We can all remember the scenes in shows and movies when actors let go the most eye watering, ear drum shattering, heart clenching scream! Drew Barrymore in ‘Scream’, Jamie Lee Curtis in ‘Halloween’, Florence Pugh in ‘Midsommar’, Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Predator’… the list goes on. A great scream can become the thing that defines an actor, and so working on your scream is as important as all the other emotions you work on honing your craft. When it comes to screaming, it places a huge demand on your voice. Especially if you are having to scream night after night in a live performance, screaming safely and protecting your vocals is incredibly important. Here are some top tips on how to create an fear inducing scream without damaging your voice!

It may seem that taking a big breath before yelling would make sense, but that’s not the way your body works. In fact, the more air we have in our lungs, the faster it wants to rush back out, which increases vocal strain. To shout in a healthy way, you need to blow out most of your air right beforehand. So clear your lungs before you let out an almighty roar.

Our throats are ringed in muscles known as constrictors, which help us swallow food and liquid properly. You will want to open these up before you scream so that the sound can easily flow. There are two throat motions that reduce constriction: a silent laugh and a silent sob. While this is potentially a little tricky to work into your scene, depending on the reason for screaming, if you can manage to, this will vastly help reduce the strain on your vocal cords.

Bloodcurdling screams often have a “rattle” in them. This sound is in fact made in your soft palate, not in your throat. Try saying the sound “ach” in a German accent. You should feel it at the upper back part of your mouth. If you add this sound on top of a scream, the effect can be both terrifying and vocally safe.

A good scream technique requires a steady neck. Try interlacing your fingers and placing your palms on the back of your skull. Gently but firmly press your head back toward your palms when you scream. You can also place a fist against your forehead; try yelling while pressing your head forward against your fist. If you manage to flex this move into your scene, it can add to the drama and anguish!

Back muscles are the ‘extensors’ of our body, and part of their job is to decelerate movement. Most of us scream with too much respiratory force, so your back helps you balance out that tendency. Any pulling motion with the arms will engage your back. Try some arm movements that feel natural and strong to you, and use them as you scream. The same as with your neck, if you can integrate these movements into your scream it should add some great visuals.

Never scream on a cold throat. Do some voice and speech warm-ups or some slides through your range on a hum or an “ng” sound. After the show, do a cooldown for your voice such as descending scales or slides on “oo” and “ee.”

The above advice is great for the odd scream, but if you have been given a part that requires frequent screams, the best way to protect your voice is to work with a trained professional.