Do you love singing rock? Here, voice teacher Molly R. shares her recommendations for four singers to check out for how to sing rock… and four more you can learn from!
When you think about impeccable vocal technique, it’s not often that a rocker comes to mind, is it?
Usually we’re praising the beautiful tone quality, high notes, and volume of an opera singer, or perhaps a jazz or musical theatre vocalist. Rock singers are usually known for their larger-than-life personalities and stage presence over anything else.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t rock singers out there with amazing, healthy voices. Au contraire! Some of the singers listed below are on par with many opera divas and divos as far as technique is concerned; their style just happens to be totally different!
Here is a list of vocalists with great rock singing technique:
Now here is my absolute favorite singer of all time — Ann Wilson of the rock band Heart. Yes, I may have studied classical singing but let me tell you, if I had a choice to sound like Renée Fleming or Ann Wilson, I’d definitely choose to sound like Ann!
There’s a reason why they call her the “female Robert Plant.” What a powerhouse she is! First of all, this dynamic performer is in her 60s and sounding better than ever. This is an indication that she has been using reliable vocal technique for decades. She can let loose with killer forte phrases and it sounds powerful, never forced. Why? She connects with her body and doesn’t squeeze her throat!
Ms. Wilson has also studied voice formally to keep herself in good vocal shape. Obviously it’s worked as she has enjoyed a very long career and is still going strong with absolutely no signs of slowing down.
Here she is in 1977, performing live:
Mr. Cornell has a rich baritone rock voice that is the envy of many male singers! Although there is only one Chris, male rockers can take a cue from him by taking voice lessons (he studied with the same teacher than Ann Wilson did, in fact!).
In the video below, listen to him singing something fairly unexpected — a ballad! With great vocal technique, a rocker should be able to switch gears and sing something like this with more sensitive phrasing. If you push and scream your way through your rock singing career, you’ll simply shred your voice. Don’t you want longevity, like Chris?
Pat Benatar is another rocker still going strong in her 60s! Fun fact: She studied classical singing as a young woman and was even offered a spot at Juilliard. Although she chose the rock route, having a reliable vocal technique has kept her singing big rock songs for more than 30 years.
Here she is singing “Heartbreaker” fairly recently. Notice she still has a very clear and powerful tone, especially through her middle range. Long phrases and big notes are no problem for this lady: with her classical training she knows how to support!
Ronnie James Dio
He may no longer be with us, but his amazing rock voice lives on!
Frontman Dio never actually had any formal vocal training. However, he did study as an instrumentalist, and has claimed that his time as a trumpet player gave him excellent breath technique. Not only that, but he loved to listen to opera from an early age.
Clearly the breathing he learned as a trumpet player built up his lung capacity and allowed him to hit full, high notes with ease again and again. He was known as one of the best metal singers ever, and I think you can hear why. This song requires lots of stamina — he’s staying in his upper register for most of it!
Now, what about rock singers who… well… don’t have the greatest technique? There are a few that stand out.
Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day has an extremely nasal sound. It always sounds like he is singing completely congested! This is due to the fact that he is not singing with any sort of open throat technique to make a more pleasing, ringing tone. This happens when the soft palate is not raised. Listen here:
Lita Ford had better success as a top guitarist, and to me it’s clear why. Although her big hit “Kiss Me Deadly” is a great song, I can’t help but wonder what it would sound like if she sang it out a bit more fully, rather than yelling or talking-singing most of it.
Remember, there ARE healthy ways to “scream” in rock — but you better find a teacher who specializes in this technique to guide you through it!
In the video below, Sheryl Crow is lacking some serious support, putting out a wimpier, airier sound that’s fairly common in pop and rock. If Sheryl trained with good old-fashioned staccato vocal exercises to strengthen her diaphragm, she’d be sounding a LOT more powerful! She needs to sing with more lower body.
Eddie Vedder has what I’d call an…. interesting sound. More specifically, he is covering! This means he is manufacturing his sound to make it sound darker in tone (usually this happens when the tongue is in the way). In reality, the audience just hears garbled, muddy sound. If one of his main articulators (tongue) is always in the way, no wonder we don’t understand a word he’s singing!
Learn How to Sing Rock
Do you have aspirations to be a strong rock vocalist? There are many teachers on TakeLessons who can help you achieve your goals! Find a singing teacher near your or online, and he or she will work with you to build a solid and reliable vocal technique — no matter what style it is that speaks to you!