Vocal Warm Ups
Alright so, welcome to day 11 of my metal recording bootcamp here in CreativeLive with the amazing Monuments. We're going to do some scream vocal tracking today with Mr. Chris Barretto. Let's talk about the next most important part about getting a great vocal recording, which is warming up and keeping healthy. You've got a lot to say on that issue.
Whew, yes I do.
Do you wanna start by talking about the warm-up process?
Well sure, well, just wanna talk about why it's so important?
Yes, for sure. Well in my experience, a lot of vocalists don't warm up, especially screamers.
And some of them can get away with it. They're far and few in between--
Yeah, but the thing is, I don't think that people should look at the freaks of nature.
And do what they do.
I agree, I agree.
Like for instance, Steve Vai has longer fingers than most people that gives him a natural predisposition to be good at guitar. Natural predisposition for being good at guitar. Some guys can smo...
ke cigarettes, drink a ton of alcohol, not warm up and you know, the same like a 90 year old person who smokes and drank their whole life and never had a health problem, but--
But that's not the standard by which we measure
No. Absolutely, that is very true.
And I have had vocalists completely ruin their voices while we were tracking because they didn't warm up or were drinking the whole time and that stopped the record. Like, we had to wait for them to recover sometimes, it takes two days and some cases, it takes six weeks. And they're not going to stay at my studio for six weeks so it changes everything. To go get them recorded somewhere else, or they gotta fly the person back, it's hugely important.
Can become a logistics nightmare.
Yeah, and also, just for the sake of sounding great.
So there's that, but then there's also the longterm health issue.
So, like not developing vocal nodes, which you have had a problem with.
Which I have had a problem with, even though I do warm up anyway.
Yeah so, lets talk about that.
Well, it should be known then that, like my vocal condition comes off of something that could very easily happen to anyone, even if you do your best to take care of yourself and your vocal health, first and foremost, should always be, since we're talking about singers should be your concern and the thing is, vocal nodes, if you run into that, if you don't warm up and you do drink a lot and you're one of those people that aren't those freaks, you gotta first of all have a very very honest conversation with yourself. I think that's where it really begins, know yourself. Know what your body is capable of, know what your voice is capable of, and respect those boundaries. So, if you're going out every night on tour and you're screaming your head off and you're drunk or whatever and you think you're having a good time, but your band mates are coming back to you or people are coming up to you or maybe your management or your label's coming up to you you know, if it gets that far then, you have to take a step back, you know? And if people are saying, "Hey, this is not working, something's not sounding good," you know you need to reevaluate your position.
Hey, what if your producer's saying it?
Twice, tenfold then.
And the trouble that can lead you down towards it, is that if you subject your voice to enough abuse with not enough care, you will eventually damage them to the point where it might be beyond repair. And the first thing you can get is what I experienced which are called vocal nodes. Vocal nodes essentially are little calluses on your vocal folds and the vocal folds are really no bigger than your nail. They're one of the smallest organs in your body so, just that small little muscle is what's creating all that sound, you know what I mean? So, that sensitive little thing is valuable beyond belief. It's more valuable than gold. So, you need to take care of it. And once that shit goes, it's not like a guitar string, you know, you cannot re-change that shit, its gone.
Don't grow back.
Yeah it doesn't grow back, so, when I had vocal nodes, unfortunately, it was as a result of just ridiculous amounts of touring with not enough rest in between so this should translate for any other singer to know that, know that rest is insanely important for your voice and insanely important for your instrument because it is a physically based instrument. Again, it's not like a drum or guitar you could just change the skin or the string. It's very much an intuitive instrument. It is based off of your feeling and the physiology of your body and I speak from experience as both a vocalist and an instrumentalist because God knows I made fun of vocalists for enough time before I actually started doing the damn thing.
So, but your nodes weren't extremely serious, as you lucked out.
Thankfully because I'm aware of my voice because I know my voice, to a certain extent and because I do warm up and I practice the care I practice taking care of my voice. I practice the care of upholding my voice. That, I swear, was the only reason why I had even the wherewithal to know that that was happening. And had I not known that, I could've just very easily tried to have been like, "I'll just soldier my way through this," which in this case is not the right attitude. Seriously, it is really not. Don't let anyone be like, "You need to man up. "You need soldier through, yada yada." No, not with the voice. The voice is a very fucking real thing that needs to be respected and people, for the most part, don't understand that because its hard as an instrumentalist to relate to that and I understand that too. But, the voice is a sensitive thing. And only because I had that bit of training and knowledge about myself, was I able to be able to pick up on that. And so, I believe its 100% important for any young, starting, middle, or advanced vocalists to take their warmups, and the advanced vocalists will tell you that, not even me and I'm not even an advanced vocalist. Like, any fucking real vocalist will be like, "If you don't do that, you're an asshole."
And even with the mild case like you had, you guys had to cancel tours.
I had to cancel tours, I had to turn down offers, all because I know I need my voice to heal. And I'm still not even there yet, you know, I'm still not even 100% back. I was even worried that I might not even be able to do this to be honest.
Well you're here.
Well you know.
Let's talk about your actual warmup routine and your lifestyle choices and let me just say just one thing. If Chris does what Chris does, and I feel like every vocalists should do what he does but some guys don't, some guys smoke cigarettes or whatever. If you're gonna go into the studio, don't quit smoking right before the studio--
You'll go through withdrawals. If you're gonna make a lifestyle change, it should happen months before the studio because when you first make a lifestyle change, your body will rebel. So yeah because I've had vocalists be like, "I'm quitting smoking three days before the studio."
I mean, you'll be hocking up fucking phlegm too the entire time.
So yeah, with that said, if you're going to do what Chris does, try to start months before. But let's talk about your routine.
Yeah, so my routine's a combination of things. I took a bit of an opera warmup from a girl I used to date back in college since she was an opera singer. But I learned a lot from her and I still do it to this day so, I have this little bit of an opera warmup routine which consists of a little bit of lip drills (blows raspberries) on like a, just on a, on third, fifth, do some tongue trills in there, do some vowel exercises, some sort of plosives and consonants to kind of just get everything all warmed up and then I studied with Melissa Cross for several years.
Anyone doing metal should study with Melissa Cross.
She knows what she's talking about. So I do her warmup routine, as well, her Z's and E vowel consonant stuff, and E vowel, (chuckles) consonant, wow, that makes no sense. Anyway, yeah I do that regimen and then at the end, I've tweaked my own sort of things over the years. I just do like these little bit of extended yayas at the end where I kind of go up my range and stretch out my falsetto, if you will, so I kinda feel more prepared to hit them high notes.
But, you do this religiously?
If I'm singing, I'm doing it, you know? Basically.
Well, I'm saying this because I know a lot of guys who might have a warmup routine on guitar with like scales and this and that but they don't always do it. The guys that are the best always do it. And I know that you always do.
To quote Dizzy Gillespie, "if I don't practice for a day, I feel shot." I don't think that was the exact quote. (laughing) But you know what I mean.
Yeah, if I don't do my routine, like if I go out on, are you kidding me? If I don't do my routine before I go out on stage, I'm gonna have a miserable fucking time. Miserable fucking time.
And what about the rest of your lifestyle? Like water and sleep?
You know, I drink ridiculous amounts of water. I drink like almost a gallon of water everyday. And I try to get my eight hours, absolutely.
Where does alcohol come into play?
I used to drink more. I don't drink a lot anymore, honestly. If it's absinthe, I'm having a good time. But that's about it and... Look, I'm not gonna like fucking babysit you, you know what I mean? To put it to you this way, I'm pretty sure James Hetfield was never like, "I gotta watch, "make sure I don't eat any pizza and drink beer "before I go on stage," you know what I mean?
But he got nodes.
Yeah, he did.
His voice changed.
Eventually. But for the most part, there's some things that, look, we can't avoid, you know? This is rock and roll, you know? This isn't opera at the end of the day. So, you don't have to be on a strict diet. You don't have to like watch cheese, just be conscious of these things. Dairy has an effect on your voice. Smoking has an effect on your voice. Alcohol has an effect on your voice. I go back to my thing saying know yourself, you know what I mean? If you find that you can truly, and I mean truly, and you gotta be honest with yourself, you know what I mean? Don't lie and you'll know if you're fucking with yourself. If you can go out, drink a fifth of Jack or whatever, handle a gig, crush it, and still go home fine and wake up with a voice the next day then more power to you, you know what I mean? Then God bless you, I'm not that person.
You gonna do that for 30 days in a row?
Can you do it for 30 days in a row? Then maybe you wanna teach me something. But for the most part, that's not the case, you know what I mean? Be aware. Alcohol dries out your voice. It dehydrates you. Dairy creates mucous in your body and that doesn't help your singing. So, again, be aware of your instrument. Be aware of yourself. And just take your body seriously, you know? These things will affect you over time. And it's better to be safe than sorry.