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  • Writer's picturePam Johnson

Vocal fry - can it be fixed? Should it?

Definition from Wikipedia: The vocal fry register (also known as pulse register, laryngealisation, pulse phonation, creak, croak, 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.[1] 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 vocal fry register can be used by a singer to pitch the voice much lower than the normal range, giving a singer a larger range, which is very desirable. Jazz singers use vocal fry very effectively to add range and special effects to their music.

But what about vocal fry in the speaking voice? Numerous articles have been written about young women speaking with a great deal of vocal fry. One study suggested the sound of vocal fry in a young woman’s voice could negatively affect her chances of being hired because she sounds “non-trustworthy”(reference study). The results of the study have been called into question because the vocal fry was being imitated rather than naturally occurring and might have been as false sounding as when a non-southerner tries to imitate a southern accent.

If one searches for “vocal fry” on the Internet they will find numerous videos of people talking about how much they dislike the sound of vocal fry. There is also an article by a young woman who resented being judged by the sound of her voice rather than by her character or qualifications for a job (reference article).

Should a person be judged on the sound of their voice? Should a person be judged on the color of their hair or the way they dress? Whether we like it or not, we are judged on appearance and on how we sound. Dressing for success is something we all hear about and accept. Eliminating the word “like” from our sentences makes a person sound less like a youngster. Eliminating “upspeak” when every sentence sounds like a question makes a person sound more authoritative. Eliminating vocal fry can make an older listener enjoy hearing you rather than cringing every time they hear you.

Is it worth sticking to your “principles” of feeling that you should be judged only on your qualifications and character and continuing to speak like a person who may be perceived as too young for the job?

Vocal fry is not only irritating to the listener but it is also very hard on the voice. Singers use the technique rarely as they need to take care of their voices. A speaker should probably eliminate it entirely.

Can vocal fry be eliminated? Yes, it can. In training a person to use the full range of their voice, they can find a more beautiful and powerful voice. Would it be nice to have your voice not be tired at the end of the day or not sound crackly?

Would it be worth it to you and your career?

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