Rock Singing Techniques
Let There Be Rock Singers!
Jackie, Voice Coach at Sono School Of Music takes you through how to smash that rock sound you’ve been after.
I grew up on AC/DC, Queen and an awful lot of Pink and Pat Benatar. All I wanted to do was sing rock at school, whether it was pop rock or just regular classic rock. Unfortunately, it was the one thing I severely struggled to do. I found it was a challenge to turn my very natural jazzy tone and musical theatre sounding voice (themed with it’s very neat vibrato) into a raw and raspy uncut, anthemic, rock voice. It was something that I had to work hard for in my own vocal lessons. I had to learn rock singing techniques. It took a lot of practice, research and performing to cultivate. Singers, here are my top tips for singing rock. Enjoy!
GRIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT
It is a big misconception that smoking cigarettes can help you to achieve that raw husky, gritty rock sound but…highway to hell NO. We are going to pay our dues with hard work and your new best friend, a technique called the ‘vocal fry’ or the ‘healthy husk’. Once you master how to use this technique, it’s going to make singing rock a lot easier by putting that sexy purr and growl on your words. But, choose wisely – don’t overuse it on whole phrases, but rather on important emphasis words. The vocal fry is a safe way to use your throat.
WHOLE LOTTA DIAPHRAGM
I see this so often so many students come in and want to sing rock, but if you’re not using your diaphragm, there is no chance you’re going to sing rock at all. Rock is so high energy, it is one of the most physically demanding styles of singing. You’re using so much air, you’re belting, you’re running around on stage, and it requires lots of physicality. You need to have your breathing exercises up to scratch to be singing rock right. Also don’t be scared to project your voice confidently across a room or have loud singing.
MASSIVE GLOTTAL ATTACK
For a lot of singers, singing comes natural and we don’t consciously make decisions in controlling our voice. Often we just sing what comes naturally, but it’s all in the little controlled details such as ‘vocal onset’. You’re probably wondering what vocal onset even is. Your vocal onset is the way you attack or start the beginning of a note. There are three different kinds: simultaneous, aspirate and the one you need to pay attention to, the glottal attack. The glottal attack is used with the vocal cords hitting together when you sing, it makes a strong ‘ugh’ sound it’s a strong attack to start your notes. It will give whatever rock song you want to belt out emphasis. Be selective as to where you use this technique don’t use this on every line but rather pick the words you want to emphasise. My top tip is to do this only in a chorus sections.
I’VE GOT THE POWER
So many MORE people would be singing rock really well right now if they used their whole body. Do you ever see nervous rock’n’rollers? No! They are so confident, even when they get it wrong. They don’t stand still. They move their whole body, they mean every word they sing, each and every word is deliberate. Remember that your whole body is your instrument as a singer. From the way you pose, can even help you hit tricky notes but also helps to add emphasis and meaning into a piece. Are you putting your back into the song literally. You will feel physically tired after singing a long rock set if you’re doing it correctly, it can zap your energy, as it’s one of the more demanding singing genres.
SIMPLY THE CHEST VOICE
One thing about rock technique is that it strays away from a breathy/aspirate head voice and employs a very strong mixed voice. Mixed voice is where you blend both chest and head voice together. To do this you are employing two main things. Your diaphragm – which will launch you directly out of a light head voice and into a strong powerful chest voice. The other ingredient is just as important having strong resonance to give your voice the twangy strength it needs to ring. Resonance will come from your placement, positioning your voice more towards the nasal cavities and as you sing higher into the roof of your mouth, towards the soft palate. To ensure you’re doing it right, it’ll be the same feeling and facial expression as yawning. Having strong open vowels in higher melodies can really help you to place your voice in the correct spot for projecting your mixed voice too.
The number one difference between a good singer and a great singer is feeling and emotive singing. A good singer will think about, and employ good technique, whereas a great singer will connect with their own feelings and emotions and transport a listener. Since rock is so raw and vulnerable, it is very important to add feeling to a piece. Rock can cover themes of betrayal, lust, rebellion, heartbreak, love and anger and everything in-between…and more. These themes all require heartfelt, emotive words as you’re in the middle of conveying these emotions. People connect with music emotionally, hence the way we convey it in our singing is just as important.
All in all, there are some wonderful rock’n’roll techniques for you to employ to create strong, powerful, and raw singing. From the vocal fry, to simple techniques like just belting from the diaphragm. My biggest piece of advice would be to listen to the type of music you want to sing and observe their singing techniques, even going to rock gigs can help you observe some of these techniques in action. If you struggle with any of the more difficult techniques in this article you can reach out to a vocal coach here at Sono School of Music to arrange singing lessons to help you pursue rock music safely.
Sing with your body and soul… find out more about using your body as your instrument.