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How to Scream without destroying your voice

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So you want to scream your brains out, but you don't want to lose your voice. You wished you could sing some of the classics like Judas Priest's, Screaming For Vengeance, or AC/DC's, Back In Blackand you can't quite seem to tackle some of your newer favorites like Disturbed's, Prayer, or, Audioslave's, Cochise. There is an art to singing throaty and screaming, which could fill an entire book, but here are a few pointers and one exercise to help you start the task:

The one thing all of the professional singers that I have interviewed seem to agree upon is vocal placement. Vocal placement refers to the focal point of the creation of the vocal sound. All sound is produced in the throat by the vocal cords. But, there is a way to manipulate that sound, so that it feels as if it is being produced in a different spot. If you want to sing throaty, you must find a way to make it feel as if you have moved the sound away from the vocal cords, to prevent from squeezing the sound down in your throat.

Some professionals feel that the sound is being produced below the vocal cords, right on top of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle along the edges of the lower ribs, right above the stomach. Singers tend to tighten their stomach muscles, adding a little more vocal cord pressure, to get that gruff sound. I personally don't advise this, because you are adding unnecessary pressure on your vocal cords, but it seems to have worked well for singer's like Josey Scott of Saliva. If you decide to use this approach, moderation and correct breath technique will help to save your voice.

All the professional singers I have interviewed all agree on the fact that the throat must remain relaxed and open. If you tend to tighten or clench the throat, like grunting, to achieve a throaty sound, you are leading yourself down a path of vocal suicide. To maintain an open and relaxed throat, I want you to yawn. Notice how the back of your throat opens wide and the soft area of the roof of your mouth (soft palate) raises. This allows more room for the sound of your voice to escape and build resonance before leaving your mouth.

What's resonance? Resonance is the tiny echoes produced from the sound of your voice, from bouncing around inside of your body, and in this case, your open throat and mouth. Resonance is discussed more extensively in my book Raise Your Voice. Singers like David Draiman of Disturbed preach about the importance of an open throat. His sound is felt above his vocal cords as opposed to right on top of the diaphragm, with an open throat as opposed to a tight clenched voice.

As a basis to find that throaty sound, I want you to sustain an mmmmm on the lowest, softest sound you can achieve. This sound reminds me of when you wake up in the morning and yawn, but the sound is very low and throaty sounding.

This is called a vocal fry. You can actually feel the vocal cords opening and closing as they touch and release. Now, I want you to feel this sound in the roof of your mouth on your soft palate. The soft palate is where you want to focus your screaming.

Another way to get used to feeling the sound in your soft palate, is gargling.

Try gargling some water, then try without water. When you can do this, switch between the gargling feeling and a vocal fry, I know that actually screaming a song, like Linkin Park's, Crawling, will take a lot more energy and effort, but you must build from the basics. All vocal technique starts with a basic idea to build upon.

So remember, if you are going to sing throaty, an open throat with the sound of your voice directed up into the soft palate (away from the vocal cords) is the way to go. If you wish to direct the force of your voice down towards the diaphragm, that's your choice, just be careful not to over tighten the stomach muscles. Believe it or not, screaming isn't about tension, it's about relaxation and controlled direction.

Okay, but what about hitting those high notes? Well, if I were making the choice, I'd run and buy Raise Your Voice right now. But, one of the easiest, quickest exercises I have ever found, that has enabled me to scream my ass off, is the E scream exercise by vocal coach Jim Gillette.

The E scream exercise is a very simple and effective exercise. Begin by sustaining a low volume e in falsetto, and slowly swell the sound until it is very loud and buzzing in your head. Start on any pitch that is comfortable for your range, and work your way up in pitch. So, when you do this exercise, it will swell like this in falsetto, eeeeeeEEEEEE.  This exercise is demonstrated on Jim Gillette's Vocal Power CD, along with four vocal workouts designed to develop your voice in stages. I advise you purchase his program to get a better understanding of the exercise. If you wish to purchase the DVD, you can do so at www.metalmethod.com

Again, this is all just a basis for you to begin saving your voice. I advise using a good warm-up before singing any throaty songs, or any songs for that matter. You can use the basic Vocal Stress Release Program, from free lesson #1 in this series. The full version, with audio files, is available in my book, Raise Your Voice. If you practice these four things; warm up, keep an open throat, direct the sound towards the soft palate, and practice the E scream exercise, you will definitely reach your goal faster, while saving your voice.

Jaime Vendera

Author of "Raise Your Voice", "Mindset: programming Your Mind for Success" and "Online Teaching Secrets Revealed"




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