LESSON 1: Lead Vocals
So you want to be the singer? Or are you just the loudest one in the band with the biggest ego and least instrumental talent? If you want to be able to rock it, and rock it well, you’d better be ready for some toil my friend.
Before you can belt out the power anthems you have to breath. To get the most out of your respiratory system you should breath with your gut rather than
your chest. You need to get that belly moving in and out. If your shoulders go up and down when you are gasping for air, you are not doing it right . Having good air support will help you stay on pitch and not strain your voice.
Straining should always be avoided because the root cause of most vocal damage is tension in your throat. A tight muscle is more likely to get injured and your vocal cords are no exception. Keeping your throat relaxed will actually help you hit those high notes, so make a conscious effort to NOT strain.
Warming up will also help keep your vocal cords relaxed and limber. A 10-minute warm up right before a show or practice is usually sufficient. The specifics
of what to warm up on vary depending on the vocalist, but there are two common features of any warm up:
1) It needs to go through your entire range. 2) Keep a light relaxed voice throughout the whole warm up. Remember, it’s a warm up ; it does not matter if your tone is crap, as long as you stay on pitch and keep your throat relaxed.
In addition to keeping your throat limber, you have to keep it moist. There is some controversy in regards to what liquids are good and what liquids are bad
for your vocal cord s. Alcohol, which is of ten the liquid of choice for rockers, can also tighten your vocal chords and dry them out . On the other hand, there are benefits to be gained from a couple pints. What I find works b est for me is a gradual lessening of alcoholic content as you lead up to the performance: start with liquor, move to beer, and finally end with water. Warm water seems to be t he simplest and most efficient liquid for keeping your throat happy.
Now you’re war med up and ready to rock, but first you need a microphone and amplifier t o project your voice into the same decibel range as the rest of your band. Some people have certain brands they swear by for gear, but I don’t want this to be a commercial. As a vocalist your instrument is your voice—having a good vocal microphone and sound system helps to bring out what is already there, but it’s not going to make you sound good if yo u suck. That said, investing in a good vocal microphone can help for a number of reasons: 1) Do not assume that t he sound system at the gig will have quality
microphones. 2) If you have your own microphone you only have to worry about your own germs, or at the very least, a smaller pool of germs. 3) By consistently working with the same microphone you will get to know how to best us e it to get the sound you want.
However, the most important thing a vocalist should be concerned with when setting up the sound is the volume of the vocal monitors. If they’re not loud enough, you won’t hear yourself and will overcompensate, which ca n lead to straining and blowing out your voice. If the PA and monitors are maxed out and you still cannot hear yourself well enough, everyone else needs to turn down the stage sound.
Now the mechanics of the voice and sound system have been dealt with and it is time for the show. This is the point where things break down to philosophy. Everyone I have talked to has a slightly different approach to music performance and what a lead singer should be. What works for one may not work for others . This touches on the one unifying idea that I have gotten from every performer: find your own voice. Yes, you may really like how Joey Ram one,
or Bruce Dickinson, or Neil Young sing, and it’s okay to be influenced by the greats, but don’t try to sound like them. Chances are that what works for the
idols will not work for you , and if it does, you have definite tribute band potential. Ultimately, the best thing is not force it, do what feels right. If you are
channeling the rock and get the impulse to fall on your knees and howl, then go for it, but if you ’re just doing it because you think it would look cool…well, that’s acting and I don’t know much about acting.
Once t he show is done you should still work your vocal cord s regularly to keep them in good shape. You could do regular vocal exercises or just sing songs whenever you feel like it, as long as you are doing more than just your once-a-week jam with the band. If you can afford the time and money, get ting
some vocal coaching from a professional that understands the demands rocking puts o n your voice is well worth it.
NOW GET OUT THERE AND ROCK’N’ROLL! !