Last week I spoke again with Alex Drechsel for his podcast LangFM (so look out for that show within the next few weeks!!) We spoke about accents and the voice, and this time the topic of vocal fry arose in conversation. Also known as 'creaky voice', 'glottal fry', or 'fry voice', vocal fry is the sound a voice makes when it seems to sizzle out at the end of a phrase -- and it has been making the media rounds for the past few years. I encourage you to listen to the podcast for the full conversation, but my talk with Alex got me thinking ... what can one do to stop vocal fry in our own voice?
DISCLAIMER: To be sure, I am not making a broad assessment that vocal fry needs to be driven out of our voices. (And really, I encourage you take pause when an older man is telling a younger woman that her voice is somehow 'wrong'.) Instead, I encourage you to think of the voice as an instrument that should be flexible and free of tension, and an instrument that you can count on to represent you in a range of situations. In this sense, I wholeheartedly believe in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (ASHA) guidelines in seeking vocal change:
1. Are you able to do with your voice what you need it to do?
2. Does your voice reflect the image you want it to project?
3. Does your voice support the message you are conveying?
On that note, read on for tips on navigating around vocal fry (when you need to!) ...
1.) Release & Alignment: The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) points to "sub-optimal air pressure" as being the main culprit in vocal fry in normal voices. In order to breathe adequately, the muscles around our rib cage, neck, back, stomach, and beyond need to able to release tension to allow for optimal breath. For this, I encourage you to find a spot with your back on the floor, and allow your body to melt gently into gravity.
2.) Breath: "Sub-optimal air pressure" could be a product of holding onto the breath, or conversely from an inability to properly sustain the breath through the end of a phrase. Encourage the muscles around your back, hips, and stomach to release and for your chest to open. Allow yourself to breathe out fully and wait for the in breath to drop in without any excess work from you. Then allow for the breath to release fully on the out breath without any additional holding from the stomach, ribs, hips, or neck.
3.) Sustain: Build up stamina of the voice through simple sustaining exercises. Once the breath drops in, breath out on a continuous "Fffff" or "Ssss". Then gently switch to a voiced sound such as "Vvvv" or "Zzzz". See how long you can comfortably hold these sound on a tone, and keep the back of the neck and the chest released and free of tension while making sound.
4.) Resonance & Range: A healthy and flexible voice has easy access to resonance and range when speaking. Work to open up your range through simple sirening through high and low pitches. Then work to find a balance of resonance in your voice in order to create a fuller sound.
5.) Chant & Sing! Funny, I don't think that I've ever heard a singer finish a phrase in fry voice. In fact, fry voice not easy to do when singing because of the way breath is employed in order to sing the notes! Try singing or chanting a phrase and then transition to speaking while using the same amount of energy. Carry this energy to the end of the phrase when speaking, and you may start to hear the creak disappear.
There is so much I haven't covered here, so listen to the podcast for more in-depth discussion! Until then, Happy Voicing!