Friday, March 25, 2011

Should Screaming Vocalists Fake Scream or Scream Hard?

Screaming vocals are arguably among the most polarizing musical techniques on Earth. Few musical theorists consider the style to be a valid musical art form despite the fact that millions of fans connect and relate to this passionate form of vocal expression. However, there are some unique concerns that confront screaming vocalists, and very little academic discussion on the subject exists. This means that the majority of frontmen in metal and punk bands have no idea what the proper technique should be.

To Fake Scream or Scream Hard

I've been a hybrid screaming and singing vocalist for over a decade, giving me lots of experience with the consequences of doing both day-in-and-day-out. Also, the fact that I engage in melodic singing means I have some way to identify how little damage has been done to my voice -- it is actually in better shape now than ever before. I can sing longer, clearer, and louder now than ever and haven't experienced Robert Plant syndrome to any real degree.

I am officially on Team Scream Hard, and this comes from a medical standpoint in addition to a style standpoint. I believe it sounds best when you scream hard, but, medically, it is also best for your voice.

It's All About Hydration

Before I was in Look What I Did, I sang for a band called Point of You? in Nashville. Lots of noteworthy folks were in that band including Miles (who was also in Look What I Did and now plays for Kelly Clarkson), Colby Shea, Evan Brewer (later Reflux, Animosity, Terror), Dylan Napier (Scatter the Ashes), and Brent and Patrick later of Keating, among others. During that time, I had a severe injury to my voice that caused blood to literally come from my mouth when I sang.

Luckily, Nashville has an entire medical industry devoted to professional singers. I went to a specialist, which was covered by my insurance plan at the time, who told me how to stop the problem. It turns out I had developed the habit of clearing my throat constantly due to the irritation caused by screaming. Clearing my throat was doing severe damage to my voice, because it is basically a form of whispering where vibration is passed through the vocal chords without any accompanying breath. That breath is required to lubricate your vocal chords, and not completing that process is very unhealthy.

Remember the Tissue Paper Singing Drill?

For those of us from a traditional singing background, you may recall a drill whereby you sing with a piece of toilet paper in front of your mouth to make sure that breath is coming all the way through your respiratory system and out of your mouth. It is easy to not complete that biological process while singing, and doing so can cause significant damage to your voice. Your breath is loaded with moisture, and that moisture lubricates your vocal delivery system, leading to a healthier voice and less overall biological damage from singing.

This same principle is true when you are screaming. When you reach back and belt as hard as you can, an enormous amount of wind travels throughout and comes out of your mouth. On the other hand, fake screams are very similar, biologically, to the activity of clearing your throat.

Over time, loud screaming will callous your insides and strengthen your ability to handle it. There have been plenty of times when I had to sing and scream every night on a 7-week tour, and I've rarely had any problems with losing my voice.

On the other hand, fake screams will do significant damage and will also not sound nearly as cool. Furthermore, real screams make your face turn purple and veins come out of your forehead, and that is freakin' cool as Hell.

In Other News

Skeet and I are helping our buddies Josh and Rob by recording a cameo this weekend. That is officially a hint. Also, I recently penned an article for called Tomorrow's Streaming Songs: Evaluating the Future Potential of Streaming Media.