How are some singers able to soar over loud bands like conquering vikings, while others succumb to career-ending blown-out voices?
Myles Kennedy, frontman for both Slash & the Conspirators and Alter Bridge (with Mark Tremonti), found that singing in higher registers—like fellow high tenors Robert Plant and Geddy Lee—definitely helps. Although, as he and Lemmy from Motorhead discussed, the voice is a finicky instrument for men in the high ranges.
“If you’re a high singer, and you’re having an off night, the world is going to know,” Kennedy laughs. “Those high notes will shriek of suckiness if you’re not hitting them right.”
Kennedy sought out voice lessons only after he wasn’t consistently hitting the high notes on tour.
“I was always afraid lessons would change the way I sang, and make me sound too operatic, because I was into soul and blues singers," he says. "But it was one of the best things I did to improve my range and stamina. I learned to treat my voice like an instrument that is fragile, and learning how to hit the high notes consistently was a really eye-opening experience for me.”
Kennedy, who has nearly a four-octave range, also relies on a really good monitor mixer to ensure he can hear his voice clearly amidst the roar of the band.
As a co-guitarist in both bands, Kennedy uses a Diezel Schmidt for Slash’s blues-based rock, and a Diezel Herbert for Alter Bridge’s “insanely loud” metal-driven set.
“The Schmidt is more of a Vox AC30 on steroids, whereas the Herbert is more in the Mesa/Boogie Rectifier family,” he says. “I don’t think my Herbert would work in the context of the Slash world—it might be a little too aggressive—but the Schmidt sounds incredible.”
Kennedy plays a PRS S2 Mira and a Starla with Slash, and, with Alter Bridge, a 2007 PRS 245 and several acoustics, including a Taylor 614, an Eric Clapton Signature Martin and a PRS Angelis.
“I do a lot of writing on acoustic,” Kennedy says. “For some reason, that’s just where I feel most comfortable. There are some chord progressions that work really well for melody lines, and there are some that just don’t inspire a melody at all. Likewise, riffs can be good to sing over, or if a riff is not going to breed a good melody, then you might opt to turn it into more of a chord progression. When I worked with Slash on Apocalyptic Love, if I felt like a chord progression wasn’t working for the melody I wanted it to be, Slash was really open to changing everything. That’s the beauty of that guy and his humbleness. He’s very open to trying whatever works, and that makes for a really great songwriting partner.”
Currently touring the U.S. and Europe with Slash & the Conspirators — opening for Aerosmith—Kennedy gets no downtime to rest his voice on the road, so he must sequester himself.
“My friend Tony with TNT once talked about the lonely life of a lead singer, and that really resonated with me, because you try to save your voice, and there’s a certain isolation that comes with that,” Kennedy says. “But I’d rather have that isolation than get onstage and not be able to deliver. I live to deliver. That’s the goal.”