Do you love metal, punk, or “screamo” music? As a vocalist, you’ll need to take extra precautions if you’re singing in these styles. Read on for tips from Austin, TX teacher Gfire M...
Screaming is a popular way to show excitement, release anger, or simply get attention. Whether you’re at a metal concert or just trying to get your point across in a crowded bar, screaming can be an effective way to be heard. But if you do it wrong, you can seriously damage your vocal cords.
So if you want to know how to scream and sing without hurting your voice, follow these simple tips.
What is Scream Singing Called?
Screamo is a style of scream singing that is characterized by intense screaming, usually in the higher registers of the singer’s voice. The screams are often punctuated by periods of clean singing, which help to create an ebb and flow in the music.
Here are some examples of songs that showcase the screamo style:
- “Accidents” by Alexisonfire
- “My Heroine” by Silverstein
- “The Weight” by Thursday
This style of scream singing was popularized in the early 2000s by bands like Alexisonfire and Silverstein. Want to learn more about how to scream sing for beginners the right way? Signing up for singing lessons is a great idea. You can learn everything you need to know about how to properly scream sing, as well as some helpful other tips for singing like what you see below:
Does Scream Singing Hurt?
Screaming is often associated with pain, as it can be quite jarring to the vocal cords. However, scream singing does not have to be painful if it is done correctly. The key is to use proper technique.
First, take a deep breath and fill your lungs with air. Then, exhale sharply while making an ‘h’ sound. The force of the exhalation will help to clear your throat and open up your vocal cords.
Finally, make an ‘e’ sound as you exhale, letting the air out slowly. With practice, you should be able to produce a powerful scream without any pain or discomfort.
Does Screaming Help Your Singing Voice?
The jury is still out on whether or not screaming can actually help improve your singing voice.
Some vocal coaches believe that screaming can help to loosen up the vocal cords, making it easier to hit high notes.
Others believe that the strain of screaming can damage the vocal cords, making it difficult to sing with power and control. However, there is some evidence to suggest that screaming can help to improve breath support and vocal technique.
In one study, participants who underwent two weeks of screaming training showed significant improvements in their breathing and vocal technique. While more research is needed to confirm these findings, it seems that there may be some benefits to incorporating screams into your vocal exercises.
How Do You Sing Aggressively?
I live in Austin, Texas, the “live music capital of the world,” so I have worked with loads of vocalists who sing in touring rock bands. Some of these students only have one section of a song in which they scream — others scream for an entire set — so I work with them to not hurt their vocal cords. Here are my vocal tips to keep in mind.
1. Breathing Exercises and Vocal Warm-ups
Warm up your vocal cords before you start screaming. Just as you would warm up your muscles before exercising, you need to warm up your vocal cords before using them extensively. Try humming or singing scales before you start screaming. This will help prevent strain on your vocal cords.
No matter what type of singing you do, before you head out on stage, it is a good idea to do some breathing exercises to control your notes and some singing exercises to warm up your entire vocal range, even notes that you don’t use on stage. Do these warm-ups for 10-30 minutes and you will be more relaxed and confident for your set.
2. Plan Your Set
If you know that one song is really going to be full-on screaming, perhaps plan the next song to be a relatively easy one for you vocally. Obviously, this will not work if your entire set is scream-o.
3. Do Your Cardio and Core Strengthening Training
Any type of rock singing tests the physical limits of the vocalist, so it is a good idea to have a workout plan. Cardio exercises increase your lung capacity, and core strengthening gives you more support when you go for those yelled notes.
4. Drink Plenty of Water and Keep Some On Stage
Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Drinking water will keep your vocal cords hydrated, which will prevent them from becoming irritated when you scream. It’s also important to avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate your vocal cords and make them more susceptible to damage.
In rehearsals, in warm-ups, and on stage, it is essential to keep your vocal instrument hydrated. Either room temperature or warm liquids are ideal for singers and screamers, since cold drinks tend to constrict the throat.
5. Know Your Notes!
Want to know how to scream like a metal singer? Use proper technique when screaming. When you scream, try not to use your throat; use your diaphragm instead. Put your hand on your stomach and take a deep breath so that your hand rises with your stomach. As you exhale, push the air out through your mouth while making an “ah” sound. You should feel the vibration in your chest, not your throat.
Even if you are screaming a note in a song, you need to know what note it is so that you can scream in tune. Screaming in tune will help your band sound cohesive — it is just as important as tuning the guitar and bass for keeping your sound musical. Plus the added confidence in knowing where to aim your voice is essential for keeping your voice in good shape.
6. Drink Alcohol After Your Set
Alcohol is too drying for your voice and will exacerbate any ill effects screaming does to your throat. If you are a drinker, wait until after your set is over. Before and during the set you need to stay hydrated in order for you to scream successfully and consistently.
7. Stay Healthy!
Take breaks between screams. If you’re going to be screaming for an extended period of time (e.g., at a concert), take breaks in between screams to give your vocal cords a chance to rest. Drinking water and gargling with salt water can also help reduce inflammation in your vocal cords during extended periods of screaming.
Do your best to eat a well-balanced diet and get plenty of sleep. Your body is your instrument, after all!
How to Scream Sing Safely
Screaming can be fun and cathartic, but it’s important to do it safely so that you don’t damage your vocal cords. By following these simple tips, you can enjoy all the benefits of screaming without worrying about hurting your voice.
If you need more tips and techniques, you may wish to work with a singing coach who specializes in teaching how to scream sing. He or she can help you develop your screaming technique and personal habits to ensure you a full lifetime of singing and screaming well. Rob Halford of the heavy metal band Judas Priest, for example, studied singing technique and he is able to successfully scream sing after decades of constant touring.
Some singers are born to scream — so if you are that type of singer, put your vocal care plan into place and plan to scream for a very long time!
Gfire teaches music theory, opera voice, piano, singing, and songwriting in Austin, TX. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Music from University of Maryland, as well as her Master of the Science of Singing from Ernest George White Society. Learn more about Gfire here!
Photo by Nicole Rork