Vocal FAQ's

Read what a classical singing teacher has to say about different metal singers and their singing styles!Here are a bunch of vocal FAQ's Angela received over the last few years....

A: Inhales is a very unnatural way of singing. It’s all in reverse, like driving your car as fast as you can backwards. It’s gonna end up in a pile of shit. I think. Feels totally wrong to me and is very drying for the vocal chords. I am not too fond of super low growls, those who sound like a rumble. I like aggression in the voice. Chuck Schuldiner is my fave death metal vocalist. He is almost singing. He's def. got a lot of tone in his voice. A lot more cut throat than Chris Barnes these days. Make your voice YOUR voice. Thats the coolest anyway. Put expression in it - the words you sing have a meaning.So try to bring that across and you will be better than 90% of all these acrobats out there who think it’s an exercise rather than a primal form of communicating emotions.
A: You need to get the DVD ‘The Zen Of Screaming 1' It is great for working at home. As far as teachers go: Anybody will do. The basic breathing and singing techniques are the same for opera, rock, pop and screaming. You don’t need to find a specialist. Just anybody who knows how to sing really. Start there. Smoking and drinking will destroy your voice, fuck up your health and give you cancer. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink because i want to keep my voice and my health. You got some very uneducated friends. I guess they are all very young. Yes, some vocal chords can’t handle screaming. But you haven’t even started with the basics - which is the right techniques for breathing and singing - so it is way too early to tell whether you can do it or not. Try a teacher first, pay your dues, work hard, sing every day- then you will know. Good luck! Angela
A: Well, I figured I ask our FOH Clem about my vocal sound live, as he knows a lot better than I do, haha. Here is his response: “You know what? I hardly touch your voice. If I have the luxury (like a headline show), I send it to a voice doubler on an SPX or an Eventide, but just use a bit of it. It's not really worth it most times. One thing is I compress it pretty hard at 4:1, but really, you sing at 90-100% almost all night, so the compression is just to keep your signal flat, rather than as a problem solver on a more dynamic (ie: no technique) singer.”
A: Hello Alex, after such a heavy surgery it takes time to heal! Give yourself that time, even if its 2 years - it doesn’t matter in the long run of things. Remember, I joined arch enemy with 26 years old. I am sure you are a lot younger. You got all the time in the world! Please see a speech therapist/vocal coach to learn techniques how to get your old voice back. All the best Angela
A: Do not give up, nodules are curable!!! Is it nodes (hard bumps) or nodules (soft ones) you got on your vocal chords? Hard ones have to be removed surgically, the soft ones you can train off with the right exercises. Humming in the morning - before talking - is a good way to warm up the voice and get the chords swinging simultaneously. If your voice sounds rough, hum until it sounds more "even". Anyway, no screaming until they are gone. A speech therapist will show you lots of exercises that will basically help the vocal chords to function normally again whilst at the same time taking the strain from the spot where the nodules are (this is basically the place where your chords hit together first when you scream). When your nodules are gone, start with easy SINGING exercises and breathing exercises. For this you should go to a professional singing teacher!!! Breathing the right way will take a lot of force from the chords. When you scream - do you pump your chest full of air or is your belly expanding like a balloon? If the air is up in your chest its way too much pressure on your throat and your chords and one of the main reasons you got into trouble. Check out the vocal advice on my website. I am also being trained being a singing/screaming teacher myself. Most normal singing teacher cringe when they hear what you are doing with your voice. They don't understand this technique (you are basically singing with your false chords as well, you don't do this for "normal" singing at all). But please don't let them discourage you. Just tell them all you want to learn is good breath support, warm up exercises and simple scales. Normal singing trains the voice in a different way then screaming and keeps the chords flexible and strong. What range are you in? Hearing your samples I guess you have a rather high range, like soprano or mezzo-soprano. That means your vocal chords are thin. Women who have deep voices (alto or contralto) have it much easier with the screaming. Their vocal chords are thicker and simply take more abuse. So you have to train and strengthen your voice in order to do the screaming without harming your voice. Make sure to let your voice heal totally before you start screaming again! You don't want to permanently damage your voice and maybe lose it altogether. Do you smoke and drink? You never warm up before you scream? Do you drink lots of acid forming soda? Do you have allergies or taking drugs? If yes is the answer to any of these questions - my advice: quit it!!! Especially smoking (I had to quit too). Or sort it out, like allergies.
I listened to your bands sound files. You are currently singing melodic, no screaming right? Are you a soprano? I talked with Floor Jansen from After Forever about mixing classic vocals and death growls. It is almost impossible, only works if you are an alto with extremely resistant vocal chords. If you start screaming, you will lose the high range for sure. After a long tour, my chords are shot. I can still scream and growl but my upper head voice is gone. This vocal style is about sacrificing your voice somehow. My throat and jaw muscles get tight after the first couple of shows when I haven't trained them enough in my time off. These exercises help: Stretching the upper pallet (sort of yawning to loosen things up) and depressing the tongue with a finger to massage tension out. Always stretch your neck muscles after a show (head banging makes them pretty sore). My chords don't hurt; I have no sore throat after a show, not even when we play 90 minutes. But my throat is very used to this "singing" style. Arch Enemy play more than 200 shows a year. Def get the DVD, its full of good tips and a great warm up. It won't teach you how to scream though. For being save when you start, you got to have a vocal teacher who does this in front of you watching your every breath and move of abdomen, throat, larynx and shoulders. If screaming hurts you, do NOT do it, otherwise you will wreck your wonderful singing voice.
A: I simply started out screaming my lungs out when I was 16 years old.I didn't know at all what I was doing; I was simply able to do "that sound". I damaged my voice back then though. Yes, you can get high screams with a rather deep voice, but it takes time and careful approach. High screams mean that the vocal chords are stretched to the max and this renders them more vulnerable. They are under a lot of tension. You should start with singing and trying to develop your head voice to its full capacity. Then try to turn this into a scream. When it hurts, stop and go back to the singing. A good exercise to train breath support: Lie on your back, or sit/stand straight. Inhale deeply (feel your belly move out, your rips and your back should expand too). Hold the breath for a count of 3, purse your lips and let the breath out slowly. Imagine a feather floating in front of you and you are trying to keep it up in the air. Make sure the stream of breath is soft and steady. You should be able to breath out for at least 30 seconds, but aim for 60 seconds. You will build up resistance and breath control by doing this. Do it every day, preferably as a part of your vocal training.
A: If you can't growl anymore, it means you got nodules.Please go to a doc and have your vocal chords checked. If you get diagnosed with some kind of disorder due to vocal abuse I highly recommend working with a vocal coach who is specialized in this. Its impossible to explain how to do it, I had to run through a lot of different exercises. For now, you should stop growling and screaming altogether to avoid further damage. It can become irreparable, if you continue straining your voice. I wish you all the best with your voice! Please see a professional who can check you every week and notices if you are returning to your old mistakes. The main causes for vocal damage are usually lack of controlled breathing techniques and too much pressure.
A: I have 15 years of practice. I got thick vocal chords and good control over my false chords. And I know all the necessary breathing techniques. I went to a vocal coach for about a year. I learned breathing techniques, warm up, pronunciation and the right way to speak without putting any strain on the chords. I also had singing lessons for about 6 months to learn training my voice in a different way and applying all the techniques to singing. There are 2 sorts of singers: some breathe mostly from the lower abdomen, some use the ribcage and back-breathing more. I am the 2nd type, although my power comes from my lower abdomen, the air I mainly hold in my widened rib cage and in my back.
A: 'Choking' means you are constricting your throat way too much. You are working with your throat and you are most likely breathing from your upper chest - instead of working with the LOWER ABDOMEN (Melissa Cross calls it THE DUMP. because it feels like taking one really). This helps: bend your knees slightly, place your hands on your belly and focus on the pushing force coming from there whilst growling. Forget about your throat. Keep your throat open. Start with the really low growls first. Don't do any screams as they usually lead to more constriction. Do the 'jumping jack and barking' exercise that randy from lamb of god is demonstrating (on the Zen Of Screaming I) - this will help loosen up your throat as well and also will prevent you from breathing from your upper chest region If this still doesn't work for you, find a teacher who will practice the basic abdominal breathing techniques with you. Because that's your main problem maybe.
A: Well, you MUSTN'T do anything. Its hard when you 'MUST ENJOY' something. Performing is not easy if you suffer from severe stage fright. It's good to warm up your voice before the show and end with a couple of breathing exercises, which calm you down. Breath in deeply while raising your arms up, counting to 4. Hold your breath in 7 counts (in your belly though, don't constrict your throat) and then breathe out slowly whilst lowering your arms on a count of 8. This exercise helps me when I get very afraid during turbulence on planes, when I feel my asthma coming up or when I am nervous before a show! There are plenty of other good breathing and yoga exercises - you should look into this. Also, look into meditation... these are all means that help you control your fear and your adrenalin flow!!! I wouldn't go too deep into psychological overanalyzing.. Yoga, breathing exercises and meditation will help you deal and master your fears you have NOW. They work in any kind of 'angst' situation, not only on stage. It also helps - when you guys rehearse - to have a couple of friends watching your rehearsals from time to time. They are kind of a SMALL CROWD. You know. Its good to start small. I never had real stage fright; I like the surge of excitement before the show. It actually helps me perform better. Its that extra bit of adrenalin that turns me into a monster on stage. Once you will be able to control your fear you will also have the ability to use your excitement in a positive way - to kick your performance levels up a notch! All the best!!! Angela
A: A lot of females do suffer from water retention during their mens and the vocal chords actually swell up a little. Do you have PMS or other bad side effects when you menstruate? If it really bothers you, you can start taking the pill without a weeks break. But only if you do the vocals professionally. Cuz the pill does have side effects as well, as all synthetic hormones do. I feel tired and don't have all the power that i usually have. I compensate with more controlled breathing techniques. I don't really feel a change in my voice. A lot of famous female artists (for example Mariah Carey) have a clause in their contract - they don't perform during their mens, cuz they lose the high end. SPECIAL TIP: there are several natural remedies to help ease PMS and even out the hormonal fluctuation. There is a lotion out there called Emerita Phytoestrogen and it works very well! Also supplements containing soy isoflavonoides can help diminish those symptoms. I take it during touring, because travelling alone very much throws the body out of its hormonal balance.
A: Sometimes (not every time) I am present at rehearsals and I hear all songs in all stages as demo versions. I added the melody to the song 'the day you died' and I have input in song writing. I am very relaxed with my role as the vocalist. I got EXCELLENT musicians in the band and I trust them 200% in writing kick ass songs. My main job is to write good lyrics, to work out vocal lines/patterns and to be a kick ass front person/performer. I don't have to have it all and to do it all. A band is a team, everyone has his/her own strength and trust/teamwork is the key. You seem a bit uptight maybe and you def think/worry/analyse too much. Take it easy, let it happen, if you have a great song idea I am sure you can incorporate it.
A: I assume you have tried to growl and it hurt. Which means you are DAMAGING your voice. Are you a soprano? If so, absolutely leave it alone. If you are alto or low mezzo-soprano your vocal chords have a better chance to stand this rough vocal style. Guttural vocals are the opposite of opera voice when it comes to technique. They will also most likely ruin your head voice/the higher regions of your scale. There is a reason why I am NOT singing in a clean voice. After a couple of weeks of touring my high range is rough sounding. It is an extreme vocal style and the thinner your vocal chords are, the less likely you will be able to do it. Describing your sound - the drowning - I would say you haven't even figured out HOW to produce a growling sound. It might feel so wrong to you that you never will find that place. I know from other classic trained singers (like floor Jansen for example) that she cant/wont do it either, simply because it feels so terribly wrong to her. Again: If you are a SOPRANO DO NOT GROWL!

About Allergies:
I actually got rid of my allergies by going raw food vegan. Cutting out grains, dairy and any sort of sugar and processed foods made a huge difference for me. Much better than dowsing yourself in pharmaceutical chemicals.
Additionally I got this info from a fellow singer - Eline. I thought I'd add it, however I have not tried these tapes myself yet. But in case you are struggling with allergies  - why not try these? And def. look at your diet. I can recommend Markus Rothkranz books if you want to change your diet.

Here's Eline's input:

Good morning Angela (or person who's reading the incoming e-mails: good morning to you too!), I was browsing through the vocal advice bit on your website, refreshing on munition to use in arguments I seem to have a lot recently - about how screaming obviously must damage your voice *yawn*. I read about your tip on allergies - how it's so important to have the right medication. I'm a classical singer myself (in a metal band), and a lot of the techniques used in screaming/growling are similar, if not exactly the same, as in classical singing. At least as far as the breathing is concerned... I, too, suffer from allergies, but have struggled over the years to maintain my singing quality despite medication. The medication helps with the snotty nose and the running/irrated eyes and so on, but I always seem to experience some shortness of breath during the "allergy season". I don't suffer from it during the rest of the year, and I do exercise, so I'm pretty sure it's linked to the allergy. Recently I discovered a new way of dealing with this, and I think you might find it interesting as well (if you haven't heard of it already). My physiotherapist mentioned she knew a technique with tape, which supports some specific muscles you use when breathing. It looks somewhat like this:

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Just to clarify: this tape doesn't contain any sort of medication, it's plain tape that is being used by sportspeople to strengthen certain area's after injuries and the like. My physio started using this technique mainly on pregnant women, because they cannot always take medication against allergies anymore due to their pregancies. When I mentioned my breathing issue, she tried on me. I was skeptical at first, but (placebo or not), I really noticed a difference. My breathing just felt normal again, and I didn't have to work twice as hard to get half the result as I had to do before when suffering from my allergy. This tape-technique only works when you start doing it from the beginning of the season on. It needs to be on there for a week, and repeated a couple of times. It's really not expensive as well; f.e. my physio charges 5 euro's for applying it. So, I just thought I might drop in my two cents. Don't know if you might find it helpful or not, but for me it works. Also, I think you're awesome :).

Kind regards, Eline

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