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Here’s a post I made on the Home Recording BBS:

I’ve been looking around for information on writing vocal harmonies but haven’t been able to find anything decent. Anyone I ask seems to say “you just do them” but that seems scary and wrong to me. Can anyone share any tips or guidelines or anything?

Do you just work them out methodically based on the key or do you feel your way towards them and practice eventually makes it intuitive? It seems to be hit and miss with me. Sometimes I can come up with a harmony line and other times I’m just lost.

Some interesting replies.

Posted on - June 26, 2003 [at] 5:20 pm by Brad
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1 Comments on this post

John Lawson on Harmonies
July 1, 2003 at 7:19 pm

Hi Brad,

As far as vocal harmonies go, the things we’ve learned are:

1. Remember the harmony is to complement the main vocal tune. If you go nuts and start going crazy over it, or too loud, it sounds weird.

2. Singing a neutral but complementary track will take a few takes. We usually improvise and cut and paste the best bits from a few takes. It’s not easy but turn the main vocal up loud in your cans and it’ll help you sing along rather than against.

3. If you think you need to sit down and work out a harmony you should. If you think you could instinctively know the key and notes to sing, do it. You can always change it later, and whatever suits your own style will always be best, whether it’s to sit down and figure out exactly what you wanna sing, or to just ad-lib it.

That’s our $0.50 worth, I hope we’ve not been patronising or missed the point.

Hope to help,

John (+ band)

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