What Is Vocal Fry & Is It Bad For You?


Is talking like this bad for my voice? Or
job prospects? or Life in general? What is UP with Vocal Fry? Vocal fry is the lowest of the four registers
of the human voice. Our voice is made by air passing through a set of soft flaps in our
voicebox; or larynx. As we breathe, air moves past these flaps and they can vibrate from
100 to 1000 times a second. Like a brass instrument’s mouthpiece, vocal chords alone create a buzzing
sound, but if you put a resonator above it, like a horn, you can affect a sound! [[play]]
As we learn to control the vibration, we use the throat, mouth, and nasal cavity as our
resonator. Our vocal chords can make four registers: the lowest is fry, then modal,
falsetto, and whistle on the top. Most people will speak and sing in the modal range, and
if you listen, you can tell when people switch registers especially as they’re singing.
As you speak, the chords are vibrating smoothly, but fry slams them shut, allowing only bubbles
of air to break through — which is why it sounds like popping. In 2012, the Journal of Voice released a study
exploring how young women aged 18-25 were speaking in the lowest register, for some
reason! Essentially, while talking would slip into the vocal fry register — again, something
rarely done in recent generational memory. Why? NO IDEA. Seriously, no one knows. But
it’s definitely new. In 1972, a study in the Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders explored
judgements of voice quality in both men and women and found 5 to 10 percent of people
had quote “some type of… pathology that produced a deviant voice quality.” Speaking
outside the modal range is considered a deviance, so from this result we know people were definitely
using it in the late-20th century. In the 90s, men and women who were in their 40s used
it during a study for the Acoustical Society of America. And today, in an disappointingly
tiny study from Long Island University, found two-thirds of women used the fry. In the past both men and women have used deep
voices to convey authority of gravitas, and looking at the CEOs of 800 public companies,
scientists found deeper voices made more money. In fact, according to their study, as pitch
of the voice decreased, the CEO’s salary increased and deeper voices infer longer tenure
too. Plus, a 2013 PLOS ONE study found women associate sexual attractiveness with deeper,
breathier male voices but men, on the other hand, looked for higher pitched voices in
their heteronormative mates — and their result? It’s all about body size. Deeper voices meant
larger bodies which then equated to more power. Regardless, this affectation or tic, is gaining
popularity, especially with women, though I really want to stress the point that men
do it too — women are just getting crap for it. Researchers can only guess why it’s gaining
popularity in women, though there are hypotheses. Perhaps, the use of the vocal fry is to mimic
that “power” or “male attractiveness?” Or, just as likely, it’s something completely
different! We know we’re doing it more, and we know that
some people don’t like that. A 2014 PlosONE study found people over 40 think females using
vocal fry sound like they “lack authority” but those UNDER 40 don’t care one bit. So,
know your audience, but speak like you want! In the end, it’s not physically harmful according
to vocal coach Ken Taylor, and as long as you’re not using it constantly or yelling
while doing vocal fry, you shouldn’t see any long-term issues. Noam Chomsky’s voice has vocal fry, and so
does the former head of the New York Times Jill Abramson it all the time, I don’t see
anyone giving him crap about it. You do you girls and guys. Do you speak with vocal fry? If you weren’t
sure before, you’ll probably hear it all the time now. What do you think of it?

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