How to Properly Stress Your Vocal Chords With Screaming

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This article is a hodge-podge of advice from different people who consider themselves screamers. Many of them probably use different techniques. The purpose of this article is to teach you how to "scream" (as many singers do these days) without hurting yourself. if you are good at inward vocals please try doing the outward screams also because it will show that you have many different kinds of metal, death metal, and grindcore skills. Also with any kind of singing you do keep in mind you are getting better everytime you practiceScreaming for musical performance is not about screaming your lungs out! While it may sound like some singers are screaming as hard and loud as they possibly can, most are not. Musical screaming is about learning to use your false vocal cords to produce screaming sounds, even though you are not screaming loudly or forcefully. If you do this, you can learn to scream as much as you want and you never have to worry about losing or damaging your voice because you scream in a band.

Steps

  1. You should know what your voice range is (baritone, tenor, contralto, mezzo soprano, etc). If you do not already know, then search for info on the different voice ranges. Find an instrument you can sing along to, such as a guitar or piano, find middle C (256 Hz), and figure out what range you fit in to.
  2. Warm up. Every good metal screamer does a warm-up at some time of the day before a performance. This is not a screaming warm-up, its a singing warm-up. People like Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, Byron Davis of God Forbid, and Phil Labonte of All That Remains, all practice conventional singing warm-up exercises before a performance; the same fundamental exercises that you would do before choir practice. This is very important for your voice so do not be lazy and skip it. Find a singing warm-up routine, like singing the vowels--Eh, Ee, Ah, Oh, Oo--over a 5-note scale.
  3. When you first start learning, you aregoing to be making a lot of dodgey noises. Like little cat growls and trying to speak like Marge Simpson. Its important that you create your scratchy sounds from the nasal region in the back, above your throat, not low in your throat. If you make the sound from low in your throat, you will be teaching yourself to do it wrong and learning a method that will hurt you. Try to feel the difference between the Marge voice and the low-in-the-throat, gargle-like noise. You should be able to create the Marge voice without hurting yourself. Use these two points of reference as you arelearning. Remember to keep your scratchy sounds coming from higher up (the nasal region) so you do not damage your voice. If you aredoing it wrong, it will hurt like hell. Practice intelligently. You will probably be screaming wrong in the beginning, so save your voice until you figure out how to do it right.
  4. Use your diaphragm correctly! Do not hold the air in your chest! You should breath in and fill your stomach, not your chest.

Tips

  • Be patient. Learning to scream safely can take approximately a year, and for the first many months, often times, it simply sounds bad. Do not give up, it will get better.
  • Do not scream too much. This can damage your vocal cords. If you do, rest your voice after!
  • Having an understanding of what head resonance is and how to use it is very helpful when you are learning to scream. The easiest way to learn this is Melissa Crosss method: put a pencil in your mouth and practice singing over it and under it. Also think of singing over the pencil and projecting your voice toward a wall in the distance. This should teach you what head resonance is. (Melissa Cross also has instructional DVDs that that can be bought that explain everything about "harsh" vocals)
  • Scream alone for a while, it can be embarrassing to scream around others who already know how to scream. Once you are ready show them your scream and let them honestly critique it.
  • DO NOT scream each scream with all of your air. Moderation is the key, if you use everything you have, itll hurt very badly and not sound good at all.
  • Drink lots of water before, during, and after screaming. Always drink room-temperature, or warm water. Adding a little bit of lemon may stop mucus from forming.
  • If you prefer something more flavoured, try some weak (heavily diluted) squash/juice concentrate. Although its not entirely bad for your screaming, water is a better recommendation. Honey is also very good for your voice before singing and screaming and for vocal healing if you damage your voice.
  • The more you practice, the easier it gets and the longer youll be able to scream without grasping for water. Youll be able to talk normal right after screaming over time as well.
  • To avoid some harm to the vocal chords, add a slight yeh sound before each dangerous inner-word vowel. So, attack would sound like attyack, etc.
  • To avoid some more harm to the vocal chords, scream nasally. Imagine that the sound is going up and out of your nose. This helps with both health and sound.
  • If you do hurt your voice, either from screaming, or just yelling too much at a party There is always the option of vocal rest. Do not scream for a while, do not sing. Do not even talk or hum, and especially do not whisper. When your voice is hurt any form of vocalisation can delay the healing process. Whispering is the worst, as it closes your vocal cords together, causing a similar effect to screaming with improper technique. If you must speak, use your full speaking voice. It still is not great, but its the least damaging option. Most times, your voice should, and will, come back after implementing vocal rest for a day.
  • Warm up your voice before AND after screaming. This will prevent vocal damage.
  • Skill in death metal singing can be a great jumpstart for learning to scream, especially for metal screaming.
  • If you are interested in more tips, purchase The Zen of Screaming. It is a DVD by Melissa Cross on how to scream.
  • Screaming is 30% skill and 70% confidence. You have to be thinking "I am the best screamer in the world!!" at all times. Nervousness shows. So just relax.
  • Listen to certain screams in different types of metal. Like listen to the screams in Deathstars, then listen to the screams in Lamb Of God. See what style you would be able to work with the best.
  • Try holding a scream for as long as possible without it wavering. The intro screams in some Atreyu songs would be good practice, but be warned, the screaming style used in Atreyu is very harsh and takes a LOT of practice. Also, try screaming as high as you can without hurting your voice. The song "Spirit Crusher" by Death is a good song for that.
  • Buy some balloons. Then, blow into a balloon as much as you can without popping it and hold your breath. Continue blowing into the balloon repeatedly. This will help make your diaphragm stronger. Make sure you take breaks every time you blow into a balloon so you do not pass out from lack of oxygen.
  • Before screaming, hum, then push, so your screaming whilst humming then open your mouth. This will help if you have difficulties screaming.
  • If you have trouble breathing through your diaphragm, put your hand below your belly button and push whilst screaming, this should help a little.
  • How your hands are placed on your microphone can define your sound. If you cup your hands loosely at the top of your microphone as you scream, the sound will not only be louder, but deeper. Cupping the mic head also helps deliver lower screams more effectively.
  • Practice with different mouth shapes. If you mouth is looser and hanging open like a fish mouth, a deeper tone will come out.
  • When learning to inhale scream, its all about finding the right part of your throat, and breathing in quickly to create a deep noise. The best example of this is Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari. However, it is more difficult to pronounce words clearly through inhale screaming; some people (such as Rou) choose to avoid pronouncing words completely and use it just for sound.

Warnings

  • If you do not drink water your throat can feel very dry and damage your voice. But, also remember to only drink warm or room temperature water for moistening your throat. The reason for this is that when you drink cold or near freezing water, you, in a way, "stiffen" you vocal cords, and while screaming or growling, can cause damage or pain, or both.
  • Make sure your voice doesnt hurt too bad after you scream. This means that you are stressing your vocal chords too much. Loosen up and let it out. When you first begin to learn how to scream and growl, your throat will slightly "ache": this is okay, and it is natural. After a while, if you have been careful along the way, youll be able to go for hours without hurting your throat.
  • You may have some jaw-cramping if you are not experienced with screaming/growling. Do not continue a scream if you get a cramp! You wont be able to scream/sing/growl for weeks afterwards.
  • When screaming, make sure you use good diaphragm support. Exhale with your diaphragm and tense your abs. As Melissa Cross explains, you need to balance the air pressure you use with the work your false chords do so you do not put too much stress on the chords. As mentioned earlier and in several other screaming articles, do not slouch or let your body hang limp, even when not performing or practicing. An example of how to hold yourself up would be those inspiring band group photos, the ones that show the entire metal band standing (usually) side by side. Most of these photos depict the band members with bad ass or menacing frowns, and this is just a minor aspect of metal, though if you look closesly at their posture, you can seem them standing straight and tall. This is how you should be whenever you can help it.
  • Make sure you constantly breathe, as screaming can take a lot of breath. Over time, youll develope stronger and more powerful lungs, it is simply a beneficial side effect of this amazing art (screaming and growling).

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