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Vocal Fry: To Use or Not to Use?

Vocal Fry: To Use or Not to Use?

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Picture illustrating a woman with her mouth open. For blog post Vocal Fry: To Use or Not to Use?. Image by Suad Kamardeen, from Unsplash.

The vocal fry has become the latest phenomenon.

Many celebrities are known for using vocal fry, but what’s the reason for lowering your voice to make it sound deep and creaky

There are opinions for and against the vocal fry, with many myths and misconceptions. Some people see vocal fry as an intentional voice tone that sounds ‘annoying’ and damages your vocal cords. However, others view vocal frying as a smart technique to sound more relatable.

Therefore, with so many diverse opinions, we have decided to unravel whether it has a place in the voice-over industry.

What Is Vocal Fry?

Vocal fry, or glottal fry, is when a person uses their lowest vocal register, making them talk in a deep, almost raspy manner. The word ‘fry’ hints at the sizzling sound it produces, almost like that of bacon frying in a pan!

To help you understand, a vocal register is the range of tones produced by the vibrational pattern of the vocal cords.

Here is a list of vocal registers from low to high.

image

While some artists slip it into their voice intentionally, others struggle with a natural vocal fry they can’t seem to overcome on their own. Whether you want to use it or get rid of it, you must know what causes vocal fry.

Our vocal cords separate when we breathe to let air pass. These vocal cords come together when we speak, and that vibration produces a sound. Vocal fry happens when there isn’t enough breath being pushed through the vocal cords, creating a hollow, barely audible sound.

To use this technique, relax the vocal folds without letting enough air pass to use the vocal fry. It creates shorter vocal folds and slower vibrations. You can almost hear the vocal cords rattling together, activating a ‘vibrational mode’ and a croaky voice. A great vocal fry example is Kim Kardashian or Katy Perry, using a deliberate lower-than-normal voice register to speak or sing, respectively, as a stylistic choice.

Benefits of Vocal Fry

Instinctively, vocal fry wouldn’t be someone’s first choice. After all, it’s not natural and seems forced. Wouldn’t that be REALLY uncomfortable to speak and hear?

Well, not entirely.

But, before you right off this technique you must understand that there is a place for almost every kind of sound in the voice-over industry. That’s what gives this career its creative edge.

It all depends on the context!

Here are just some of the reasons to leverage the power of the vocal fry.

1.     Expands Your Vocal Range

Singers and even voice-over actors aspire to strengthen and extend their vocal range. Your vocal range is the distance between the highest and lowest pitch you can phonate comfortably.

Interestingly, many people can extend their upper range but struggle to speak using lower notes. The lower notes may be more relevant for certain projects like commercials requiring vocal fry voice over.

To fry vocals, you must exert greater control over your vocal cords, which helps strengthen the muscles that limit you from exploring your lower pitch.

Voila! Over time, the vocal frying exercise can expand your vocal range to become a versatile singer or voice-over artist.

2.     Reduces Your Nasal Tone

A reasonable amount of nasal resonance is imperative for a balanced voice. But when people allow too much air to flow through their noses, that becomes a problem.

Many singers and voice-over artists struggle with a nasal tone that makes them appear more muted. Nasality in your voice is a result of the soft palate (tissue on the roof of the mouth) not being lifted properly, which leaves little room for the air to pass through the throat.

Vocal fry helps lift the soft palate, directing airflow to the mouth instead of the nose. This technique helps achieve oral resonance, successfully mitigating that nasal voice.

3.     Vocal Fry Helps Relax the Vocal Cords

One of the most common myths about vocal fry is that it’s harmful. We’ll clear that right up. Indeed, Lee Akst, M.D., Director of the Johns Hopkins Voice Center, states that it doesn’t damage the vocal anatomy. However, it can become a habit if used excessively.

Conversely, it’s actually one of the ways to relax your vocal cords after a tiresome singing gig or back-to-back voice-over recordings. Since this technique mainly uses the muscle that holds the vocal cords together, it allows the other muscles to relax.

Therefore, switching to a vocal fry can relieve the pent-up tension in the cricothyroid (CT) muscles primarily used for the head voice.

4.     Adds Diversity to Your Sounds

Vocal fry voice-over has steadily become popular due to its stylistic element. Research finds that a high pitch is associated with insecurity, so a lower pitch can change how people perceive you. This is perhaps why over two-thirds of research subjects used it in their readings to sound more assertive and authoritative.

You may have heard Britney Spears’ slipping into it during ‘Baby One More Time,’ or Golden Globe award-winning actor Brad Pitt leveraging the technique to play various roles. So it’s safe to say this vocal register lets you switch things up and play an assortment of roles to appeal to the audience.

Switching to vocal fry can also help showcase your range during auditions instead of sticking to a monotone, a rookie voice-over artist mistake.

How to Control Your Vocal Fry?

While it has clear advantages, there is always too much of a good thing, though the vocal frying technique can be good for your career if you use it judiciously.

Just as some people cannot seamlessly slip into the lower notes, others cannot eliminate the glottal fry. But, with a little attention, you can control it.

Here are some ways to do just that.

1.     Breathe In

So, if you hear a croak seeping into your voice, stop and take a nice, big breath of air. When we run out of breath, the vocal cords come together, almost ramming against each other to produce a pulsating sound.

When you inhale, you let air pass through your throat, which separates your vocal cords. The voice sounds much clearer when speaking without the vocal fry vibration compromising its pitch and volume.

2.     Split Your Sentences

Lack of air passing through the vocal cords is what causes vocal fry. We run out of breath when we speak long, run-on sentences, which leads to that hoarse voice you experience as soon as you wake up.

One way to reduce it is to break down sentences into shorter ones. Stop to take a breath between sentences, which will help achieve more clarity in your voice.

3.     Relax Your Vocal Mechanism

People deliberately reduce the amount of air that passes through their vocal cords to achieve vocal fry. That’s what makes you sound bored, almost uninterested.

However, this nonchalant voice requires a contraction of the thyroarytenoid (TA) muscle. If you relax your voice muscles and speak without pressure, your pitch will rise to a more normal level.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is no one-size-fits-all approach in the voice-over industry. You will find a suitable gig if you have a high or low pitch or vocal register. So, much criticism surrounds this technique, but it has a place in the creative world of voice-over!

Mastering the art of vocal fry will open up a greater scope of projects, so don’t turn your back on it just yet. Understanding how it works will help you easily slip in and out of it whenever you want, helping you become a versatile voice-over artist.


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