Rock Screaming 101: From Kermit to Kurt in 6 Weeks

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!

Comments 16

  1. Kurt changed my life with his insightful and surreal music and lyrics. I only wished he could have stuck around to make more to listen to for future generations. I was compelled to compose a portrait of him In Memoriam recently on the anniversary of his death on my artist’s blog at Drop in and tell me your memories of his music and how it’s affected you.

  2. Very nice tutorial! I remember when I first learned to scream… but I leanred more of the metal vocals then rock but both are equaly challenging and sound amazing! I know this may sound a bit ridiculious but if you guys haven’t heard Jack Blacks rock scream/inging I suggest you go listen to it… its god like!

  3. A Nirvana cover will kill most cover bands because of Kurts voice! Not only was it great natural technique, but it was the underlying pain and emotion that Kurt put into every song that will be hard to replicate.

    If you did it, then thumbs up to you!!

    Can we hear it?

  4. With determination and hard work, there is a possibility for a Kermit to be a Kurt. Even if it is said that singing is innate, if you can carry a tune and have vocal lessons, you can sure improve. If not, you can play guitar instead. Good luck!

  5. I liked your version of Lounge Act. Holy crap, how old was the drummer. You definitely couldn’t start the gig too late, he might fall asleep at the skins, lol. Hey, it’s all about havin’ fun.
    Anyway, as they say in New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die”.

    Keep on rockin’ dudes!

    thanx again 4 da entertaining Nirvana tune, nice!

  6. Taking step to keep your vocal chords healthy should include your diet. After losing my voice, I discovered the perfect solution. Eat spinach and drink wheat grass juice. It works within days. I would be better to add these things to your diet and you will maintain to level vocal chords.

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    problem. You’re amazing! Thanks!

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