More thoughts on delivering great rock vocals

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Though many might think rock vocalists are the rebels of the music family, singing rock vocals requires the same care and practice as any other music genre.

great rock vocals
Last week we published advice for great rock vocals from Saigon Kick’s lead singer, and expert vocal coach, Matt Kramer. And as powerful as Kramer’s advice is, he’d be the first to tell you that his perspective on delivering an engaging and goose-bump-raising rock performance is far from the only useful one out there.

Below are excerpts from a conversation with Roger Treece, a five-time Grammy Award-nominated singer, composer, teacher, and producer who has helped scores of artists achieve vocal perfection in the studio and on stage. Here are some tips from the man to get your own rock vocals on the right path.

To you, what makes a great rock vocal performance?
Authenticity. In other words, the sincerity and conviction of the singer or singers, and then the energy level to render that authenticity.

What makes rock vocals different from vocals in other genres?
Rock singers are the rebel children of the musical family, and they sound like it. They do everything “wrong,” i.e., scream and use the voice in ways that are, traditionally, used in other places, like the battlefield or the bedroom — which may be the same, in some cases.

What should vocalists do before getting ready to give a rock performance?
Warm up the voice with easy stretches, just like an athlete would. Pump some iron — really, lift some weights to get your air working and your pulse up… without juicing. And stay hydrated, like an athlete would.

What should rock vocalists never do before taking the stage?
Smoke, drink, or scream.

Can you talk about adding grit to your vocals?
There’s a lot more to rock ’n’ roll than whether or not you have grit in your voice. Remember, the first guy to put grit to his voice was not copying anyone. He wasn’t trying to sound like a rock singer. That sound was integrated into his message, his music. That became rock. The important thing for an aspiring rock singer to do is get his or her message together, and then develop a vocal technique that’s going to deliver that message.

What are some good ways to get better as a rock singer?
Best to take a few lessons. There are plenty of teachers in the larger cities, so just ask around. Also, check out CVT: Complete Vocal Technique. It’s a method in Denmark, developed by Catherine Sadolin. There are teachers of that method in the U.S. Google her and write to her to find out if there are any near you.

What are your thoughts on pronunciation or rhythm?
Keep the pronunciation conversational, pronouncing words like you would say them; make sure you can be understood; and stay in the pocket — in other words, sing rhythmically. Rock ’n’ roll is a groove genre, and ninety percent of the time, you need to be singing the groove. Always sing with the drummer. Practice with just you and the drummer, occasionally.

A lot of rock vocalists seem to have a hard time with pitch. Any advice on this?
Intonation is a product of good breath support and proper placement of the tone in the head. The more you produce your tone with the manipulation of your throat by tightening it or stretching it, the less control over intonation you are going to have. The corollary is also true. Keep the sound forward, so you feel it buzzing around in the mask of your face.

Some people might consider rock vocals just screaming. What’s your response to that?
Obviously it’s more than that, but it’s easy to see how the small-minded can stop there in their evaluation of the rock genre. Good rock ’n’ roll, like any other genre, requires good musicians and well-written songs. It doesn’t require screaming, though screaming does sure help to get the point across sometimes!

Any final advice for aspiring rock singers?
Learn to play the piano, guitar, bass, drums, or all four. Learn to sing in time with the drummer. Get some voice lessons. That’ll give you longevity in the practice room, onstage, on the road, and for your career.

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Disc Makers’ regular contributor Michael Gallant’s debut trio album Completely received a four-star review from DownBeat magazine and a five-star review from Critical Jazz, which stated: “This, my friends, is the future of jazz. Fresh, invigorating, progressive – there are simply not enough positive adjectives to list here.” Learn more, download through iTunes, jam along with the new JamBandit app, or purchase through CD Baby. Follow Michael on Twitter at @Michael_Gallant or on Facebook.

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