Modern Vocal Training

Primal Scream - A Lesson in Screaming

For years, people have expressed themselves through singing. The tonality of your voice can be very telling as to how your feeling at that particular time. One of the most extreme techniques in singing used to express pain, excitement, or anger would be screaming.

Screaming can be found in all styles of music, and is used for different purposes. Whether its used to express the pain of losing someone you love, or used just to show off your skills, it seems everyone wants to learn how to do it. The question I get asked more than anything else from the people I work with would be “How can I scream without losing my voice”?

In this online lesson, I will give you tips on how to develop rasp safely, and then how to safely form that into a scream. These are just the basics though; to learn more about these techniques, you should either sign up for some form of training with me, or go to my vocal instruction links page and look at my recommendations for products you can use to better your screaming.

The first step in learning to scream is a solid vocal technique. This means, you need to have the absolute basics of singing (breathing & support) down perfectly.Please read my BREATHING AND SUPPORT lesson before trying any of this. In order to scream a note, you must first be able to sing it in a clear, well balanced tone. When developing your screaming technique, its best to start with notes in your full voice that come easily to you, as well as your falsetto. When I teach screaming technique to someone, I always start by working on falsetto screaming because it is the easiest. Once the singer has the falsetto screams down, the can usually figure out how to apply a screaming sound to the rest of their range.

Now, lets get to work. The first thing I need for you to do is to play a note either on a pitch wheel, keyboard/piano, or guitar. I want you to sing this note in falsetto on the vowel “AH” as in father. Choose any note thats high enough to be in falsetto, but comfortable enough that you can sing and sustain without any tension. If you have to push even a little bit to hit this note, keep searching for one that you can hold without any issues at all.

When you have found what I call the foundational pitch, sustain it for as long as you comfortably can without straining. A good target would be a 30 second sustain time. If you can hold the pitch for 30 seconds and keep it absolutely steady (no wavering, cracking, or other inconsistencies), its time to move on.

For this next step, get a glass of water. Now, take a drink and gargle the water, making that same “AH” vowel as before, and on the same note. Notice how the uvula (the piece of flesh that hangs in the middle back of your throat) vibrates. Its very important to pay attention to this sensation, because you’ll need to utilize this later on when creating rasp. Do this several times until you are used to the feeling of the uvula vibrating.

Now, lets move on. We are going to make that same sound as you made while gargling,but without the water. The easiest way to do this is by imitating a pigeon. This is a trick I learned from one of my vocal coaches, Jaime Vendera. For this, we will change the vowel to an “OO” as in shoe. While making the “OO” vowel, direct your air up towards your soft palate (the soft tissue on the roof of your mouth). Focus on sending the breath pressure right at the top middle part of your mouth. This will cause your uvula to vibrate, and will produce that pigeon type sound. Make sure your doing this on your foundational pitch. Sustain this for 30 seconds as well. You want the vibrating sound to be as even as possible. If its uneven at all, your breath pressure isn’t consistent. Inconsistent breath pressure will cause many problems down the road, so fix it now.

Your probably wondering why i’m having you make this noise. There are 2 reasons for it. First off, this is a way to guarantee that you are placing your tone in the soft palate, which is essential to singing and screaming. Now, don’t be confused; placing the tone in the soft palate does NOT mean singing with this vibrating sound. We are only creating the vibrating sound as a part of this exercise. However, the fact that you are getting that sound guarantees the tone is being placed up out of your throat and into the palate.

The other purpose of this exercise is because this is actually a form of screaming. To prove it, sing your foundational note on “AH” again. By this point, the note should come out consistently and easily, and the vibrating sound should be consistent as well. Sing your “AH” vowel as loud as you comfortably can. Now, direct a little bit of extra air up to your soft palate and activate the uvula. You can send up as much air to the palate as you want as long as your not straining, and the result will be a distorted note.You can manipulate your tongue, throat, and breathing to create different sounds with this technique. This is the type of screaming you’ll find a lot of singers using when they want to add some edge, but don’t want to go for a fully distorted note.

Once you get good with this, you’ll be able to create other raspy tones safely without activating the uvula. As long as you keep it in the palate, your safe. If you start to get hoarse, quit immediately. You’ve lost your placement and now your just grinding the cords together and blasting too much air through them. After a break, go back to the pigeon sound to establish your placement and try again.