How To Sing Like Chris Cornell Soundgarden
Learning how to sing like Chris Cornell is going to take time, perseverance and consistent practice, but with these 10 tips to sing like Chris Cornell Soundgarden, you’ll be wailing like a banshee and singing your favourite Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden and Audioslave songs. As the charismatic and gifted singer of Soundgarden, and the unlikely lead singer Audioslave tapped after Soundgarden’s initial break – Chris Cornell not only wrote some of the greatest hits of the 90’s, but also wrote songs for Alice Cooper and was covered by Johnny Cash respectively, two honors that few musicians can boast.
Known for his extensive vocal range, powerful delivery and uniquely resonant singing tone, Chris Cornell was the epitome of 90’s rockstar anti-hero, with ripped jeans and a wild mane of hair to match his impressive and intense singing style. If you want to learn how to sing like Chris Cornell Soundgarden, lets get started!
10 Tips to sing like Chris Cornell
Audioslave singer Chris Cornell’s extensive range came from years of training and development. While there was a dangerous element to the intensity of Chris Cornell’s voice, you can achieve the same level of power and resonance with proper training and by following these 10 tips to sing like Chris Cornell.
#1 – Jesus Christ Pose (posture)
Excuse the pun – learning how to sing like Chris Cornell Soundgarden starts with your posture. Your singing voice is only going to be as strong as your foundation, so make sure you set up your posture like so for the most powerfully resonant sound: Head up, Shoulders back, Chin Parallel with the floor, Ribs wide. This posture, coupled with the honorary extra step of widening your ribs will allow you to moderate your airflow purely through extension of the diaphragm instead of the rib and chest contraction we often associate with breathing in speech.
#2 – Black Hole sAHn (vowel shaping)
Vowel shaping is an incredibly important to healthy singing technique and building a powerful voice. While we often pronounce our vowels in speech using our articulators, correct vowel creation in singing depends on your tongue shape, resonant space and vocal tract width. Learn to shape your vowels correctly for killer vowels and powerful resonance every time you sing.
#3 – I am the HIGH way (extend your range)
Range extension requires you to develop coordination between your two main registers (chest and head), while supporting your voice properly with diaphragmatic breathing and appoggio, tuning your resonance and of course balancing your onsets properly. To build a powerful high range takes coordination rather than muscular effort or physical force – don’t strain on your high notes and instead develop your singing technique.
#4 – Loud Love (Volume vs. Frequency)
Sheer volume really has no place in healthy singing technique. If your voice isn’t cutting through a mix or being heard in a live situation, this has less to do with volume than it does frequencies. Think about it, there is absolutely NO way you’re ever going to sing over a 100 Watt Marshall guitar amp – but you can instead sing using a frequency band that doesn’t compete for the same territory as a guitar amp, in essence “filling the empty space” of a room, or recording with only the most efficient frequencies rather than wasting your energy on ones that will simply get lost in the mix.
#5 – Room a thousand years WIDE (tune your resonance)
The width of your vocal tract dictates the balance of your frequencies in more way that one. If you’re a beginner singer, or if you’ve been singing for years and you’re struggling with your high range – you likely have already experienced a “wide” vocal tract on your high notes where words like “SEE” become “SEH” and words like “Car” become “CAW” – this is your tongue root moving forwards away from the pharynx, resulting in what is called wide vowel. You’ll notice that this never happens when Chris Cornell sang for Soundgarden (and quite often happened in Audioslave by comparison), as he was tuning his vowel width correctly and allowing his frequencies to “ping” and resonate with power and sharp tonality.
#6 – By crooked STEPS (sing legato)
I often see this in singers who focus on scales as a singing approach rather than physically developing each of the elements of their voices like onsets, resonance, vowels and register release. If you are singing scales in a ‘stepped’ manner where you focus more on the note than what is between the note, you are building staccatto into your technique as a bad habit, and you’ll likely struggle with onsets, syllables and consonants as you continue to progress as a singer. Learn how to sing with a smooth legato delivery for the best use of your vocal mechanism, and a super free, resonant and easy singing tone that is confident, powerful and controlled.
#7 – Fresh Tendrils (Tabula Rasa)
I like to start each day with a clean slate, or what is sometimes called Tabula Rasa. If you warm up each day as though your voice is a completely new instrument, you will be able to intuitively make small modifications and tweaks to your technique day to day as your voice and breathing fluctuates – allowing you to build the most consistent singing mechanism that is as controlled as it is confident. Think about it, Chris Cornell wasn’t just the Audioslave Singer Soundgarden Screamer and Temple of the Dog crooner, he was all of these things and more at once due to how versatile his singing voice was. A poppy folk song like Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart is JUST as powerful as Black Rain or Let me Drown – this is because Chris Cornell treated his voice accordingly for each song and project and started with a clean slate without trying to make Audioslave sound like Soundgarden, or his solo records sound like Temple of the Dog. Start each day, and even each new approach you try as Tabula Rasa – a clean slate.
#8 – Rusty Cage (warm up properly)
A rusty voice is a poorly warmed up voice. Not only do you benefit from aligning your thought process and developing your coordination properly through a warmup, there is the physical element of bloodflow that occurs after a gentle and considerate warmup – make sure to warm up your voice properly before singing a song like Rusty Cage so that the only rust is in the lyrics, not your voice.
#9 – My Wave (Vibrato)
Vibrato is actually a result of healthy singing technique, not a technique in itself – if you’re singing with a forced vibrato and ‘wobble’ as it’s often caused, you’re hindering the progress, development and health of your voice. I like to think of natural vibrato as a ‘sign’ or ‘feedback’ from your voice that you are on the right track – if you intend to sing a straight pitch but it comes out with a beautiful and powerful vibrato oscillation, your voice is happy and healthy. If you waver and wobble your pitch instead, you need to rethink your approach to singing.
#10 – Tighter and Tighter
If you’re straining, you’re simply not singing correctly – and you’re definitely not singing like Chris Cornell. Have you heard “Say Hello 2 Heaven” or “Black Rain” and how easily Chris Cornell’s high range resonates? This is because he wasn’t straining. On the flipside, if you hear someone like Bruce Springsteen sing high notes, there is a bellowed push and strain that is an obvious sign of vocal strain and poor technique – don’t get me wrong, I love The Boss (first cassette I ever owned!), but his singing technique is wholly unrelated to the way Chris Cornell built his extensive range.
Learning how to sing like Chris Cornell takes times and patience. Make sure your singing technique involves a practical way to access your MIX register and a simply approach to resonance tuning like Vowel Modification so that you can sing high and powerful Chris Cornell Soundgarden songs with ease and confidence. Learning how to sing better is more about coordination rather than physical effort or muscular force – develop your onsets, mix register, vowel shaping, resonance tuning and of course foundational support for a powerful and extensive singing range.
A great place to start is the free foundation course Foundation 101 available here at Bohemian Vocal Studio which will show you how to set up a rock solid foundation for your voice so you can develop an extensive high range and powerful delivery while learning important techniques like vocal shaping, vowel modification, resonance blending and so many more killer tips and tricks for learning how to sing like Chris Cornell. When you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with professional vocal coaching, you’re welcome to book a Skype Lesson with me and we’ll start working towards extending your range and building balance and consistency in your voice every time you sing!
If you have any questions about learning how to sing Chris Cornell Soundgarden or Audioslave song, 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.