For media creators, how your voice sounds is everything. If you’re a podcaster, singer, or do voice work, your voice to a large extent determines the reception and reaction of the audience to your message.
A raspy voice is a fancy term for a rough, gravelly tone, husky way of talking or singing. You may want to learn how to make your voice raspy. It occurs naturally in certain individuals primarily due to genetic and environmental factors.
To listeners, a raspy tone communicates intensity, energy, and command. Stars like Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood, and Emma Stone have raspy voices that subconsciously attract.
Many musicians, especially in rap or rock, have naturally raspy voices that properly accentuate their music. Think of performers like Lil Wayne or Steven Tyler.
You might be wondering if it is possible to get a raspy singing voice if you weren’t born with one. Yes. It is. Is it healthy? Probably not.
A hoarse talking voice or raspy singing voice is usually created by improperly resonating vocal chords, which, if done over a long time, can cause permanently damaged vocal chords.
To get a raspy voice, you have to understand how the voice actually works.
The sounds you produce are based on the relationship between the vocal cords and the larynx (voice box). The vocal cords are two folds of membranous tissue across the glottis in the throat that vibrate in the air stream to produce the sound we hear as our voice.
When you speak, air from the lungs makes the cords vibrate, creating sound waves. Relaxed cords produce a deeper voice, while tensed cords produce higher-pitched sounds.
Your vocal cords vibrate and touch each other several times a second to create sound as you sing, leading to wearing out your vocal cords over time and other complications.
The vocal cords of a healthy person are relatively straight, but they come together to form an airtight seal. The lack of an airtight seal causes more air to escape, which produces a raspy sound.
Anyone at any age can have a hoarse voice, but hoarseness is most common in people who smoke and drink a lot, and those who use their raspy voices professionally like singers, voice actors, and vocal experts.
Harmless causes of a hoarse voice include strain on the voice through talking too long, cheering too loudly, or singing loudly and speaking in a higher or lower pitch than usual. It can also happen because of a cold, nasal drip, sore throat, sinus infection, or acute laryngitis.
Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), also known as heartburn, can also cause voice raspiness. This is due to the reflux of stomach acids into the throat that can sometimes go as high as the vocal folds.
Vocal fold hemorrhage, which happens when a blood vessel on a vocal fold rupture, filling the muscle tissues with blood, could lead to a raspy voice. Vocal nodules, cysts, and polyps can also form on the vocal folds because of too much friction or pressure.
Other more serious causes can include vocal fold paralysis when one or both vocal cords don’t work properly because of an injury, lung or thyroid cancer, multiple sclerosis, cancer, or tumors.
Muscle tension dysphonia is a change in the sound or feel of the voice due to excessive muscle tension in and around the voice box that prevents the voice from working efficiently and causes hoarseness.
A raspy voice is also produced due to an unbalanced oscillation of the vocal fold. When the vocal folds oscillate unevenly, the leading edges of your vocal folds rub at random points instead of closing together cleanly. Sometimes, this results in the formation of vocal fold lesions like vocal nodules.
The muscles and structures that produce vocal sounds are delicate. Understanding how the voice works will go a long way in learning how to manipulate it in easier and non-harmful ways.
Gathering enough information on the structure of the larynx, voice box, vocal cords, and folds will make attaining a raspy voice an easy process.
However, it is essential not to go to extremes or get carried away by quick but harmful hacks to get the voice you want. Getting a raspy but damaged voice will be sub-optimal.
When you’ve found the method you think is best when your voice sounds raspy, knowing how and when to gauge the progression of your raspy voice will save you from getting permanently scarred.
It is safest to always remember the limitations of your voice and know when to stop using a raspy singing voice because it is not the natural state of your cords.
Speaking at a high volume for several hours can cause you to have a raspy voice. Then, you can decide what method to use to achieve your goal, whether by singing along to a song with many high notes or cheering on your favorite sports team.
You could also fake a cough or attend a concert where you can sing loud. However, when you sing with a higher pitch, your vocal cords vibrate rapidly, which will lead to vocal fold irritation, leaving your voice raspy.
Also, bear in mind that you may need to sing beyond your vocal range, as high as your voice can reach, and continue speaking at a high pitch and volume for several hours to achieve a raspy singing voice.
When you overuse your voice, you strain your vocal folds, which cause non-cancerous growths that develop into vocal nodules. These nodules can cause fatigue and limit vocal range, which causes the voice to break more frequently, causing hoarseness.
Speaking in a whisper can also lead to having a raspy voice. This is because when you whisper, your vocal cords are squeezed together in a tight manner, causing a voice strain.
To get a raspy voice using this method of whispering effectively, it is advised to push air through the bottom of your throat and stomach muscles, making your voice as harsh as possible.
Another way of overusing your voice to get it to become raspy is doing a growl. Growling will not only produce a raspy voice over time but will also make it deeper. It is the same vocal mechanism you would utilize if you were going to cough or clear your throat.
The only perk here is that your growl should be done in your head voice because the chest voice requires too much energy to growl from. When you growl from your head voice, you are building the rasp using a lot less force than the chest voice would require.
Spicy foods, especially when prepared with oil, can irritate your throat and cause phlegm. The phlegm produced affects your voice tone, followed by the impulse to clear your throat, causing your vocal cords to smack together, leading to vocal fatigue.
Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) was mentioned earlier as one cause of a raspy voice. If you’re unfamiliar with eating spicy foods regularly, a sudden change in diet to spicy foods can cause an overproduction of acid and, therefore, reflux.
This acid reflux can cause the tissue surrounding the larynx to be irritated, affecting your voice entirely.
In addition, spicy foods contain more salt than other types of food, and this salt then dehydrates the larynx and vocal cords, reinforcing your hoarse voice.
Drinking alcohol has a severe dehydrating effect on the entire body, especially the mouth and throat. The husky and hoarse voice is produced when the cords are inhibited from vibrating properly due to lack of moisture, constricting the vocal range and leaving your voice sounding strained.
Alcohol irritates the larynx leading to swollen and inflamed vocal cords, which will project the voice at a lower tone than usual.
In addition, not drinking water often enough or even replacing water with beverages like coffee can lead to vocal cord dehydration.
Also, exercising and sweating can release excess amounts of water from the body, which will definitely have a toll on the sound of your voice.
Dehydration is bad for you, so a safer way to simulate this is to take ten deep breaths of dry air quickly. This can make your voice raspy.
Vocal fry happens when you shorten your vocal folds so that they close entirely and pop back open, causing a frying or raspy sound. It can also be called glottal fry or glottal scrape.
It’s a popular technique among singers who use it to sing lower notes. Many celebrities have also adopted it to give speeches at award shows or interviews.
A singer might also adopt this method to convey emotional or sensual moods in their songs or hit notes they usually wouldn’t with their natural singing voice. This is because vocal fry vibrates so slowly that you can use it to hit notes up to eight octaves lower than your chest voice.
Vocal experts have discovered that starting with a vocal fry to train vocalists in singing can be a helpful way of adding more aggressive tone and volume to their songs. It is also easy to switch from vocal fry into the top part of the head voice without straining.
It is worth noting that vocal fry will not physically damage a speaker’s vocal health, and it’s a healthy way to reach that exact voice. Yet, constantly speaking this way can lead to it becoming a vocal habit.
To produce vocal fry, your folds need to be comparatively lax. This can only be achieved by habit.
Also, fry is sometimes considered a part of Western culture because they tend to end statements with a lower intonation than in the beginning.
The lower intonation gives an authoritative sound, but as the pitch is lowered, you start to run out of breath, eventually switching to vocal fry to complete statements.
This is a mild method to sing raspy. To develop a husky voice, you can practice changing the tone and resonance of your speech. For example, create an “uh” vowel sound, directing the sound from your lower register located at the back of your throat above the chest.
If the vibration is coming from your head or nose, keep moving it downward until you feel your vocal cords gently vibrating. Now hold the sound and maintain the resonance for a while without compressing or tightening your voice until you have a raspy tone.
Here, your vocal cords must be loose, thick, and relaxed. This absence of tension makes this vocal fry method an excellent tool for those who cannot get rid of strain or tension in their voices with other tools.
The moment the tension rises, the voice recovers, and the characteristic sound of a raspy voice goes away.
In a bid to get a raspy and hoarse voice for a musical performance or improve your speech in general, it is advised to seek the help of a professional.
Experimenting with your voice without seeking professional advice can lead to damaged vocal cords or polyps. These can put you in a bad place as polyps require surgery. Instead, try to consult with vocal experts or coaches within your area or online if you prefer.
Using voice-altering software and plug-ins can save you the stress of straining and ruining your vocal cords and folds. There are many plug-ins online that let you record a song in a distorted, raspy voice, and others that edit your voice after you’re done recording in a natural voice.
Alternatively, you could apply a low pass filter to isolate your highs using your DAW, creating a raspy sound. You may also try guitar amplifiers that allow for distortion.
Software like Adobe Audition can give your voice a raspy distorted sound if you tweak it right, although it may sound a little robotic. That will give your voice a raspy distorted sound, even though it is a little robotic.
Unfortunately, you may only be able to use this while recording, that way you can adjust the settings if it sounds abnormal. Plug-ins and software are not very feasible for live use.
In a previous article, we discussed How to Make a Voice Sound Deeper. There we say the same thing, that it takes a lot of hardware and commitment, not to mention technique.
You have to train your voice to endure the use of pitches and timbres that are not natural to you. That is, of course, if you’re going for a more natural, long-term rasp.
You can always use plug-ins and software for short-term or leisure needs for a raspy or hoarse voice, although the outcome may be a bit robotic.