So, you have an affinity for a heavy singing sound and want to learn to scream sing like some of your favorite bands? You might worry that your voice will not be able to withstand the strain of scream-singing. After all, there are plenty of horror stories about singers losing their voices or damaging their vocal cords beyond repair.That’s why I put together this guide to help you understand better how to scream sing without destroying your voice. It outlines some of the most common types of scream-singing, as well as the approach that will prevent any potential injury to your vocal cords.
Different Types of Scream Singing
Most of the fans of “aggressive” types of music appreciate scream-singing and can differentiate between various techniques that singers use. Yet other people see scream-singing as a bunch of vocal noise. If you have taken an interest in scream-singing, then you have taken the first step to developing an appreciation for the genre and the foundation for developing your own scream-singing skills.
There are three distinct scream-singing styles, and they cover most of the scream-singing techniques we can hear in music today. They include:
- False cords
Most unique techniques and styles – including the mid-range growl, low growl, Kvlt scream, pig squeal, low guttural, fry scream, inhale scream, tunnel throat scream, and Walrus scream – belong to one of these three categories.
Screams represent the highest form of scream-singing and the most aggressive on your vocal cords. The combination of insanely high notes and sudden shifts between singing and screaming can easily damage your vocal cords or cause you pain. Read up on executing high notes before trying these screams.
Growls are less aggressive than screams and are less likely to cause damage to your vocal cords. They also represent the scream-singing with the highest selection of specific techniques, or growls. This style is especially typical in various genres of hard-rock and heavy-metal music.
False cords are the least aggressive type of scream-singing on your body, and there is very little chance that employing them will damage your vocal cords. This type of scream-singing uses the vestibular fold located just below your glottis to produce low buzzing sounds, popular in various genres of metal music.
Learn more about these ranges by trying your raspy singing voice out!
In the next section, I will cover some of the fundamentals you should keep in mind while trying to develop your scream-singing.
Also, don't forget to pick up a vocal microphone that can handle your screams!
Before going into detail about how to scream sing, let’s go through some of the tips I recommend you consider to maximize your performance and avoid potential damage to your vocal cords:
- Do extensive warmups for your voice. It is crucial that you properly warm up your vocal cords before exposing them to the extreme strain that scream-singing forges. Take your time and be meticulous.
- Stay hydrated throughout each practice session. Hydration will help you protect your vocal cords from strain.
- Besides warm water, the only other things you should consume during and immediately following vocal practice are honey and tea. Tea will help sooth vocal cords that have been under stress, and honey helps keep your voice smooth.
- Avoid sugar, alcohol, milk, caffeine, and cold water. These things encourage the buildup of mucus in your throat, and they can crystalize around your vocal cords and contribute to potential injury.
- Try to sing on an empty stomach, or have no more than a light meal before your practice.
I have more tips on learning how to sing and protecting your voice in many other places on this blog, please look around to find more important general singing tips.
One of the most popular scream-singing techniques is vocal fry screaming. Here is a short breakdown of how to practice it and prepare to perform it.
- Vocal fry screaming is close to the morning “Aaahhhhh” you release with your morning stretch. It is a primal sound that might seem quite weak to start but can develop into something uber-robust and powerful.
- For the vocal fry to become a powerful scream-singing technique, you need to develop your volume and range, and the only way to build volume is to go thicker, rather than louder.
- Always practice in front of the mirror. To increase the volume of your vocal fry, you have to train yourself to loosen up when letting out this scream, rather than tensing up.
- The first step is to find the notes that you are comfortable singing using the vocal fry and make them the foundation of your new style.
- To achieve this, you can sing out the word “waaaa," using the same approach as your early morning growl. Change the notes you use for the "waaaa” sound, and cover your entire vocal range. Pay attention to the notes you were able to sing highest and with the least stress.
- Increase the intensity of your scream-singing by slowly adding thickness to your voice and using calculated breathing while trying to generate a scream.
Keep in mind that your singing apparatus is a complex system of organs and chambers. It is impossible to figure it out quickly. Perfecting a singing style or technique will take hours and hours of practice. The same is true for scream-singing. It is vital to maintain dedication and take the necessary precautions to minimize the potential for injury to your vocal cords.
In the next section, I will cover some of the most apparent pros and cons of scream-singing.
Pros and Cons of Scream Singing
Obviously, scream-singing is a very divisive singing style due to the potential for serious injury – if done incorrectly – and the repeated stress it puts on your vocal cords. If you are considering learning to scream sing, these are some of the pros and cons you should take into account:
Further Reading: Follow These Singing Exercises For Overall Improvement
Before jumping into scream-singing, be sure to evaluate the potential pros and cons that await you. If you do decide to give it a try, be sure to follow this guide about how to scream sing properly and consult your voice coach. I definitely recommend, if you're newer to singing, to start with basic singing practice before moving into harsher scream singing.
You'll want to avoid cheaper microphones for this style of singing, as a note.
Exercise Extreme Caution
Finally, I completely understand the fascination with scream-singing. There is something animalistic and instinctive in the sound of scream-singing, which appeals to many of us on a primal level. Coupled with the aesthetic and lifestyle, it is an exciting and appealing to many aspiring singers.
If you are thinking of taking up scream-singing, be sure to follow the advice provided here, and prepare yourself for the strain. It requires a lot of dedication, hard work, and patience, much more so than many other vocal styles. Taking care of your body and living a healthy lifestyle have incredible impacts on the quality of your singing and the longevity of your vocal characteristics. This is especially true when it comes to scream-singing.
Very few people who practice scream-singing manage to avoid the pain, harshness, and even injury to their vocal cords over time. Scream-singing is very stressful to your body’s singing apparatus and requires extreme caution and preparation to minimize the chance for harm to your vocal cords. I have mentioned several tips on how to protect your vocal cords, but it is essential to do your research and consult others who are more experienced in the style.
If an injury ultimately occurs or you feel a sudden pain when singing, stop singing immediately, and pause your daily routine. Consult a doctor to determine the extent of the damage you have and to procure a treatment plan.
For those who are brave and determined enough to give scream-singing a try, I salute you. But be careful out there!
James is an ex-writer for Music Grotto who focused the majority of his writing on the musical skill development content on the publication. His 20+ year career as a singing and vocal coach provided insightful content for the website, and his continued thirst for development in guitar and piano playing helped create some excellent skill development content for the publication.