This is my guide to extreme metal vocals. Extreme metal vocals come in many different forms, from low-pitch death metal growls and grunts to high-pitched screams. There is already a lot of content out there on vocal technique, so I’m going to focus on the best ways of finding your extreme metal voice and developing it.
My top 10 tips summarized (read them in the detail in the article or watch them in the YouTube video below):
- Read and watch content about extreme vocals online and apply
- Explore different pitches and styles
- Don’t copy other vocalists
- Teach yourself what’s right and wrong for your voice
- Record yourself early and keep the recordings
- Sing it like you mean it!
- Know the difference in sound between live, studio and rehearsal space
- Sing longer passages right from the start
- Sing clean and talk with proper abdominal support
- Take every opportunity to use and experiment with your voice
Read and watch content about extreme metal vocals and apply
There’s a lot of good content out there about growling and other types of extreme vocals. A lot of it is in video form and a lot of it is very practically oriented. Dive into the content and apply the tips in real life. The quality varies, but if you have a specific question I can almost bet that there’s a singing coach or a YouTuber out there that has a good answer to it.
Explore different pitches and styles
People’s voices are really different and it’s hard to predict which type of extreme vocals that will fit. The thing is; extreme metal vocal pitch doesn’t always coincide with speaking voice pitch. Someone with a high voice might have a beastly, deep growl and vice versa.
This means you really need to try different pitches and styles to find a comfortable tone. Don’t get stuck doing one particular style that you like musically
Don’t copy other vocalists
This leads me to one of the most important tips: don’t copy other extreme vocalists like your favorite death metal growler. I am not saying “don’t sing your favorite song”, but know that it can have downsides. You might wind up sounding less unique if you go on a non-stop diet of Mikael Åkerfeldt songs.
You might also wind up causing harm, if your favorite singer isn’t the one with a comfortable pitch for your particular voice. Staying with one vocalist’s style might also lead to not getting everything possible out of your voice.
Teach yourself what’s right and wrong for your voice
It’s not always easy to know what’s right or wrong for the voice when doing growls and other types of extreme metal vocals. The presence of adrenaline is never as high as when delivering some aggressive lines. Think about what makes your throat hurt or hoarse. Train yourself to know what hurts your voice instinctively and how to predict it.
Sing it like you mean it!
There’s no singing performance in any style like one where the vocalist really means it. This definitely applies to extreme metal vocals. By “sing it like you mean it!” I don’t mean uncontrolled screams that strain your voice. I’m just saying that it sounds better when you play music that you really stand behind, preferrably with lyrics you can stand for.
Being tired and/or unmotivated is also a factor. Weekday night in a dark rehearsal cellar just isn’t the same as a gig you’ve been getting pumped about for weeks. Personally, I damage my voice the most when I’m tired and unmotivated. It makes me force growls that should have been delivered with passion, backbone and adrenaline. Consider a vocal-free rehearsal, if possible.
Know the difference between live, studio and rehearsal space
Many of us do our extreme vocals in one environment. Some of us home record a lot of albums and studio covers. Some of us rehearse a lot. Others are lucky enough to be out on tours with their extreme metal band. The sound differences between these environments are massive.
It’s very easy to damage your voice in a rehearsal or live environment. You don’t really hear yourself in the same way. The mind’s solution is often to scream higher to “get heard”. Get used to these differences early and know how much to push to be heard. Sometimes it cannot be helped, as in live venues with really crappy sound. It often happens to me that I burn out my voice live, thinking that my voice is not coming through, when it’s actually sounding fine to audience.
Sing longer passages right from the start
Many growlers do isolated screams and sing along to songs in the parts they like the most. I know I’m guilty of this. The result is usually that your growls get good for singing something like the chorus of “Eaten”, but not the more endurance-demanding verse parts. Try to refrain from this as much as possible and sing full songs instead. You can get by in the studio on lungs that aren’t top notch. Live on stage is a whole other thing.
Sing clean and talk with proper abdominal support
This is something I mostly don’t follow myself, but it matters! My singing voice is shy and backbone-less, and the transition to deep growls is massive. I try to talk with abdominal support by habit, but not even my Vlogs are with a 100% supported voice. This is an error that makes it harder to transition to extreme vocals.
If you make a habit of having proper abdominal support when you talk, the transition to growling without pain really isn’t as big anymore.
Take every opportunity to use and experiment with your voice
Let’s end with the most practical tip of all: take every opportunity to use your extreme metal voice. Participate in metal cover versions online with other musicians. Jump on the chance to try out a different extreme vocal style.
Early on, I used to be at a lot of metal parties. Some of us who were in bands were not shy to display our growling vocals. It was quite a big part of my evolution as a vocalist and as a live performer as well. I know this tip isn’t for everyone, but have it in mind. Drunk karaoke growls are still growls, after all.
What do my extreme metal vocals sound like?
I hope you learned some things about extreme metal vocals in this guide. Check out my bands Soliloquium and Desolator if you want to hear what I sound like. There’s also plenty of other extreme metal content on this page, including: