Background Vocals, Part 1

Mariah Carey

Lesson time 12:03 min

Mariah shares her love for the underappreciated art of background vocals and revisits the backgrounds for “The Roof” with Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter Brandy in the Butterfly Lounge.

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Topics include: “The Roof (Back in Time)” Working Session: Learning the Lines • Sing With Others


[INTRO MUSIC] MARIAH CAREY (VOICEOVER): To me, background vocals are sacred. MARIAH CAREY: We haven't song this song, like I said, since 1901, but we're going to try it. Just the backgrounds. Everything fades away. [ALL SINGING] It only fades, it only fades. It only fades, it only fades. Whoa, whoa. Don't tell me you-- - I've been a background singer, like, before I was known as a professional singer. And I learned a lot from background singers and just listening to background vocals on records. I would notice them and notice the different textures. [ALL SINGING] Don't tell me. Don't tell me-- MARIAH CAREY: It's interesting, because there are so many incredible background vocalists who never become stars, but they're stars in that world. And, to me, some of the best singers are the background singers. [ALL SINGING] It only fades, it only fades. - There are certain people that just historically have had incredible background vocals on their records. There's certain people whose, just like their style and the way they do their backgrounds are very identifiable, like Luther Vandross. He always had incredible background vocals. He was a background singer as well when he first started. And because his tone, again, like, it's his tone that also when he would stack his vocals it just sounded amazing. [LUTHER VANDROSS "NEVER TOO MUCH"] I just don't want to stop. Never too much, never too much, never too much. - Chaka Khan, totally different approach I feel, but, like, her stacks are amazing to me. [CHAKA KHAN "I'M EVERY WOMAN"] Whoa, whoa, whoa. MARIAH CAREY: She'll do an ad-lib track going on over here, and then a couple other things that are doing the melody over here. And it's just-- it's iconic. I mean, that's such an overused word, but it's really true with regard to that. There are so many people that I could name that even had, like, you would know that their live background vocalists were incredible, Aretha Franklin. Like the Ain't No Way background vocals with Cissy Houston singing Ain't No Way, the top part that she sings during that section. [ARETHA FRANKLIN "AIN'T NO WAY"] I know that a woman's duty is to have and love a man. - I don't want to say the person's name, but I'm pretty sure I know who it is, a contemporary artist that said to me-- they didn't say it to me, they were talking in the room, I happened to be in the studio they were like, yeah, nobody's stacking their background vocals anymore. But it wasn't like, oh, we wish people would stack their backgrounds. It was like, yeah, that's not hot anymore, like, we're not doing that. And I'm like, and just for that reason, I'm going to do it more. Everybody should do their own thing. And some people, just that's not their bag. They don't care about it. I happen to love it. But not every song is supposed to be that. Sometimes I'll only have one little background part, or none at all...

About the Instructor

With a five-octave range and soaring whistle tones, Mariah Carey reigns as the “Songbird Supreme.” Now, for the first time, she’s opening up her studio to show you her creative process. Learn how she uses her iconic voice to write songs, collaborate, and produce—and discover how some of her biggest hits were made. Draw inspiration from Mariah’s journey and connect with the power of your own voice and vision.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey invites you into her studio to share her process. Learn how she uses her iconic voice to create, collaborate, and express a vision.

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