Q. Ive been working a lot with hard rock singing. My goal is to hit the high notes, like Sebastian Bach, Kip Winger, and Mark Slaughter, with that hard, edgy sound all the way up. I can sing pretty high, but my voice is still kind of weak on top, so when I use the throaty sound, it breaks when I sing high. How long does it generally take to build up a voice to the standard of Sebastian Bach? -Kevin, Zurich, Switzerland


A. How long it takes is not necessarily the question. The first thing to do is assess your vocal range in comparison to the singers singing the material you are attempting. Once your voice is developed, you should be able to get a pretty connected (chest voice) tone, as well as a tone with throat resonance, within a few notes of your highest note. If the melodies you are trying are stretching to the very top of, and beyond, your range, then you need to adjust the key of the songs you are singing to make a better fit for you.


This is a necessary thing for singers of all styles. Even if you had the same amount of range as your favorite singer, you may not have the same sweet spot (tessitura as its called in classical music). This determines the most comfortable and desirable sounding part of your singing range.


No matter how hard some people work, they simply will never have the natural range of the singers you are describing. Even when I hear of bizarre, range-stretching techniques (people making weird sounds extending five and six octaves) they seldom demonstrate anything that resembles singing with these techniques. Many of the singers that sing the super high, hard rock and metal, have natural tenor voices. If someones voice is in a natural baritone range, they can certainly reach some tenor parts but wont have the ease and flexibility that someone who is a natural tenor would have.


This is not to be discouraging because I have seen amazing results with the right direction and hard work, so keep at it. For starters, make sure youre able to do these techniques (screamy vocals) in comfortable parts of your range first. Get comfortable in the middle, then keep working upward, and downward, as singing on the bottom of your range can also produce some amazing results that can dramatically effect the top of your range.


As you do continue to reach onward and upward with your range, think small. The kind of throat resonance that most singers use up high is actually a very focused small tone that cuts through the mix. Dont worry about volume, it will be there on its own as you get the technique right. Everything must be well anchored (a term I use to describe starting your initial tone at the post nasal position located at the top back of your mouth) so at first try it with a non-airy tone. That said, as he gets higher and higher you can hear some air on Sebastian Bachs tone that gives it a real screamy quality. But its just that; a screamy quality, not so much a scream. Chris Cornell stays less airy and can reach some very high notes using throat resonance. Listen closely and youll hear that his tone is small, focused and very well anchored. Youll also never hear him hit those extremely high notes with a clean tone because he has figured out a technique using throat resonance that actually lets him sing higher (without singing in falsetto) than he could without it. This is only possible because he is not over-pressurizing his vocal cords, which means he is not pushing through his throat. Singing is about coordination and this type of singing requires touch, not force.


Techniques like these are often best learned with a microphone and a lot of compression. This will let you get a lot more voice without working so hard. A lot of the vocals by hard rock and metal singers dont carry nearly the effect as they do with a little processing. That said, the better singers still have a high quality singing tone attached to the throat resonance. When a good foundation tone is not present, the throaty effect will have a very phony quality.


Originally posted 2009-01-17 00:39:55.