How to Get a Raspy Singing Voice – Is it Healthy?

Do you love the sound of a “raspy” singing voice? Find out the truth about this vocal style — and why you may want to avoid it — in this guest post by Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R...

What do Janis Joplin, Louis Armstrong, and Steven Tyler have in common? They are all famous for their raspy, gravely voices. A raspy sound is so popular in some types of music that some people with normal voices want to learn to sing with a raspy tone.

Is it possible to get a raspy singing voice if you don’t have one naturally? Yes. Is it healthy? No. Here’s why – and how you can fake a raspy voice for a little while.

How to Get a Raspy Singing Voice

What kinds of people have raspy voices? I immediately think of rock singers, smokers, children who throw lots of temper tantrums, hard-partying college students, people with sore throats, and the elderly. It’s a pretty varied list.

What do all of these demographics have in common? Most of them abuse or overuse their voices. Sorry, but that’s the key to a raspy voice.

Kelly Clarkson, the first “American Idol” winner, is a good example. Take a look at her audition (2002) below, which starts at 0:35.

As you’ll notice, she sounds clear as a bell. She was a waitress at the time and had no formal vocal training. She went on to win “American Idol” and launch a successful career, which involved lots of singing. In her 2005 VMA performance of her song “Since U Been Gone” (skip to 0:50), below, she sounds very different. This is the result of three years of untrained singing.

People with “naturally raspy” voices usually have a combination of injury-susceptible vocal cords and bad vocal habits. For example, one of my brothers has had a raspy voice ever since he was little. He also talks so loud that he’s almost shouting, and he has no vocal training.

What Causes a Raspy Voice?

It’s not just the sound that is changing; it is the actual vocal folds. When you sing, your vocal cords vibrate and contact each other many times a second to produce sound. If you do this too much or with bad technique, your vocal cords tire out and develop problems. Imagine if you clapped for several hours a day, with a lot of force. What would your hands look like after a month or so?

A healthy set of vocal cords is relatively straight, and both cords come together and form an airtight seal over and over during singing (this diagram of different vocal faults might help you visualize this). An unhealthy set of vocal cords is lumpy and doesn’t form an airtight seal. The escaping air gives the voice a raspy quality.

Raspy voices are often caused by nodules, or calluses on the vocal cords; polyps, which are lurid fluid-filled bulges; or ulcers, also known as open sores. Nodules and polyps require surgery to remove. Some people develop inflammation that will eventually turn into nodules without care. Maybe you want a raspy voice, but I’m pretty sure you don’t want surgery.

How to Fake a Raspy Singing Voice

Since incomplete vocal cord contact creates a raspy sound, you can fake a raspy voice. Just tense your neck and extrude a lot of air when you sing. This is not a healthy way to sing and will result in real vocal problems eventually, so don’t do it for too long. If you want to record a few vocal tracks it might be worth it, but don’t perform a full concert this way.

Healthy, Happy Cords

Now that you know how to get a raspy singing voice, you probably don’t find it so appealing. Don’t worry: there are innumerable ways to make your singing interesting without rasp. Experiment with vocal ornaments and styles on your own to find something that feels and sounds good. If you’re having trouble, see a voice teacher.

ElainaAbout the Author: Elaina R. teaches 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. Learn more about Elaina here!

 

 

 

Comments

Merh

June 30, 2016 at 4:24am

Nope still want one

Classically Trained pop Singer

July 27, 2016 at 2:06am

First of all, you need to get to know your voice. Figure out your vocal range and try to identify where your vocal break occurs. These are the pitches where the voice of a new singer “flips” from one register to another. For some beginners, the voice may not “flip” but there is still some perceived difficulty to singing clearly without changing the character of the sound.

Famous Vocal Coaches

December 05, 2016 at 11:31pm

Try not to avoid the warm up. Warm up your voice everyday, Famous Vocal Coaching said that Finding a voice is not an easy task. Know your reach and its limits. When singing, your breathing ought to be profound, low, and supported. spend as much time practicing as you will in front of an audience.

Lindell

March 06, 2018 at 2:04am

How did Dio do it night after night all concert long for many many years? A freak of nature..

Phil

March 22, 2018 at 7:11pm

I think she still sounded sucky at 20. You should have posted a Buble or Groban video.

Dave

April 06, 2018 at 12:38am

Rasp is not done by the true vocal folds when done properly, it is done by the false folds. That is a fact. I used to be able to sing raspy and once my false vocal fold was biopsied I cannot do it anymore. Pretty much proof.

Des

June 01, 2019 at 7:48am

I sing with a gravelly voice and my voice is not naturally gravelly. My method: Never ever try to sing in a gravelly tone without warming up for at least 30 minutes every day, and before performing. I usually do the warm up in my car on my drive every morning and to a performance. If I do not warm up it will hurt my vocal chords and when I sing it doesn't feel right or comfortable.

Comments are closed

Need help learning Singing?

Try one of our most popular online Singing classes for free

Daily Warm Ups and Exercises
Don't know what warm-ups to do? Do you need someone to make sure that you are doing your warm-ups and exercises correctly? Then this is the class for you. Every day we will do different warm-ups and exercises to strengthen your voice.
Daily Singing Work Out
If you struggle to have a daily warm-up regimen and need direction on how to properly warm up your voice and body, then this class is for you! Offered daily, Monday - Thursday, this dynamic, interactive class gives you a guided practice that includes body, breath, and vocal exercises to set you up for great vocal technique, build stamina in your voice, and prepare you to be the best singer you can be! Join as often as you'd like to build discipline, range, improve tone, and more! All levels welcome.
Open Mic(Jam Session)
Open mic jam session is for singers and musicians to come try out their singing and performing abilities under the watchful eyes and guidance of a seasoned active professional Musician. We will cover all genres of music. Blues, R&B, Jazz, Soul, Rock, Reggae…
Musical Theater Performance Class
Do you aspire to perform on a live theater stage? Singing is an essential component of musical theater, and this class is a great introduction to vocal technique for the stage. A live teacher will guide the class in real time to explain the foundational elements of musical theater singing. Students can expect to learn the techniques for a healthy “belting” voice, pop music style for the stage, and tips for how to reach the higher levels with your own unique sound. This class will also explore storytelling in musical theater, and how to incorporate emotion and tone. The teacher will offer song selections for practice, and students can ask questions and compare notes with peers with the interactive group class format.
Ear Training For Singers
Are you looking for a way to improve your singing tone? Do you have trouble matching the correct pitch or even hearing if you're singing the correct note? Then this is the class for you! I will teach you some breathing and singing exercises to do just that, and at the same time we can train our ears to be able to listen to our own voice and match pitch more accurately.
Open Mic(Jam Session)
Open mic jam session is for singers and musicians to come try out their singing and performing abilities under the watchful eyes and guidance of a seasoned active professional Musician. We will cover all genres of music. Blues, R&B, Jazz, Soul, Rock, Reggae…
Live Vocal Warm Ups and Exercises
In this interactive live session, students will be introduced to basic warm ups and intermediate vocal exercises that build vocal technique. The instructor will model each exercise and explain which techniques are being targeted including, resonance, vowel formation, flexibility, vibrato, range extension, dynamics and more! Students will have the opportunity to try the exercises individually, receiving feedback and guidance from the instructor.
Exercises for Refining Vocal Technique
This class will give you the opportunity to deviate from the daily warmups and vocalizing habits you may already have. It will be a combination of exercises I've collected from mentors, coaches & experts over the years, on-the-spot creations designed to target specific ways of refining tone according to what the moment demands, as well as a few age-old favorites sprinkled in. Expect something new every time (: