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Hey, listen, if you must scream, at least do it right

Heavy metal and rock singers often injure their voices belting out songs. One New York City teacher shows the proper technique.

November 01, 2005|John Carucci | Associated Press

NEW YORK — Do rock stars really need to learn how to scream?

It's doubtful Robert Plant needed coaching to shriek "baaaaay-beeeeey" or that Zack de la Rocha ever needed a lesson. But regardless of natural talent, Melissa Cross, the self-proclaimed "Queen of Scream," has developed a training program that teaches proper technique to a new breed of unrestrained rock singers.

Cross has a new DVD titled "The Zen of Screaming" and a client list that includes Keith Buckley from Every Time I Die, Randy Blythe of Lamb of God and Slipknot's Corey Taylor. She spoke about the makings of a good screamer.

Question: Why do people have to learn how to scream? Doesn't it come naturally?

Answer: So they don't injure their voices. Basically, screaming is a part of a new up-and-coming generation of real-life rock 'n' rollers where passion and sincerity and reality are absolutely necessary and required. I don't want to see them damage their vocal cords.

Q: What makes a good scream?

A: A good scream is when you can order dinner afterward, or call your mom. A good scream is one that has a lot of overtone, meaning that it has a lot of highs and lows in it. It has a spectrum of frequencies that is actually pleasant to listen to. Well, that's all relative.

Q: Do expletives enhance the body of a good scream?

A: Expletives, if they have vowels in them, can make a big difference. Expletives that are full of consonants and emotion that is ill placed [do not]. In other words, a scream should never feel like it sounds. It should never feel angry. It should never feel aggressive.

Q: Is there much competition for the job of Scream Teacher?

A: I don't know anybody else that has a specialty. There may be somebody in the acting world that has concentrated on this. But in terms of the musical thing, I have yet to find someone.

Q: Is scream training lucrative?

A: The genre is up-and-coming, but I'm not interested in the money.

I'm interested in helping these kids to not hurt themselves, because I see that they're doing a lot of damage.

Q: How does what you do differ from a dialogue coach?

A: I don't just focus on vowels and speech production, I focus on the whole machine. The breath support. The vocal cord support. You know, how it works.

Q: Who has mastered this new technique?

A: Corey Taylor from Slipknot is a master. Keith Buckley from Every Time I Die.

Q: What about the classic rockers like Robert Plant?

A: Robert Plant. That's a little bit different because there was never fire in Led Zeppelin. It always had a note to it. He never screamed.

With Robert Plant it was, like, we still have to do music, we have to do notes. So Robert Plant: amazing vocalist, but he never did fire. He did heat, and he did it really well. As well as Ozzy Osbourne and AC/DC and Bon Scott. This kind of heat thing has gone on for 20, 30 years.

Q: So over time, screaming has become part of the vocalists' repertoire?

A: Absolutely. Like a lot of music, there's a movement that occurs in the underground and it's a bunch of kids uniting under the idealism that music spawns. In the '80s there was this aggressive music because kids were pent up, and they needed to get it out. So the ultimate expression is to scream your guts out.

Q: Have you ever applied your technique in an argument?

A: Someone took my parking space and I just lost it. And I started screaming, not at her but in the car.

And my throat was like [makes a burning gesture]. I stopped and regrouped and then I got out of the car and screamed at her the right way.

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