 Things You May Not Know About Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody'". BBC America. Retrieved 16 May 2017.
  3. ^ Talevski, Nick (7 April 2010). Rock Obituaries: Knocking On Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. p. 31. ISBN 9780857121172. Retrieved 28 August 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Talevski, p.535
  5. ^ Everett, Walter (31 March 1999). The Beatles As Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology. Oxford University Press. p. 129. ISBN 9780199880935. Retrieved 28 August 2018 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Mellow Yellow". Donovan Unofficial. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Top 500". Smooth Radio. Archived from the original on 10 April 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  8. ^ Sweeting, Adam. Andrew Gold obituary. The Guardian. June 6, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  9. ^ "Never Let Her Slip Away". Johnnie Walker's Sounds of the 70s. BBC Radio 2. 5 Feb 2012.
  10. ^ O'Neal, Sean. R.I.P. Andrew Gold, songwriter of "Lonely Boy" and The Golden Girls theme. The A.V. Club. June 6, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  11. ^ Singer/Songwriter Andrew Gold Dies. Contactmusic. June 6, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  12. ^ Drive with Russell Woolf; Andrew Gold – Lonely Boy Archived 2013-03-10 at the Wayback Machine. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. June 16, 2011. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  13. ^ "Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers". Warr.org. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  14. ^ Halstead, Craig; Cadman, Chris (28 August 2018). Michael Jackson the Solo Years. Authors On Line Ltd. p. 58. ISBN 9780755200917. Retrieved 28 August 2018 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ "Bad Blood Music Video". OVGuide. Archived from the original on 23 August 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  16. ^ Frampton, Scott. "What's Playing in Patti LaBelle's Ear?". Oprah.com. Harpo Productions, Inc. Retrieved 2017-12-30.
  17. ^ Ramirez, Erika. "Usher's 'Confessions' at 10: An Oral History with Lil Jon, Jermaine Dupri & More". Billboard.com. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  18. ^ "Revisiting the Overlooked Debut Album from Tamar Braxton, "Tamar" from 2000". Youknowigotsoul.com. You Know I Got Soul. Retrieved 2015-12-13.
  19. ^ "Class Of '88: GUY". Allhiphop.com. 21 July 2008. Retrieved 2015-04-15.
  20. ^ Phillips, Noel (16 July 2013). "EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: STOKLEY WILLIAMS SPEAKS ON PRODUCING WALE'S "THE GIFTED" LP". Respect-mag.com. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
  21. ^ Whitener, Connie. "5 things you did not know about Eric Roberson". Axs.com. AXS. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  22. ^ "ВИЖ "Най-добрата" на Андреа - Попфолк - Signal.bg". Signal.bg. Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  23. ^ Goodman, Jessica. "Ariana Grande reveals Jamie Foxx's vocals are featured on 'Focus'". Ew.com. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  24. ^ Daw, Robbie (15 July 2015). "Calvin Harris & Disciples' "How Deep Is Your Love": Listen To The Full Song". Idolator. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
  25. ^ "Best Songs We Heard This Week: Jeremih, The 1975, Alan Walker + More". Popcrush.com.

External links[edit]