ARCH ENEMY Frontwoman Offers Free Singing Advice

ARCH ENEMY frontwoman Angela Gossow has posted the following message on her MySpace page:

"I collected some mails regarding techniques, problems, nodules, etc. Maybe you got the same questions and find some answers here.

Q: I am a fellow female death/black metal singer, who was recently diagnosed with vocal nodules. It's hard for me not to accept that this is the end of the road in regards to my voice...but I've read that you too have had them at one time. This afternoon I am going to see a speech therapist, and from what I have read, that may greatly increase my chances of regaining my singing/growling voice. I have been in a number of bands, and am currently working on my first solo effort, a collaboration of many a musician. My voice is something I need, I was born to do this, and I would appreciate any suggestions/advise you could give me to get back on track. I didn't make it to your show when you came to Vancouver, but I did ask a buddy how your voice sounded. He said: BOOMING; it was amazing. I was taken aback as I had heard you had been having vocal cord difficulties. So, if you could give me any glimpse of hope while I sit on the verge of losing my voice, it would be greatly appreciated!!

Angela: "Hey Laura, do not give up, nodules are curable!!! Is it nodes (hard bumps) or nodules (soft ones) you got on your vocal cords? Hard ones have to be removed surgically, the soft ones you can train off with the right exercises. Humming in the morning — before talking — is a good way to warm up the voice and get the cords swinging simultaneously. If your voice sounds rough, hum until it sounds more even.

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"Anyway, no screaming until they are gone. A speech therapist will show you lots of exercises that will basically help the vocal cords to function normally again whilst at the same time taking the strain from the spot where the nodules are (this is basically the place where your cords hit together first when you scream). When your nodules are gone, start with easy SINGING exercises and breathing exercises. For this you should go to a professional singing teacher!!! Breathing the right way will take a lot of force from the cords. When you scream — do you pump your chest full of air or is your belly expanding like a balloon? If the air is up in your chest, it's way too much pressure on your throat and your cords and one of the main reasons you got into trouble.

"I am currently setting up a website that deals with vocal advice. I am also being trained being a singing/screaming teacher myself. Most normal singing teacher cringe when they hear what you are doing with your voice. They don't understand this technique (you are basically singing with your false cords as well, you don't do this for 'normal' singing at all). But please don't let them discourage you. Just tell them all you want to learn is good breath support, warm-up exercises and simple scales. Normal singing trains the voice in a different way then screaming and keeps the cords flexible and strong.

"What range are you in? Hearing your samples I guess you have a rather high range, like soprano or mezzo-soprano. That means your vocal cords are thin. Women who have deep voices (alto or contralto) have it much easier with the screaming. Their vocal chords are thicker and simply take more abuse. So you have to train and strengthen your voice in order to do the screaming without harming your voice.

"Make sure to let your voice heal totally before you start screaming again! You don't want to permanently damage your voice and maybe lose it altogether. Do you smoke and drink? You never warm up before you scream? Do you drink lots of acid forming soda? Do you have allergies or taking drugs? If yes is the answer to any of these questions — my advice: quit it!!! Especially smoking (I had to quit too). Or sort it out, like allergies."

Q: I love your vocals. You're a woman with balls!!! I need to get that screaming DVD you're in with Melissa Cross. I'm looking into ways of screaming without damaging my vocals. Can you give me any tips? By the way, after a long concert, do you feel like your vocal muscles tend to get tightened, do they hurt or have they ever caused any pain?

Angela: "Hey Diana, I listened to your bands sound files. You are currently singing melodic, no screaming right? Are you a soprano?

"I talked with Floor Jansen from AFTER FOREVER about mixing classic vocals and death growls. It is almost impossible, only works if you are an alto with extremely resistant vocal cords. If you start screaming, you will lose the high range for sure. After a long tour, my cords are shot. I can still scream and growl but my upper head voice is gone. This vocal style is about sacrificing your voice somehow.

"My throat and jaw muscles get tight after the first couple of shows when I haven't trained them enough in my time off. These exercises help: Stretching the upper pallet (sort of yawning to loosen things up) and depressing the tongue with a finger to massage tension out. Always stretch your neck muscles after a show (headbanging makes them pretty sore). My chords don't hurt; I have no sore throat after a show, not even when we play 90 minutes. But my throat is very used to this 'singing' style. ARCH ENEMY play more than 200 shows a year.

"Definitely get the DVD, it's full of good tips and a great warm-up. It won't teach you how to scream though. For being save when you start, you got to have a vocal teacher who does this in front of you watching your every breath and move of abdomen, throat, larynx and shoulders.

"If screaming hurts you, do NOT do it, otherwise you will wreck your wonderful singing voice."

Q: When do you start teaching and where? That would be very great to have you as a teacher in Europe! How did you find out you have a "different" vocal voice? You said that you can get higher tones now, which I can hear clearly on the "Doomsday Machine". How long had it take you to catch that? My voice is quite deep at the moment and needs breath technique but is that possible to make it higher by time (or if I have deep voice, is it going to stay deep forever)? I've already found lots of information in Melissa's website, and in a few days time I'm going to buy the DVD (can't wait!). By the way, do you plan a DVD for beginners in the future?

Angela: "I simply started out screaming my lungs out when I was 16 years old. I didn't know at all what I was doing; I was simply able to do 'that sound.' I damaged my voice back then though.

"Yes, you can get high screams with a rather deep voice, but it takes time and careful approach. High screams mean that the vocal chords are stretched to the max and this renders them more vulnerable. They are under a lot of tension. You should start with singing and trying to develop your head voice to its full capacity. Then try to turn this into a scream. When it hurts, stop and go back to the singing.

"A good exercise to train breath support: Lie on your back, or sit/stand straight. Inhale deeply (feel your belly move out, your rips and your back should expand too). Hold the breath for a count of 3, purse your lips and let the breath out slowly. Imagine a feather floating in front of you and you are trying to keep it up in the air. Make sure the stream of breath is soft and steady. You should be able to breathe out for at least 30 seconds, but aim for 60 seconds. You will build up resistance and breath control by doing this. Do it every day, preferably as a part of your vocal training."

Q: Hi, I have been doing vocals for a few years and recently lost my ability to growl. It says on your profile you had to retrain you vocals I was wondering if you could give me some advice on vocal training as I really wish get my voice to its full potential.

Angela: "If you can't growl anymore, it means you got nodules. Please go to a doctor and have your vocal cords checked. If you get diagnosed with some kind of disorder due to vocal abuse I highly recommend working with a vocal coach who is specialized in this. It's impossible to explain how to do it, I had to run through a lot of different exercises. For now, you should stop growling and screaming altogether to avoid further damage. It can become irreparable, if you continue straining your voice. I wish you all the best with your voice! Please see a professional who can check you every week and notices if you are returning to your old mistakes. The main causes for vocal damage are usually lack of controlled breathing techniques and too much pressure.

Q: How do you make such growls and screams, tell me how ya do it?

Angela: "I have 15 years of practice. I got thick vocal cords and good control over my false cords. And I know all the necessary breathing techniques. I went to a vocal coach for about a year. I learned breathing techniques, warm-up, pronunciation and the right way to speak without putting any strain on the cords. I also had singing lessons for about 6 months to learn training my voice in a different way and applying all the techniques to singing.

"There are two sorts of singers: some breathe mostly from the lower abdomen, some use the ribcage and back-breathing more. I am the second type, although my power comes from my lower abdomen, the air I mainly hold in my widened rib cage and in my back."

Q: I'd like to ask some professional advice from you about growling. You mentioned that you had damaged your voice. When I realized that I can growl, lost my speaking voice for a week. I was growling 24/7, wanted to be louder and louder. I know that this genre needs warm-up but I don't really know how can I warm up properly? What type of warm-up and exercises do you suggest? I've got another question about how to become a bandmember? The first bit of your career was quite tough and probably you know what would be a good advice for a very beginner. I really want to get in a band, I just don't know how. I want to create music and give it to other people.

Angela: "There is a great DVD out; it's called 'The Zen of Screaming' from Melissa Cross. You can order it at www.melissacross.com. I have worked with her and will be teaching kids as well in the future. She is a vocal teacher, specialized in screaming and growling. Anyway, I do exactly the warm-up she has on her DVD. It is similar to what I learned from my vocal coaches at home! I do some humming, scales, yelling, screaming, growling. My warm-up is about 15 minutes long.

"Breath support is the most important factor in growling. All the power has to come from the abdomen and the ribcage — no strained throat or chest breathing. Just like in 'normal' singing.

"Finding a band: stick around in the scene, clubs, metal bars etc. it's easy to find out about an open singer slot when you are active in your local scene. And then audition. You got to persistent, cuz people still have a problem with females in extreme music. But if you are good, you will crush them. I found my first band in a youth center."

Q: I love everything about ARCH ENEMY but i totally favor those lyrics and most definitely that scream. I wish you could teach me how to do that. I am starting to get it down along with memorizing all your awesome lyrics but I can't scream nearly as long or loud as you. I have been in choir for many years and they teach you everything but screaming [lol].

Angela: "Screaming hard is not for everybody; 'cuz vocal cords are just as individual as the person. So if you have a beautiful singing voice and screaming is hard for you, don't do it. Don't wreck your voice. I love melodic singing and do it plenty at home. I am an aspiring vocal teacher though, so our paths might cross one day."

Q: I am a singer too and now I am about to go in studio and record. I would really like to know how on earth do you make that hellish sound of your voice? Can you give me some tips about how to do that, please. I know you have been learning to sing and I am asking your advice cause when I sing like that, I can't speak for days after.

Angela: "If it hurts, don't do it, otherwise you will damage your vocal cords! It is an extreme form of singing and requires strong, thick vocal cords. If you are a soprano, you probably shouldn't try it at all, your cords are simply not built for it. Not being able to speak for days is NOT a good sign!"

Q: I have been a great follower of your work and I have to say your vocals are clean with diction :) How do you do it???? I have a band of my own, we play death metal as well... But I seem to be facing problems in the jam room... where my two guitarists and bassist insist they have to be louder than me and my drummer, which I think should be the other way round. At times I end up straining my voice to be heard. And my vocals are sinking in the music. Would you mind sharing sum tips with me? On how to go about, in the jam room, studio and live???

Angela: "It is important you got a loud enough PA! Remember, you are the only instrumentalist in the band without build-in amplification. Straining your voice just to be heard isn't cool. If the others can't turn down, you got to turn up your gear — not your throat!"

Q: I am becoming a vocalist soon. I growl and it sounds okay, but how do you train your voice when you go on tour?

Angela: "I am actually working on a website right now that deals with vocal advice. This is a complex subject. You should have basic breathing techniques and singing knowledge, get a few lessons with a teacher to work on a good warm-up routine. You should train your voice daily, not only growling but singing also. Vocalist.org. This website provides a lot of good tips, exercises, etc.

"Know your voice well before you start touring. If you can't handle screaming for at least one hour a day, it's not a good idea to go out on the road. You won't even last for the first week."

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