Being a vocalist is one of the greatest feelings and achievements that you can experience. It’s rewarding in the sense that you’re putting yourself out there, front and center from both a technical and creative perspective.
But there are also many challenges that come with being a singer, especially being a metal vocalist.
In this post (and video below), you’re going to go on a journey with recording artist and vocal coach Elizabeth de Deus. And you’ll learn 12 powerful strategies in her story that can help you become a better metal vocalist and musician.
Video Interview with Metal Vocal Coach and Singer/Songwriter Elizabeth de Deus
***Be sure to check out Elizabeth’s vocal course,
1 – How to Get Started as a Metal Vocalist
To become a singer of any particular genre you have to start with what style of music captivates you and gives you that gut feeling of ‘This is it…I want to do that!’
As you go deeper into finding your style it’s a good idea to see your favorite bands perform live. This is where you get a good taste of what it must be like on stage singing the genre that you love.
For Elizabeth, it started in her early 20’s listening to bands like Misfits, Bad Brains, and several others in the punk-metal genre. Seeing these bands play live is what ignited her passion even more and she soon became the lead vocalist for a local horror-punk band.
- Discover what sub-genre (and this could be multiple sub-genres) of metal that ignites your passion
- Go to as many live shows as you can
- Allow this to fuel your passion even more to get out there and start singing
2 – How to Be a Vocalist and Writing Your Own Music
It’s not uncommon for the lead vocalist of a band to just sing and not partake in the songwriting process. Oftentimes, one or more of the other musicians in the band does most or all of the writing.
For example, Tuomas Holopainen is the main songwriter for Nightwish (he primarily plays keys and also handles backing vocals). Martijn Westerholt, another keyboardist, is the core songwriter for his band and project Delain.
For Elizabeth, being a vocalist means everything to her. It’s her form of expression and makes her feel alive. I’m sure you can certainly relate to these emotions being a singer.
But she soon stepped into the role of writing and composing her own music. This become as much of a passion as being a vocalist so she went back to school to study music production and composition.
- If you’re not alraedy, consider learning more about writing your own music as this will fuel your passion even more but it’s something intimate that you create.
- Don’t ignore the technacalities of writing music; learn as much as you can from both the composition and production aspects.
3 – Using Music Theory to Write Your Own Music
Some musicians and songwriters dive deep into music theory whereas others may shy away from it.
For Elizabeth, it’s an important part of her songwriting and music composition process. It has helped her connect pieces of music and has also proven to be extremely helpful in working with other musicians, speaking the same language.
Learning music theory also inspired Elizabeth to start writing aggressive metal. This style is more complex in nature and knowing the elements of music theory helped her tie pieces of music together.
- Don’t be overwhelmed by music theory; have fun with it.
- Knowing the terminology of music theory can help you when working with other musicians and composers.
- Learning theory can lead you down different musical paths that you otherwise may have not ventured down.
4 – How to Write Harmonies as a Metal Vocalist
No matter how amazing your voice is you’ll always sound better with harmonies. Whether it’s having background singers sing live with you or you recording your own harmony tracks in the studio, they add more dynamics and power to your songs.
So it’s important to know how to write vocal harmonies for your music. The foundation for that is knowing what notes make up a chord.
Elizabeth recommends rocking out in your car to top 40 hits as most of the times those songs are predictable. She also recommends using apps to record yourself singing a melody and going back to add harmonies. This is a great way to practice and test your skills.
- Knowing how to build harmonies will you expand your skills as a metal vocalist.
- Practice creating harmonies and singing the on a regular basis.
5 – Approach to Music Theory for Metal Singers
As a vocal coach, Elizabeth see’s music theory as an important part of her career as in writing her own music. She also recommends not allowing the thought of music theory to be a ‘cold’ approach.
Rather, have fun with the process. Look at theory as putting pieces of a puzzle together, which you are actually creating that puzzle along the way in your music.
- Going back to what we covered earlier, allow music theory to be an exciting process.
- Figure out what you need to learn from theory and apply it to your music.
6 – Tips for Recording Vocals
The most crucial part of recording vocals is being prepared before you get into the studio. This is going to save you time, frustration, and in many cases, save you money (most studios aren’t free!).
Below are Elizabeth’s suggestions to make sure you’re prepared.
- Memorize your lyrics before the day of recording. This will allow you to focus more on your performance.
- Figure out what vocal techniques you’re going to use in certain parts of your songs.
- Don’t do anything the day before that’s going to wreck your voice on the day of recording.
- Warm-up moderately before recording but don’t overdo it.
7 – How to Use Reverb for Recording Metal Vocals
Reverb is arguably the most-used effect when recording vocals. And it’s definitely okay to use when recording your vocal tracks. However, using too much can mask what your voice truly sounds like and could also cause you to make mistakes.
Elizabeth likes to use just a little during the recording process. She also communicates with her engineer so that adjustments can be made that cater to her voice and style.
- Use enough reverb to give you that confidence in your voice.
- Don’t overdo reverb as this may give you a misconception of what your vocals are sounding like.
- Have an open line of communication with the studio engineer that you’re working with.
8 – Revisiting Takes and Punching In Vocals in the Studio
You may not always nail it on the first take. Or you may consider changes certain vocal parts after going back and listening to the track.
Elizabeth prefers to revisit her tracks after everything has been recorded. Oftentimes you’ll hear certain parts that you may want to change after the fact. For example, maybe the first vocal line wasn’t as strong as it needs to be. Or you may want to changed the way you sang a particular note to fit the music better.
- Consider recording multiple takes and try different things.
- You’ll hear the music in a different way after the fact than when recording your vocal tracks.
- You may have more energy in your vocals after a couple of takes once you feel more comfortable.
9 – Should Your Start with Clean or Harsh Vocals First?
Elizabeth prefers to record clean vocals first. This allows you to build your confidence and it’s also a great way to warm up your voice before singing more harsh vocals like growls, screams, or gutturals.
- Consider recording clean vocals first.
- Make sure that you have high energy when you get to the harsh vocals as they require more effort.
10 – How to Take Control of Your Vocal Recording Session
There are two key factors in taking control of your recording sessions. One if to be adaptable. Secondly, you want to feel comfortable in the environment you’re in so that you can put on your best performance.
Also focus on the technical elements like your monitor mix, the type of headphones, effects, etc. Make sure the levels are set appropriately so that you can record your best vocals.
- Find an engineer you’re comfortable working with and stick with them.
- Take the time you need to get the levels you need; don’t rush through that process.
11 – Using Your Microphone: Live VS Recording in the Studio
There is indeed a difference between recording vocals in the studio and performing live. So the approach should be catered to each, accordingly.
On stage, you can move around and engage with the audience. However, it’s easy to move your mic too far or too close while singing and moving around. In many cases, you’re sound engineer will be monitoring the faders but that’s not always the case.
In the studio, you have to dig deeper to find that energy that you naturally get singing live. The benefit is that you’re more focused in the studio and you won’t be moving around, so your sound is more consistent.
- Assess the type of mics you’re using both on stage and in the studio beforehand.
- Understand the dynamics of singing live versus recording vocals in the studio.
- Do your own research on mics and gear to find out what you’re woking with and the best ways to use it.
12 – Should Metal Singers Use a Vocal Shield or Vocals Booth?
Vocal booths are going to greatly enhance the quality of your vocal tracks. It’s going to produce a cleaner track without picking up unwanted room noise or reflections.
If you don’t have the budget for a vocal booth there are other options. There’s everything from making DIY absorption panels to using something as simple as a pillow behind the mic or stuffing a mattress in the closet for isolation.
- Always consider using some type of room treatment when recording vocals.
- Do everything you can to make sure your vocals are isolated and that you’re not picking up any unwanted sounds in the room when recording.
- Definitely consider investing in a vocal booth to capture the best sound.
We hope these tips for metal vocals help you!
***Be sure to check out Elizabeth’s vocal course right here on Metal Mastermind: