Do you want to learn to sing with grit, distortion, and power, and learn the trick to sounding like you’re screaming, shouting, growling and distorting* your voice in a way that’s relaxed, and won’t blow your voice out? Do you want to learn a relaxed and finessed approach to extreme metal vocals that will allow you to consistently perform and grow as an artist and singer, to get better as you sing more, hour after hour, night after night, year after year, for the rest of your life?
Do you want to stop losing your voice during or after shows or rehearsals? Do you want to do all of this in a way that will also teach you to sing any style you want to, including rock, rap, pop, and RnB?
Then look no further.
With over 25 years of experience as a rock/metal vocalist, and more than 12 years as a professional vocal coach, I’m one of the few vocal instructors in the world that specializes in teaching extreme metal vocal techniques. Now I’m going to ask you a crazy question: Why do you suppose that is?
Why are there more colleges and music schools dedicated to teaching broadway and classical singing than there are venues to perform in those styles? New York might be an exception to this rule, but I’d be willing to bet you’ll find at least two teaching programs for every one performance venue.
Why is that? What’s going on?
In fact, if you look around, almost no one seems to teach modern singing techniques at all. Even pop and RnB singers don’t sound anything like broadway or classical singers, and I get calls and do lessons with people everyday who confirm that despite years of broadway or classical vocal training, they can’t sing modern songs at all, in any style. They sound like they’re at a wine and cheese fundraiser or doing jazz hands, no matter what they try to sing, and they get really frustrated.
Well, here’s my crazy theory. It’s actually extremely difficult to learn to sing well in a modern style. It’s a lot harder to learn to sing relaxed and quiet with great tone through a microphone, in a very wide range using both your head voice and chest voice, than it is to shout for the back row of the theatre in a standard, limited baritone or alto range. Most of the people who know how to sing well in a modern style are out doing it on tour, because they’re harder to find than honest politicians or reasonably priced dentists, and here's the kicker...
Metal is by far the most difficult genre to learn to sing. I can sing anything from Michael Jackson to Prince, Pantera to Napalm Death, and the more distorted screaming and growling* you hear, the more you to relax your muscles, build resonance to amplify your sound, and hold back enough air to stay safe. Metal singing is hard as hell to off because it rides the edge all the time. You are balancing on a razor thin line between registers to get that distorted and shouting sound, all while rarely letting your vocal cords touch to make a full sound. It is NOT an easy style to learn or teach. It is completely counterintuitive, nothing is what it sounds like it would be, and it has taken me decades to really figure it out.
Seriously though, do you really think you're going to learn to shout, scream, and growl* based on the techniques your local church choir director uses to sing? I think you’re smarter than that. Give it a shot though. You never know. Maybe they’re truly passionate about singing along with Lamb of God, or perhaps they’re a huge Slipknot fans.
I’ve helped countless rock and metal singers to improve and perfect their technique, to find their own unique voice, and I will gladly help you as well. You can try going to your local broadway style singing coach, but I can assure you, they’re not going to help you at all, other than maybe telling you you’re hurting yourself and need to stop singing metal.
*Notice the italics on these words? This is a big hint: no one screams, shouts, growls or distorts their voice the way it sounds like they’re doing. That’s insanity, and if that’s what you’re doing, you won’t make it through a 30-minute opening set at the local bar without blowing out your voice, and you probably won’t even be able to speak at all after a few weeks on a tour. Feel free to try it, but if your voice is even the slightest bit froggy or hoarse after you’ve been screaming (no italics) for an hour, you’re doing it wrong, and your career as a singer is severely screwed unless you learn how to do it in a very different way.
Sorry, but we don’t use kids gloves around here. I’ve lost my voice completely on stage and had to go on 30 days straight of total vocal rest (no singing, talking, or even whispering) to fix it, and then completely relearn how to sing to prevent it from happening again. I was LUCKY. I didn’t do enough damage to require surgery, or worse yet, do severe damage that could never be repaired. That’s the game we’re in.
Feel free to argue with me and tell me I’m wrong, but you’d better hurry and do it while you can still talk.
Good teachers come up with stupid pneumonic devices to help their students remember things that are important. They’re cheesy and annoying and almost embarrassing to know, but they work. So, we’re going to use a very simple one to learn to master singing, screaming and shouting. The M A R S Method. I agree, that’s both annoying and an obvious marketing ploy, but I can sing my ass off AND make all of the cool metal sounds you want to make, and I’m going to show you how to do it in a way that will make it all relatively EASY, so you’re going to pretend The MARS Method is a f*cking awesome name and concept.
Muscle relaxation and control - Make sure you are relaxing the muscles in your face, neck, jaw, lips, tongue, and throat. Metal singing and screaming, when done at their highest level, are all about staying loose. Think of a boxer or MMA fighter going into the ring. Do they look tense? Do they look tight? No, they are bouncing, moving, loose, relaxed, calm, and deadly.
There are a large number of very small muscles used to control your voice, and you want to develop a feel for them, to learn to sing by feel, using small, precise movements. The hardest part of this process is learning to separate the feeling of moving these tiny muscles from the feeling of moving the much larger, stronger muscles that we use to chew, swallow, and move our faces to create thousands of shapes as a way of communicating with people around us. Moving these large muscles does exactly nothing to help you sing. So how do we do this?
We’re going to accomplish this by practicing in front of a mirror, learning to do various vocal exercises and creating the sounds we want while keeping a completely relaxed, dead pan expression on our faces, a lot like a ventriloquist. Ventriloquists are able to speak without moving their mouth, face, or neck. You’re going to learn to do the same thing, but you’re going to be singing metal, and your act is going to be way less creepy. Also, stay away from puppets, they’re always possessed by demons, everyone knows that.
Air (Appoggio) – Breath control and breath support are the gas pedal and the brake pedal of your voice. You could be an absolute expert at turning the wheel or shifting gears in a car, but what would the result be if you didn’t have absolute mastery of those two pedals? You’ll learn to use posture and spreading your ribs to the side to control airflow, and to squeeze your core muscles to create support and power. This part is not easy to learn, and it’s physically pretty taxing.
Most teachers don’t even try to teach anything about breathing, I’m assuming because it’s difficult and some people might give up trying to learn it. We can’t skip it with metal vocals. It’s absolutely critical to master, and master it we shall, until your personality splits and you want to sing and make art more than you want to breathe and stay alive.
Resonance – Resonance is an abstract concept, but it is at the foundation of what we do as professional singers. Your vocal cords do very little of the work involved in making sound. Your job is to create as much space as possible for sound to build up. Keeping your tongue down and forward towards your bottom teeth, raising your uvula and soft palate high, opening the muscles in your pharynx (inner hidden part of your nose, over the roof of your mouth), and keeping your larynx down in a neutral to slightly lower position. I know, it sounds difficult, but I'll show you how.
Safety - Extreme metal singing is an inherently dangerous activity, akin to participating in Mixed Martial Arts or other contact sports. In fact, singing in general can be a dangerous activity, under poor environmental or health conditions. There is no completely “safe” way to sing in any style, and the vast majority of metal vocalists have notoriously poor technique that will sooner or later lead to vocal injury and loss of the ability to sing, scream or speak.
Use common sense, and if something hurts, stop doing it. You’re doing something wrong. If your voice becomes hoarse as you are singing, or after singing for a period of time, stop what you are doing. You are doing something wrong. This method is based on relaxing your throat, jaw, tongue, face, lips and neck, and if done correctly, should result in no pain, discomfort or hoarseness. Ultimately, listen to what your body and your voice are telling you. Your vocal health is, and always will be, your responsibility.
Lastly, I reserve the right to update any technique at any time if figure out a better way of doing something. I am still learning and honing my technique, as well as my teaching, and will continue to do so for as long as I am alive and able. Any teacher who isn’t learning and teaching new things all the time is milking the clock in my rarely humble opinion. I’m assuming after I’m dead, my personal growth and development as an artist and teacher will slow down, and most of my best work will be behind me, but until then, I'm still figuring out cool new ways to sing.
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