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Vocal Fry

May 25, 2016

Why some popular singers express themselves with a bit of grit.



Why singers sometimes croak. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Britney Spears’ “Oh, baby baby”) Ever notice that gravelly sound that country and pop music singers often make? Like, Britney Spears and Blake Shelton. It’s called “vocal fry” and consists of notes – really croaks – at the lowest range of the human voice. At a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, voice acoustician John Nix at the University of Texas, San Antonio reports on vocal fry’s appeal.

JOHN NIX (University of Texas at San Antonio):

It’s perceived as more sincere, it’s more honest, it’s more genuine. They’re really giving me their heartfelt, deepest emotions that are effortful to get out.


Other researchers in his lab have found that people rate singers as more expressive when they use vocal fry. But Nix points out that the technique is now so overused, it could be losing its ability to pull at our heartstrings. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.