Do Rock Singers Take Voice Lessons? A Detailed OverviewDevlon Jarrod Horne
As a vocal coach, I get asked this question a lot by my students and by fans who love rock music. Do rock singers take, do they need to take or have they ever taken voice lessons. If you consider the likes of Myles Kennedy and Chris Cornell to be rock singers then I have an answer for you.
Rock singers, like other professional singers of other genres, take voice lessons to improve, maintain, control, and develop their voice. Voice lessons are not only essential for leaning different types of vocal techniques commonly used in rock music but also to ensure that the techniques are applied correctly to avoid causing damage to their voices.
Although rock singers do take voice lessons there are more aspects to that simple question than just the answer I gave you. let’s dive into some of these aspects like why do they take lessons, do lessons help them, what techniques are there, can you learn those techniques that the modern-day rock singers learn like screaming and growling, and how long does it take to learn those techniques?
Why is it important for rock singers to take voice lessons?
As with any other genre, rock singers take lessons to learn certain techniques regarding how to develop, how to sing correctly, and how to maintain the health of their voice. The fundamentals of singing apply not only to the singing styles of opera and pop but to rock as well.
Singing is a learnt skill that comes with time, dedication and practice, and rock singing is no different.
Some people might be a little better equipped in terms of the shape and size of their vocal folds, the measurements and size of their mouth along with the shape and size of their throat and nasal cavities. These all play a part in singing as these are the body’s natural resonators and they are what you are born with.
However, no matter what those inherent genetic factors are, rock singers, take voice lessons to learn to control and develop their voice to its fullest capacity helping them sing higher, lower, beautifully, or harshly with ease and control.
“It takes a lot of practice and discipline, as well as retraining how you approach things in the studio or in a live context. If I hadn’t learned that, I don’t think I’d still be singing… I probably would have blown my voice out years ago. It was probably the best money I ever spent as a musician, taking those lessons!”
The benefits of taking voice lessons:
There are many benefits to why rock singers and all other singers should take voice lessons. I’ve included a list of the top beneficial technical aspects of taking voice lessons.
Learning pitch control
It is crucial that rock singers and all other singers learn to pitch correctly (singing in tune). By taking voice lessons you learn to manage, control and exercise your vocal cords as well as your body in order to pitch correctly (that is to create or sing melodies in tune to the notes which are in the scales or chords you are singing over.)
Learning to breathe correctly and strengthen your lungs
Breathing correctly is one of the most crucial aspects of learning how to sing correctly and helps rock singers not to damage their voices. The likes of Steven Tyler, Myles Kennedy, and Chris Cornell attribute their breathing technique to an opera technique called the Bel Canto technique which focuses on correct breathing in order to sing freely and easily.
Learning to control the volume of your voice
Singing with emotion is directly impacted on being able to control the volume of your voice and if you are able to put dynamics into your singing such as singing softly for passages that require it or singing loudly for other phrases or passages that require it.
Learning to increase your singing range
Rock singers are typically known for singing very high and without learning and knowing the correct techniques in order to do so, rock singers will most definitely either blow out their voice or ruin their voice for good.
Learning how not to ruin your voice
When rock singers take voice lessons, they learn specific techniques in order to help them manage and maintain the health of their voices. Without the correct knowledge and techniques, again, they are more likely to damage their voice.
Learning to sing scales and arpeggios
Learning to sing scales and arpeggios is one of the most important ways for your vocal cords to learn how to sing in tune (the vocal cords are muscles and we can teach them to develop muscle memory). Combined with the correct techniques, learning to sing scales and arpeggios opens the doors to more creative and amazing melodies that would otherwise not have been able to have been created.
Learning specific vocal techniques
Without learning the correct techniques for singing such as breathing techniques, posture, tongue placement, jaw position, mouth position, and such. Rock singers would not be able to sing high or low with depth, feeling, and control without learning and mastering these techniques.
What different techniques do rock singers typically learn?
Rock singers learn modern and classical techniques to create, mold, shape, and perfect their voices. From soaring high notes to low growls, grunts, and screams, all these techniques are learned and developed by taking voice lessons. Taking voice lessons helps them perfect and control these techniques.
One of the most important and well know classical techniques that rock singers learn is that of the Bel Canto technique. This technique emphasizes correct breathing while singing and teaches the singer to sing naturally as if they were talking. It removes strain and stress from the vocal cords and helps the cords to vibrate effortlessly.
Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and Chris Cornell are just a few rock singers who implement the Bel Canto technique.
Other techniques include vibrato and belting. Vibrato is a musical effect consisting of a regular, pulsating change of pitch. It is used to add expression to notes that they sing.
Belting is a specific technique of singing by which a singer carries their chest voice above their break or Passaggio (Passaggio is a term used in classical singing to describe the transition area between the vocal registers)
Have a look at this video from Dr. Daniel K. Robinson about the Bel Canto technique and how it relates to contemporary music (including rock)
Modern Vocal Techniques
There are a few modern techniques that rock singers implement and learn by taking voice lessons and some of these include vocal fry, the breathy or airy tone voice and then screaming, growling and grunting.
A rock singer wouldn’t know about any of these techniques or how to learn or use them correctly if not for lessons and a vocal coach. We do have the wonderful and marvelous creation of the internet but still, the proper know-how and technique should be learned from a vocal coach.
Vocal fry is classified as the lowest register of your voice and which is noticeable by its deep, creaky, breathy sound. To use vocal fry, you relax your vocal cords but do not increase the amount of air you’re pushing past your vocal cords, this, in turn, produces slower vibrations which results in that lower creaky sound.
What is happening when a singer is singing with an airy breathy tone is their vocal cords don’t come together fully when they sing. This results in air escaping along with their tone. The sound that follows is that of their tone mixed with air and the clearness of the tone is lost.
One thing to note is that it is somewhat frowned upon to use some of these techniques and they could be considered harmful to your voice if overused. Nonetheless, all these techniques are used by rock singers to create some of the most amazing tone and voices you hear.
Have a look at Brett Manning explain and demonstrate what vocal fry is and how rock singers and singers can use it
Brett Manning has taught and helped some big-name artists like Taylor Swift, Hayley Williams, Keith Urban, Leona Lewis, Poppy, Luke Bryan, Lauren Mayberry, Miley Cyrus, TJ Harris, Wes Hampton, and Rob Chapman.
We fashioned some exercises after his approach and you can find them here
Modern rock singers use techniques such as screaming, growling, and grunting. These techniques are no short feet to learn or perfect. People think that rock singers just scream as loud as they can but that is not the case. There are many different screams and different techniques are used to accomplish these. Corey Taylor from Slipknot is a master at vocal screaming techniques.
Some screams, squeals, and growls that rock singers use are a mid-range growl, low growl, KVLT scream, pig squeal, low guttural, fry scream, inhale scream, and tunnel throat scream. These techniques are all different and need to be taught and learned properly otherwise a rock singer is sure to damage their voice for good.
How many voice lessons does it take to learn a technique?
This is a broad question and we have to look at it by asking other questions. Has the singer taken lessons before? Are they trained? If so, then are they classically trained or trained in the modern pop approach? When taught the technique, are they able to pick it up easily and quickly?
These questions all relate and have an impact on the ability to learn a new technique and how many lessons it will take. A technique could be explained and understood in one lesson, however, it could take several if not more for the singer to grasp and perfect it while trying to then implement it into their singing.
What will happen if a rock singer does not take voice lessons?
The worst thing that could happen if a rock singer does not take voice lessons is that they could blow out and damage their voice to such a degree that it is irreversible and they might not be able to sing again or they will need surgery to rectify their voice.
Some rock singers who have damaged their voices include the likes of James Hetfield from Metallica and Meatloaf. James Hetfield even started seeing a vocal coach after years of improper singing technique and blowing out his voice. He explains this in “A Year and a half in the life of Metallica.”
The conclusion that we arrive at is that no matter what genre you sing and if you are a professional singer or want to become a professional singer then the proper route to take is that of seeing a vocal coach and taking voice lessons. The techniques taught by a vocal coach and learned by a singer are in-depth and sophisticated to put it lightly and you need someone with experience and knowledge to guide you through the process of molding, shaping, and perfecting your voice.
If you enjoyed this article and you are thinking about learning to sing then book a 15-minute free consultation with me here or why not take our free beginner vocal course – Improve Your Singing In Days
The if you enjoyed this article be sure to read my followup article on – Do Rock Singers Use Auto-Tune? I take you through what auto-tune is and which rock singers have used them and what techniques the auto-tune covers up for a rock singer.