A lot of people want to learn how to scream sing and they turn to Youtube to teach themselves. The problem is that there is a ton of bad information out there that can cause serious damage to your vocal cords. And even the good techniques can be harmful if not trained properly.
The truth is that professional singers generally only go all out with their screaming in the studio. When they are on tour, they dial it down a bit and let the microphone do most of the work. At least the smart ones do. The rest do irreparable damage to their voices. Most “screamo” singers have had numerous surgeries on their vocal cords.
That is why I would recommend a vocal coach to anyone wanting to scream. In fact, I recommend a real instructor to anyone who is serious about singing. You can teach yourself the basics, but for advanced techniques, you really want to have professional guidance.
Nevertheless, I know people will ignore my advice (it is also the advice you would get from most professional singers and coaches) and try to learn on their own. For them, I decided to write this post to offer some guidance in the hopes that it will limit the damage they do to their voices. If you’re going to try this on your own, you should at least do so using the correct techniques.
You should be warming up any time you sing, but it is especially important when you scream. If you already have a good warm-up technique, you can continue to warm up the same way. If not, start with some breathing exercises and move on to vocal warm ups, like singing scales, doing lip trills and singing sirens. You can find those and other warm up exercises here.
All screaming harms your voice, but there is a way to scream-sing with minimal damage. It’s a technique called vocal fry. This refers to that grainy, soft voice we all use sometimes. A common instance is when you first wake up in the morning and you let out an “ahhhhhh” while you stretch.
A good example of a singer who screams using vocal fry is Matt Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold. Here is a recording of him singing Critical Acclaim (vocal track only):
How To Do Vocal Fry Screaming
The basic vocal fry is easy and anyone can do it. Let’s go back to that early morning “ahhhhhh.” Make that “ahhhhh” sound now, while using as little air as possible.
Your “ahhhhh” most likely sounded very small and weak. That is normal. It takes a lot of practice to build it up into something powerful, but when you reach that level, you’ll be able to scream like Matt Shadows and keep your voice healthy while doing so.
To master scream singing, you need to raise the volume on your vocal fry. For high notes, you want to go thicker, not louder. To do this, you actually need to loosen up on the fry. This seems counter-intuitive, but it is the reason the vocal fry technique does not damage your vocal cords when you use it to scream.
When you are first starting out, you’ll want to stick to notes you can scream the best. We all have some notes that are easier for us to scream than others. Sing the word “waaaaaaaa” using vocal fry. Try it with different notes and find the ones that come easiest. Those are the notes you want to use as the foundation for your scream singing.
As is the case with any type of singing, screaming requires you to take good care of your vocal cords. Keep them well lubricated with warm water or tea. Before singing, avoid alcohol, spicy foods, dairy or anything else that can dehydrate your vocal cords or result in mucus forming on them. It goes without saying that you should avoid smoking, both firsthand and secondhand.