I recently wrote a song where the vocals are supposed to sound rough, but not quite growling/screaming. What's the best way to get that sort of sound from my voice without any long-term or short-term adverse effects?
[Insert obligatory 'ruining your voice for eternity' lecture here]
Now that's over with... Here is what I've found from my experiences with trying to make my voice sound rough.
Quick Background: I've been experimenting with this style for 3 or 4 years, just on a casual level while practising, not a professional or even performance basis. Also, most of the time I Don't sing this way, but I'll usually work on it a couple hours over the course of a week. Over the course of this time I haven't caused damage to my voice, and have actually improved my vocal range, control, and skill level (with this style and overall).
I'm not a vocal scientist, so I'm not even going to venture into the realm of 'What is actually going on in this throat-thing'. But here are some things I've observed that hopefully may help you:
Tips on Getting the 'Rough' Sound:
Tips for Keeping your Voice Safe while using these techniques:
I suppose the most obvious way to protect your voice is to sing normally and distort the signal. Run the signal through tube-style distortion and/or flange. Record it through taught shreds of wax paper ("kazoo"-it) or use a harmonica-mic. 8-bit mastering would mess-up some vocals nicely. Find some assembly code and play it back on the PC-speaker (not Audio Speakers, but the part that BEEPs!) and record that underwater. The possibilities are endless.
You can get acoustic "distortion" effects with suitably-tuned snare-drums, bottles, jugs, tile-bathroom-stalls.
Answering machines, really-old audio tape. Lo-fi lowers the nyquist limit, cutting-off upper frequencies, same as distortion cuts higher amplitudes.
One trick is to summon up some phlegm/saliva in the back of your throat.
Then to approach a growl, tighten your throat enough that the airflow is affected by the phlegm, but not so tight as to cause pain.
Even with that technique, I wouldn't like to keep going for an hour-long performance. I don't know how the rock professionals do it.
I wonder why nobody brought it up yet, but The Zen of Screaming by Melissa Cross is probably THE resource on alternate vocal techniques (fry, death, heat and fire anyone?). With proper training it's not just on/off screams or singing - you can get exactly the rough tone that you want; even transitioning between clean and distorted sounds is not that hard if you know how to do it properly. I'm not a natural and it took a while to get to the point where I can adjust the grain in the singing voice consciously - but the DVDs are full of insight, not just for screaming but singing in general. I highly recommend them - they helped me a lot, I have a couple of other books on the topic but they just didn't click with me :-).
Hope that helps, happy screaming!
P.S.: as for the side effects, the way the techniques are tought take the whole topic of avoiding hurting your voice into full consideration; Melissa is very aware of the things that can happen to your voice if you're using it wrong