The vocal fry register
(also known as pulse register
, pulse phonation
, glottal fry
, glottal rattle
, glottal scrape
), is the lowest vocal register
and is produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency. During this phonation
the arytenoid cartilages
in the larynx
are drawn together which causes the vocal folds
to compress rather tightly and become relatively slack and compact. This process forms a large and irregularly vibrating mass within the vocal folds that produces the characteristic low popping or rattling sound when air passes through the glottal closure
. The mean fundamental frequency of the vibration in the vocal fry register is 36.4 hertz. The very lowest part of the register can extend in rare cases to 20–50 pulses per second, or about two octaves below the lower part of the modal voice register
(the normal voice).
History of register classification
The vocal fry register has been a recognized and identifiable register only within the past few decades, although its characteristic sound was recognized much earlier. Discussion of the vocal fry or pulse register began first within the field of phonetics
and speech therapy
and did not enter the vocabulary of vocal music pedagogists until the early 1970s where it was initially controversial. However, the controversy surrounding this term within vocal music has subsided as more research into the use of the vocal fry register within the context of singing ensued. In particular, vocal pedagogist Margaret Greene's video taping of the physiological processes occurring in the body while singers were phonating
in the vocal fry register offered solid evidence that this type of vocal phonation should be considered a vocal register
within both a speech pathology
and vocal music perspective. As with any vocal register, the vocal fry register has a unique vibratory pattern of the vocal folds
, a certain series of pitches
, and a certain type of sound that distinguishes it from the other vocal registers.
Vocal fry register in speech
Discussion of vocal fry is much more frequent in books related to phonetics and speech therapy than it is in those dealing with singing. Some authorities consider the use of vocal fry in speech a dysphonia, while others consider it so only if it is used excessively. Hollien, Moore, Wendahl, and Michel make this statement:
"It is simply our intent to suggest that ordinarily vocal fry constitutes one of several physiologically available types of voice production on the frequency-pitch continuum and hence, of itself, is not logically classified among the laryngeal pathologies. While the excessive use of fry could result in a diagnosis of voice disorder, this quality is too often heard in normal voices (especially in descending inflections where the voice fundamentally falls below frequencies in the modal register) to be exclusively a disorder.
This seems to be the prevailing opinion among speech pathologists today. Many are quick to point out that although vocal fry is minimally a part of routine speaking patterns, the continued use of such a pattern does not make it utilitarian nor nonpathological. Many languages such as Burmese, Vietnamese and Mixtecan languages use vocal fry as a linguistically significant marker; that is, the presence or absence of vocal fry can change the meaning of a word.
Vocal fry register in singing
The vocal fry register is more widely used in singing than what might at first seem apparent. Within the bass part of gospel quartet singing the practice is quite common. Additionally some Russian Anthems contain bass lines within the vocal-fry register. Within choral music, when true basses are not available choirs often rely on singers who can "fry" the low bass notes. Women are not usually required to sing in the vocal fry register, but are capable of doing so. Some styles of folk singing, however, do utilize the vocal fry register in the female voice.
The chief use of the vocal fry register in singing, then, is to obtain pitches of very low frequency which are not available to the singer in the modal register. Although the physiological production of the vocal fry register may be extended up into the modal register, most vocal pedagogues discourage such practices as it may cause damage to the vocal cords. Also, many voice teachers discourage singers from using the vocal fry register frequently as it may cause the singer to lose some of the upper notes in the modal register. In some cases, vocal pedagogues have found the use of vocal fry therapeutically helpful for students who have trouble producing lower notes. Singers often lose their low notes or never learn to produce them because of the excessive tension of the laryngeal muscles and of the support mechanism that leads to too much breath pressure.
Further readingCooper, Morton
(1973). Modern Techniques of Vocal Rehabilitation
. Charles C. Thomas.
; Lesley Mathieson (2001). The Voice and its Disorders
. John Wiley & Sons; 6th Edition edition.
Large, John (1972). "Towards an Integrated Physiologic-Acoustic Theory of Vocal Registers". The NATS Bulletin
(1994). The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults
. Genovex Music Group.
Van den Berg, J.W. (1963). "Vocal Ligaments versus Registers". The NATS Bulletin