Music allows listeners to imagine just about anything.
For some, it might be dreaming of being the lead singer of a punk rock band that has a huge underground following. Your days are filled with working at a coffee shop and the nights entertaining a packed club. Dreams can come true, but you better know how to sing punk to achieve this lofty goal.
If you’re a trained singer in another style of music, you can forget what you have been taught in the past. No longer are you expected to sing in a more-controlled environment. Now, you’re performing on a makeshift stage to an audience looking to blow off some steam. So, you better be able to belt, shout or scream the songs out to grab their attention.
The loyal followers believe punk rock music is a way of life. That means from the hairstyle chosen to the clothes worn each day. If you’re trying to learn to sing punk, then you better have a clear understanding of your onstage persona. The punk rock music scene is not refined, so you have a “wider canvas to paint on” than other genres of music.
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, let’s develop that authentic, unique vocal style to sing punk.
How to Develop a Genuine Punk Vocal Style
The top punk music performers have a vocal style and type that is natural as possible. You want to be authentic with your delivery and your voice may sound flat at first. But, do not be discouraged. Just go out and have some fun. Save the analyzing of your performance for later.
You are able to teach yourself to sing, so create a more genuine punk vocal style by working at it. I cannot explain it, but punk rockers can easily detect a performer who doesn’t get the sound. Usually, their displeasure is shown through the amount of beer bottles that bombard the stage.
Talent isn’t a necessity to be successful in the punk rock scene. Most vocal coaches feel the range of lead singer can be limited. Often, it can be two notes at the most. This bodes well for newcomers to the music. Still, it is important to develop your own vocal style. Try experimenting with different styles before choosing one that fits your range as a singer. Little hint, avoid selecting a style that strains or adds tension to your vocal cords while singing.
Instead, you may want to adopt a vocal style that is a bit more aggressive, which makes an immediate connection with the audience. This is accomplished by showing more emotion that captures everyone’s attention. Your vocals must mimic the frustrations exhibited by the punk rock scene. The interaction that you have with the audience in between each song will confirm whether or not you’re a real or transparent artist.
Saying your punk doesn’t mean much unless you’re passionate about the ideals. You can seek professional assistance in developing your vocal style. But, your onstage persona can be aided by getting a historical perspective of the punk rock music scene. Either through listening to those ground-breaking artists and playing “connect the dots” with who they influenced over time.
Educating Yourself on the History of Punk Rock
If you decided to learn to sing punk, then you better educate yourself on the history of the music. Quickly, you will learn that punk rock is rich with great performing artists. Take the time to listen to those ground-breaking albums that gained attention from the press and more importantly, began a following. You will be amazed by how the music catalogues from The Clash, The Ramones, Dead Kennedys and Sex Pistols inspired Green Day, Rancid and others to perform punk rock.
The deeper you dig, the more likely that will discover your own onstage persona. It is all about exploring and listening to different vocalists, which may inspire you to find your own singing style and tempo. This is the fastest path to learning how to you enunciate your words and when to take a breath in the middle of the song.
Sing Loud and Proud
If you had any stage training, you know the goal is to project your voice from the front to the back of the building. How does this get accomplished? Well, you must start by learning to amplify your voice. It is all about the volume. This is gained by singing through your nose and throat instead of the diaphragm. It is all about “letting out” your voice, but not putting too much strain on your vocal cords. You want to protect them and avoid developing any bad singing habits. These bad habits can plague your singing career.
Before a live show, most punk rock singers will do a sound check to make sure the soundboard levels are correctly set. This step helps to add a little more reverb to your voice while performing. This feature adds depth and fullness to the overall sound, which makes it easier for the audience to hear your voice over the other instruments.
Learning How to Use a Microphone
It may sound like a ridiculous notion, but it is important to learn how to use the microphone to your advantage while performing onstage. Your voice plays an instrumental part of your punk band’s success. The tone and tempo of the other instruments being played is set by the singer’s voice. Thus, you better know how to use the microphone or everyone involved may be lost in the process.
The best singing technique is keeping the mic-head above your upper lip for each song. This offers little interference for your voice to heard in a crowded club. Remember to pace yourself before starting to sing the chorus of a song. This will avoid any threat of running out of breath before its conclusion.
Plus, keep the microphone cord wrapped in your hand as this allows you to move around the stage more freely. Also, move the microphone stand away from the front of the stage.
Protecting the Pipes is Key to Singing Punk Rock
The key to punk rock success is performing onstage once or twice a week. This vocal style requires proper warmup and rest before and after each show.
Don’t be alarmed if your throat feels raw after coming off the stage. It is not that unusual for your throat to hurt after such an intense performance. It is important to have fun while performing, but it will be short-lived if you fail to take care of the pipes.
Preventative care is critical to preserving your singing voice and, more importantly, your punk rock music career. It is best to introduce several elements of a standard vocal training program that preserves your voice. First, stay hydrated before hitting the stage.Try drinking a cup of hot tea with honey as this will help soothe your vocal cords and reduce any inflammation. While on stage, drink lightly diluted sugar water or Gatorade as each will give you a boost of energy to keep on performing. Remember, your energy level must equal that of the audience to gain a positive reaction.
Afterwards, refrain from inhaling cigarette smoke either directly or second-hand. It is an old music adage that smoking cigarettes will deepen your voice, but it also adversely affects your vocal range over time.
If the amount of sore throats are becoming too frequent, then you may need to refine your vocal style. Your worst case scenario is undergoing surgery to repair all the damage done by poor singing technique. This will help to preserve your singing voice for a long punk rock music career.
Practice Makes Perfect
Another great resource in preserving your vocal cords is singing on your own on a daily basis. Your vocal cords are a muscle, but they need to be built up in order to perform onstage for an extended show. You want to put emphasis on the clarity of your voice. Thus, building power without putting much strain or damaging your vocal cords can be gained by regularly singing on your own.
Understanding your vocal range is a very useful tool. This can be done by practicing the musical scales on a piano. Also, try recording yourself as this helps to better determine your vocal range and where you need improvement in your singing delivery. Once, you have mastered the notes, then you may try to expand your overall range. However, be sure to get the foundation down first.
Vocal practicing is an important factor in learning your range, which helps in the creative process of writing your own songs. This may take some time to develop, but it is much needed in building vocal stamina to perform onstage.
In the end, practice makes perfect.
Who are You on Stage
Finally, creating the right onstage persona plays a major role in becoming a punk rock singer. Most cases, the persona created matches your vocal style. Usually, the choices are slim as you’re a performer with a lavish stage show or a brooding lost soul screaming at the establishment for acceptance. Neither are a bad choice, but select one that matches your own personality.
Jumping around is never considered a form of dancing, but it is standard procedure for a lead punk rock singer while performing onstage. It gets the crowd moving around and forming a mosh pit at the center of the floor. Plus, it will get yourself more relax with performing in front of an audience. This will put less tension on your vocal cords and allow you to project all throughout the club.
No matter how great you become as a performing artist, it won’t sound good unless you learn how to sing punk. The more you perform, the better you’ll become.
In the end, punk rock music is all about the lyrics and catchy riffs that attract a crowd.
Punk rock music is an attitude. Just do your best and try to have fun at the same time.
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.