Video: How to Get The Cars' Densely Layered Backing Vocals

When listening to classic rock songs from the '70s and '80s, you may notice a production trick that gets repeated and repeated, over and over again: choirs of overdubbed backing vocals.

Like the stacked vocals you can hear all over contemporary pop, these choir-like vocal sounds were created with just a few people at a time. Unlike today's productions, yesteryear's multiple takes of harmonies were far more likely to be sung in real-time. That is, instead of being constructed and pitch-shifted from just a few lines, each new harmony part was worked out on the mic and committed to tape.

Bands like Queen and The Cars were heavy purveyors of the form, and The Cars' "Good Times Roll" vocal harmonies are a prime example. In the video above, we dissect how they did it. With three singers, eight takes, and three harmonies a piece, the group created the effect of a large choir.

Check out our previous episode of What's That Sound?, where we we show how to get the overdriven acoustic of The Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man." Or read about these tricks and more studio magic here.

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