My journey to learn how to scream started one night at the Whiskey - the band on stage was 'WWIII' - the lead singer was this tall, black-haired German guy named Mandy. He had a voice like early Brian Johnson of 'ACDC'. I listened in amazement. How could anyone scream so high and intensely for an hour and still be able to speak clearly between songs? I had only been singing for about 6 months. I could scream, like Axel for about half a song - then I was cooked - I was hoarse for three days
I went back stage to meet Mandy. I asked him how he learned to sing. He told me he'd studied opera in Germany. I asked, How could someone scream like that? And he answered; It's the nature of the beast. From that remark, I gathered he meant you either can scream or you can't and if you couldn't you would never be able to - since that fateful night in Hollywood, I have dedicated my music career to developing a 4-octave voice and can scream intensely night after night.
I've learned that The nature of the beast refers to an inner rage that compels a singer to scream. Early on, when I met Mandy, I wasn't yet able to scream physically. Inside, I was full of enough piss and vinegar to blow down a house with my voice, I just didn't know how to access it. I had to find the technique to support the scream I could hear in my head. True screamers can be a bit left of center when it comes to normally controlled social skills - we tend to run a little hot.
If you want to get started putting your scream into your vocals, here are a few tips:
Start listening to singers who scream. I recommend AC/DC - Back In Black, Guns N Roses - Appetite For Destruction, any Linkin Park, Rage Against The Machine, Soundgarden and Dio. Back In Black is my favorite for insane vocals. For females vocal screaming, check out Spike 1000, Janis Joplin, Pat Benitar or Otep. Female students, at my voice coaching studio, workout regularly to male singer's music. There's nothing cooler than a chick screaming, Crawling by Linkin Park.
If you've had voice lessons in the past and have lesson tapes on hand, use them to warm up before you sing. Once you've warmed up - really warmed up, turn down the lights. Always have a fresh gallon of room temperature water on hand. Do some stretching and deep breathing exercises. Find a place in your mind where no one goes but you, and live there. Block the world from seeping in. Be sure you are in a place where it's cool to be loud. Before you play your music, make sure you know what the song is about. Often, while I'm in session with a student, I'll ask what they think the tune they're singing is about and they don't know. Welcome To The Jungle for example - is about moving to LA with ten bucks in your pocket, and being scared but not scared enough to go home. My best advise - be there when you sing the song. If the subject is something you have no personal experience with, connect emotionally with something in the song you can relate to.
When you are ready try singing "Welcome To The Jungle", hit the opening scream. If you need to go into falsetto, that's fine at first. Here's the trick - before you sing, inhale deeply, your lower belly should drop slightly (making sure you do not shrug your shoulders) just inhale with the belly. Loosen your jaw at the hinge and keep your tongue flat and forward resting on your bottom teeth.
As the opening scream begins, don't think of screaming it really high, think of it as if you were screaming far across the street. Two things naturally increase pitch: (1) emotion (2) distance. Your body produces higher tones traveling faster and further than lower ones when excited. As you increase the excitement in your speech, your pitch naturally rises. Higher pitches are more easily heard than low sonic frequencies.
On your opening note, inhale deeply, loosen your jaw, flatten your tongue, get wrapped up in the lyrics and sing to the back row! If you've never attempted screaming before, expect a few soar throats for a while, but if you continue to do it correctly they will not persist. If you are a voice student, ask your teacher if they have experience with screaming. You will find that most don't. In fact, many of my students have told me that their former voice coaches have told them not to scream. Screaming is very fringe and difficult to do well, and few master it. When you visit my band site: UncleNancy.com you'll hear insanely screaming vocals that can easily sustain a long touring career based on the principles above.
If you begin with falsetto, slowly try bringing in a deeper more chesty sound. The muscle used most when screaming is the Pharyngeal Muscle or Middle Muscle. It's a difficult muscle to develop but when you do, your voice will peel the paint off the walls!
The sound of the Pharyngeal is like a witches cackle, like The Wicked Witch Of The West in The Wizard Of Oz My little pretty, he he he he! For men begin with middle C, make a HEE sound that sounds like a witch and for women start at E above middle C. Make sure it doesn't sound pretty and falsetto or thick and chesty. It should sound course and ugly. Next, use that sound and sing the first 5 notes of the major scale, keeping it ugly. As you go higher, tighten your belly, drop your jaw and sing far across the room, keeping it connected. Maintain the tone you establish on the lowest note throughout the scale. Don't let the scale get thin and reedy or airy and heady.
Another good exercise that will help you to achieve the scream sound is to open your mouth as wide as it will go and stick your tongue out as far and flat as it will go and make an AH sound like when a doctor examines you. Do the same scale you produced with the witch's cackle. The best way to practice these scales are in half steps. Meaning, after you do the first scale, inhale and do the same scale in the same voicing, one half step or one note higher. So let's say the first scale is a major scale starting on A the next would be the same scale starting on A#, the next note to the right on the piano.
A word of warning: Be careful. Screaming WILL tear your voice up if you are not strong enough. I strongley suggest taking vocal lessons for at LEAST six months before trying this. But if you think your ready...