How To Sing Like James Hetfield

How To Sing Like James Hetfield

Grit, Distortion, Range and “YEAH!” are all words you could use to describe James Hetfield’s unique and powerful singing voice. As the towering frontman of 80’s thrash metal legends Metallica, James was blessed with a powerful and extensive range that can be very tricky to approach for other singers – but with these 10 tips to sing like James Hetfield, songs like Master of Puppets or Sad But True no longer needs to be a struggle.

Learning how to sing like James Hetfield takes time, practice and dedication to building a strong voice, so lets get started with 10 tips to sing like James Hetfield.

10 Tips To Sing Like James Hetfield

The first thing you need to learn about singing like James is that singing with distortion and grit IS possible, and it CAN be achieved without strain or tension – so if you’re pushing and yelling to hit the high notes in Dyers Eve, then you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way in your vocal journey. Never fear, let’s fix it and get you yelling “YEAH!” and “OOOH!” and “I AM THE TABLE!” at the top of your lungs… without tension or strain.

#1 – Support and Compression

Breath Support often seems like a mystery to many singers, but it’s pretty easy in practice. Support in singing really refers to the balance of airflow vs air pressure, with an unsupported tone leaning towards airflow, and a supported tone leaning towards air pressure, which comes from sustained engagement of the diaphragm instead of letting your posture and breathing collapse as you ascend or hold a phrase.

#2 – Release Tension

Learning to release tension so you’re not shouting and yelling when you hit those powerful highs is paramount to singing like James Hetfield. Have you seen the …And Justice For All tour footage from 1989? James is just standing there casually with that wicked, vicious voice spewing venom without the slightest hint of tension. Learning to sing without strain and tension is extremely important if you want to sing a full set of Metallica songs and keep your voice healthy and strong.

#3 – Vowels and Articulation

Most likely without realising, James was a natural at creating vowel sounds in the right way. Speech pronunciation and properly articulated sung vowels are very different – with speech sounds often created using the articulators (the teeth, tongue, lips etc), and a vowel in singing created by the shape of your tongue and adjoining resonant space. There’s a reason why guys like James and Chris Cornell don’t struggle and strain to hit the highs, and it really has more to do with the way they sing their vowels than any natural gift of range.

#4 – Balance (Bright and Dark)

Just like many great ‘Tallica songs, singing itself is a balance between light and dark. The “darkness” in singing is the vowel located at the back of the head, that slightly classical sound you hear in many well trained singers. The “bright” is a forward placement which then gives you bite and power for those rapid fire and vicious lyrics.

#5 – Distortion

Grit and distortion like James uses with ease are actually very easy to achieve if you’re using the right approach. Distortion comes from excess compression and strong support – by slightly ‘holding’ in the glottis itself, you can create highly pressurised air that then rattles and grinds with the overtone of distortion that we know and love.

#6 – Range (Resonant Space)

An extension of your vowels, you can develop a higher range by allowing resonant space in the pharynx by raising the soft palate and altering the shape and length of the vocal tract itself. Do you even try to hit a high note and you ‘choke off’ or completely flip to falsetto? That’s due to a lack of resonant space. Learn to sing your vowels properly and create resonant space for a killer range that is as endless as it is powerful.

“Kegan, I would like to inform, that recently You joined to my fav vocalists/musicians along with Chris Cornell, Layne Staley and James Hetfield. ❤”

You’ll hear resonant space in James’ voice when he sings higher notes in songs like Master of Puppets – “Crumbling Away” becomes a very open AH vowel on crumbling, and an open AY vowel on away. By learning to create and manage your resonant space, you will be able to sing with an extensive range.

#7 – Finesse

Developing a balanced onset will allow you to sing effortlessly and consistently, even for very long sets and shows. Every single element of the voice can be linked to balance in one form or another, and every issue you experience can be traced back to a lack of balance. A fantastic singer isn’t necessarily a ‘strong’ singer, they’re actually a ‘balanced’ singer.

#8 – Consonant grouping

James was never one to mince words… or slur them either. You can clearly hear every single word that James sings, no matter what range or style he was using at the time. This comes from consonant grouping, which to some comes more naturally than others. A great example of this is the quintessential Hetfield “YEAH!” – if you try this yourself, no doubt the “Y” consonant is very difficult and probably uncomfortable in your throat. Now, if you try it again but replace the “Y” with a pure “EE” vowel, like “EE-EAH!”, you’ll notice how flawless and easy it can be to sing consonant sounds when you make slight adjustements such as the one I’ve just shared with you. Try it yourself; W can be replaced by OO, R and L can partially be built from an OO as well, a Y is an EE and your plosive sounds like P and B are actually interchangeable.

#9 – Pitch and intonation

James might not have been the world’s most classically trained singer, but he was always perfect when it came to pitch! Pitch comes from the frequencies that you create, not from what you hear. This is why practicing scales all day long will never improve your pitch, but specific tonal and frequency exercises will perfect your pitch almost instantly.

#10 – Stylistic Choice

All in all, James was a great singer, and naturally so. One of the most important aspects of James’ voice that make Metallica such a classic and timeless band is the stylistic choice he employed throughout the various era’s of Metallica’s history – from the high range and bright timbre of Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, the gruff and percussive power of … And Justice for All, the powerful melodies and harmonies of the Black Album, bluesy tone and vocal lines of the 90’s on Load and Reload, yelling over a trash-can snare for St Anger, right back to a more classic Hetfield style on their later ‘return to roots’ records, albeit with less grit and distortion. Developing your own personal style as a singer really will make you stand out from the pack!

Learning how to sing like James Hetfield takes time and practice, but it’s absolutely possible with the right approach and a pragmatic approach to singing techniques like vowels, support, articulation and resonance – all of which James was a master of (puppets).

A great place to start with learning how to sing like Papa ‘Het is this exclusive singing lesson, designed specifically for singers like you who want real answers to your questions, and practical techniques and tips that will help you sing the songs you want to sing, in the WAY you want to sing them.

Bohemian Vocal Studio’s Foundation 101 Singing Course is also legendary for the way it cuts through all the crap and simply teaches you how to sing, just look at just a small amount of the spectacular feedback and reviews the course is receiving right now:

 Kegan is the master of vocal training… period – Derek (2019)
 I recently bought your course and I can feel the resonance/placement into my head and it’s super cool – Alec (2018)
 If you want to sing rock or blues… THIS is the guy! – Mau (2016)
 Wow! I find this tool very useful – Vesna (2018)

 Sessions with Kegan has helped my use my voice in way that I always dreamed! – Ivan (2018)

Foundation 101 will put the keys to your voice and the keys to your own singing progress and continued success in your own hands, and allow you to make continued progress and gains, and best of all you can work through the course at your own pace and take your time to perfect the voice of your dreams. If you want to sing like James Hetfield, Foundation 101 is a great place to start!

If you have any questions about learning to sing like James Hetfield, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!

Singing Myths BUSTED!

Singing Myths BUSTED!

There is a SERIOUS amount of information out there today concerning singing technique, and some million+ singing lessons out there on YouTube to choose from – how do you work out what is the RIGHT technique to use, and what is just a myth? With over 15 years experience studying the voice, I’ve been around the block a few times with most of the common singing myths and things that people say just to sell singing courses and the . Trust me, how to lean to how to sing doesn’t have to be such a confusing thing, so lets break down those myths one by one!

Some people are just BORN with singing talent.

What IS singing talent, really? Is it knowing how to breathe properly, create a resonant sound, place your voice and know how to hit the right vowels? That certainly sounds like singing technique that can be taught and learned to me – in fact, this is what I specialize-in here at Bohemian Vocal Studio. With my experience as a Rock Vocal Coach and the years I’ve spent working with students around the globe of many voice types and native tongues, I believe the idea of “talent” comes from the natural aptitude that some people naturally have towards learning some topics over others – for example, Math isn’t my strong point (nor was learning to sing, initially!), but I totally have a knack for pulling cars apart and also building things with my hands. Someone else might be totally rubbish with cars, but be a total math WIZ – this doesn’t mean that they couldn’t LEARN how to tinker with cars just as well, if not BETTER than I can. Catch my drift? Natural aptitude refers to the learning curve only, not the end result or the ability itself – if I applied myself, perhaps I could learn to split equations with the best of them, but I much prefer spending my time developing my voice instead! Absolutely ANYONE can learn how to sing with a powerful, healthy, resonant voice that has tons of range if they learn the right way from an experienced vocal coach.

Ready to build you own powerful singing voice? Book a session with me using the booking calendar in the sidebar to your right ->

Are some people just BORN with singing talent? BUSTED.

You can’t sing a high C with a baritone voice range

With my range starting around an A1, and extending up to an A5, I’m just going to hit this one straight away as BUSTED. People who say that Baritones have a limited range simply don’t understand the mechanics of the voice. The ‘vocal range’ (or “fach”) system was created simply for dividing Operas up into the easiest/most pleasant or maneable sounding part of each singer’s range, it has NOTHING to do with the actual possiblities of each singer’s voice with training. While my range extends well into the bass range personally, it’s now very easy to sustain my voice up into the tenor range convincingly without much effort – so am I a “bass”, or am I a “tenor”? Neither – I have my own unique voice type that has been developed to extend my range and grow with power in a healthy manner.

Are baritone’s limited to notes below a high C? BUSTED.

Grit will RUIN your voice

The verdict is out on this one, and really depends on HOW you create grit in your voice. I believe the issue with grit is the fact that’s often called “distortion” – when you sing with a gritty sound, you’re not actually distorting or contorting your sound, you’re actually creating an overtone that sits on TOP of your natural resonance. So if you approach it in the way that I do where breathing is your foundation, resonance is your walls, vowels are your roof and diction is your fittings – grit would simply be the lick of paint you apply after the fact. If this was the case for ALL singers, then of course this myth would be busted – I’ve personally be singing with this healthy approach to grit for over 16 years, and my range is now MUCH greater, my voice is way more powerful and I understand my voice MUCH better than when I first started, so yes, it CAN be done in a safe way. However, a lot of singers actually approach grit in the wrong fashion, leading to strain and damage – so lets leave this one as UNDECIDED.

Your range decreases as you age

This one is another UNDECIDED as it really depends on how healthy your vocal technique is. Sure, if your warmup is a pint of beer and you’ve been shouting Khe Sahn for the last 30 years, then absolutely – you’re going to lose that range BIG TIME. But if you’ve developed a healthy, resonant voice that you have complete control over, then your voice will stay strong and healthy for a lifetime – just look at how much more powerful Paul Rodgers’ voice is at 60+ than when he was 20. The sign of a great singer is how well their voice ages – so, if you have dodgy singing technique, then this one would actually be true. If you have a healthy, resonant voice that you’ve built in the right way – you’ll keep your voice for life. So lets leave this one as UNDECIDED as it really depends on how healthy your vocal technique is.

Singing with a breathy tone is bad for your voice

This one I will absolutely CONFIRM – singing with a breathy tone will sap your resonance and dry out your vocal chords. If you do a google search for singers that have damaged their voices, you’ll likely find they have one thing in common – BREATHINESS. Whether it is Adele, or John Mayer, it’s not pushing, belting or grit that caused vocal issues, it was too much air across the chords. Learn how to breath properly and support your voice from the diaphragm, and you will never experience these unnecessary issues. Remember, your voice works via air PRESSURE, not air FLOW – so hold back that air and sing with resonance, resonance, resonance!

Do you have any other singing queries you’d like me to clarify, or any other myths you’d like me to either BUST or confirm? Let me know in the comments below!

Top Five simple singing exercises

Top five simple singing exercises

As a professional ROCK vocal coach, I can tell you that THE single best way to learn how to sing is by Keeping. It. Simple. That’s right, keeping things as simple as possible will actually take your voice much further than being overly analytical about your technique and jumping into confusing techniques and overly complicated approaches to something that should be simple, natural and easy to learn. Right now, learning how to sing probably seems like a huge well of muddy information and confusing terminology – making it very hard to know where to start and which techniques are important for YOUR voice. Lets break it all down to the roots with these simple singing exercises that will GROW your voice and build a healthy foundation.

1. Lip Trills/bubbles

“Placement” (c) 2017 BVS

Now, I know there’s quite a few people out there who are unable to do lip trills, and this likely because noone has ever explained how to actually do them properly! For starters, stop all that airflow immediately – one of the most important parts of healthy singing technique, and by default doing a liptrill, is the concept of HOLD or INHALE, which is just fancy words for holding your breath. Now, the second part of doing a lip trill is controlling your soft palate correctly – basically, your soft palate should be blocking off your nose when you sing a lip trill. You can try it yourself by taking a breath ONLY through your mouth without actually blocking your nose – congratulations, you just lifted your soft palate! You now need to gently close your lips (not slammed shut!) just enough to catch the air behind them, but not enough to hold it in – and start making a TINY buzzing behind your nose. We’re not trying to make a “BRRRR” sound, we’re just going for that gentle buzz behind the nose.

How do I make my lips trill though?

This is the genious, and often misunderstood part of lip trills, trilling the lips aren’t the focus! If you block off your nose with a raised soft-palate and sing with a buzz behind your nosethe air will have nowhere to escape EXCEPT for through your very gently held lips, making them pulse open when there is enough air built up behind them to escape, but simply close again when there ISN’T enough air pressure to push them apart. Pretty cool, right?

  • Breathe using your diaphragm
  • HOLD YOUR BREATH
  • Raise your soft palate so it’s blocking off your nose
  • Make a small buzz behind your nose

If you’re still unable to keep a consistent trill going, keep working at it – the better your breath control gets and the more you understand the various functions of the soft palate, the more consistent your liptrills will be.

2. Humming and buzzing

Now, a hum is a little different to a liptrill because your soft palate is actually OPEN – allowing the air to flow into your nose while your mouth is shut. Humming is a GREAT tool for building resonance and can be fantastic at relieving strain while you’re still developing your various registers and middle voice.

3. N and NG for placement

I personally avoid NG due to my considerably low voice type, but they can be done safely if you position your tongue towards the center of the hard palate (roof of your mouth) rather than the back. If you sing an “NG” with your tongue positioned at the back of your hard palate like you probably do when you speak, you’ll be changing the shape of your throat and training your voice in the wrong way.

I use “N” with my students to build placement in a safer way, and it’s MUCH better at building a powerful ROCK resonance over time than anything else commonly used like NG.

Remember to focus on making a sound behind your nose rather than pronouncing an “N” – your tongue should be sitting behind your top teeth naturally and you should feel some buzzing behind your nose.

4. Vowel Modifications

Modifying your vowel is IMPERATIVE if you’re going to increase your range and learn to sing with power – they’re
actually really easy to achieve using my vowel position method, and are my favourite simple singing exercises as they build your range, strengthen your voice and allow you to sing ANY song in the original key without strain.

It takes some guidance to learn how to modify your vowels correctly, but once you get the basics your range will increase in leaps and bounds. You can try the first vowel position yourself by subtely changing the sound of your voice towards an “OH” or “AH sound as you get towards your vocal break – the sound should feel like it travels back into the soft palate or the back of your head.

Without vowel modification, you will strain as you ascend, your voice will break and you’ll experience a whole host of issues – make sure you practice your vowels properly!

5. Middle Voice

Developing your middle voice is just as important as vowel modification – if you get the first vowel position like I explained above, but your voice is STILL breaking, it’s because you’re singing too high in chest voice rather than releasing into middle tonality. I’ve put together a short video illustrating Middle Voice and how you can use it to extend your range and build POWER in your voice:

With these super simple exercises, you can GROW your voice into a powerhouse rock machine and access as much range as you could ever want, all with as much POWER as the greats. If you’re ready to start building your own powerful singing voice, you can book a session with me in the booking calendar to your right.

Feel free to leave some feedback or any questions below!

What is Mix Voice and How To Get It

What Is Mix Voice?

Mixed Voice is a confusing term for many singers – is it a mechanistic balance between weight and tension in the Larynx? Is it a special register? Is it a marketing term? The truth is, Mixed Voice refers to a blend of frequencies and resonance between the chest register and the head register, in essence creating a “mix” of both registers that acts not only as a bridge between chest and head voice, but allows you to resonate more efficiently while increasing your range in full voice and improving your overall vocal tone.

I personally struggled with the concept of Mix voice for quite a few years when I was first learning how to sing. By focusing on the physical and mechanical aspects of the voice, many singers actually avoid the creation of mixed resonance rather than facilitating the connection and blend in a natural way. In short, mixed voice is a “result” of healthy vocal technique and resonance production, not a trick, technique or magic secret – by developing a powerful and rock-solid vocal foundation, mixed voice will appear in your singing voice in a relative period of time with careful practice and dedication. Remember, you can’t “make” mix voice occur, you can only “allow” it to occur by making good choices as a singer and building a strong foundation.

Step 1 – Build a Strong Foundation

Breathing, Vowels, Resonance, Connection between Chest and Head, Onsets, Compression, Support – these techniques are all a very important part of your vocal foundation and need to be built with due care and the right approach.

Singing is ultimately a process of balance, and when it comes to bad habits and tension, also a process of elimination where unhealthy technique is concerned. By building a balanced voice, you will create mixed resonance with time and eventually learn to control your mix to allow stylistic choice, an extensive range and incredible power – did you know that Belting only occurs in the Mix register? Developing mixed voice is an important part of building a great singing voice.

Step 2 – Grow Your Voice

With continual training, vocal elements like support, mix, your approach to vowels and onsets will all become much stronger and more balanced with time. By dedicating some time to the growth phase of the voice, you will facilitate a very strong connection between chest and head voice.

Step 3 – Balance

By coordinating each individual element from your foundation with the strengthened elements of the growth stage, you will notice that Mixed Voice now occurs through a greater portion of your range and you have MUCH more tonal control to suit the styles that you wish to sing.

If you’re ready to start building a strong Foundation with stage 1, check out this exclusive Mixed Voice singing lesson for the special key required for Mixed Voice singing. If you’ve already built a strong foundation using the Foundation 101 singing course here at Bohemian Vocal Studio, you can move on to the Mix and Support booster courses available to premium members.

Remember, mixed voice is the result of healthy technique – the concept of Cause and Effect is incredibly important in singing. In the same manner that a lowered larynx is simply the result of healthy vowel production, mixed voice is the result of healthy management and facilitation of natural resonance. Learning how to sing in mixed voice by building a rock solid foundation has absolutely changed my life – how is it going to change yours?

If you have any questions about learning to sing in Mix Voice, feel free to leave any feedback or questions below!