Foo Fighter vocal technique question
June 6, 2004 10:48 PM   Subscribe

Something I've always wondered: in "Monkey Wrench" by the Foo Fighers, how does Dave Grohl do the whole yelling-speech thing?

You know what I mean (and it starts at 2min 32sec in the song, if you don't, but want to check it out). Basically he yells the following at the top of his lungs, without stopping:

"One last thing before I quit I never wanted any more than I could fit into my head I still remember every single word you said and all the shit that somehow came along with it still there's one thing that comforts me since I was always caged and now I'm free!"

It's fine to do in a normal speaking voice, but screaming? And then drawing out the word 'free' at the end?
posted by Monster_Zero to Media & Arts (13 answers total)
I'd wager that Dave Grohl (as do most rock singers) has an amazing lung capacity. I know that mine's pretty build up from singing, but not quite at that level. Just take a massive intake of air into your lungs, and see how far you can get.
posted by cheaily at 11:37 PM on June 6, 2004

I thought for a long time he was doing some sort of circular-breathing type of thing at "shit," because the pitch of his voice changes considerably. But I'm pretty sure you could do it all in one breath, too.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 11:53 PM on June 6, 2004

either that or it's just cut together in two seperate takes
posted by cheaily at 12:41 AM on June 7, 2004

The answer to your question is the most powerful tool in singing technology since yodelling, dude: Inward Singing. And it makes non-stop rocking possible.

Think about it, man! Rock singers are only rocking you half the time! The other time they're...they're! But not anymore, baby. Not with inward singing.

(On a side note, this is a really good question, and one that had never occurred to me before. I personally witnessed him sing it all in one breath last year at the Paramount, though this apparently does change from show to show.)
posted by Danelope at 12:44 AM on June 7, 2004

Anyone heard him do this live?

If not, I'd wager that it's carefully edited.

And yes, I've almost passed out trying to sing along to it...
posted by snowgoon at 4:27 AM on June 7, 2004

I'm a weak lunged asthmatic, and I can speak the whole thing in one breath with no problems. I'd imagine a person of better than average (or hell, even normal) lung capacity shouldn't have any serious trouble with yelling it.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:20 AM on June 7, 2004

I'd imagine that control has a large part to do with it as well as lung volume. I've got huge lung capacity from swimming (over 10 liters) but need to breathe a lot when I speak (Well, it seems like a lot to me). I know a few professional speakers and they said that vocal training increases the efficiency with which you speak. Less air needs to pass to make the same sound.

I know for instance that if I yelled that at the top of my lungs I wouldn't get very far. It's not due to lung capacity though, it's because I'd be exhaling a lot of air that isn't making any contribution to my sound output. I'd argue that a skilled singer knows how to limit exhalation so that air isn't wasted, with practice even when he's yelling.

I also had the same problem when I first started scuba diving. I'd drain the tank amazingly fast. When swimming my job was to get rid of as much of the gas in my lungs as possible so that I could get as complete a possible exchange of air at the next opportunity. Now that I've learned how to control this I'm really light on my scuba tanks, even lighter than female dive masters I've dived with.
posted by substrate at 5:41 AM on June 7, 2004

Here's a link on breath control for singers.
posted by substrate at 5:43 AM on June 7, 2004

It's quite possible that Dave has great breath control; I don't know as I've never seen him live.

But it's just as possible - even likely - that the vocals were heavily edited, either on tape or using something like ProTools. It's a very rare production which these days on which a vocalist is recorded in one take.

Usually whole lines, even words or parts of words are "comped" (compiled) together on ProTools to get the overall best effect of a performance. So it's easily possible to create effects which are not achievable in a live scenario, without it sounding in any way un-natural.
posted by skylar at 11:39 AM on June 7, 2004

skylar, except somebody responding to this actual post has seen him do it live.
posted by substrate at 11:50 AM on June 7, 2004

Breath control is trainable. I have a great deal of breath control from playing trumpet for 28 years (holy crap, that's a long time--thank heavens it wasn't continuous). Playing trumpet loudly is equivalent to screaming through a pipe, so yeah, I could totally see it.
posted by plinth at 3:58 PM on June 7, 2004

I've seen him perform this song live, and he did NOT reproduce it as recorded -- I even remember specifically listening to see if just maybe he could actually pull it off. He got pretty close, to his credit, but he pretty much degraded it into a bunch of full-on screaming with room for a few breaths.
posted by redshifter at 5:42 PM on June 7, 2004

Response by poster: I'd never thought of lung control vs. capacity, which is pretty cool (always thought purely in terms of capacity). But I got the answer I wanted, which is that apparently he can do it for reals. Thanks guys!
posted by Monster_Zero at 2:47 PM on June 9, 2004

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