How Dogs Can Teach You to Sing Heavy Metal

Bryan Parys
October 1, 2019

David Benites, founder of the Extreme Vocal Institute, summoned the powers of metal—and classic vocal technique—at a recent clinic.

Visiting artist David Benites walked students through safe and surprising methods for delivering extreme vocal styles.
Image by Adam Ridhwan

If you happened to walk by Berk Recital Hall while heavy metal and rock vocalist David Benites was giving a vocal clinic, you might’ve wondered what the barking was all about. Even knowing that it was a session on the proper, healthy method for delivering extreme vocal styles might not have prepared you. But according to Benites, owner of the Extreme Vocal Institute, dog barks and heavy metal vocals have more in common than you might think. Dogs, it turns out, have a similar voice box to humans. “But their vocal cords are not nearly as developed and sophisticated as ours,” Benites says. He points out that barking, therefore, contains overtones, and “all metal vocals are is just mastery of your ability to generate overtones, and then what you do with them.”

Which is why, when he demonstrated a round of ROWFFs, each one seemed to get closer to the kind of snarl you might hear in a metal song.

Here’s a room recording of this surreal moment:

Aside from the barking, the rest of the clinic’s content could have easily fit in with any genre-based discussion of proper vocal techniques. And while the heavy metal vocal style as we know it today has only existed for about a half century, Benites pointed out that the makings of this style can be found throughout history and around the world, drawing from genres such as blues, jazz, opera, and the ancient form of overtone singing known as Mongolian throat singing.

So, should you want to dig deep into something primal without doing damage to your vocal cords, whether it’s a low growl or a gravelly scream, the method still revolves around proper body alignment, control of air flow, and shaping the sounds with your mouth. “We can take the mouth and we can create a wide variety of shapes with it,” Benites says. “There are a lot of different ways to shape your sounds, but the bottom line is: keep relaxed and just experiment with it a little bit, and you’ll find not just the sound you’re looking for, but your sound and your voice.”

Related categories: