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  1. #1
    Eruption Infinite Cactus's Avatar
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    Default The Backing Vocals Of Van Halen

    Welcome to the most boring thread on VHL!
    I'm going to talk about the backing vocalists of Van Halen. I'm not bored, I
    assure you. But recently I've taught several bands and guitar students how to
    construct harmonies, where to place people. How range doesn't equal great etc.
    So it's fresh on the brain, and something that interests me.


    Michael Anthony
    Everyone knows how much Mikey contributed to the sound of Van Halen. In
    several interviews Mike talked about doing multiple harmonies sometimes (in the
    background, mixed low. Listen to any vocals only track to hear a bunch of Mike
    and Dave.) We've also heard Mike be the one to sing lead on several songs
    (Somebody Get Me A Doctor, Runnin With The Devil, I'm The One from a
    2004 soundtrack, Rock and Roll, Dallas 1988, Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers),
    So we know he has versatility and range. The lowest notes I have found on
    record are in live versions of Humans Being where he's singing the verse low
    notes. Though you can hear it's no strain and he could definitely go lower. His
    highest notes over all are the end of Somebody Get me a Doctor, and Judgement
    Day live, singing Ab's and A's almost in soprano range. He's using whistle
    register for this. What makes him unique though, is not necessarily his range, it's
    his timbre. Unlike Sammy who is also a tenor, Mike has no grit on his voice. It's
    very, very, pure. Which makes blending with a raspier singer (Sammy,Eddie, and
    Gary) or a more nasal singer (Dave) sound much more distinct. There is a large
    contrast between the tones of their voice so Mike stands out, but not at the
    expense of the harmony. The only real issue with Mike, and he has
    acknowledged this, is when singing lead, he tends to be slightly sharp or flat.
    This is likely due to the fact that before he started singing leads on those songs
    he always had sung the harmony, tending to pull closer to that note. Most high
    tenors I know who sing harmony kind of over shoot the notes slightly when they
    sing a lower lead line, unless they do it regularly. Never the less, Mike's ability to
    project and harmonize on a whim is incredible. Cannon mouth indeed.


    Eddie Van Halen
    Yes we've all heard How Many Say I, but Edward is much better than the
    showing of that song. I've heard a lot of people talk about Ed's gravelly voice,
    which they perceive as low. As Mitch Malloy said, Ed's more closely related to
    Dave in the vocal department. They're both baritones. But Dave is a high
    baritone who can go almost bass low and augments his high range with whistle
    register, belting, and occasional falsetto. Ed is almost a low tenor at times who
    struggles where most male singers do (between G and B above middle C). Eddie
    has a very light quality to his voice. Especially now. But when he was younger it
    had a little more body in the mid range. Women in Love for example shows that
    Ed sounds similar to Dave, but without the nasal sound. Ed can also sound very
    similar to Mike in a clean/pure way. Really, the way most harmonies in Van Halen

    go is the following:
    Sammy, Dave, and Gary go with the melody.
    Mike goes on top or gets the trickiest note (if it's a bizarre harmony).
    Eddie goes either above the lead, below the lead, extremely below the lead,
    or meets up with the lead with slight variation.

    Mike is the classic harmony, and Ed is your utility guy. When Ed's sober (not
    2004), he usually has better pitch than both Mike and the Lead singer. And while
    I hate to admit this, there is some truth in the "soulful" voice claim. Not from a
    "tortured soul who eats gravel" sort of way. But Mike's harmonies usually are
    focused on from a technical level. And Mike doesn't like singing lead except for
    fun. Eddie tends to take it pretty seriously. He can add a lot of emotion to the
    song. He sounds like he's having a blast (listen to him in Feel Your Love
    Tonight.) He can sound convincingly emotive in things like (Love Walks In,
    When It's Love, Josephina.) And so on. This is not a knock against Mike, it
    more has to do with their place live. Eddie was the lead singer. Live, especially
    with Dave, Eddie sang all the melodies to the choruses. Ed had to be album Dave
    while Dave was being entertainer Dave. AND IT WORKS. Ed also sounds very
    very similar to Gary at times. You want to know something I never knew? Dirty
    Water Dog's chorus. Listen to the Album Version, and Listen to
    this:

    That's Ed singing the chorus very high, and very Gary (I laughed typing that).
    But that's about the limits of Eddie's range before it devolves into screaming
    man. During the Sammy years on things like Runaround, Sucker In a Three Piece
    And during the 2004 Tour. He basically blows out his voice trying to hit the
    notes. Which in the case of the former, are both high A's.


    Alex Van Halen
    There isn't much to talk about. He mainly did group stuff like Panama, Jump,
    Could this be Magic. Happy Trails, and all the live versions are the most clear.
    Alex has supposedly perfect pitch. Problem is in the 80s he was mostly
    wrecked. So he's, like 04Ed, thrown off a bit. He did used to sing backing
    vocals more in the pre-VH1 days. Basically, he knows how to sing. He can sing.
    But it's not very interesting as he doesn't work on it a lot. Pretty standard
    baritone.

    Wolfgang Van Halen
    Might just about have the most consistent pitch in Van Halen. Though when he is
    off, it's more due to lack of repetition (Mike and Ed have decades of practice),
    and he's young. His voice is also the plainest voice in Van Halen overall. He has
    a very light timbre similar to his father's. He can project well, but it's more lilting
    than say Mike. He does however emote fairly well, and takes it very seriously. his
    range is outstanding. Not as much as Mike or Sam obviously. But for a
    20 something, it's quite a bit. He also fills the role, mostly, of Album Mike live.
    Example: He sings the harmonies on Unchained that Mike would have sung or
    shared with Dave live. Mike Changed it to a higher harmony. This is because
    back in the day, Ed moved up to Dave live. Dave's harmony is actually higher at
    one point than Mikes. So to stand out and make more sense, Mike moved up
    while Dave just did call and response stuff. Really, Wolf is like a high voiced
    and young Ed.

    Last bit, here's the the average harmony per era.
    Classic: (Dance The Night Away, Beautiful Girls, Feel Your Love Tonight)
    Mike (pure)
    Eddie (light and shouty)
    Dave (nasal and raspy)

    Creates a good texture. Strong voices on both ends, and a softer voice that's less enunciated in the middle.

    Hagar: (Black and Blue, When It's Love, Right Now)
    Mike (pure)
    Sammy (piercing and raspy)
    Eddie (light but raspy)

    A different texture. But you get pure on top, Sammy is a good middle ground between Mikey's high and Eddie's rasp.

    Cherone/Album (Fire In the Hole, Dirty Water Dog, Without You)
    Gary
    Eddie
    (Gary Or Eddie again on the lowest)

    Live it sounds more like Van Halen, but you have on the album two similar voices cluttering up the harmonies. When it's a two part it's great, but when it's multiple harmonies that don't stand out as much.

    IV/Album (You and Your Blues, Tattoo, As is)

    Wolf (or Dave)
    Dave (or Dave and Eddie. Or Wolf alone. Lol)
    Dave

    This sort of works, because Dave can put on many different voices and tones, so it depends on the song.

    Thanks for being the most bored you've been on this board.
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  2. #2
    Forum Frontman fudd's Avatar
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    No to be fair, 09-11 was pretty boring. Lot of air bassing and just some other weird shit.

    I've even read that Ted templeton helped on the background vox. And honestly I hear Alex in a lot of the vox than most people recognize. Especially in dtna. That's 4 part harmony at its finest. Ed used to be in the high range as well. Listen to him on bottoms up with Dave. He's certainly In a higher register than Dave.

    No one can really be certain who sang what besides the obvious.


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  3. #3
    Sinner's Swing! mikehunt5150's Avatar
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    During the Sammy years wasn't there a guest backup vocalist on those albums?????

    GET READY....
    WHAT IS UNDERSTOOD NEED NOT BE DISCUSSED

  4. #4
    Atomic Punk Raldo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikehunt5150 View Post
    During the Sammy years wasn't there a guest backup vocalist on those albums?????

    GET READY....
    I believe Steve Lukather provided some background vox.
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  6. #5
    Sinner's Swing! mikehunt5150's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raldo View Post
    I believe Steve Lukather provided some background vox.
    I always thought or heard that was the case. From what I heard he sang on alot of songs.

    GET READY....
    WHAT IS UNDERSTOOD NEED NOT BE DISCUSSED

  7. #6
    Good Enough DRFC's Avatar
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    Didn't MA have to videotape Dave's throat before each tour?

    Seriously though, good post, enjoyed the insight.

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  9. #7
    Eruption Infinite Cactus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raldo View Post
    I believe Steve Lukather provided some background vox.
    Steve Lukather sang on Not Enough, Top of The World, and Right Now, It's About Time, Up For Breakfast (though Mikey later replaced some of the vocals). He has a lower nasal quality to his voice. On Not Enough, he's very prominent on the lower harmonies. Here's a twofer. Steve Lukather's voice, and Eddie on bass. You may recognize this song as I Want Some Action and Dirty Water Dog. But I think this is the best version.
    Last edited by Infinite Cactus; 10.21.15 at 02:47 PM.
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  10. #8
    Eruption Infinite Cactus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fuddman5150 View Post
    No to be fair, 09-11 was pretty boring. Lot of air bassing and just some other weird shit.

    I've even read that Ted templeton helped on the background vox. And honestly I hear Alex in a lot of the vox than most people recognize. Especially in dtna. That's 4 part harmony at its finest. Ed used to be in the high range as well. Listen to him on bottoms up with Dave. He's certainly In a higher register than Dave.

    No one can really be certain who sang what besides the obvious.


    Sent from my iPhone using my cock
    I hear Alex singing here and there on songs, but usually not prominent parts. Sometimes, on the early albums, you can here Ted doing lows or Doubling Ed from a distance (backed off the mic quite a bit).
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  11. #9
    Emperor of VHLinks.com Brett's Avatar
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    Default The Backing Vocals Of Van Halen

    Actually in Greg's book he says Mike's voice was so good that besides singing his own harmony parts, he also doubled Eddie's parts. Al can sing, I'm sure he's on more than we know.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinite Cactus View Post
    Steve Lukather sang on Not Enough, Top of The World, and Right Now, It's About Time, Up For Breakfast (though Mikey later replaced some of the vocals). He has a lower nasal quality to his voice. On Not Enough, he's very prominent on the lower harmonies. Here's a twofer. Steve Lukather's voice, and Eddie on bass. You may recognize this song as I Want Some Action and Dirty Water Dog. But I think this is the best version.
    I Want Some Action should have made the 5150 record.

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  15. #11
    Eruption Infinite Cactus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brett View Post
    Actually in Greg's book he says Mike's voice was so good that besides singing his own harmony parts, he also doubled Eddie's parts. Al can sing, I'm sure he's on more than we know.
    SHIT. I totally meant to add that Mikey was layered on some songs also doing Ed's parts. I remember reading that from an interview posted somewhere on this site. I more was focusing on how sometimes lately, Mike overshoots notes a little when he sings lead. Mike is solid as fuck. Al is the tricky one for me. He was a similar voice to Ed, but is never all that prominent in the stack, so it's hard for me to discern where his voice is. That's why I just picked the prominent ones. But thanks for catching that shit, it helps.
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  16. #12
    Eruption
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinite Cactus View Post
    Steve Lukather sang on Not Enough, Top of The World, and Right Now, It's About Time, Up For Breakfast (though Mikey later replaced some of the vocals). He has a lower nasal quality to his voice. On Not Enough, he's very prominent on the lower harmonies. Here's a twofer. Steve Lukather's voice, and Eddie on bass. You may recognize this song as I Want Some Action and Dirty Water Dog. But I think this is the best version.
    Huh...interesting...
    Interesting toughts you mentioned in your original post, and interesting to hear this track and the elements from those VH tracks. Did Ed contribute to the song writing?

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    Eruption Infinite Cactus's Avatar
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    Yeah. Ed wrote the song and gave it to Steve Lukather who put his own spin on it.
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  18. #14
    Good Enough Ian Sane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinite Cactus View Post
    Yeah. Ed wrote the song and gave it to Steve Lukather who put his own spin on it.
    Ed also played bass on it.
    “And what we have at our fingertips is arguably one of the greatest high tenor voices ever – that was in Michael Anthony. In our tiny little corner of the universe, that voice is as identifiable as the high voice in Earth, Wind & Fire, as identifiable as the high voice in the Beach Boys. Van Halen is an indelicate house blend of both – that’s intentionally. So I would always look forward to that reunion.” - David Lee Roth

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  20. #15
    Good Enough Dont disturb my Paradise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinite Cactus View Post
    Steve Lukather sang on Not Enough, Top of The World, and Right Now, It's About Time, Up For Breakfast (though Mikey later replaced some of the vocals). He has a lower nasal quality to his voice. On Not Enough, he's very prominent on the lower harmonies. Here's a twofer. Steve Lukather's voice, and Eddie on bass. You may recognize this song as I Want Some Action and Dirty Water Dog. But I think this is the best version.
    .......and some songs on "VHIII" aswell.
    What is understood need not be discussed

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