Top 10 Rock Singing Lessons
Learning how to sing rock takes time, dedication and perseverance. Professional rock singers like Chris Cornell spent many years developing their vocal technique to achieve the extensive range and impressive power they were known for. To build an impressive singing range like a rock star, you must first set up a powerful foundation and over time develop control and coordination over the various elements of a great voice.
The best rock vocalist is the one who has developed proper vocal technique so their voice is controlled, consistent and healthy – you can tell the best rock vocalist by how well their voice ages and grows over time. This tutorial will show you how to build a powerful and extensive rock singing voice with proper technique, consistent practice and of course these helpful tips from a professional rock vocal coach.
1 – Foundation is King
Your voice is only as strong as the base it is built upon. Foundation is king in singing, and the health and power of your voice over the long term is really dictated by how well you support your voice with posture, breathing and resonance placement. A healthy posture for singing includes steps to develop Appoggio in your diaphragmatic breathing approach – Appoggio is the concept of breathing being controlled by extension of the diaphragm rather than contraction or expansion of the ribs.
2 – Not all frequencies are created equal
Learning how to place your frequencies properly to ensure the most efficient use of your resonance is key to building an extensive and powerful ROCK singing voice. The best rock vocalists are those who learn to create only the most efficient frequencies that vibrate in a powerful and strain-free manner – this is know as placement. Vocal placement is sometimes mistaken as masque singing by classical coaches or those with higher voice types who don’t really grasp the idea that some voice types, such as a baritone like myself, expend a large amount of energy on frequencies which simply don’t resonate properly in a singing voice, and hence must be trained and tuned before the voice will function properly. Vocal placement is the concept of removing any inefficient frequencies so that you can put all of your energy into only the best and most powerful resonance for a rock singing voice.
3 – Vowels aren’t always vowels
In speech, we often pronounce our vowels using the articulators – the teeth, lips and tongue. In singing, our vowels are actually created by shaping the tongue and matching the corresponding vocal tract width to each sound. As an example, the AH vowel is the widest vowel and is created with a low and concave tongue, while the EE vowel is the most narrow vowel and is created by raising the back of the tongue. Learning these vowel shapes will allow you to sing any vowel sound, any word and any vocal line with ease – stop pronouncing your vowels and learn to shape them properly. In essence, the shape of your tongue actually EQ’s your frequencies into the illusion of each vowel sound without effort – realising this has changed my singing voice for life.
4 – Tune your resonance
The width of each of your vowel sounds, such as the aforementioned EE and AH vowels, narrow and wide respectively, goes through successive alterations as you ascend in range to match each resonant space and alternating resonators that occur throughout your range. The most common way to tune your resonance is called vowel modification, but even the best vowel modification chart won’t cater to each individual voice type, your understanding of vowels or level of technique and the multitude of differences in our vocal folds, resonators and resonant spaces – learning how to make these vocal tract changes by developing control over the soft palate, tongue root and vocal tract is the only true way to fine-tune your resonance as you ascend in range. This is key to baritone singers building an extensive high range with ease, and if you want to learn how to sing like Chris Cornell or other higher singers like Robert Plant, resonance tuning is key.
5 – Vocal Health is paramount
One of the greatest rock vocalists all time is Paul Rodgers, who sings in a powerful and often subdued middle range that is deceptively difficult to sing when attempted by other singers – Paul Rodgers has become known as The Voice of Rock while retaining healthy vocal technique and actually building an even more consistent and powerful voice than in his youth. Keeping your voice safe and healthy will allow you to keep your voice. Develop your technique wisely and take your time to perfect your range before extending your voice – professional rock vocal training will allow you the best chance at keeping your voice healthy while building a powerful high range that is consistent and controlled.
6 – Vocal terms are often figurative
When I first started learning how to sing, terms like Open Throat, Appoggio and Inhalare La Voce caused more confusion than they did aide my singing. Here’s the kicker with singing terms, they are often a figure of speech and get horribly misinterpreted when translated directly to English. As an example, the term Open Throat Technique comes from La Gola Aperta, translating literally to “The Open Throat” – now, without knowing that this is actually a figure of speech and intended in a figurative manner, a beginner singer like I once was might feel the answer to great singing is to “Open their throat”, when in fact, great singing technique is often more closed than it is open:
- The soft palate is CLOSED on vowels
- The vocal chords CLOSE as you resonate
- Your vowels NARROW as you ascend
I often see singers struggling against an overly widened vowel, or even simply an overly widened and straining jaw because of this literal interpretation of Open Throat which is often used as a confusing marketing term by some voice coaches and singing courses. A better interpretation of Open Throat is actually “No Throat”, or “Singing without your throat” which as a beginner no doubt makes much more sense in a practical manner than trying to open, stretch and widen your throat to perform what really should be a natural function of your body – creating sound and resonance.
Vocal terms are often figurative in their intention, so try not to attach too much meaning to singing terms like Open Throat or Appoggio until they are explained to you in a practical and simple manner by a professional voice coach who truly understands that a literal interpretation of these well-meaning terms will actually hinder your vocal development and put your voice at risk of strain.
7 – Your voice is unique, and so should your approach
Each voice is unique in a multitude of ways, from subtle changes in the vocal folds, to experience, to resonators to physical build – this is why not all singing approaches work for every singer. Your vocal technique should be designed to match your unique voice type and be tailored to the various issues you may need to workshop through your development as a singer. Where one singer may need to widen through a certain area of their voice for a particular vowel sound, another singer with exactly the same voice type may need to narrow this same vowel at the same point – this is why general instructions like Vowel Modification often only work for certain singers who possess a ‘standard’ voice type. I’ve found that as a low baritone my voice simply functions and reacts in a different manner to those who possess a higher voice type, and this was a large part of my struggle as a beginner singer learning the ropes of my voice – there was simply no resources out there designed for a baritone. Find a vocal coach that understands that your voice is unique and that sometimes vocal issues are not caused by the singer, but in fact by poor instruction from an over generalising vocal coach.
8 – Resonance vs. Decibels
Before I took professional singing lessons myself, I often sang VERY loud and tried to milk every last drop of amplitude out of my voice thinking that this meant my voice was ‘powerful’. In fact, there is no natural amplification mechanism built into your vocal chords and any excess volume that you sing with is simply improperly created frequencies. I often hear from singers struggling with volume in their voices saying “I sound good until I sing louder” without realising the key issue with their voice is the pursuit of volume, and if they instead focused their energy on building resonance and EQing their tone into a powerful and intense frequency, then they would be louder than they could ever have imagined – all without strain! The most amazing part of our voices is the ability to resonate and echo, basically, the voice is one small sound being bounced around a cave in a controlled way to ensure the most powerful and pleasant echo to be heard as we sing. If you treat your voice as a resonator rather than a volume switch, and you develop techniques like narrowing the top of the epiglottis to create a subtle twang that vibrates along the pharynx to enable an earth shatteringly powerful resonance, then volume will no longer be an issue in your voice.
9 – Consonants are Key
Very few rock vocal coaches out there teach a practical and fine-tuned approach to consonant sounds like the one of I have developed here at Bohemian Vocal Studio. Due to my low baritone voice and my Aussie accent, I found that most of the contemporary approaches out there really weren’t tailored to my voice type or native tongue – leading to the development of my own approach towards most aspects of singing, in particular, consonants. Consonants are especially difficult for those with a lower voice type, or an accent that involves a more ‘glottal’ approach to sounds like W and Y just like my Australia accent does. Instead of using this speech pronunciation of the consonant sound, we actually need to form a unique approach to each consonant type as though it were unrelated to the way in which we speak – as an example, in my voice a “W” sound becomes an “OO”, so a word like “WELL” would become “OO-ELL” and allow me to create this word in a clear, fluid and resonant way without using a glottal stop like I do in speech. Each voice is different, and you may find you struggle with different consonants to me – so let me know in the “leave a reply” box below which consonant sounds you struggle with and I’ll help you develop a resonant approach.
10 – Belting isn’t the answer
As my singing technique has progressed, I’ve found that belting is rarely, if ever, the answer to great rock singing. Sure, rock singing is a powerful, intense and resonant style of singing, but the act of dragging your chest register higher into your range isn’t actually helping you sing powerfully, intense of with resonance, it’s making you strain and struggle against your voice. I see this often with singers who want to learn how to sing like Chris Cornell – they are straining and pushing and struggling against their voice while wondering “How the hell does Chris Cornell belt so high?” without coming to the realisation that Chris Cornell’s high range, at least in Soundgarden, wasn’t belting and straining – it was instead a released coordination of the CT and TA muscles known as the MIX register, which retains the richness of chest voice while allowing the extensive range afforded by head voice. In essence, Chris Cornell was singing with a very narrowly tuned resonance with a touch of twang while releasing his register coordination to be able to access his high range at any moment. I see so many beginner singers obsessing over belting as though it’s the ‘holy grail’ of singing, only to realise that their favourite singers often aren’t belting at all.
Build a proper coordination of your middle register and you will be able to sing with the rich depth of Chest Voice well up into your head range with very little effort. Middle voice is key to powerful rock singing.
Rock Singing Lessons
Launched in 2010, Bohemian Vocal Studio has steadily grown into the premier vocal studio for Rock Singing Lessons and professional vocal coaching online. Coaching touring professionals and beginner singers alike, BVS has extensive experience working with all manner of ‘difficult’ voice types and various accents and native tongues – no matter your voice type or accent, rock singing lessons with Kegan at Bohemian Vocal Studio will help you reach your singing goals sooner.
If you’re ready to take your voice to the next level with rock singing lessons and professional voice coaching at Bohemian Vocal Studio, you can book a Skype Session today and we can get started!
If you have any questions about rock singing technique, 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.