One of the most aggressive types of singing is scream singing. This technique is nothing new; it has been around since the early days of rock and roll. In the last few decades, with the rise of heavy metal music and its plethora of derivative musical styles, scream singing has developed as an established vocalization method in several genres.

Fans of scream singing claim it conveys raw emotion better than any other musical art form. Bands have developed this style to such an extent that many now consider the voice as another musical instrument that they can overdrive and distort much like the guitars, bass and drums. Some vocalists have perfected the technique of blending clean vocals with their screaming voices to create an emotionally powerful musical sound. However, what cost, if any, does this style of singing foist on its practitioners?

Recent heavy metal history is replete with stories of up and coming singers who permanently damaged their singing voice by using improper technique while scream singing. When scream singers do not learn and adhere to correct singing methods, permanent vocal damage could be just a single performance set away, or it could manifest over a period of months or years. Once you damage your vocal cords, larynx or throat, however, the adverse effects on your ability to sing are usually irreversible.

If you are thinking about learning how to scream-sing, the tips contained in this article may help you decide how to best get started. From the outset, you should heed this one piece of advice: consider hiring a professional teacher or voice coach before you embark on any attempt to learn scream singing. Your voice is too precious to grind to a pulp because you practiced incorrectly as a result of misinformation found on the internet.

What's the Worst That Could Happen?

Some people discount warnings about practicing improper technique when learning to scream-sing, and they sometimes pay a heavy price. Whether the damage occurs suddenly or over years of abuse, it can still be devastating to learn that you have suffered irreparable damage to your voice. Some of the vocal damages common to those who improperly scream-sing include:

  • Throat infections – Constant irritation to your larynx and vocal cords may lead to a continual state of infection within your throat.
  • Burst blood vessels – The straining of delicate blood vessels within your throat by improperly scream singing can cause the vessels to burst apart and permanently damage your vocal apparatus.
  • Acid reflux – Over-stressing your esophagus with bad scream-singing technique can cause acid from the stomach to travel upward and burn the inside of your throat.
  • Bleeding of the throat – Attempting to scream-sing without proper instruction can lead to frequent, uncontrolled bleeding of the inside of your throat.
  • Vocal Paralysis – Severely straining your voice may cause disruption of nerve impulses to your larynx. This condition, known as vocal cord paralysis, can affect your ability to breathe as well as to speak or sing.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or if your throat is sore or raspy after singing, stop practicing altogether and seek medical attention immediately. When your throat hurts, it is nearly impossible to know if you are doing permanent damage to your vocal system or you are simply working a weak muscle group.

Only a medical professional can correctly diagnose and treat an injury to your voice, so do not let anyone try to convince you otherwise. A trained voice teacher or coach is the only one qualified to evaluate your training methods and techniques, helping to protect your voice from damage as a result of poor vocal methodology.  

Know What Not To Do

Here are a few absolute “no-no's” when considering learning how to scream-sing:

  • Do not try to imitate your favorite scream singers – Start learning scream singing by doing simple, non-stressful exercises. Keep in mind that many of the recordings you hear from your favorite scream singers employ electronic enhancements to achieve their sound.
  • Do not partake of alcohol or sugar – Alcohol and sugar will dry out your throat and vocal cords, increasing the danger of sustaining an injury. Abstain from these substances before practice, and preferably, eliminate them from your diet.
  • Do not smoke – Smoking irritates the muscles in your throat and compounds the effects of vocal strain. A few scream singers get by for a while with damaged throats from smoking, but their careers are notoriously short-lived.
  • Do not sing outside your normal range – Your voice teacher or coach can help you precisely pinpoint your singing range. Once you know this range, do not attempt to push your voice past its limits or you could damage your vocal cords.
  • Do not drink cold beverages – Limit yourself to tepid or warm beverages only. Cold liquids will constrict your vocal passages and increase tension in your vocal muscles.
  • Do not consume dairy – Milk and dairy products can cause phlegm to build up inside your throat. This mucus tends to restrict air from freely flowing through your vocal cords and may cause tightening of the vocal muscles.

9 Tips To Get Started Scream Singing

TIP # 1

Use a Microphone


Using an amplified mic will allow you to practice finding your inner scream-singing voice without having to strain your precious vocal muscles trying to obtain volume.

TIP # 2

Record, Record, Record


No matter what style of singing you are trying to learn, recording your practice sessions is a valuable learning tool. The sound you hear inside your head is completely different from what you project to the outside world, and recording will help you determine how you actually sound.

TIP # 3

Listen With Purpose


Listen to scream-singing songs and as you “whisper scream” along, try to identify where the scream sound originates. High-pitch screams should come from the nasal cavity while low-pitch screams start in the chest.

TIP # 4

Don't Use Your Throat for “Scratchy” Sounds 


As much as possible, “scratchy” or “raspy” sounds should originate in your nasal and chest cavities. Producing these sounds with your throat is a sure route to permanent vocal damage.

TIP # 5

Get in Top Physical Shape


Strength training and a regular cardio routine will help prepare your body for the rigors of scream singing. By building your endurance, you will be able to breathe correctly for longer periods as you perform.

TIP # 6

Learn Proper Breathing


Breathe from your diaphragm, not your chest. Learning to breathe properly will prevent undue strain on your vocal cords.

TIP # 7

Learn Standard Singing Techniques


Becoming a good standard singer will help you as you pursue other singing styles. By strengthening your natural voice, learning how to breathe, and understanding the limits of your vocal range, you will be better at training to scream-sing without risking injury.

TIP # 8

Take Frequent Breaks


When you are first learning scream singing, limit your practice time to 20 minutes per day. When you are at a more advanced level, keep your individual practice sessions short and do multiple sets with a break in between.

TIP # 9

Keep Your Throat and Mouth Open Wide


You can feel what it is like having both your throat and mouth wide open when you yawn. Try to recreate this state when you practice your scream singing to help reduce strain on your vocal cords and larynx.

Working With A Pro

It is a good idea to find a qualified voice teacher or coach to help you learn any style of singing, and especially if you are learning to scream sing. It cannot be emphasized enough that incorrectly using your voice while attempting to scream-sing can cause permanent, irreparable damage to your voice. On the other hand, the proper instruction can teach you how to scream-sing without putting unnecessary strain on your vocal cords, larynx and throat muscles.

Gaining complete mastery over your vocal muscles is one of the keys to scream-singing without damaging your voice. Different techniques needed to acquire different scream-singing sounds require that you work certain muscles while relaxing others. A professional teacher is usually best suited to guide you in learning these advanced methods.

If you rely on tutorials from CDs or online videos, you will always be unsure if you are performing the exercises correctly. This uncertainty may affect your confidence on stage and weaken your performances. Getting a coach or teacher can give you peace of mind to know that you are strengthening the right muscles, breathing correctly and improving your scream-singing techniques without damaging your voice. The self-assurance of knowing you are becoming a better musician will undoubtedly show up in the form of more energized performances.  

The Bottom Line

Scream singing is a significant art form that allows performers to communicate feelings such as anger, disillusionment and detachment from society. Its aggressive nature gives you the power to express such dark emotions. Learning to perform in this style requires not only the talent to convey raw energy, but it also requires mastering the proper vocal skills necessary to protect your voice.

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