In my previous (Jan. 16, 2015) "Re-Connecting Voice and Heart" workshop, one participant brought up the question of Vocal Fry -- what is it and why are so many people speaking and singing this way now? Since then, I've been on a fascinating exploration of this thing called Vocal Fry. Initially, when it was brought to my attention in my workshop, my only thought and awareness about Vocal Fry was that it was this annoying (and probably damaging to the vocal cords) way of speaking and/or singing. I knew that Britney Spears used it a lot in her singing.
As an ongoing way of speaking or singing, I think many people would agree that Vocal Fry can be extremely annoying. Check out this great example of celebrities using Vocal Fry in their speaking voices.
Great Examples of Celebrities Speaking in Vocal Fry
In case you are not familiar with Britney Spears use of Vocal Fry, check out the following link. At the beginning of many phrases in her song., you'll hear a gravelly, growly type of ahhhh sound -- that is her Vocal Fry. It makes her voice sound small and constricted and whiny.
. Brittney Spears Oops, I Did It Again
Just for the sake of contrast, here is Britney Spears at 10 years old, BEFORE she fell into, or got pushed into, the Vocal Fry craze. This video is amazing and inspiring. Her voice is strong and connected and full. Her whole body leans into the sound. This is a beautiful example of a strong Voice/Body connection.
Britney Spears at 10 years old: Amazing Voice/Body Integration
Two Sides to the VOCAL FRY Coin
I have discovered that there are definitely two sides to this Vocal Fry coin. It has its shadowy side. Overused it can be annoying and damaging to the vocal cords.
Used properly and wisely, it can be a great vocal technique and it can add the perfect expression or nuance to a song or a voice.
Definitions of Vocal Fry
A simple definition of Vocal Fry is that it is the range BELOW our chest voice. Who knew! I thought bottom of chest voice was the lowest limit in our range. Now I am discovering a whole range below my chest voice. Pretty exciting for someone like me, who, only about 7 short years ago, didn't even have any connection with my Chest Voice. My voice was unnaturally high and squeezed, especially when I tried to sing. Now it is, for the most part, low and relaxed, and about to get a whole lot lower now that I know how to safely practice the Vocal Fry. And just to reassure -- I have not lost any of my top (or head voice) range. In fact, knowing how to drop my Voice into the lower Chest range register has stabilized my overall voice so that my head or high range is much stronger and higher than it was previously.
A NOT SIMPLE Definition of Vocal Fry according to Wikipedia: This is for the technical minded! For a simpler explanation, just scroll down to the link below about Using Vocal Fry Properly.
The vocal fry register (also known as pulse register, laryngealisation, pulse phonation, creak, popcorning, glottal fry, glottal rattle, glottal scrape, or strohbass) is the lowest vocal register and is produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency. During this phonation, the arytenoid cartilages in the larynx are drawn together which causes the vocal folds to compress rather tightly and become relatively slack and compact. This process forms a large and irregularly vibrating mass within the vocal folds that produces the characteristic low popping or rattling sound when air passes through the glottal closure. The very lowest part of the register can extend in rare cases to 20–50 pulses per second, or about two octaves below the lower part of the modal vocal register (the normal voice).
The Exciting and Beneficial Use of Vocal Fry
Now, for the exciting news about Vocal Fry. It is an actual register in the voice and can be used in technique and range development. If used wisely and sparingly, Vocal Fry can add a great deal to a song or a speaking voice. Here is a link to a very knowledgeable Vocal Coach, Justin Stoney. He explains and demonstrates Vocal Fry very clearly. He also offers a helpful exercise so we can practice with him. This is Part One of a Three Part series that he has posted on Youtube. Very worthwhile and interesting to listen to all three parts.
Using Vocal Fry Properly
Another Exciting Side Note Here: Vocal Fry and the Chakras
Those who have attended my "Re-Connecting Voice and Heart" workshops know that I do love to create a vocal warm up which brings the voice into each of the 7 Major Chakras (energy centers of the body). Because my focus has been generally about re-connecting the voice and the body, I tend to work with the 7 Major Chakras, those directly connected with and located within, the physical body. I often do add a little moment of allowing our voices to drop down through our feet, into the Earth. Although I haven't previously used this terminology, we were actually directing our Voices down into The Earth Star Chakra, an energy center that exists BELOW our physical bodies, and connects us more deeply with Mother Earth. However, it is only now that I am realizing the Vocal Fry Range is actually connected with that Earth Star Chakra. Exciting Stuff!!
Now I am looking at that SOUL STAR CHAKRA (above the head) and thinking about The Whistle Range which is actually the vocal range ABOVE our Head Voice. More about that in an upcoming blog!!!
Meantime, LOVE YOUR VOICES. Keep experimenting, exploring, learning, expanding. Our Vocal potential and range is likely way bigger than most of us have ever dreamed. In the same way that we human beings generally use only a tiny portion of our brain power, I suspect most of us are using only a tiny portion of our Vocal Power. LET'S STAY OPEN TO POSSIBILITIES.