Troy Sanders – Getting Metal in Your Voice

Troy Sanders of Mastodon on the power of warming up.

Mastodon has made an impact all over the world with its hard-driving, progressive metal sound.

Troy Sanders’ voice has been integral to their impact.

In this exclusive interview with VoiceCouncil Magazine, Troy shares his journey to become a vocalist who stays on the top of his game.

What lessons have you learned the hard way with your voice?
I started doing vocals with Mastodon a few months after we were born in 2000 – and that was the first time ever doing vocals. It was dirty, aggressive, heavy rock and roll, and I didn’t think much about it honestly.

What was the first time you realized you wanted to work on your voice?
When I started hearing live recordings and seeing live video, it’s like wow, you know: I’m surrounded by musicians that are on top of their game: we’ve got a thunderous, talented drummer. We’ve got two guitar wizards on each side of me, and what I’m doing vocally is kind of shooting our band in the foot. It’s not helping, it’s hurting.

What did you do to strengthen your voice?
I adopted a series of vocal warm-ups that I’ve done every single day that we’ve played music; every show day or recording day, or rehearsal day, for the past year and a half.

What are the benefits?
Number one: you don’t get on stage with elevated energy and passion; you don’t blow your voice out (at least I haven’t yet -knock on wood).
Number two: I’ve been strong from the first note, because I’ve warmed up for the past thirty minutes. Those are the two biggest positives that I can pull from doing these warm-ups.

Where did you get your warm-ups?
From three different warm-up CDs from three different vocal teachers. I’ve used all three of them; I’ve kind of created bits and pieces of each one to create my own thirty minute warm-up.

Have you ever had a vocal coach or a singing teacher?
I’ve gone to three different women about three times each, so, I’ve had less than ten lessons. And these were all taking place while we were in the midst of writing a record.

What are these lessons about?
Vocal lessons or vocal warm-ups are not for changing or infiltrating the art that you’re doing. These teachers don’t care if you sing opera or if you sing death metal. What they’ve taught me is how to take care of my voice as an instrument, from diaphragm to lips.

What would you say all to all singers about Vocal health?
I take care of my bass guitar; I change its strings, I handle it with care, I clean it, I keep it polished. It’s the same thing with vocals. This is the biggest thing that I’ve taken from vocal warm-ups or lessons. This is my instrument as well and I need to take care of it and treat it properly, and it will last a long time.

How has the band reacted to your new approach of taking care of your voice?
I’ve gotten more compliments from my band mates – saying that I’m doing really well, and it’s sounded good night after night, and that’s extremely important to me of course. But also every gig we do is immediately online for the whole world within 24 hours. I will no longer see anything that I couldn’t prevent from being so disastrously embarrassing. I can’t believe I waited ten years to figure that out, but I’m glad that I did.

Troy Sanders is a bassist and vocalist in Mastodon. Hailed by Rolling Stone as the greatest metal band of their generation, Mastodon pairs complex songwriting with a clear 70s hard-rock sensibility that has been a hit with critics and fans alike. Recent albums “Crack The Skye” (2009) and “The Hunter” (2011) has seen the band focus even more on stripping down and tightening the compositions with major critical and commercial success following suit.
Photo by Cindy Frey

  • matt

    so he’s found out that warm ups are good. yeah, and…

  • Cody

    Yeah, truly: from the title, I thought this was going to be an article on how to safely make your voice sound like you can gargle nails.

  • poppa madison

    Metal in my voice?

    Hmmm …I have often felt like I had splinters in my throat when singing some days.
    But then, I did Woodwork, not Metalwork at school……..maybe that explains it!

    But…………I will settle for putting “METTLE” in my voice as an essential when performing, as should we all, I would suggest.

    Right ? my fellow vocalists.

    Poppa Madison