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How To Do Vocal Arrangement

How To Do Vocal Arrangement

Why Is Vocal Arrangement Important?

Okay, so you've got an awesome musical track that you've spent a lot of time and effort recording.

The lead vocal is great and the music is bumping. But the more you listen to it, the more you realize that something is missing.

Something is needed to enhance the lead vocal and make the song sound like the professional sound recording it is. What you need is vocal arrangement.

The majority of all the music you hear, mainstream or indie, have arranged background vocals. The background vocals help to support the lead voice and enhance the overall song.

Think of it like this: the lead vocal is the hotdog and the background voices are the bun. Yep, that about sums it up.

So, if you are a singer and you are currently in the process of recording music in a studio, then you're in the right place.

In this blog I'll teach you, in a very practical way, how to arrange background vocals on a musical track. Let's go!

The Song Must Have A Strong Melody

To begin with, you have to have a song preferably with a strong melody. The kind of melody that you would find in songs performed by groups.

I say this because with strong melody, it is a lot easier to arrange voices in harmony. Harmony is very important in groups.

Now, if you have a track that doesn't really have melody (like a rap song), you can still arrange harmony but it won't be as easy if you are not experienced in this.

Vocal arrangement is simply arranging voices on a musical track.

Listening Is Key!

Now that you have a track, take some time to listen to the music over and over again until you've become familiar with the way the instruments sound.

Often times, I get my inspirations from the way the piano plays or the guitar strums in a song.

Try to mimic the way an instrument sounds with your voice. This imitation could very well be the basis of an arrangement.

Afterwards, harmonize with yourself, doing the same exact thing with your voice only in a higher or lower note.

If you are not sure how to harmonize, all you have to do is listen carefully to the chords in the song and sing a long with them.

There is always a high (soprano), middle (alto), and low (tenor) note all of which form a chord when played unanimously.

For example: In the basic triad chord of C Major, there is a C note, E note, and a G note. When singers in a group sing these different notes together, they create harmony.

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Learn How To Harmonize

Let's Practice with the song "Happy Birthday To You". If you have a keyboard nearby, play the middle C note. Play these notes in order:

C, D, C, F, E....C, D, C, G, F... C, C (Higher Octave), A, F, E, D... Bb, A, F, G, F

You just played the melody of the song in the key of F Major. Let's do two part harmony by adding a Soprano part. Soprano notes:

F, F, F, A, G...F, F, F, Bb, A... F, F (Higher Octave), C (Higher Octave), C (Higher Octave), C (Higher Octave), Bb...D (Higher Octave), C (Higher Octave), A, Bb, A

Practice singing both parts just so you get an idea of how harmony works. Once you have a basis of the harmony, you can start getting creative.

Sing the notes with an "ah" vowel sound and you'll understand what I mean :)

It is important that you learn to harmonize! Without harmony, vocal arrangement will be boring.

When I'm arranging a song, I put background voices in areas that need enhancement.

The chorus is probably the main part of any song that needs to be lifted with additional arrangement.

Generally, I'd listen to the words and the melody of the chorus and see what I can create for the background vocals.

I might use one or two words since it's the background and not the lead.

Listen To Songs For Ideas

One of the best ways to get inspiration is to listen to music that's already out there.

If you have a rock song, listen to your favorite rock bands to learn how they arrange background voices on a track. If your song is R&B, listen to music that is similar.

Don't copy them, just listen to learn and to get inspired to create your own arrangement.

The thing I like most about vocal arrangement is the freedom of creativity that comes with it.

You can do whatever you want. You can add two part, three part, or even four part harmony. Words can be added or simple sounds like ooh and ahh can make a song artistic.

The bottom line is to play around with sounds until you find something that clicks. Sometimes the creation process comes easily, and other times you have to dig deep for it.

Just use your artistic intuition and you will be ok!

Have fun :)

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Rudafe on January 17, 2017:

Down to earth and expository with a touch of experience and confidence.

Good Job ladies.

Elodie on April 23, 2014:

I just wanted to say you ladies look beautiful in that picture! Made me smile :-) I wish you all the best and I'll be sure to check out your music, if you sound as good as you look you will go far!

Alan Weekes on March 24, 2012:


guitarist on October 29, 2011:

Makies it easier if know MUSIC THEORY and how chords and scales are related and how different voicings work better than others

guitarist on October 29, 2011:

Makies it easier if know MUSIC THEORY and how chords and scales are related and how different voicings work better than others

Jeremy on April 18, 2011:

Hey there, thanks for sharing this article. It is really much appreciated.

mfanelo on February 09, 2011:

Thank you so so much for sharing with us I'm very thankful and I've learned a lot from what you shared with us.

st@r vibz from Sunshine state on September 09, 2009:

congrats on your first hub!

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