Hey. In this lesson I'm gonna try to explain how to start with the harsh vocals (also called unclean vocals, death metal vocals, guttural vocals). I will appreciate any constructive criticism on my lesson.
Let me start with saying that smoking will not help you. So please don't smoke tons of cigarettes just to get your voice harsh and then start screaming. You will most probably ruin your throat and will most probably never be able to sing again.
LOL just kidding, you won't be able to talk normally again, ever.
At first, before you even start yelling some incomprehensible sounds, you should learn to breathe properly.
Most of the people are breathing with the lungs. But if you want to sing (sing in any way, not just in harsh vocals), you have to breathe with the diaphragm (thoracic diaphragm to be precise). »The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity (heart, lungs & ribs) from the abdominal cavity and performs an important function in respiration« – for more information please use the internet or the books (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoracic_diaphragm). So, at the very beginning, just try to breathe the air into your diaphragm, that's the part where your stomach is. When you inhale, you shuld see your stomach moving up, when you exhale, the stomach should be getting into the normal position again. Help yourself with playing your arm on the stomach so you can feel the stomach when it's rising. Try not to inhale air in your lungs at the same time. That's breathing with the diaphragm.
When you think you can breathe with the diaphragm, practice the breathing – with talking, and later singing. Inhale in your diaphragm and start saying some stuff. You can do that in school when talking to friends. If you feel uncomfortable or if you are afraid of looking stupid, sing along with a song, using your diaphragm. It shouldn't take too long for you to master the breathing with the diaphragm. After some time youl will also start breathing with your diaphragm automatically, without you being aware of it. But this takes a little more time and is not so important to us right now.
Now when you know how to breathe, you can almost start practicing. But before you do I'd like to tell you guys some more things. At first, of course, you have to decide what do you want to practice (which technique). When you know what you want to learn, I suggest you also take a look at some videos, find them on YouTube or just search with the Google. Before you start practicing, and during your practice, drink warm liquids. Your throat will get dry and you won't be able to sing anymore, that's why you have to drink a lot. My favorite »drink« during the practice is warm water with lots of honey in it. Just take a glass, pour some warm water in it, then take some honey, put it in the glass and wait till it dissolves. Honey helps the throat when it sores, so it's good even when you're sick. Some guys drink milk during the practice. It doesn't work for me, some even say it blocks their throats. Find your own thing that works best for you. Until you do find it, drink warm water. Don't drink alcohol! It can permamently damage your throat.
You should know that there are many different vocals that can be considered as the harsh vocals. If you are reading this article I assume that most of you have already heard of the growl and the scream vocals. However, there are even more vocals, like piggy squealing or inhale growling. I must say that I am no expert and I will be glad if any of you guys comment and review my lesson and correct me if I am wrong because I need to learn some things aswell. I never did any inhaled growling and I suggest you don't try it until having a lot (enough) of knowledge. Singing can be very dangerous and even when singing clean vocals you can damage your throat if you don't sing properly. However, I did practice growls and screams, and I still do. I can do some piggy squeals, but I'm not very good at them. So I will just talk about growls and screams mainly, and add some information on squeals at the end.
Growling (Used mainly in death metal)
Growling is my favorite technique. If you can't separate growls from other techniques, here's an example of death metal growl. There are more ways of growling, that's why I will show you mroe examples. You should get the point: growls are »the low pitched harsh vocals«.
(Noumena - Also some clean female vocals. This is an example of »the beauty and the beast« singing – clean female vocals and very low growl vocals. Used in melodic death metal bands)
Before you start you should know that your throat will most probably hurt in the beginning. Don't push yourself. In the beginning, only growl for 5-10 minutes a day MAXIMUM (even if your throat doesn't hurt at all). Gradually, you wil gain the ability to growl more time and your throat won't hurt anymore after 5 minutes of growling. When your throat is dry, drink something warm. If your throat will hurt you too much, stop growling. If you don't see any improvements in a week or so, or your throat will hurt after a small amount of time growling, you are doing something wrong. If you just can't get the right way to growl or your throat still hurts like hell, stop it forever. Some guys just can't growl because of their throat and vocal chords. In that case, I am sorry. Maybe you can try screaming instead?
Now lets start. Stand up. Open your mouth as if you were trying to say something like O and U together (like saying »youuuu«). Push the air from your diaphragm out (sometimes it helps if you bend, I'm pretty sure you have already seen some vocalists bending over the stage on live performances). Then, try to get your voice as low as you can. Now that you can say the word »you« in a very low tone, say it again, but try to open wide your throat (just try it) and push the air our really hard (again with the diaphragm). You are supposed to sing with the »false vocal chords«. The frequence should be very low (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocal_fry). When speaking normally, you should feel how the vocal chords are shaking. If you speak in a higher tone, almost singing, the shaking should disappear. The lower tone you produce, the more shaking you feel. When growling, this shaking should be very noticeable. You should feel the shaking of your whole throat and even in the body. »The vocal fry register is the lowest vocal register and is produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency«. This is what we want to achieve. Just keep trying. You most probably won't succed in the first time, not even in the 10th try. Don't give up! Just keep trying. Open the throat, push the air out, try to growl. Practice. Take a look at some videos if you think that could help. I needed a lot of time just to do something that sounded like a growl. You have to find the right way. When you do, keep practicing. Let me just say one more thing: at the beginning, you will most likely know only how to say O and U when growling. Again, keep practicing. When I started I couldn't say the vowel E, like »end«. I kept saying »and« and I was very mad at myself. Later, I learned that too. I just had to practice. Yeah, practice is the key. Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Many growling metalheadmothaf--kas tend to get their growls as low as they can. For more examples of very low growls please check further Noumena band. Growls don't have high amplitudes and of course it does help if you can growl very low so you can then use different tones of growling and make your vocals sound not so. The changes in pitch are more used in scream techniques. BUT there is one more thing you should train with growls: the ability to do long growls. For this, you have to train your diaphragm and your ability to inhale as much air as possible. Growls use 3-4 times more air than talking. Another thing that you can train when growling: The sound of the growl. You shouldn't immitate other growlers, you should find your own sound at first. Don't be ashamed! When you master your growling, you can do some experiments and immitate other growlers. Just experiment with your voice and later use the sound you like the most.
Mixing growl and scream
This here is an example of a vocal that is not a growl and is not a scream, it is something inbetween. Try this when you can alreay growl or scream. It should not be hard once you learn one of those two techniques. You can use this technique in a lot of metal styles.
There are many many ways of screaming. With this few video examples you should get the point of screaming. It's … Screaming. »The high pitched harsh vocals«.
Here are some examples I gathered:
Death metal screams
(Arch Enemy – female vocalist)
Depressive metal scream
Black metal scream
Screaming is the most used harsh vocal technique besides growling. Breathing is the same. Diaphragm, blablabla. Read it above. The start is also the same – don't push yourself too hard and only do 5-10 minutes a day screaming in the beginning. Andi f I may repeat myself: When your throat is dry, drink something warm. If your throat will hurt you too much, stop screaming. If you don't see any improvements in a week or so, or your throat will hurt after a small amount of time screaming, you are doing something wrong. If you just can't get the right way to scream or your throat still hurts like hell, stop it forever. Some guys just can't scream because of their throat and vocal chords. In that case, I am sorry. Maybe you can try growling instead?
Once again, don't try to imitate other guys. Find your own voice, that's really important. When you do find it, decide which technique of screaming would you like to use. Then, master it.
Lets start. Inhale the air into the diaphragm. Open your mouth as if you were trying to scream, like aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Scream like when you're in pain. Now, do the same, but close your throat. The frequence should be here also lower than when speaking normally and you should feel the shaking, but not as much as when growling. The keys to succeed are practice, and »keep trying«. When you will be able to just scream, try screaming other vowels and eventually lyrics. All is pretty much the same as when growling. It's just a different technique – the throat is not widely open. Screaming also uses less air than growling.
What to do when you can scream? You can always practice your ability to inhale more air so your screams will get longer. Unlike growling, pitch is quite important in screaming. Do some scales with screaming and increase your amplitude of voice when screaming. Also, try to hold a tone. It's pretty much the same training as the clean vocalists do. Maybe you should first do this training with the clean vocals and later with screaming. Actually I think you wouldn't notice much improvement when practicing with screams only. And the third thing, the sound. Similar to the growling. Find your own voice, then experiment with it. Use your tongue :P
First, here are some examples of piggy squealing:
(Benighted - 0.58 – 1.10)
I didn't find it very hard to start squealing. I just closed the throat and tried to do some high and harsh vocals. Try to immitate pigs, that's all I can say. You can start with saying I, like in »deep«. Then with practice start saying other vowels. Breathing is the same, with the diaphragm.
This is the end. I hope this lesson will help you to start with the harsh vocals. I had to search all over the internet and I found it really hard to get any good information on this topic. I also didn't know much people that would sing in a way like this, with the harsh vocals. That's why I created this lesson, for you guys to find it easier to start with the vocals. If you have any questions, corrections or comments, I will appreciate them. Once again, I do appreciate constructive criticism. Thank you, and support metal! \m/
Gašper Čefarin (DarkBlackPoison)
Copyrighted by ME.