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Self-Backing Vocalist
Occasionally, when recording a song, there's no backing vocalist available to bring out the melody and harmony. The most common solution is for the artist in question to record his or her own backing vocals and then overdub them into the final recording. In some cases, this can also be done several times over to create a "chorus of one" effect. The trope has been in use since the 1940s, when technology first allowed for the combination of several recorded tracks into one recording (also known as multitracking). May overlap with Solo Duet.


  • Bill Oddie of The Goodies used to work into the night to replace Graeme Garden and Tim Brooke-Taylor's backing vocals. He put his own vocals through a "harmonizer" so Tim and Graeme wouldn't tell the difference. Despite focusing on comedy - what a voice!!
  • Andrej Bukas does this in Seryoga for a really poignant effect.
  • Marilyn Manson does this enough that you start to think that Marilyn Manson's favorite singer is Marilyn Manson.
  • Nearly every piece written by Enya: on one track, that's over 500 vocal parts. She sings all of them individually too instead of copying and pasting them in the studio.
  • Another (somewhat less) extreme example is "Sunset Park" from Angels Of Light's album Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home. On top of the main vocal part, singers Michael Gira and Devendra Banhart recorded over twenty more backing tracks, most of them wordless improvisations on the main melody, all of which appear on the final recording.
  • Billy Joel sang all of the backing vocals in "The Longest Time."
  • Country/comedy artist Ray Stevens commonly sang his own backing vocals in falsetto to emulate a female trio singing behind him, and sometimes added a bass backing vocal as well (most notably on "Turn Your Radio On"). In a more extreme example, he self-overdubbed vocal parts in different ranges to emulate the titular gospel group on "The Dooright Family."
  • Stone Sour often uses this. Notably in "Bother"
  • Slipknot's tracks will often have Corey Taylor's vocals overlap with one another, while in live shows these backing vocals are then provided by percussionists Shawn Crahan and Chris Fehn.
  • The B-52s album Good Stuff. One of their trademarks is the vocal harmonies of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson. However, at this time, Cindy was having time off to raise her daughters and did not wish to be a main member of the band for the album. Kate Pierson therefore double tracked her vocals, recording both sets of harmonies for the album. On the tour for the album, guest vocalist Julee Cruise performed the harmonies Cindy would have performed. Since Cindy rejoined the band in 1998, she has performed the harmonies for this album's songs as originally intended.
  • Alan Jackson sings most of his own backing vocals. It's often very obvious.
  • Jerrod Niemann's rendition of "Lover, Lover" (a cover of Sonia Dada's "You Don't Treat Me No Good") includes nine backing vocal parts. Every backing vocal is Jerrod's... even the bass vocal, which he said he had to drink large amounts of whiskey to deepen his voice for.
  • Chris Rainbow, guest vocalist for bands like The Alan Parsons Project and Camel, elevated this to an art form, both with lead harmonies and veritable walls of backing vocals. He was credited in a couple of Alan Parsons Project albums as a "One-Man Beach Boys Choir", which should give most people an idea of exactly how insane some of his harmonies are.
  • George Harrison did his own backing vocals, dubbing them the "George-O'Hara-Smith Singers."
  • Earth, by Imogen Heap, is entirely acapella and entirely done by Imogen. She asks the audience for the backing vocals live.
  • Modest Mouse used this a lot on their first couple albums and somehow still managed to be lo-fi.
    • If anything, this has become part of their signature sound; a lot of their songs have what sounds like one Isaac Brock standing at the microphone and another shouting the vocals from across the studio, and Isaac generally gives himself leeway to go off on weird tangents with the backing vocal ("I fucked up the last line.").
  • Used in Queen's "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" (all Freddie, including the highest and lowest notesnote ), "Leaving Home Ain't Easy" (all Brian), "More of that Jazz" (all Roger) plus a lot of solo records by each. "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Somebody to Love" are a Double Subversion; every member of the band is singing (except John), but they copied and overdubbed those vocals so many times that in some sections there's as many as 100 ("Somebody to Love" or "Bohemian Rhapsody") layers of vocals. And all done with analog to boot!
    • "Bohemian Rhapsody" isn't completely clear of this, either. The intro is an entire choir of Freddie Mercury.
    • Whenever Freddie Mercury produced or co-produced works for other artists, he used to encourage them to do it. He even got opera diva Montserrat Caballé to harmonise with herself, which greatly pleased her.
  • In another rare example from a group, SHeDAISY overdubbed its own vocals at the end of "Lucky 4 You (Tonight I'm Just Me)" to toy with the song's subject of multiple personality disorder.
  • Brad Paisley's "Born on Christmas Day" starts with a recording of him singing the song around age 12, and then segues into modern-day Brad singing the rest of the song. At the end, the recording of Child!Brad returns, and Adult!Brad sings a harmony over it.
  • Several recording artists multitrack the lead vocal to help sound more in-tune.
  • David Bowie often sang his own backing vocals, most notably in the music video for "Boys Keep Swinging," where he played his own female backup singers. Hilarity Ensues.
    • The most hilarious example has to be "The Laughing Gnome," which is Bowie duetting with himself in a high-pitched voice.
  • Erasure does this a lot; it's common practice to set aside ten to twelve tracks out of a 24-track master tape just for Andy Bell and his harmonies. His voice is so versatile that he can sing in his normal male tenor, a female soprano without falsetto, a deep baritone, or anywhere in between. "Brother and Sister" has all three playing simultaneously in the final repeats of the chorus.
  • Buddy Holly did his own harmonies on "Words of Love."
  • Amanda Palmer often has this in her songs, an especially notable example being "Half Jack" where the effect is rather haunting.
  • Paul McCartney did this, most famously for "Coming Up" from the album McCartney II. He also played all the musicians in the Music Video for the song (and his wife Linda played two backing singers, but she didn't sing), which is fitting since he was all the musicians on the song.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic for a number of his songs.
  • Butch Vig managed to get Kurt Cobain to do double-tracking on Nirvana's Nevermind album, sometimes by pretending that a take was screwed up and asking for another, and then using up both (he also did this to get the multiple guitars of "Drain You" despite Cobain's aversion towards studio trickery). For "In Bloom", he convinced Cobain to do it for the chorus by saying "John Lennon double-tracked" (and then did the same to Dave Grohl's backing vocals).
    • Lennon was responsible for the invention of the record-two-takes-at-once machine because he hated double-tracking. So for The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows", engineer Geoff Emerick created the ADT (Automatic Double Tracking thingy), which worked by running the vocal track into the mixing board twice — once directly, and once via a (short, adjustable) tape loop delay, with a little wobble in the speed and the delay deliberately thrown in.
    • Dave Grohl still does vocals in some songs, such as "In Bloom". He played this trope straighter with Foo Fighters.
  • Entertainment for the Braindead (aka Julia Kotowski) does this on many songs.
  • Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria and Prize Fighter Inferno seems to use this often, though backup singers and other band members are used during live concerts.
  • Lady Gaga loves doing this. It's less noticeable in some songs, but "Paparazzi" and "Alejandro" use this heavily.
  • Very common in Michael Jackson's music. You can pick up his own distinctive voice in the backing vocals to a majority of his songs. He also commonly provided his own backing "vocal instrumentation" with beatboxing and the like.
  • Russ Mael of Sparks does his own backing vocals. Since he's a falsetto, it ends up sounding like a group of female background singers.
  • Jonathan Coulton, most notably on the a cappella song "When You Go".
  • Bobby McFerrin did everything on "Don't Worry, Be Happy."
    • The video for his cover of the Rascals' "Good Lovin'" adds a visual take on the idea.
  • Chester Bennington's voice was overdubbed twice to achieve his signature hybrid sing-screaming present on Linkin Park's first two albums.
  • Everyone who has ever been in Barenaked Ladies is a singer, so "Call And Answer" was particularly notable for having all of its vocals sung by Steven Page.
  • Almost more of a Self Interrupting Vocalist, Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco has a tendency to do this. It makes their live performances... interesting.
  • If there's a harmony vocal on any given Julia Nunes song, chances are it's Julia Nunes herself. Especially in her performances recorded for youtube, where she's also playing every instrument you hear.
  • Robyn Hitchcock uses overdubs to sound like a one man accapella group in both "Uncorrected Personality Traits" and "Furry Green Atom Bowl".
  • Blind Guardian's Hansi Kürsch does this A LOT.
    • Live, the fans often fill in the other parts.
  • Relatively uncommon in blink-182, as they've got the unwritten rule that the lead vocals are sung by the person who wrote the track, and harmonies by the one who didn't (the drummer doesn't sing). But it did happen occasionally: Online Songs is a clear example.
    • Also, on Feeling This, the outro features one Mark and three Toms harmonizing.
  • Eagles did it sometimes. For instance, the line 'and still those voices are calling from far away' (Hotel California) is sung by Henley, Frey and either Meisner or Schmit when it comes to live versions, but in the studio it was just Don Henley + Don Henley. The last verse of Take It Easy features Glenn Frey on lead vocals and also joining his bandmates on backing vocals (which include a dual role by Randy Meisner as tenor and alto).
  • In The Police, Sting does it very often. Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland only did backing vocals during live shows.
  • Leon Patillo would do this with several albums, as well as perform most instruments. Considering his peak in the Christian music genre was during the 1980s, much of the "instrumentation" is effectively a sea of synthesizers.
  • Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose, especially noticeable on "Knocking on Heaven's Door".
    • More often than not, even on songs with other members singing harmonies, Axl took care of the highest and lowest notes. "November Rain", for instance.
  • Both Glenn Danzig and Michale Graves for The Misfits.
  • Ian Gillan frequently for Deep Purple, for example the opening scream in Highway Star.
  • Rap example: Tupac Shakur does this in most of his songs, to the point it's his signature sound. In fact, most rappers do this to emphasize certain words or double track the chorus. However, 2Pac usually double if not triple tracked almost the entirety of his vocals.
    • Another high-profile rapper who uses this technique extensively is Eminem.
  • Patti Page did this as far back as 1947, and continued to do so throughout her career.
  • Often a trait of mid-to-late '70's Phil Collins-era Genesis, particularly on "Entangled", "Ripples", and the chorus of "Snowbound". Also present on Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett's 1975 solo debut Voyage Of The Acolyte, on the track, "Star Of Sirius", which Collins sang the lead vocal on.
    • During his solo career, Collins did all three voice parts for his cover of the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love", to the point where he plays the entire trio in the video.
  • Ayumi Hamasaki's "Evolution". She appears to do this on-the-fly in the last few lines of the song. She sings one line, and immediately plays a recording of her singing it, then sings the second line, and immediately plays the recording of that second line. It is intentionally hollow-sounding, to make it sound like a recording, perhaps Lampshading this.
  • Elliott Smith did this a lot. The biggest example is "I Didn't Understand", which is entirely a capella and has him repeatedly overdubbing himself for a choir-like effect.
  • While under the production of Robert John "Mutt" Lange, Shania Twain had only two backing vocalists: herself and Mutt.
  • There are a number of a capella singers on YouTube that do this, notably François Macré's 64-channel recording of Michael Jackson's "Thriller", found here.
  • Elvis Costello does this a lot. Tracks where other members of the Attractions sing backup are pretty rare.
  • Tori Amos also does this a lot. Notably, many times the backing vocals have entirely different lyrics. Good examples are 'Father Lucifer', 'Doughnut Song', or 'Spark'.
  • Many Aerosmith songs.
  • Parodied by Bob Dylan on his cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer", which has smooth late-60s country Dylan duetting with coarse early-60s folk Dylan... both singing painfully out of tune.
  • Ki-FUCKING-tananx
  • No Doubt's Gwen Stefani - ALL THE FREAKING TIME.
  • Music/ABBA did it sometimes with the girls, especially when one of them wasn't able to attend a recording session due to some other commitments. It was also common that they'd sing a line unison and create what is usually known as 'the third voice'.
  • Pink Floyd did it occasionally. For instance, David Gilmour harmonises with himself on Breathe. Us and Them features David Gilmour plus Richard Wright plus another Richard Wright.
  • Florence + the Machine is notable in that all the female vocals are her. It's especially noticeable in her song The Dog Days Are Over, and her own words on "Rabbit Heart" are "The guy who mixed it nearly had a nervous breakdown."
  • Lonesome Wyatt of Those Poor Bastards does this frequently.
  • Mick Jagger has occasionally done this, more frequently on his solo material as other members of The Rolling Stones (particularly Keith Richards) have done legit backing vocals over the years.
  • Dexter Holland of The Offspring is often the most prominent backing vocalist in his songs.
  • Utada Hikaru for both Simple and Clean and Hikari.
  • Brad Delp of Boston.
  • Canadian folk singer David Francey often does his own backing vocals, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by one or more other vocalists.
  • Elton John did this a lot.
  • Emilie Autumn does all the vocal parts on her songs.
  • KT Tunstall records the backing vocals and accompaniment on the spot whenever she performs Black Horse and the Cherry Tree in concert.
  • Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, in addition to recording all the instruments (with a few exceptions, usually listed in the liner notes) on Nine Inch nails' recordings, often overdubs vocals, usually screams and whispers and the like, but occasionally backup harmonies as well, as heard best on "Into the Void" and during the pre-chorus ("Help me!") on "Closer".
  • Todd Rundgren had an entire album - A Cappella, released in 1985 - which involves no instruments whatsoever, just Rundgren himself singing tons of background parts behind himself.
  • In a Death Metal example. Behemoth vocalist Nergal overlays both Low Screams and High Screams so the vocals sound more brutal
  • Akiko Shikata (a good deal of Ar tonelico series vocal tracks, Umineko no Naku Koro ni opening and ending, etc) does this all the time, and she really can take it to extreme levels. It's not unheard of for her to do 200 or more recordings for one song. She might as well be a one-woman choir. It helps that her rather incredible amplitude often makes you forget that all those voices belong to the same person.
  • David Draiman of Disturbed, with Another Way to Die as a particularly excellent example.
    • He does this a lot with his wordless vocalizations. The "RAH!" in the beginning of the track Asylum is six tracks at once.
  • This is a favorite method during the Mikkel Sandiger years (11 Dreams through Architect of Lies) of Mercenary.
  • Mitch Benn does it when he's recording without Kirsty Newton, or when a male backer is required for artistic reasons (in "Boy Band", for example, the gimmick is that he's playing the entire band, including "And we all sing the chorus together/'Cos we can't do harmonies yet...")
  • The video for Outkast's "Hey Ya!" presents the work as a Beatles-esque live performance. And considering that Andre 3000 did all the vocals and instrument parts...
  • Vienna Teng has been known to do this in a few songs, such as No Gringo and The Last Snowfall, even when performing them live.
  • The film Ray depicts Ray Charles inventing the process in one scene, when his introduction to a multi-track recorder happens in the same recording session as his backup singers walk out on him. In real-life, Ray and producer Tom Dowd are the Trope Makers.
  • Kate Bush overdubs most of her own backing vocals.
  • Heather Alexander, on her album In'shallah, sings one particular song as a three-part round. She's the song's sole vocalist. It's particularly startling since she just didn't use such techniques.
    • Though after transitioning to a man, Alexander James Adams, he did record an album on which he performed several duets, performing both alto and tenor parts.
  • Devin Townsend often does this for a choir-like effect in some of his work. Can be heard on the albums Ocean Machine: Biomech and Infinity, among others.
  • Every line of every song on Atheist's debut album Piece of Time has one track being a low growl and the other being a high scream. It lends it a very demonic tone.
  • Tay Zonday's "Musicolio" has him singing two backing vocals and playing all the instruments on his keyboard.
  • Nightwish was into this especially on Wishmaster and Oceansoul, though not nearly all songs that employ the effect do it more than subtly. Most egregious examples would be Sleeping Sun and Swanheart, both tranquil ballads.
  • Almost all of Tobuscus' recorded music — original and parody songs, Literal Trailers, etc., have him doing his own backing vocals, echoes, and the like.
  • The Veronicas they are twins and have all possible vocals covered, also noted on their linear notes on their albums.
  • Britney Spears often harmonizes with herself, note Shadow especially.
  • Debbie Harry did almost all of the vocals on Blondie's "Atomic."
  • Les Paul and Mary Ford - she was a Self-Backing Vocalist while he was a Self-Backing Instrumentalist.
  • Everything Else's Matt Morley backed himself in "What Can't Be Seen" because he was the only member of the band at the time.
  • Keith Urban usually has two backing vocalists: himself and Jerry Flowers.
  • Thormas Time by Anthony and Those Other Guys where the vocalist sings his own harmony.
  • JOJO does almost all the vocals on her album The High Road.
  • Kyo of Dir En Grey. He's his own angel and his own demon on most of Dum Spiro Spero, though sometimes Die, Kaoru and Toshiya scream in songs.
  • The Dutch comedian/singer André van Duin has several songs in which he performs two to four distinct characters, all with their own voice mannerisms and often singing the chorus together.
  • Ken Stringfellow of The Posies fame has done this on all of his solo work. Hell, even some Posies songs have either Ken or second frontman Jon Auer doing their own backing vocals.
  • Essentially all of Beyoncé's songs epitomize this trope. AND she did it in Destinys Child too (often with the exclusion of other group members).
  • A lot, if not all, of songs from Maximo Park have backing vocals provided by lead singer Paul Smith.
  • The Jesus Lizard's "Puss" is somewhere between this and Solo Duet. In the left speaker there's a track of David Yow singing through a walkie-talkie-like distortion effect, and in the right there's a different take of him singing without the effect - sometimes the vocals are in unison, and sometimes they're doing call-and-response with each other. It stands out particularly because none of the other songs on the album Liar have any backing vocals whatsoever.
  • Any Loreena McKennitt song with a noticeable harmony occurs due to this—"Standing Stones" and "The Old Ways" (in the chorus), "Prospero's Speech", "All Souls Night", "The Mystic's Dream", "Night Ride Across the Caucasus"...
  • Quite prominent on The Smashing Pumpkins comeback record Zeitgeist. Likely because Billy Corgan was the only band member present who wasn't occupied with drumming.
  • Thom Yorke of Radiohead often sings his own backup/harmony vocals in the studio, while Ed O'Brien and occassionally Phil Selway sing during live shows.
    • On "Climbing Up the Walls" from OK Computer, he recorded two vocal takes, one in which he sings the words normally and the other in which he slurs the words and the two are layered on top of one another, to eerie effect.
  • On "Fourth of July" from Soundgarden's album Superunknown Chris Cornell recorded two vocal tracks, one in which he sings in a high falsetto, the other in a deep baritone. The two tracks are layered on top of each other which, coupled with the words he's singing and the melody, sounds very spooky indeed.
  • Janet Jackson has done this on a few occasions, most notably in her later albums.
  • Most of Rush's early albums (up to "Grace Under Pressure") feature no vocal harmony at all (one exception being the song "Take a Friend" on their self-titled debut,) but since then, the majority of their songs have features what some fans call "The Choir of Geddys" with extensively multi-tracked, often intricate harmonies, all performed by Lee. On tour, the vocal tracks are triggered as needed by one of the three band members on keyboards, foot pedals or a percussion MIDI controller. Even though the harmony tracks are recorded triggers, Lee is singing all of the main vocals live during the shows. While guitarist Alex Lifeson is often seen at a microphone singing during the shows, his mike is actually turned down quite low because (as Lifeson himself has joked) while he *loves* to sing, he's NOT allowed to (and if you've ever heard a bootleg taken from the signal before it's run through the soundboard, you'll understand why!)
  • Black Hole Task Force: Especially on "The 2nd".
  • Lindsey Stirling and Peter Hollens' cover of "Dragonborn" involves over a hundred copies of Hollens' voice singing at once.
  • Neil Sedaka sang harmony with himself in his early days. Examples can be heard "Breaking Up is Hard to Do", "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen", "Little Devil", "Samson and Delilah" and "Our Last Song Together".
  • Sara Evans briefly sings a three-part round with herself at the end of "Coalmine".
  • Jon Anderson plays all the instruments on Olias of Sunhillow, so it's not surprising that he sings multiple vocal parts as well.
  • Claire Hamill's album Voices is a variation. It's an instrumental album in which all of the "instruments" are Hamill's voice.
  • Part of Ozzy Osbourne's signature sound, at least on his solo records.

  • In AncillaryJustice, the AI Hive Mind One Esk has a habit of doing this live by singing choral music with several of its bodies at once.

Video Game
  • The theme tune for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was recorded with a large group of singers who were recorded multiple times and then dubbed over each other to get the effect of (in the words of the team) "a barbarian choir".

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