Screaming is a common technique in metal and other music genres but according to Wikipedia it has also been used in blues music and very few times in more classical Western works.

Are there other early examples of music (Western or not) that make use of screaming? In particular, are there any cultures that have had a tradition of using screams in music that predate rock music?

4 Answers 4


There are a few examples of screaming in Western classical music, but only as a coloristic effect; I am not aware of any compositions where it is used on a sustained basis the way it is in heavy metal. Some of these are when the music imitates styles such as blues or rock.

Some examples:

  • There are some primal screams in the first movement of Orff's Catulli Carmina.
  • The blues singer in the finale of Tippett's Third Symphony is asked to scream several phrases at key points during the movement.
  • There is a moment of free improvisation at the end of the "Agnus Dei" of Bernstein's Mass where screaming could be interpolated.
  • The movement "London" from Bolcom's massive Songs of Innocence and of Experience is essentially a power ballad for rock tenor.
  • Györgi Ligeti's Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures call for shouted and screamed text by amplified singers. This might be the closest to a sustained effort of any work I am currently aware of.

This is a very late answer, but only because I'm not convinced by some of the other answers.

(And I admit I'm actually a little bothered by one answer apparently equating a scream with standard operatic/vocal technique! Hopefully I misunderstood this author's intent. Perhaps they were addressing shouting within the dialogue, but that, I think, also misses the point of the original question, which is screaming within the context of music.)

One early possibility is in Wagner's famous Die Walküre (premiered 1870, written 1856). At the end of Act II, Siegmund is killed by Hunding. In the score, Wagner writes that Sieglinde "sinkt mit einem Schrei" (falls with a Schrei, which could mean cry, scream, etc.). Not all productions ask Sieglinde to actually scream out, but some do, as in this famous 1990 Met production.

Indeed, Wagner uses it throughout his Ring cycle (I can't believe I didn't mention this earlier!). Scene 3 of Das Rheingold has a much "screamier" scream, this time from a whole cast of Nibelungs!


I think this is kind of a broad question, and when you say screams in rock music it's kind of a different definition to how it is used everywhere else. I think of everything from Deep Purple to Iron maiden, opeth and beyond in rock, but in everything else it can have multiple meanings.

When I started searching it seemed that Bel Canto has some early screaming from Queen of the night in the 17th century, but then I found earlier examples of a similar sound in 1600. I believe you could trace it back even further by listening to early vocal music, but there are far better hunters on this site than me for that!

Again it's down to what you define as a scream. If it's a pure resonant tone then you can say that most vocal music was screaming at one point!

I can't give you a complete history on this one, but I can give you some examples in my mind that are outside metal/rock. In chronological order

The List

Cruda Amarilli - Claudio Monteverdi (1600)

This may not fall into the screaming category, only I'm not sure where the line is if we say that queen of the night is screaming, because both it,this and St Matthews Passion have a similar quality

Not All My Torments - Purcell (1659 - 1695)

St Matthews Passion - Bach (1727)

Queen Of the Night - Mozart (1791)

A very large chunk of opera could be considered screaming if it's anything like the above. in that regard screaming could be as far back as the Bel Canto technique

Dies Irae/Requiem - Verdi (1874)

I could go on for a while with that style, it's beautiful, but I'll leave bel Canto for now!

I Put a spell on you - Screamin Jay Hawkins (1956)

Eight Songs for a Mad King - Peter Maxwell Davies(1969)

This makes heavy use of extended vocal techs, especially screaming. It also has an extremely crazy score (while still being playable)

Lovin' You - Minnie Ripperton(1975)

Phantom of he Opera - Andrew Lloyd Webber (1986)

Ok, I said no more Opera, but this one's technically a musical, totally different thing ;)

there's also a nice little compilation you might like on Youtube here

Hope that that helped to answer your question, It was a lot of fun hunting around for all the songs! Almost put Crazy Horses in there, but that was a synth of some sort :(

  • -1 Because most of your examples do not contain any screaming, by any definition.
    – Johannes
    Jul 28, 2016 at 17:40
  • @johannes That's your prerogative of course! I did say in my answer that it depends on your definition of screaming, but which one of the examples do you consider to absolutely not contain a scream? Jul 28, 2016 at 17:47
  • I would say all but the Screamin' Jay and Maxwell Davies examples.
    – Johannes
    Jul 28, 2016 at 18:42

Not quite the same, but a very unusual, guttural, vocal sound is produced by some techniques of Tuvan throat singing.

Particularly, the khoomei, and kargyraa styles.

So the quest for that harsh tone is quite universal.

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