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 voice register (the normal voice).
History of register classification
The vocal fry register has been a recognized and identifiable register only within the past few decades, although its characteristic sound was recognized much earlier. Discussion of the vocal fry or pulse register began first within the field of phonetics and speech therapy and did not enter the vocabulary of vocal music pedagogists until the early 1970s, when it was initially controversial. However, the controversy surrounding this term within vocal music has subsided as more research into the use of the vocal fry register within the context of singing ensued. In particular, vocal pedagogist Margaret Greene's videotaping of the physiological processes occurring in the body while singers were phonating in the vocal fry register offered solid evidence that this type of vocal phonation should be considered a vocal register within both a speech pathology and vocal music perspective. As with any vocal register, the vocal fry register has a unique vibratory pattern of the vocal folds, a certain series of pitches, and a certain type of sound that distinguishes it from the other vocal registers.
Vocal fry register in speech
Discussion of vocal fry is much more frequent in books related to phonetics and speech therapy than it is in those dealing with singing. Some authorities consider the use of vocal fry in speech a dysphonia, while others consider it so only if it is used excessively. Hollien, Moore, Wendahl, and Michel make this statement:
It is simply our intent to suggest that ordinarily vocal fry constitutes one of several physiologically available types of voice production on the frequency-pitch continuum and hence, of itself, is not logically classified among the laryngeal pathologies. While the excessive use of fry could result in a diagnosis of voice disorder, this quality is too often heard in normal voices (especially in descending inflections where the voice fundamentally falls below frequencies in the modal register) to be exclusively a disorder."
This seems to be the prevailing opinion among speech pathologists today. Many[who?] are quick to point out that although vocal fry is minimally a part of routine speaking patterns, the continued use of such a pattern does not make it utilitarian nor non-pathological.
Some evidence exists of vocal fry becoming more common in the speech of young female speakers of American English in the early 21st century, but the extent and significance of this are disputed. Researcher Ikuko Patricia Yuasa suggests that this tendency is a product of young women endeavoring to infuse their speech with gravitas by means of reaching for the male register and found that "college-age Americans [...] perceive female creaky voice as hesitant, nonaggressive, and informal but also educated, urban-oriented, and upwardly mobile".
Vocal fry register in singing
The vocal fry register is more widely used in singing than might at first seem apparent. Within the bass part of gospel quartet singing the practice is quite common. The croaking sound produced by male singers at the start of phrases in American country music is produced by moving from this mode to the normal voice. Additionally some Russian Anthems contain bass lines within the vocal-fry register. Within choral music, when true basses are not available, choirs often rely on singers who can "fry" the low bass notes. Singers like Tim Storms, J.D. Sumner, Mike Holcomb and various other gospel basses use this technique to sing very low tones. The current record at G-7, or 0.189 Hz is held by Tim Storms which he achieved by amplified vocal fry. Women are not usually required to sing in the vocal fry register, but are capable of doing so. Some styles of folk singing, however, do utilize the vocal fry register in the female voice. Vocal fry is also used in metal music, usually in combination with air from the diaphragm, in order to create a "growl" or "scream" which sounds aggressive and harsh.
The chief use of the vocal fry register in singing, then, is to obtain pitches of very low frequency which are not available to the singer in the modal register. Although the physiological production of the vocal fry register may be extended up into the modal register, most vocal pedagogues discourage such practices, as it may cause damage to the vocal cords. Also, many voice teachers discourage singers from using the vocal fry register frequently, as it may cause the singer to lose some of the upper notes in the modal register. In some cases, vocal pedagogues have found the use of vocal fry therapeutically helpful to students who have trouble producing lower notes. Singers often lose their low notes or never learn to produce them because of the excessive tension of the laryngeal muscles and of the support mechanism that leads to too much breath pressure.
- Vocal registration
- Breathy voice
- Glottal stop
- Slack voice
- Harsh voice
- Overtone singing
- Death growl
- Creaky voice
- McKinney, James (1994). The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults.[page needed]
- Greene, Margaret; Mathieson, Lesley (2001). The Voice and its Disorders.[page needed]
- Cooper, Morton (1973). Modern Techniques of Vocal Rehabilitation
- Yuasa, I. P. (2010). "Creaky Voice: A New Feminine Voice Quality for Young Urban-Oriented Upwardly Mobile American Women?". American Speech 85 (3): 315–37. doi:10.1215/00031283-2010-018.
- Wolk, Lesley; Abdelli-Beruh, Nassima B.; Slavin, Dianne (2012). "Habitual Use of Vocal Fry in Young Adult Female Speakers". Journal of Voice 26 (3): e111–6. doi:10.1016/j.jvoice.2011.04.007. PMID 21917418.
- Marissa Fessende (December 9, 2011). "'Vocal Fry' Creeping Into U.S. Speech". Science Now. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
- "Get Your Creak On: Is ‘Vocal Fry’ a Female Fad?". Time. December 15, 2011.
- Rebecca Greenfield (December 12, 2011). "Vocal Fry Isn't Just for College Girls". The Atlantic Wire. The Atlantic. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
- Veronique Greenwood (December 13, 2011). "The Linguistic Phenomenon Du Jour: Vocal Fry". Discover. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
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- The Throat singers of Tuva
- Cooper, Morton (1973). Modern Techniques of Vocal Rehabilitation. Charles C. Thomas. ASIN B000JC1U76.
- Greene, Margaret; Lesley Mathieson (2001). The Voice and its Disorders. John Wiley & Sons; 6th Edition. ISBN 978-1-86156-196-1.
- Large, John (February–March 1972). "Towards an Integrated Physiologic-Acoustic Theory of Vocal Registers". The NATS Bulletin 28: 30–35.
- McKinney, James (1994). The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults. Genovex Music Group. ISBN 978-1-56593-940-0.
- Van den Berg, J.W. (December 1963). "Vocal Ligaments versus Registers". The NATS Bulletin 19: 18.