Once your students are properly warmed up and have a balanced range of notes to sing in (as discussed in Teaching Rock Singing: Part I), it's time to explore imbalanced sounds. A simple, yet extremely effective way to do this is by using emotional triggers. For example, you can have your student sing a selected song while focusing on targeted emotions, such as anger, sadness or joy, regardless of the song's true meaning.
These are not to be subtle attempts! For anger, have them sing it as if they are about to explode into a fight. Sadness should sound as if they are holding back tears, and for joy, get them smiling to the point of their cheeks becoming sore. Allowing ourselves to become emotionally vulnerable causes change in our breathing, tension and involuntary physical responses, generating a by-product of unique and identifiable imbalances throughout the entire body.
Another approach is to target specific tonal qualities within a singer’s practice. For this, ask your student to sing a song with a variety of sonic goals, including intentional “breathiness” (overspending air), “vocal fry” (under spending air), “grit” (vocal tract constriction), “growl” (vestibular “false” fold involvement) and so on. The idea is to practice a sense of fearlessness and curiosity to get their mind in a state of “play”. This includes giving permission to sound “bad” and to be temporarily off-key in pursuit of honing in on desired sounds. Once those sounds are achieved, the student can then redirect their focus on the art of minimisation.
Minimisation is vital to singing rock for extended periods of time while creating the least amount of vocal fatigue possible. A singer should always ask themselves, “can I create the sound I want with less?”. Less volume, less grit, less breathiness or less muscle tension. If the answer is “yes,” fantastic! Just 2% less effort throughout a song, let alone a 4 hour gig, can easily lead to longevity and more options as a performer. If the answer is “no,” continue developing the vocal skills necessary and surround moments of tension with as much good vocal therapy and awareness as possible.
Singers rarely fatigue quickly or develop a vocal pathology due to poor technique alone. Rock singing is no exception. Our instrument experiences all the highs and lows we go through in life. And for many, an aggressive style merely reflects a personal history of influence and experience. As teachers, we have the opportunity to help these singers facilitate the style of music that they love as safely as possible.
Keep in mind, for as long as a student feels the need to have permission to sing rock, they will struggle. If they’re going to do it regardless of what others advice, encourage them to do it with a heart full of curiosity! Get them to explore it, question it, test it, refine it, and ultimately, embrace it.
About the author
Richard Fink IV is the founder of Throga, #1 Best-Selling Author in vocal education, 3x Guinness World Record holder as a vocalist and labeled “world’s leading online vocal coach” by the Wall Street Journal. As a vocal coach, Richard has worked with clients in over 100 countries and has taught his techniques to multi-platinum selling artists, actors, political leaders, and Broadway stars. Currently, Richard is the only person in history to be awarded a full-utility patent for a vocal training technique with the 7 Dimensions of Singing.
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