This Saturday is the Coffee Shop Jam, and I’m ready to scream.

Nothing’s wrong. I’m just gearing up for the weapons-grade rock vocals required for this Jam’s setlist, including “Arlandria” by the Foo Fighters, “In Bloom” and “Lounge Act” by Nirvana, and—my larynx convulses at the mention of it—“Girl’s Got Rhythm” by AC/DC.

These songs all feature high-pitched, raspy rock vocals that I used to think could only be gained from passing noxious chemicals over your vocal chords for years on end. That is, until I started taking vocal lessons a few years ago from Seattle’s screaming guru, Susan Carr, in order to prepare this Kermit-the-Frog sound-alike to teach “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for an online guitar instruction website.

It turns out that there’s a simple formula for kick-ass rock vocals: Get your voice in great shape, and then loosen things up by talking like a pirate or singing like Cookie Monster.

For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been doing the vocal exercises Sue taught me—a combination of breathing and singing scales—and then topping things off by singing “Happy Birthday” a few times in a Cookie Monster voice. The results have been awesome. I may not sound like Kurt Cobain, but I definitely don’t sound like Kermit anymore.

Well, maybe Kermit before his third trip to rehab.


The show went great. Here are a few screaming highlights:

“Lounge Act” by Nirvana
No screaming ’til the end

“Cold as Ice” by Foreigner
This one isn’t as gravelly, but it’s HIGH!