How to Sing Alice in Chains Songs
Alice in Chains music was a staple of my youth, with the peculiar harmonies that Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell wove together among some of the heaviest rock music ever created. Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley was a spectacular singer with an impressive range and viciously intense vocal delivery that often gave way to a soft and vulnerable side to match the sheer power with which he was able to sing. The beautiful and unnerving harmonies that overlaid the layers of heavy riffing really made Jerry Cantrell Alice in Chains secret weapon.
Layne Staley Alice in Chains Lead Singer
Layne Staley was the original Alice in Chains singer who interplayed his powerful tenor range against Jerry Cantrell’s lower range harmonies and was known for the sheer power with which he could muster with seemingly little effort. If you wish to learn how to sing like Alice in Chains lead singer Layne Staley, it’s important to understand that his powerful high range came from proper coordination of his registers rather than pushing or straining. By placing your frequencies in the right manner you will ensure efficient use of your resonance into your high range with ease, just like Layne Staley. Another element of Layne’s unique voice was his use of twang via a narrowing of the top of the epiglottis, allowing him to sing with a powerfully sharp vocal tone with expressive amplification that translated into power and volume with very little effort.
Layne Staley also possessed a very controlled and coordinated middle register that not only allowed him to belt with a very powerful but released tone but also permitted a softer and more gentle side to his voice, especially as the one-time Mad Season singer in downtime from Alice in Chains.
Jerry Cantrell Alice in Chains backup singer
While Layne Staley’s expressive and powerful voice was at the forefront of Alice in Chains music, he was often backed up by quirky and sullen harmonies by Jerry Cantrell Alice in Chains chief songwriter, guitarist extraordinaire and backup singer. Jerry Cantrell posessed a much lower range relative to Layne Staley, which allowed him to interplay his low and middle range against the powerful lead vocals with haunting harmonies and spectacular backup vocals.
In recent years since William Duval has become an addition to Alice in Chains as the second singer since the untimely passing of Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell has taken the spot as Alice in Chains lead singer.
William Duvall Alice in Chains New Singer
William Duvall originally joined the fold as a member of Jerry Cantrell’s solo band in the early 2000’s and eventually joined Alice in Chains as a full-time member later in the decade. While William plays more of a backing role to Jerry Cantrell’s lead vocals in a lot of Alice in Chains newer material, William Duvall possesses an equally impressive and powerful range as Layne. While he sings in a different style to Layne, AIC’s new material featuring Will has been recieved positively.
How to sing high notes like Layne Staley
Learning how to sing high notes without straining will allow you to sing Alice in Chains songs with ease and hit the powerful highs that Layne was known for. By setting up a strong foundation for your voice you will ensure proper coordination of your registers as range starts to extend beyond your chest voice. Learning to sing high chest voice notes actually requires you to develop your middle register, or mix as it’s commonly known. Mix voice is a central coordination between the TA muscles (thyroarytenoid) that allow your chest register and the CT muscles (cricothyroid) that create your head voice – by balancing the use of these two important muscles you will soon learn how to sing with the rich depth of Chest Voice while accessing the high range available with use of your head register.
Layne Staley’s high range was created by balancing this important register coordination in a central way between vocal weight, which is dictated by the amount of TA engagement, and vocal fold tension which is controlled by CT engagement. The high chesty tone that Layne was known for was actually created out of a coordination between his two registers rather than pulling and dragging his chest register higher than what is natural.
Sing with the same frequencies as Layne Staley
By placing your resonance in the manner that Layne Staley was able to, you will ensure that only the most efficient frequencies are buzzing throughout your range. When you master vocal placement by removing any excess and unnecessary frequencies you will be in a position to put all of your energy and attention into this healthy resonance without fighting your voice or the need to contort your tone – your voice will simply resonate in a natural and fluid way.
Layne often sang with a narrowed vowel up into his higher range, which is an element of Vowel Modification. In short, Vowel Modification requires you to alter the character of each of your vowel sounds as you ascend to ensure efficient resonance and allow you to sing higher than ever before while retaining the purity of your words and vowel sounds.
How to sing Alice in Chains
Like many other great bands of the 90’s, Alice in Chains were known for the extensive range and powerful vocals of their lead singer. Learning how to sing Alice in Chains songs takes time, practice and perseverance along with the right vocal approach designed for your unique voice. Your voice is an individual and unique instrument, and you need to form a vocal approach that is unique in its own right – there is no ‘secret’ to great singing, only hard work, practice and training will allow you to sing like Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell and William Duvall.
If you have any questions about singing Alice in Chains songs, please leave any feedback or questions below!
Kegan DeBoheme is Bohemian Vocal Studio’s resident vocal coach and voice expert. He teaches professional singing and voice technique to students all around the world and enjoys providing tutorials like this one on how to improve your voice.