Ever wonder how vocalists from top metal and rock bands can deliver the goods night after night without damaging their voices?
There’s been a lot of press lately about professional singers who have hurt their vocal chords, and lord knows, if you sing at all, you know you don’t want that to happen to you. Perhaps some vocal training for the masses is just the ticket to healthy, kick-ass vocal endurance.
When I heard about the iOS app, The Art of Screaming, my first thought was, “That’s not for me.” I don’t scream or growl when I sing. But I do push it at times. But after talking to its creator, Susan Carr, and giving it a spin, I now rescind that thought. This app is for anyone who sings. Or for that matter, anyone who speaks.
Carr, a 30-year veteran vocal trainer who has worked with pros from Alice in Chains to Mastodon, looks at it this way: “Would you ever get on stage without tuning your guitar?” She continues, “Your voice is your instrument. It’s your job to make sure it’s in top form.”
The Art of Screaming has several vocal exercises to choose from and is built around the premise that you can take the pieces that work for you and build your own vocal warm-up that you can use anywhere, anytime. Plus with tips about vocal health, posture, breathing exercise and a whole lot more; I have to say it’s $12.99 well spent.
I know what a lot of you are thinking. You play guitar and maybe just sing some backing vocals. What’s all the hubbub about? Carr comes from this point of view: “I think that anybody that can learn new ideas about strengthening their weaknesses in their voice.
Also, the voice changes as we get older, so we need to constantly learn to help make the voice more flexible. Sometimes as we get older, our own muscular strengths become less and less flexible, and that does contribute a lot to your own voice – speaking-wise, as well as singing.” That’s right, these exercises can help in any speaking situation when you might strain your voice too, like backstage at a concert, or at a trade show, or club.
Carr goes on to explain that a good warm up can mean the difference between hitting that killer note on the climax, or the sad alternative.
“Part of warming up is being a professional. You would warm up your voice because first of all, you want to tune your ears to the right pitches and the keys that you’re singing. You also want to warm up your voice so that you can go to the highest possible note you can, as well as the lowest possible note you can. Also, warming up gives you that feeling of, ‘I feel great! My voice feels good. I’m ready to go. ’ And that’s for whatever the performance might be, or even in the recording studio.”
When I asked Carr why she focused on the scream, she came back with a logical thought process, “First of all, I think singing is the principle of calling, yelling, hollering, screaming, belting. We use those in our daily life, you know? To do what we do we have to be able to do it properly, whether you scream, or belt, or yell, or holler, or call, it is the principle of singing. It is the principle that I use and have used for a long time in my vocal studio, because those principles are the principle of the Bel Canto style of singing, which is what I was trained in. And then, I started to take all these exercises and move them more towards the contemporary styles of music.”
Will vocal lessons make you into a legendary singer? Maybe not, but they will make you better, no doubt. Carr explains, “I think the first common mistake people make, is they think I’m going to change them. But then they realize as they start taking lessons, and as they start learning about strengths and support, placing the tone properly, and also releasing their air flow, that, ‘Wow, that does sound like me, and it kind of sounds better.’”
I asked Carr about the specifics of what it takes to sing great while you’re playing guitar. I know I slouch sometimes when I’m sitting with my acoustic. But Carr assured me that holding a guitar can actually help the whole process. “One thing that’s really great about my guitarists is that we practice with them having their guitar right there around the abdominal and diaphragm area.
When they take a breath, they actually can feel their stomach muscles go out against the back of the guitar, so then they feel like, ‘Oh wow, it’s working.’ You know? That’s the great thing about the guitar – is that they can actually feel it, and it’s helpful.”
Carr continues, “Also in the app itself are breathing exercises that work on posture. And then there’s also exercises for strength, and yeah, all those things are important because you want to have good alignment so you can get the most out of the strengths of your body.”
All right. I tried the app. My kids complained I was disturbing their study. I was onto something. It was easy to follow with video tutorials that feature Carr and her son, Wolf, who is also a vocal instructor. I could build my own routine from the categories of Strength, Head Voice, Head Belt, Chest Exercises, Falsetto, Controlling Airflow, Vocal Bending and Screaming.
If my kids were disturbed now, well, just wait until I build my way up to nasal distortion screams and advanced head belting. Woo hoo! Yes, this app rocks and now so do I, louder than ever!
Find out more about The Art of Screaming at http://theartofscreaming.com/
Or go directly to the app store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/art-screaming-create-your/id514202275?mt=8
View the video intro to the app here:
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Dean Markley, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the co-producer of the Women's Music Summit and the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.