"It's basically the muscles that you pee with" – Myles Kennedy on singing

Myles Kennedy is one of the most accomplished rock vocalists out there right now, but the Alter Bridge man has really had to work at it, as he revealed to Rick Beato in a new interview.

From his days playing jazz fusion to fronting bands Mayfield Four, Alter Bridge with Mark Tremonti, Slash and the Conspirators, and now a solo career, it's been a long journey. And as Beato points out, when he met Myles during the recording of Alter Bridge's debut album One Day Remains, he was warming up his voice for literally hours before tracking.

"At that point I was technically doing it wrong," laughs Myles. "I was trying to force a square peg into a round hole. I'd taken a few lessons up to the point with an amazing vocal coach named Ron Anderson. Who is, to this day, probably the most important part of the equation for me. Having the opportunity to study with him a few times. He kind of unlocked the keys to the kingdom - he has this ability to take your voice and really free it up.

It's about having your placement just right, your breath… it's all about the breath

"At that point I'd only taken 10 lessons with him and I hadn't perfected the technique with him yet. It took a long time to get that figured out.  So you heard me when I was literally trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Because it was like, well if I keep pushing through this it's eventually going to open up. But like so many different things, as a guitar player, athlete, it's about relaxing.   

"It's about having your placement just right, your breath… it's all about the breath. And when you heard that cacophony  in the warm-up room, I hadn't fine tuned it just yet."

Like guitar playing, singing is a lifelong journey of development. And if you do both it obviously has an impact on your breathing technique – as the guitarist in Alter Bridge and his solo work, Myles has obviously giving this some serious thought.

"It really is crucial to have that support… and this something Ron brought up early on. It's basically the muscles that you pee with. You kind of push those out as you're going across your break and into the upper register to use your head voice. As long as that's all in place, I'm not using a lot of breath. It's a real subtle mechanism. 

"So I think the hardest thing for me as a singer and a guitar player, especially now that I'm out touring as a three-piece, you're naked. It can be clam central some nights. I joke with the fans, 'Just have your notebook out and [note] how many times he screwed up that chord progression.'

"That's the hard part, it's like patting your head and rubbing your belly. Because you have to remember the lyrics and the chord progression. If you've got to have a lead, you've got to set things up there, make sure your picking technique is right; it's a lot to think about. But I love that challenge, I love it, because every night before going out onstage it's like, here we go, strap yourself in!"

Myles is a tenor singer and fans will know he can go higher than most male rock vocalists when it comes to to range. Beato asked just how high he can go these days in a set typically and it's clear Myles has learned the art of balance these days.

"It's not crazy high," he explains. "I've learned over the years that long high notes, if I want to maintain pitch in the lower register and control, if I do a lot of that, even if I use the right technique, it'll just kind of throw everything out of line."

The secret behind being able to reach such heights onstage in the first place is the centuries old Bel Canto technique.

"It's an old opera technique, and it's amazing that they developed it, I think, three hundred years ago, or so I've been told. It's a lot; in your lower register your vowels do a certain thing… as you go higher that vowel changes so it's really complex. You're thinking about all of this. So the first few years of learning the technique it was just, run the scales and arpeggios over and over every night before you go onstage. 

"Like anything it's repetition. I heard this great phrase recently, 'Neurons that fire together, wire together'. If you just keep doing it over and over, and you do it right, you train your brain and eventually you don't think about it anymore.

"And that's what's fascinating now, it's actually really beautiful," Myles reveals. "If I'm feeling good and rested and warmed up, everything's open. It's like riding a wave and it's total freedom. It's very zen-like."

Myles Kennedy tours the UK in December. More info at myleskennedy.com


Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.