In salute to Halloween, I’ve decided a post about screaming is in order.
Screaming can trash your voice, but doesn’t have to. Your voice can be in a condition to tolerate some screaming (or not) and you can use your voice in a way that makes screaming less taxing (or not). You can also use “alternative screams.”
Just to be clear, I’m talking here about screaming, as in “screaming and yelling.” Sports event, haunted house, mosh pit kind of screaming. I’m not talking about shrieking, which would be an isolated incident upon the discovery that one is being pursued by a zombie.
ALSO not talking about singing-screaming. Singing-screaming is both another subject, and something about which you should visit Melissa Cross (www.MelissaCross.com). She’s the creator of the DVD The Zen of Screaming; a must-have for any metal singer.
Assuming you can plan your screaming, try a high, loud “woo-hoo” instead. It’s suitable raucous and doesn’t sound at all weird in the context of any screaming-appropriate situation. This is my personal fave. It works really well.
Whistling is even better. Not whistle-while-you-work whistling, but fingers-in-the-mouth whistling. The loud kind. If you really want to save your voice, this is your best noise-making option. If you don’t know how, you can learn from helpful people on Youtube.
When To Pass
Typical screaming is really hard on the vocal folds. If your voice is already compromised and you find yourself indulging in a night of screaming, you’re asking for trouble. If you have any of these things going on:
laryngitis (or recent laryngitis)
lack of sleep
coughing (or recent coughing)
overused voice (you’re a teacher, sports coach, or interpreter)
…you should either avoid the situation altogether or duct tape your mouth shut. Vocal folds that are already compromised can be damaged in a more substantial way if they’re abused by screaming and yelling.
If You Feel You Must
If you won’t do the “woo-hoo” thing, or, you can’t resist the need to coach professional athletes from the 26th row, then plan on a little penance the next day. Silence is ideal; it’s the only way to truly rest the vocal folds. If you can’t be silent, then limit your speech, speak quietly and at a low pitch, and drink a lot of fluids. (Don’t whisper; that’s hard on your voice.)
If you’re a person who yells a lot you already know that you’re being unfairly hard on your voice. Some people have jobs that require yelling (e.g. sports coaches or nightclub bartenders). If you’re one of those people and you want to maintain a reasonably healthy voice, you’ll have to put in a little maintenance. Melissa Cross’s DVD’s would help, as would a few private voice lessons.
All that said, though, it is Halloween, and if you do find yourself pursued by a zombie, you should definitely scream. They hate that.
Meredith Colby is the author of Money Notes: How to Sing High, Loud, Healthy, and Forever. Available on this site and at Amazon.com