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TUITON IN TOUGH VOCALS
From
ROGER KAIN

Rock & Metal Singing and Dynamic Speech

You need to be stretched in order to get the best out of your voice. Your singing will never be reliable if you only stick to what you can already do. The easy things will not continue to be easy; you need to have notes in reserve. Your tone, your control of the sound, your ability to sing in tune, even your continued ability to sing notes you used to find easy, will all depend on day-to-day luck if you never tackle anything difficult.

Stretching means: extending the range (of notes), building up the power, and developing confidence in your dynamic expression. ‘Dynamic expression’ means acting: looking and sounding as if the number you are singing means something, even if it doesn’t. You want the sound to be right for the number: you don’t want to sound like a polite choirboy or choirgirl if you’re doing heavy metal; you don’t want a death-metal sound when you’re singing a smooth ballad – not even in a rock ballad. Also you should be able to move easily from one to the other – hard to soft rock and back again, all in the same number – this is acting. Most singing is acting, when you come down to it: acting with the benefit of a lot of singing technique. This does not only mean singing loudly, important though that is; surprisingly, quiet singing is often much more difficult; but you must exercise the loud high notes first or you will not get hold of your highest notes at all. For men, the highest notes are the loudest; women are able to soften off their highest notes, which most men cannot do. Having tackled the high loud notes, you can then work on the more subtle and smooth sounds in the middle of the voice. Stretching the loud range has to be done first.

 

However, some singers are good at high notes to start with, and have an enormous range of high notes. Many such singers (not all) are dismayed by the weakness and silliness of their sound. It has no depth, no guts. They need to work on the chest voice (the low notes), which will darken the sound of the whole voice. With the right training, you can open up the deep dark sounds without loosing any of the top notes. Stretching has to be in both directions, up and down. Singers who stretch the range get better as they get older. The evidence for this is overwhelming, in rock as well as classical singing. Singers who don’t stretch don’t get better; they either hang on or their voices age badly.

The difficulty is in finding a singing teacher who knows how to stretch you. Sadly, most singing teachers make very little difference. Every time you try something ambitious they accuse you of ‘forcing’. Well, it’s the teacher’s job to teach you how to stretch without forcing. You go to a singing teacher for three things: to find out what is available in your voice; to tap into the accumulated knowledge of centuries; and to be taught how to do it. When a teacher says, ‘You can’t sing both high and low,’ it really means: ‘I don’t know how to teach you to sing both high and low.’ If there’s somebody up on stage doing it, the chances are that you too can do it: They don’t have anything you don’t have – assuming they’re the same sex as you!

Stretching is not the same as forcing. To stretch yourself you need to develop skills and technique. You need to exercise the power muscles instead of using the neck and shoulders. This takes prolonged work. You need to drive out all the old habits, such as making the voice entirely in the throat; you know the old saying, ‘Old habits die hard?’ well it’s true. Habits that you’ve built up over years and years are not going to leave you in five minutes. Most of the work in singing is done from the waist down, a long way from the delicate structure of the throat and neck. All singers can build up skills and technique if they work hard enough; and, after all, we are all capable of working harder.

 

About Roger:

Roger Kain is a trained singer who has appeared on stage and screen as both actor and singer; and has fronted a number of bands. He has taught in several colleges of performing arts, most notably at:

• Technical Development Tutor (vocals) at A.C.M. (2000-2)
• Head of Vocals at BIMM (2002-4).

Kain’s career divides neatly into two sections: twenty years of performing; twenty-one years as full-time teacher and writer. To date he has sold over 25,000 books on singing.

 



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