One of the qualities I look for in a good voice is clarity of tone. I want to hear a voice that’s free of noise such as breathiness, hoarseness, or wheeziness. One of the most common sources of noise is vocal fry. That’s the slightly raspy, scratchy, gravelly quality that often sneaks in at the ends of phrases. If I’m not mistaken, it’s called vocal fry because the quality of the sound resembles that of food sizzling in a frying pan, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Vocal fry is a common trait in the untrained speaking voice. While it’s not usually dangerous, it does have consequences for your effectiveness as a speaker. People find it annoying to listen to your voice due to the rough quality. It can make your voice irritated and fatigued. Perhaps most importantly you diminish the impact and effectiveness of your message because the tone of your voice makes listeners feel you’re pulling back and not committed to what you’re saying.
Vocal fry is usually caused by tension, a lack of breath support, speaking at a pitch that’s too low for your voice or a combination of those factors. So you’ll often hear vocal fry on downward inflection when your pitch falls below frequencies in your normal range.
So how do you eliminate vocal fry when you speak? The first strategy is, you probably guessed it, breathing. Learning to breathe deeply and fully before speaking and releasing breath generously as you speak will provide power to engage your vocal folds fully and eliminate vocal fry. Just 15-20 minutes of breath training can noticeably improve your tone. Of course, such a brief period of practice won’t change the habits that create vocal fry in the first place.
Raising the pitch of your voice very slightly will often make your tone stronger and clearer and eliminate vocal fry. Your speaking voice operates a lot more efficiently in the middle of your range than it does at the very bottom of your range. So practice starting sentences a tiny bit higher than what your habit dictates. The change need not be noticeable to your listeners, but you’ll feel a big difference. The funny thing is you’ll often get more deep resonance in your tone by moving into the middle of your range.
Another strategy for eliminating vocal fry is supporting the ends of phrases. As you approach the end of a phrase or sentence, your breath is tapering off and the inflection of your voice is dropping. All that is quite natural, but those tendencies conspire to rob your voice of the energy needed to vibrate fully. As a result, words at the end of the phrase lose tone, get scratchy, and sometimes become inaudible. Then listeners have a problem understanding what you’ve said. As you’re speaking, notice whether your voice is as strong and resonant on the last word as it was on the first. Make sure your listeners hear the last word as easily as the first.
Start eliminating vocal fry by using breath generously, speaking in the middle of your range, and supporting the ends of phrases. Your tone will improve as well as the comfort and stamina of your voice. Best of all, as you engage your voice fully you engage yourself fully and ultimately engage your listeners.
To learn more about enhancing your communication skills, click the link below and download the free booklet and video series The Sound of Success.