If you’re a singer, you probably know something about vocal fry. If you’re not, there’s still a good chance you’ve heard of it. Either way, what’s this singing trend all about? This guide by Ann Arbor, MI voice teacher Elaina R. will share everything you may be wondering, including a vocal fry example and answers to common questions.
A couple of years ago, I was listening to This American Life (a popular radio show and podcast), and the hosts started talking about vocal fry singing. As a voice professional, it immediately grabbed my attention. Within a few minutes, I could tell that there was a growing trend surrounding this vocal trait.
As it turns out, the media had been talking about the glottal fry “epidemic” for years, claiming that young women purposely use it too much (check out this interesting article). Is this really a speech trend? Is it really limited to young women? What is vocal fry, anyway?
Keep reading to get the truth, throw out the myths, and learn more.
What Is Vocal Fry?
Vocal fry happens when someone doesn’t use enough breath to speak or sing. The lack of breath causes a creaky sound as the vocal cords come into close contact. It usually happens at the ends of phrases, as the pitch of the sentence goes down and tapers off.
Vocal fry singing is a technique singers use to change to a low-pitch sound on purpose. However, this method of singing isn’t recommended.
Learn more about what vocal fry is and how it happens here:
Thank you to BrainStuff – How Stuff Works for the use of this video!
Vocal Fry Example
Vocal fry has become so popular that even some celebrities have taken on this way of speaking. Iconic people like Emma Watson and Kim Kardashian are known as ‘vocal fry celebrities.’
Check out this video for a vocal fry example with well-known people:
Thank you to CBC News for the use of this video!
This video shares an example of vocal fry singing:
Vocal Fry Misconceptions
There is an astonishing amount of misinformation in the media about vocal fry. Here are some misconceptions I find most alarming:
Myth: Vocal fry happens because “that’s the way your voice is.”
Truth: Vocal fry happens because you’re using a very small amount of air to speak. That’s why lots of people talk with vocal fry in the morning, as their bodies are still getting warmed up.
Myth: Only young women speak with vocal fry.
Truth: Anyone can speak with vocal fry, and almost everyone speaks with it occasionally. In the segment, Ira Glass correctly points out that he speaks with it. In this video examining vocal fry, the vocal coach exhibits a vocal fry example at the end of his very first sentence, probably by accident.
Myth: Vocal fry is a new trend.
Truth: It’s not a new trend as it’s been happening for as long as humans have been phonating.
Myth: You can’t get rid of vocal fry.
Truth: Many people can get rid of vocal fry.
Is Vocal Fry Attractive?
Vocal fry singing and speaking isn’t necessarily attractive or not. It depends on who’s using it and who’s listening to it.
The problem with using it is that you’re not using adequate air to speak. This puts unnecessary stress on your vocal cords. It’s also impossible to project when using vocal fry, so unless you are speaking to someone right next to you, it won’t serve you well. And, it’s not great for singing either.
From a societal perspective, there’s evidence that the older generations (people 40 and up) have negative attitudes toward vocal fry in young women. As the earlier podcast and article attest, middle-aged to older folks perceive young women who speak with vocal fry as unintelligent and insecure. Of course, we know this isn’t necessarily the case!
How to Speak Without Vocal Fry
Non-vocal fry singing and speaking requires breath support. Here are some tips:
- Take the time to breathe before you speak.
- As you speak, think about projecting your sound to someone across the room.
- Do not allow the end of your sentence to nosedive into vocal fry.
If you have a voice teacher, she or he will be happy to help you master this. The more you work supported speaking into your daily life, the easier it will get.
Vocal Fry Example: Final Thoughts
Now that you’ve heard what vocal fry sounds like and you’ve learned more about it, it’s up to you to decide what you think. With that said, we don’t recommend doing this on purpose when singing or speaking. That’s because it can negatively affect your vocal cords and put a strain on them.
Want to learn more about singing? Consider taking personalized voice lessons!
Elaina R. teaches opera voice and singing in Ann Arbor, MI, as well as through online lessons. She is currently working on a Master of Music at the University of Michigan, and she has a B.M. from the University of Southern California. Learn more about Elaina here!
Photo by hnkkk