What Is Vocal Fry (and How Can You Avoid It)?

February 7, 2023

8 min read

What Is Vocal Fry

If you’ve ever heard someone like Kim Kardashian or Howard Stern speak, you’ve heard vocal fry. An even better example of this manner of speaking might be Marge Simpson’s voice. But what exactly is it? And if you speak with this type of speaking pattern, is it bad for you? 

In our comprehensive guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about vocal fry, including what it is, who uses this manner of speech, and how to avoid it, if that’s your goal. Let’s dive in.

What Is Vocal Fry?

Vocal fry is when your vocal folds shorten, making them completely close before opening back up, which can make a “frying” noise. When you speak with this style of speech, your voice might sound raspy and guttural. 

This type of speech also uses deep, long enunciation of syllables.  

You might also hear it called

  • Strohbass
  • Glottal fry
  • Laryngealization 
  • Glottal scrape
  • Pulse
  • Vibrational mode 0

It’s commonly used not only while singing but also in simple conversation

Vocal fry register

The vocal fry register is actually the lowest of three vocal registers. The others include modal and falsetto, for example.

Although some people think the vocal fry register is a disorder or condition, that’s a myth or misconception.

Is vocal fry a disorder?

Vocal fry isn’t a medical disorder. In fact, many experts refer to this style of speech as a “linguistic fad,” similar to the “uptalk” and “Valley Girl” stereotypes and styles. 

Regardless, there’s a clear social stigma toward people who speak with it.

Vocal fry stigma

There’s a known stigma against people who use vocal fry. It carries a negative connotation, and research shows that speaking in this manner interferes with people’s ability to get a job. 

Unfortunately, women are often unfairly targeted for the way in which they speak, whether it be vocal fry or uptalk. Experts argue that the pioneering of linguistic trends by women is something to be celebrated, not criticized.

Male vocal fry vs female vocal fry

Anyone can sing or speak with this register. Still, the main difference between male vocal fry vs female vocal fry is that due to stigma, women are criticized much more than men. Here’s where it gets interesting.

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America published this study abstract that confirmed that — despite the aforementioned stigma against women — men use it more than women.

Another finding suggested that while women use it most at the end of words or sentences, men tend to use it on and off when speaking.

Is it becoming more common?

Although lots of people say it’s becoming more common, experts aren’t in agreement. It’s definitely not new, but its popularity could be increasing due to the celebrities who speak with vocal fry.

This speaking pattern will likely continue, though researchers can’t say if it’ll become notably more popular.

Is vocal fry good or bad?

Although vocal fry isn’t inherently bad, most people don’t recommend doing it. However, using it doesn’t harm your voice at all, so it’s perfectly safe to use for speaking and singing.

Why do singers use it?

Usually, the people who use this type of style the most are singers since some use it as a method to sing in a lower register. Still, in terms of singing and performance, it’s not typically recommended by vocal experts and singing professionals.

Who speaks with vocal fry?

Anyone can talk with the vocal fry speaking pattern. This type of speech isn’t uncommon. Many people — most notably celebrities — speak in this particular manner. Celebrities like the Kardashians, Britney Spears, and Julia Fox have all used this speaking style.  

How to Avoid It

There’s nothing inherently wrong with speaking using vocal fry; still, some people prefer to avoid it. Whether you’re in a profession where you won’t be taken seriously if you speak with this manner of speech, or if you’re simply unhappy with your voice, there are ways to eliminate it. 

If you’re looking to learn how to avoid it, the good news is, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Professionals like a speech language pathologist can help. However, speech therapists can be expensive and not everyone can afford their services. 

The best free alternative — which can also be used to complement speech therapy — is an AI speech coach like Yoodli

Yoodli is a conversation coach that uses AI technology to analyze your speech and speaking patterns. Anyone can use this tool for free. It’s commonly used by people like: 

  • Students
  • Coaches
  • Business professionals
  • Sales representatives
  • Product managers
  • Toastmasters

The best way to practice avoiding vocal fry, if that’s one of your goals, is through Yoodli’s conversation coaching flow. It’s also one of the easiest ways to practice in a realistic setting.

You’ll start by personalizing the conversation you want to have. For example, you select your hypothetical conversation partner, such as a stranger, a coworker, or a friend. You can even change the personality of your conversation partner to reflect the different personalities you might encounter in a conversation, like someone who’s more friendly, stressed, reserved, or frustrated, for example.

You can also choose what topic you’d like to speak on. In this case, small talk might be a good choice.

A screenshot of Yoodli's conversation flow that users can use to practice avoiding vocal fry if they want
You can practice speaking without vocal fry with Yoodli’s conversation simulator.

After your conversation is finished, you receive instant, personalized analytics. Some of these analytics include:

  • Your pacing
  • Your word choice
  • Your filler word usage
  • Your body language
  • And other useful insights 
You can listen back to see if you speak with vocal fry and try avoiding it in the future, if that’s your goal.

Here are some exercises you can practice directly on Yoodli or during your conversation simulation.

Vocal Fry Exercises

If you want to avoid speaking with this type of speech, try practicing some of these vocal fry exercises on Yoodli.

  1. Raise the pitch of your voice. Because it happens in the lower registers of your voice, raising your pitch to be higher than normal can help stop it in its tracks. Even speaking in the middle of your range can help. Pick a speech to read (or memorize, if you’re feeling ambitious) and record yourself on Yoodli. Make sure you’re speaking in the middle of your range, or higher if you can. Practicing can help you eliminate this type of speech naturally. 
  2. Take a deep exhale. Adding more breath can also help get rid of vocal fry. For example, during your recording, try exhaling all the air in your lungs before saying a simple, short sentence like: “My name is [your name].” After, take another big breath before immediately saying, “My name is [your name]. You’ll notice that both your volume and power of speaking are boosted by taking a deep inhale.
  3. Speak in short sentences and remember to pause. Vocal fry thrives in long sentences, so shortening your sentence can make a world of difference. Similar to the exercise above, pausing can help eliminate this type of speech, too. 

Whether or not you’re in speech therapy, Yoodli can help take your speaking skills to the next level by analyzing your pattern of speech. 

Check out these celebrity vocal fry examples.  

Vocal Fry Examples

If you’re wondering what this type of speech sounds like, here are some common vocal fry examples from well-known celebrities. 

Vocal fry singing examples

These are the best five examples with regard to singing. 

1. Britney Spears

Britney Spears might be the most well-known singer who uses this type of speech and singing method. Her husky-sounding voice is a classic example. If you’re not familiar with her music, try listening to a few songs — especially tunes like “…Baby One More Time” and “Oops!… I Did It Again” — to see if you can identify this method of singing.

2. Kurt Cobain

You can’t think of vocal fry without thinking of Kurt Cobain. His grating vocals gave the band Nirvana its signature 90s grunge sound. Listening to Nirvana songs like “Heart-Shaped Box” and “You Know You’re Right” are prime examples.

3. Joan Jett

If you’ve ever listened to “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” you’ve probably heard Joan Jett’s manner of singing. Perhaps the best example of this is in one of her most acclaimed hits, “Bad Reputation.” See if you can detect the it in her song:

Joan Jett sings her 1975 hit “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

4. Ke$ha

Ke$ha is another great example. “TiK ToK,” the song that some consider her “claim to fame,” is full of this method of singing. You can hear it in some of her newer music too, including songs like “Praying.”

5. Lady Gaga

Although she might be a lesser known example, you can really hear it in a few of her songs, including:

  • “Applause”
  • “Bad Romance”
  • “Poker Face”
  • “Alejandro”
  • “G.U.Y.”

Speaking examples

In terms of speaking, here are the best examples to check out. 

1. Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian and her sisters speak with this style often and are even considered some of the first celebrities to bring real attention to this linguistic trend. You can hear it best in this clip, which is a compilation of Kim speaking in interviews and on the TV show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” 

Kim Kardashian often speaks with a vocal fry speech pattern.

2. Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson’s vocal fry really shines in her acting, particularly in her role as the Black Widow in the Marvel films. Her character’s signature, raspy voice is as much a part of the Black Widow character as it is Johansson’s style. 

3. Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne actually uses it in not only his manner of speech but also in his singing style (think “Crazy Train” and “Iron Man”). 

4. Zooey Deschanel

Zooey Deschanel is also often credited for popularizing this manner of speaking. You can hear it especially during her roles as Jovie in “Elf” and Jess in “New Girl.” 

5. Howard Stern

Ironically, Howard Stern has spoken out about women who speak with this type of speech, despite the fact that he speaks in that manner of speaking as well. Here’s a clip of that discussion, during which you can pick up on the unintentional “fry” in his voice.

Howard Stern speaks out against vocal fry, while using the manner of speech himself.

Is Avoiding Vocal Fry Important?

Although vocal fry doesn’t harm your voice or vocal cords, it can give off the impression that you’re “too” relaxed or unimpressed depending on the context and atmosphere. 

Even though there’s nothing wrong with this type of speech pattern, avoiding this type of speech is important to some people. If you’re in an industry or profession where this manner of speaking could cause others to think you’re bored or couldn’t care less (like an oncologist, for example), you might want to avoid it just in case. 

The Takeaway

There’s nothing wrong with the guttural manner of speaking called vocal fry. However, some people want to avoid it, for one reason or another. 

If you’re one of the people looking to nip your habit in the bud, try using Yoodli to record your speaking pattern. That way, you can review the video after the fact to identify any vocal fry, while also using Yoodli’s AI analytics to improve your overall speech.

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