Should you keep up with the Kardashians with your singing? – asks Rachel Lebon
A new focus in Speech, Singing and the Social Sciences is “Vocal Fry”, originally described as “creaky voice.”
People “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” are using this voice quality – here is an example from this effective video by Abby Normal:
This vocal quality generally results from speaking at too low a pitch level, creating tension.
Shallow breathing also results in lowered pitch level that dissolves into “frying” at the ends of long utterances.
Is Vocal Fry “Cool”?
“Frying” reflects a certain attitude, a kind of cool detachment.
According to some research, vocal fry was associated with education and upward mobility, but recent studies suggest that a speech pattern heavy on vocal fry is perceived negatively, particularly for young women in the working world.
Vocal fry appears increasingly in the speech patterns of the younger generation, but it also appeared at the start of sung phrases in some ballad styles in the 90’s (e.g. Boys II Men, Toni Braxton, Britney Spears).
What’s relevant for singers is that vocal fry is frequently a symptom of shallow inhalation or speaking to the end of one’s breath so that the vocal folds do not vibrate symmetrically, but in an irregular pattern.
If you transfer glottal fry in speech to singing, with glottal fry predominating in your vocal quality, you are demanding a great deal from your vocal mechanism.
You Can Get Away with Some Fry
Singers might get away with some frying as part of their style if singing a sensual ballad through a well calibrated sound system and within a relatively quiet performance setting.
However, attempting to project while frying over a loud band or “busy” track in a noisy club or outdoor setting, losing the high frequency energy that enables you to project, could prove a big price to pay in the long term.
Maintaining judicious use of vocal fry in speech and singing can enable you to sing expressively, yet remain “in good form” vocally.
My Reactions to This Week’s Peer Review Vids
Fernando – “Yesterday” by The Beatles (Cover)
Expressive rendition and sensitive. Good instrument. Appeared to be a spontaneous performances and that you were somewhat unfamiliar with the selections. Don’t know if this was the case, but strive to become more secure on Yesterday so that there are no hesitations or insecurities on the melody and in transitioning into the bridge. Being familiar with a song also relieves tension, freeing up your body after repeated performances so that you can open yourself and relate to the audience. Moon River was a bit freer and expressive. However, perhaps you wanted to look cool, but leaning forward with your hand on your pocket will make it more difficult to support the tone. You will also tend to lift your chin for the high notes, which creates strain. Would be nice to see you more comfortable with the songs so that you can perform away from the music and stand tall, holding the microphone. Keep striving, because you have good potential.
Kat Eaton – “Chandelier”
“Chandelier” – Making good use of the lovely focused lows in your voice and contrasting them by floating the breathy highs for effect, which give you a distinct vocal quality and style. Audiogenic! Nice! Appreciate that you’re not dependent. Enjoy your original songs.
“Comin’ Home” – Nice Sultry Style. Subtle. You might experiment with allowing the jaw to drop a bit more on the high passages as well as in rapid passages which frees the tongue, which can enhance intelligibility.
“Playing Millionaires” – Nice original approach to accompaniment, and able to maintain rhythmic feel. Wasn’t sure if the melody was major or minor at the outset. (Intended for effect, or intonation?) Also, losing some of the words. You want original lyrics to leap to the listener’s ear. . Being picky, but lots of wonderful potential here. Listened to others songs as well. Good luck in your career.
James Hartley – “In My Life” (Cover)
Nice voice and using the guitar accompaniment with percussive effect. A contrasting approach on a standard Beatles tune. Might consider a slightly slower tempo, to highlight the heavy words. Sounds a bit on autopilot and detached at times. If you aspire to perform live, you want to be able to ultimately present where the audience can see your face. When you do, and if you engage your eyes to register a connection with the lyrics, your rendition will communicate more to your audience. Explore delivering musical phrases, savoring the important words as you’re singing them. This is particularly true for the longer phrases. Take your time for the ending. Set us up. Hold your final note/word before breaking, which enhances the presentation for a complete performance. Keep singing!
Rachel L. Lebon, Ph.D. has been a professional vocalist and studio singer and is currently a professor at the University of Miami. She toured worldwide with Tops in Blue and has toured the Soviet Union and Portugal. Rachel is an author and lectures worldwide on vocal pedagogy and voice disorders. www.miami.edu.
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