What Is Vocal Fry?

In my private vocal coaching practice I get a lot of questions about vocal fry.

Vocal fry isn't exactly a new thing, but it's become a lot more prevalent lately. So what is vocal fry?

Should you do it? 

Vocal fry is typically a sound that has a glottal effect. It used to be called “creaky voice.”

There's a scratchy kind of tone. It's the lowest register of your voice, and it's created by relaxing the vocal cords so that they vibrate more slowly and allow air to flow through with a rattling sound.

Check out this video where I explain and demonstrate what vocal fry is. 

Vocal Fry in Speech

What's happened lately that's interesting is that a lot of people have picked up this vocal fry in their speech. You can hear it in their voice when they talk. You can hear me do a quick demonstration at 0:49 in the video. I briefly allow the glottal stop.

(The video below will begin at the correct time for the demonstration)

Stay Away?

When you read about vocal fry online, sources claim that a lot of vocal coaches say stay away from it, don't use it. I am one of those vocal coaches.

I recommend that people stay away from vocal fry only because it's a little dangerous and I wouldn't want to recommend it to you unless I was working with you.

What's the Danger?

Having said that, you can create vocal fry as long as you know that you're not going back in the throat and using your swallowing muscles. That's the problem. 

So with vocal fry, a lot of people use it to get to lower notes because it makes it easier to reach them. Let me show you what it can sound like, and how you can let the fry come through or you can clean it up. 

Fry vs. Clean

Listen in at 1:33 while I use vocal fry on my humming exercise. I'm having a little bit of that fry sound come through because I'm not completely closing.

(The video below will begin at the correct time for the demonstration)

Now, if I don't want that there, if I want it clean, if I'm not going back in my throat and creating that fry, then I'm just going to close, so that the vocal cords are coming together.

So you can see that the way you creating that fry is allowing that bit of air to come through at the back. Now depending on what your body is used to doing, it could be a bit dangerous if you're going back in your throat to try to accomplish that. 

Next, I'll do the exercise again and switch back and forth, so you can see both types. Listen along at 2:26. I do the exercise with the fry.

(The video below will begin at the correct time for the demonstration)

Then I clean it up the second time through the exercise, so you can hear the difference. When I clean it up, I don't have that air coming through. I'm not allowing it to open, and then the sound is clean when I'm not putting the fry into it. 

How to Fry Without Damage

I've been doing this for so long that I can create that sound without going back in my throat and creating damage.

For you, I suggest that you practice where you're actually making sure that you're not going back in your throat. You can put your thumb under your chin where you can feel your swallowing muscles and make sure that you're not using them. 

Once you've practiced enough that you're positive that you can create vocal fry without falling back and using your swallowing muscles, you can use it as an occasional vocal effect in your singing without damaging your voice.

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About The Author

Roger Burnley - Vocal CoachRoger Burnley - Vocal Coach

Roger Burnley is a vocal coach located in Hollywood, California. He has been teaching singers for over 30 years and singing for even longer than that. 

Notable past and present clients include Macy Gray, Brandy, Ray J, The Beastie Boys, James Torme, Taylor Lautner, Nona Gaye, and many more.

His clients have collectively sold more than 30 million albums, with several reaching Platinum and Gold status. 

Roger has been featured on VH1, TV Guide Channel, TV One,
and MTV appearing as a vocal expert.

About The Author

Roger Burnley - Vocal CoachRoger Burnley - Vocal Coach

Roger Burnley is a vocal coach located in Hollywood, California. He has been teaching singers for over 30 years and singing for even longer than that. 

Notable past and present clients include Macy Gray, Brandy, Ray J, The Beastie Boys, James Torme, Taylor Lautner, Nona Gaye, and many more.

His clients have collectively sold more than 30 million albums, with several reaching Platinum and Gold status. 

Roger has been featured on VH1, TV Guide Channel, TV One,
and MTV appearing as a vocal expert.

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