So you want to be a rock singer?

The following conditions are present for singing rock music.

Rock singing is high intensity. Rock singing requires optimum effort to avoid laryngeal constriction. Optimum effort means singing feels as easy as speaking in the throat. Breathing is high effort – breath control exercises are recommended.

Avoid constriction of the false vocal cords by thinking a “happy smile” inside your throat. Add the sensation of a sob or moan.  Stop any exercising if your throat tickles, scratches or makes you cough.

Vocal cords – Usually glottal, aspirate, and thick to stiff – say “uh-oh” on different pitches to experience glottal onset. (Engage the muscle at the top of your stomach, and middle of your ribs – to help with breath control).

Aspirate means air. Most rock singers sing with variations of an aspirate voice. This means that some breath is escaping. The folds are relatively short, and thick, similar to speech voice, and stiffen when stretched for high pitches.

The thyroid cartilage is tilted – say “meow” or whimper like a puppy dog. Practice this at the same volume in your low voice and high voice. Feel the “sweetness” added to your sound.

The cricoid cartilage and the thyroid cartilage are connected by a joint, that allows the two cartilages to rotate relative to each other creating an open space. (This is an over-simplied way of describing what actually goes on between the two sets of cartilage).  Try to find the small space between the thyroid and cricoid cartilage by putting your finger on your thyroid notch (your Adam’s apple). Now slide down slightly, just below the bump. This is the space. Tilting the thyroid cartilage when you “meow” or whimper may feel like the larynx is trying to rise. However, this sensation is likely the thyroid cartilage trying to tilt (which stretches the vocal cords).

The cricoid cartilage is engaged – when a singer is belting and/or shouting. This is high intensity voice production and has the potential to injure the voice. I suggest practising “happy” shouty singing with optimum breath control and thyroid tilt to get the cords to stretch. (Check your puppy dog whimper on all pitches and then do a happy shout and maintain that pitch for a duration). Remember, if it tickles, scratches or hurts, you are doing it wrong and should stop.

The larynx – this is the entire voice box. In general, rock singing requires the larynx to mid to high. However, if the larynx goes too high, the singer is unable to bridge to their head voice.

The tongue/jaw/mouth/soft palate – Rock singers typically have wide open mouths with the tongue raised in the back of the mouth, with the tip meeting nice with the back of the bottom teeth. The soft palate is high. (You can get this open big feeling by pretending to bite into a big apple, and allowing your tongue to hang out over your bottom lip).

Here is an exercise that is essential for rock singers.

Men: Hung-gee over your first passagio   [flowplayer src=’’]

Ladies: Hung-gee over your first passagio   [flowplayer src=’’]

Please let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to leave me a comment.

The untrained voice and belt singing

The definition of (chest) belting according to Seth Riggs is using an excessive amount of air (air blast) and vocal cord tension in an attempt to sing louder.

Over the last 50 years, singers have been using their voices in many new and demanding, interesting and entertaining ways. Whether we like it or not, the untrained voice is creating sounds that many cultures desire and enjoy. Traditional singing techniques consider these sounds wrong. What is a singer to do? Take traditional vocal lessons and never be able to create these sounds? Or train elsewhere and learn how to make these vocal sounds without harm to the vocal cords.

Belting is indeed “a flavour” that the Western world has embraced. This can be a learned technique, but for the most part is self-taught. Good singers who are very “intune” with their body energy and support can acquire a belting voice with much practise and careful attention. An example of this would be Celine Dion and Adam Lambert. Unfortunately, when a singer is not careful about the problems associated with “belting” incorrectly, it can result in hoarseness, vocal nodes, fatigue, and even total loss of the voice.

Singers need to be aware that traditional training is not always the best path to study voice. Musical theatre voices are changing as well. Producers are hiring singers who can belt more now than ever. Again, we may not like these changes, but this is happening. The trained voice is being set-up for failure in the music business.

Having said that, Speech Level Singing does not encourage or teach belting. Belting is a preference in style. SLS sets a singer up with a strong, well-balanced voice, that allows the singer to sing in any style they wish.

I will try and unravel more about vocal styles in upcoming posts.