Based upon the number of hoarse voices we encountered after the game this past Sunday, we've reached the following conclusions:
Nobody in this town seems to know how to express his enthusiasm without damaging his voice. And with another big game on tap this weekend and the way the season's been going so far, we fear that without some sort of intervention, we're all going to be reduced to scribbling on whiteboards or using sign language to communicate with each other.
With that in mind, we assembled a makeshift panel of experts -- three dudes who scream for a living and one actual expert, one of the world's foremost voice specialists -- and asked them for tips for screaming without shredding your larynx. Page down to see what they had to say, then fill free to weigh in with tips of your own.
Credentials: Former frontman of Corruption, current bassist of Demonica and Spools of Dark Thread. Qualifications: Death-metal vocalist for more than two decades, highly experienced screamer. Fandom: Denver Broncos season ticket holder for twenty years. "My very first job out of college, I saved money to buy the rights to season tickets -- that's when you could still sell the rights -- and I bought those in 1992. I bought the rights for $2,000 per seat from somebody out of the Rocky Mountain News, out of the classified ads. I searched around for the seats I wanted and I got my seats on the thirty-yard line, three rows up from the grass, on the visitor's side, so I could heckle the other team on a weekly basis."
Says Grabowski: "Well, I'm here to tell you, the techniques that I use for screaming death-metal vocals are out the door, because you need to make your own volume. You can't use the microphone as an instrument of amplification. So, basically, you're pushing as much air out of your torso through your vocal cords as you squeeze your vocal cords as tight as possible, and by doing so [laughs] you make it as loud as possible. As a matter of fact, my voice is still sore from Sunday, dude. I was screaming like I haven't screamed in ten years. It was so great! If you want to make a super-loud noise, there's no way around it. You're sacrificing for the team, man."
Credentials: Frontman of Git Some, Kingdom of Magic and numerous other acts. Qualifications: Professional screamer, as inimitable as they come. Fandom: Been a huge Broncos fan since childhood. "I remember when I was about seven or eight years old, I started to really be a Broncos fan. My family, on Sundays, that's what we did. We made a big old pot of green chile and watched the game. My parents' friends would come over, and that's just what we did. I had an old-school Broncos helmet as a little kid, and I'd always dress up for the game."
Says Fairchild: "The secret is you have to get to the point where you know that you're pushing it, and you've gotta just pull back just a little bit. You have to find that happy medium where you're almost blowing your voice out, but you've gotta pull back to have that stamina to last the whole game. I think I've just been doing it so long that I've learned how to do it without blowing out my voice but still getting to where I can sound like I'm screaming and I'm not even pushing my voice at all. You just gotta find that happy medium in between. Once you feel your voice is pushing it, you've just gotta pull back just a touch. It usually takes me a song or two [to warm up]. When we record or whatever, I have to run through a song at least once. But then, after that, I have to start recording, because after an hour or two of doing that, my voice will start to totally go out."
Credentials: Frontman of Speedwolf and DDC. Qualifications: Intense, Lemmy-like vocal style. Fandom: Has only been to a handful of games, but has been a diehard Broncos fan since childhood.
Says Bruemmer: "You could do a vocal warm-up maybe by watching some old Elway games and screaming along to those. At your TV. Watch the replay of the very famous 'Drive.' Start yelling like that, chanting 'Elway!' Your voice doesn't go out if you yell 'Elway!' or 'John Fox!'...or 'Shanahan used to coach for us!' [laughs] That's the vocal exercise I recommend. Oh and Tebowing doesn't do anything for your vocal cords. I want to make that clear. Is this helpful at all?"
Credentials: Board-certified, fellowship-trained otolaryngolosist, actual expert. Qualifications: Medical Director of the Colorado Voice Clinic. He's the guy all the rock stars go to see in a panic when their voice gives out.
Says Opperman: "The number-one thing we tell people is that you need to stay hydrated, especially at this altitude. So maintaining a high amount of water consumption -- especially when you're going to a sporting event and may increase your alcohol consumption, you're naturally dehydrated. So maintain hydration.
Don't yell to an uncomfortable level. Try not to strain your voice, ever. If there's any discomfort, stop. If you're using your voice to the point that you're hoarse at the end of the game, you're using it too much. Hoarseness is not normal following normal voice use.
We tell people who are going to be using their voice aggressively to avoid things that thin their blood, which would be aspirin, ibuprofen, Aleve, vitamin E, because it makes it more likely to have issues of blood blisters, or what we call vocal-cord hemorrhages. They occur most commonly with people who are on those medications.
If you're going to do a lot of aggressive talking, rest your voice before and warm up before the event. Somebody is more likely to cause an injury if they go from never saying a word to just yelling at the top of their lungs than they are if they've been warming up their voice, something as simple as just general humming, singing, things like that. Vocal warm-ups are things that just get the cords moving and get you comfortable using your voice.
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