Hard Vocals (i.e. Scream Singing) With Michael S.
We’re so excited to introduce something we haven’t ventured into yet at Molly’s Music: Hard vocals (otherwise known as scream singing or growling). Our wonderful teacher Michael, who also teaches a wide variety of other vocal genres and instruments, recently approached me with an interest in instructing hard vocals in a healthy way. Read below for his perspective on this type of instruction.
MM: Let’s start with the obvious. What are hard vocals? Tell us a little more about that.
MS: The style goes by a lot of names and terms. Screaming, growling, scream singing, death growls, distorted vocals, hardcore vocals. I call it Hard Vocals just because it’s not actually screaming. It’s just a vocal technique that’s used in a lot of ‘Heavier’ styles of music like Metal and Punk but can be utilized in a lot of other styles as well.
MM: Which hard vocals are you comfortable teaching?
MS: Any kind of vocals that fall under that kind of category use the same basic technique, just in different ways. So I’m pretty sure I can teach most kinds of vocals in that area.
MM: Can you talk about some differences between the types of vocals and how you might approach them?
MS: First thing I tell students is that you shouldn’t try and imitate the vocals you hear in a song because it sounds like screaming, but if you try and just yell till your voice gets distorted it will hurt a lot and damage your voice. It’s surprising, because of the sound and the nature of the music that uses Hard Vocals, that you have to have your voice and throat very relaxed and not tense up the way a scream would intuitively come out. Also, the techniques and habits that you develop like proper breathing and control when learning to sing normally, are all techniques that you will use doing hard vocals.
MM: Is there any kind of overarching principle to how to do these? In other words, what are the basics when it comes to hard vocals?
MS: I would approach hard vocals in the same way as ‘clean vocals.’ In fact, I want students to learn to sing a little first, before adding in a ‘Hard’ affect to their voice. Just to develop good technique and knowledge of their voice so they can do it without hurting or sounding bad.
MM: What got you interested in this type of instruction?
MS: I love music like metal and hardcore punk (it also helps produce a ‘Tom Waits style’ tone) and it’s a style that isn’t used or taught very much with a vocal coach.
MM: What’s the most important way to keep this type of singing healthy?
MS: Same way any vocalist stays healthy! Be relaxed, patient, make sure you stay hydrated, and remember to warm up. When you’re learning to use the hard vocals technique, only practice a little at a time.
MM: Do you have any favorite song examples that use any of these techniques?
MS: Recently I’ve been practicing Pool Spray by Veil of Maya, great song that changes between heavy and clean vocals.
MM: Anything else to add?
MS: It’s important to be safe when getting started. It’s a safe way to sing and really fun to do, but if you’re not careful and try and fake it, it can be bad for you long term.
Molly is the founder of Molly’s Music. She is a dedicated singer and pianist whose musical journey spans 2.5 decades, with stops along the way to sing for the pope, pass Certificate of Merit at the highest level, study with Gwen Verdon and Ben Vereen, and record an original album.