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Vocal fry as a tool for teaching voice

Vocal fry seems to have become an increasingly common part of female speaking patterns, especially among younger women who pick up what they hear from celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry. This increased usage has started a debate about vocal fry and its effects on the voice. Debates range from whether its sound is annoying, whether it can do damage to the voice, or why nobody complains when men use vocal fry.

But the implications of vocal fry go beyond just the speaking voice. In fact, vocal fry can be an excellent teaching tool to get rid of certain problems in the singing voice.

When to use it

The production of vocal fry requires certain muscular processes to happen in your larynx that make it a great teaching tool.

You may have already realized that true vocal fry can only be produced in the lowest part of your range. If you try to take it higher, it loses its characteristic sound. So it may not be surprising that vocal fry can serve as an excellent basis for building your low range. This is because vocal fry requires you to shorten and thicken your vocal folds, which therefore hands over the control of the vocal folds to the group of muscles that should be dominant when singing low notes. It engages the activity of these muscles and brings your vocal folds into great coordination for singing low notes.

Going even a step further, vocal fry is what can build the so-called contrabass range (also referred to as "Strohbass") in some voices.

But the usability of vocal fry in teaching singing goes beyond building the low range. It has also proven to be a great tool for those who, with more normal exercises, still struggle to get rid of excessive strain and tension in the voice.

It has this effect because in order to produce vocal fry, your vocal folds need to be comparatively lax. This can only happen if there is little tension on them. The moment the tension rises, the characteristic sound of vocal fry goes away. Overall, the larynx and the muscles surrounding it tend to stay quite relaxed while producing vocal fry. This absence of tension makes the vocal fry a great tool for those who can't get rid of strain or tension in their voices with other, more normal tools. It allows them to experience a comparatively relaxed way of phonation. Many singers are able to keep the voice in this relaxed condition if they inflect up to higher notes out of the vocal fry range. Once relaxation is found on the vocal fry, you can proceed toward more normal sounds while maintaining the result.

Don't rest in extremes

Despite the usefulness it can have in certain situations, you mustn't forget that vocal fry is an extreme way of using your voice, particularly on the muscular level and with regard to the sound it produces. Like any extreme, it should be discontinued once it has served its purpose.

Spoken more practically, this simply means that you should always strive to replace the vocal fry sound with a more normal exercise. Only use it as long as it is necessary. The same also goes for derivatives of the vocal fry like the creaky sound. You certainly don't want to make such exercises the dominant characteristic of your vocal sound.

To sum up

Vocal fry can be a very useful tool for teaching voice in certain situations, but it should always be regarded as a temporary remedy and be replaced by sounds with a more finished vocal quality as soon as the singer's progress allows it.

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Voice instructor, vocal producer, and lawyer, Andreas Grussl runs a very successful voice studio in his hometown of Graz, the second biggest city in Austria.

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