Why Do Rock Singers Scream? And Find Out How!Devlon Jarrod Horne
Singing in cover bands I have attempted to scream on a few songs and for the most part, I do an alright job. I wanted to know exactly how and what techniques are used for rock and metal singers who scream. In finding out these techniques I then dived into how screaming for rock and metal came about.
Rock and metal singers scream to portray more emotion that regular singing does not convey. Screaming started in the ’50s and ’60s and developed over time. Rock and metal singers utilize 4 different vocal scream techniques by manipulating their vocal folds, mouth, and tongue in order to scream.
Let’s dive into the history of where screaming in rock music came from and how it developed into the genres of rock and metal we have today. Then we will discuss the different scream types and techniques and other vocal techniques needed in order to scream well. There is way more to screaming then what you and I originally thought. So, let’s have a look.
Why do rock singers and metal singers scream?
Before we look at this question as a whole, let’s look comparatively, quickly at screaming and singing and into the history and culture of music, and then perhaps we can also attribute other factors to why rock singers scream.
Some people would describe singing as putting a human voice to the soul and screaming to be just noise. However, let’s look at it from this perspective. There are many cultures and genres that implement singing and do so in different ways and styles, utilizing different techniques.
Singing we can consider to be tonal (is in a key, has specific frequencies, is harmonic and melodic). You need to be able to pitch correctly and sing certain notes in a specific key, scale or chord to be considered a singer.
Screaming is atonal and there are a lot of different frequencies that come together when you hear a scream. So, it is not the same as singing, but that does not mean that it cannot be considered musical or music. Music is relative to everyone just like art.
Taking a look at history we have many different cultures with different singing or vocalizing techniques. Those cultures would utilize their techniques and styles, developing their own unique music.
The Italians used to and still use opera as a form of music. Native Americans used chanting and singing. The Mongolians use two voices at once to sing. Some African tribes use rhythmical shouting and chanting.
The origin of modern-day screaming
We can go all the way back to the 1950s and we will hear screaming (or rather shouting) in some rock bands.
Aptly named “Twist and Shout” covered by The Beatles (one of the original rock bands and rock singers) and released by them in 1963. You can hear John Lennon push with his vocals and adequately shout and scream through parts of the song. Towards the end, it is very prominent when he sings the lines “common common common baby now…”
Towards the middle and late 60’s the music industry was already revolutionized by the electric guitar and amplifier and by this time they were making all instruments louder and plugging them into amplifiers.
So, in turn, singers (rock singers of the era) had to adapt and put more force behind their singing in order to compete with their instrument counterparts.
Because of the changing times and the development of society and cultures people put more emotion and emphasis on expressing themselves while singing. You did not just have singers singing pretty little ballads anymore. You had full-on rock bands that expressed anger, hate, fear, and loathing in their music.
You had the likes of Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio who took these techniques and styles to new levels and they were not only good at screaming. They could sing and had proper technique behind them (read my article on – Do rock singers take voice lessons? A Detailed Overview)
Then music was revolutionized again by punk rock in the ’70s and ’80s and grunge in the ’90s where you had the likes of the Sex Pistols and Nirvana. These bands and many more can be attributed to influencing rock and metal either by their music or their vocal technique increasing the momentum of rock and metal singers wanting to scream and express themselves more.
Rock and metal then branching off into their own sub-genres became more extreme, and you had vocalists identifying, learning, and perfecting different types of screams. Some screaming variations for metal then started to include, black metal back-of-the-throat, pig squeal, fry scream, raw shriek, the death metal growl, KVLT scream, and the metalcore, throat-shredding scream.
Some people regard rock screaming and metal screaming to be just shouting but this is not the case. Screaming takes years of practice and is a formidable vocal technique to perfect. There is a huge degree of control and attention to vocal health that has to be understood and implemented in order to achieve proper and various screams.
Remember music is a personal preference in the end. Screaming is a way to express emotion just like other artists of other genres do with their vocal techniques.
Do all rock singers scream?
Depending on the genre of rock and its sub-genres. Then that of metal as well, there are very few instances where rock singers do not scream. However, not all rock singers scream in the same way and all the time when singing and writing their music.
Some bands like Queens of The Stone Age, Symphony X, Kamelot, and Dream Theater, rarely scream.
Rock music and its sub-genres have grown into very expressive, loud, and emotional genres. In turn in those genres it is more likely then not you are going to hear a scream here and there.
Is it difficult to scream?
The technique of learning to scream is an involved and sophisticated technique. If you are not used to it or have never tried it before, even if you are a rock singer or singer of any sort, it will be difficult. As with anything at that level of professionalism, it will be extremely difficult and you are more than likely to completely blow out your voice more so than anything else.
Not only is it difficult to scream but it requires other singing techniques to be learned, understood, and implemented along with screaming in order to pull off a proper professional scream. Some of these include belting and breath control.
Are other trained singers able to just scream?
Even if you are a singer versed in modern or classical styles of singing. Screaming is a technique that has to be learned and adopted, practiced, and perfected along with other vocal techniques which will help you to learn to scream.
Hence, it is more than likely that if a professional singer or singer of other genres has not screamed before, they will not be able to scream until they practice and perfect the technique. Screaming is a technique that has to be learned and developed with time.
Do you need voice lessons to learn how to scream?
Well, anybody can scream. I’m sure you’ve done it once or twice but not over a microphone and on stage in a band. However, the principles of professional screaming definitely do require vocal lessons in order to learn to understand and perfect the technique of vocal screaming.
Melissa Cross is a classically trained singer and actress and teaches vocalists and non-singers to scream.
How do rock singers and metal singers scream?
Rock singers and metal singers adopt many techniques to help them to learn how to scream. They use classical vocal techniques and modern vocal techniques and require proper professional training from a vocal coach in order to learn and perfect the technique.
Melissa Cross describes four different types of screams and goes through other steps in order to learn how to become a proper screamer.
Let’s look at a few other vocal techniques that help a rock and metal singer learn how to scream.
Other techniques involved in learning how to scream?
Screaming requires very controlled breathing. You even learn to inhale and scream. Without controlled breathing, a rock and metal singer will run out of breath very quickly. Here is a YouTube video of the 10 longest live screams in rock and metal.
Tongue placement is crucial in learning to help the air flow through your mouth in various directions. This helps a rock or metal singer scream in different ways
Mouth Position and Placement
As with tongue placement, to achieve various different types of screams requires the rock or metal singer to position their mouth in different ways. This enables them to perform different screams.
In order to breathe correctly, you need good diaphragm control. The singer’s diaphragm has to be strong and coordinated with their breathing in order to push out those long screams.
What different types of screams are there?
Screams can be categorized into four main types because of how the vocal cords, mouth, and throat are affected and what effect the scream produces. These are Fry Screams, False Cord and Raspy Voice, and Hybrid scream.
Here, Mary Zimmer goes into a detailed explanation of how 3 of these techniques work. They are fry screams, false cord screaming and Raspy Voice screaming.
If we have to dive into these categories, we can get many different types of “sub screams” herd in different sub-genres of rock and metal. These are:
- Mid-Range Growl
- Low Growl
- Kvlt Scream
- Pig Squeal
- Low Guttural
- Fry Scream
- Inhale Scream
- Tunnel Throat Scream
Here is Jared Dines demonstrating these different types of screams
How long will it take to learn to scream?
This is relative. It could and does depend on your throat and vocal cords. Some people pick up screaming faster than others but still, a decent amount of time is required to learn and perfect this technique.
Some screaming techniques are quicker to learn than others like False cord screaming. However, to learn how to do them properly with the correct technique and not hurting your voice will take time.
Even with a vocal coach which you should consider taking if you want to learn to scream properly, it will take a considerable amount of time.
Examples of rock and metal singers who scream?
We could end this question here and just say all. However, I will give you examples of the bands and singers that use the different types of screams.
Anders Fridén – Inflames
Sam Carter – Architects
False cord screaming
Corey Taylor – Slipknot
Angela Gossow – Archenemy
Hybrid screaming / Raspy screaming
Chad Kroeger – Nickelback
Finally, Let’s include a list of famous rock singers who screamed, their bands and best songs, that are epic and timeless in our list, to show off this technique.
Steven Tyler: Aerosmith – Dream On
Roger Daltrey: The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again
Brian Johnson: AC/DC – Thunderstruck
Axl Rose: Guns n Roses – Welcome To The Jungle
Robert Plant: Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song
Syd Barret: Pink Floyd – The Great Gig In The Sky
Mick Jagger: The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black
Ozzy Osbourne: Black Sabbath – Crazy Train (solo release)
Jim Morrison: The Doors – Roadhouse Blues
The conclusion we come to on why rock singers and metal singers scream is that it was developed throughout history and gained notoriety because singers need vocal techniques which were not the common ones used in order to portray more emotion such as, anger, hate, frustration, loathing and more. They also needed to compensate for the appropriate music because normal singing just did not go well with heavy riffs and fast guitar.
How rock singers and metal singers scream is an in-depth field of study with different types of screams and techniques. Vocalists need to learn and take lessons in order to perform these screams and techniques correctly. This is very apparent, taught to us, and showed to us by Melissa Cross and Mary Zimmer who are both professional vocal coaches. They tell us that these techniques are actual techniques that require patience, practice, understanding, and development to get right.
If you liked this article then you have to check out my other articles on rock singers – Do Rock Singers Use Auto-Tune? and Do Rock Singers Take Voice Lessons? A Detailed Overview