MICHAEL SWEET Explains STRYPER's Decision To Tune Down Half Step To Accommodate His Aging Voice
October 13, 2022
Michael Sweet has explained his recent announcement that he and his STRYPER bandmates no longer attempt to perform the group's songs in the original key.
In a social media post four months ago, the now-59-year-old guitarist/vocalist revealed that and the rest of STRYPER played their music on the band's recently completed U.S. tour a half step down to accommodate his aging voice.
Asked in a new interview with The Rock Experience With Mike Brunn why it was important for him to come out and almost apologize for the fact that STRYPER was tuning down, Michael said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "You know what? It is for me. Maybe it's wrong for me to think this way, but it's a little bit of a pride issue; you're proud that you don't have to tune down 'cause you could do it in the original key. And there's something to be said for that; it feels good to be able to say that. But then I realized everyone tunes down except for maybe a select few — very select few. And those few are bands that don't sing in a super-high register. The bands like STRYPER that sing in a very high register, belting…
"See, the vocals for STRYPER, and this isn't to put us on a pedestal, but they're unique in the sense that not only are they high, but they're chest-belted vocals," he explained. "They're not [makes growling sound]; they come from here [puts hand over chest], not from here [puts hand over his throat]. That makes it a little bit more difficult to pull off. So when we dropped the key down a half step, I felt like, 'Wow, okay, this is a little easier.' I can get through the show a little easier and not have to strain or struggle so much.
"You've got all the vocal coaches out there watching right now, saying, 'Oh, if he took lessons, he'd be able to do it again.' That's bullcrap," Michael said. "It makes me laugh sometimes when you hear these guys say, 'Oh, yeah, 'cause he's singing wrong.' No, I'm not singing wrong. I get my vocal cords checked every year. I've never had surgery; I've never had nodules. They tell me my vocal cords look pristine. I'm not singing wrong. If I was singing wrong, they would not look pristine. So my problem lies with just aging. Your vocal folds, as you age, they start to stiffen, and there's not a darn thing you can do about that. Your muscles, they change. It's just part of life. You deal with it the best way that you can. You stay in shape; that's important. Take care of yourself, of course. But also, I've got post-nasal drip really bad. And I'm always clearing my throat; it's a real thick post-nasal drip. My doctors who scoped me have said, 'We've never seen anything like it.' It's almost like glue on my vocal cords continuously, and that keeps me from being able to sing at the best of my range and at the top of my range. But they also said that they think it's protected my vocal cords as well. So I'm definitely singing right. I'm blessed to still have the voice that I have. Is it what it once was? No."
Three years ago, IRON MAIDEN's Bruce Dickinson said that he takes pride in the fact that he and his bandmates perform their songs in the original key. "We don't detune, like some other people do," he said. "We don't do any of that. I suppose if one day we have to, we have to, but we don't have to do it now, and I think the songs sound better as a result of it. They're meant to be played in that key."
Back in 2014, QUEENSRŸCHE's Todd La Torre said that the fact that he sings the band's songs in their original key is one of the reasons he has been able to win over so many of the QUEENSRŸCHE fans following the departure of original frontman Geoff Tate.
"We don't drop-tune," he said. "When I first got in the band, [the other guys in QUEENSRŸCHE] said, 'Hey, if you want us to tune down a half a step, if it's easier for you, don't be afraid to ask us.' And I said, 'No. I wanna do this the best way that I can to represent the songs the way that they really go, and if it's a struggle for me, I just have more work to do for me. But let me keep trying to do this.' So I think the fact that those old songs weren't being played [in the last few years with Geoff in the band]… I mean, some of them were played, but a lot of times they were tuned down or songs were not played in their entirety, like 'Roads To Madness'; we play that song in its entirety. We play 'NM 156' in its entirety. And those fans, they really love hearing that. So the fact that that wasn't happening, and then when I came into the band, it started happening, it really kind of made it easier, I think, for fans to kind of rally around and go, 'Awesome!'"
STRYPER's new studio album, "The Final Battle", is due on October 21 via Frontiers Music Srl. The follow-up to 2020's "Even The Devil Believes" was produced by Michael and was once again recorded at SpiritHouse Recording Studios in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Michael is joined in STRYPER by his brother Robert Sweet (drums),Oz Fox (guitars) and Perry Richardson (bass).
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