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How can I do rough vocals without hurting my voice?

Some days when I'm singing, I seem to have more "rasp" to my voice, and I'm not sure what to attribute that to. Perhaps I had more coffee that day, or maybe my mindset is different.

Anyway, I'd love to be able to prep my voice to add some more grit to it when I go into the studio for a recording session. Any tips on what I can drink, eat, smoke, or general singing tips? I understand some things can damage your vocal chords. I'm not an amazing singer, I'm just looking to add 10-20% more grit to my voice specifically for certain tunes during studio sessions. How do I recreate those "good" days?

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marked as duplicate by Dr Mayhem, nonpop, American Luke, Jason W, Indrek Jan 23 '13 at 0:05

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2 Answers

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It is important to understand that the "rasp" you're looking for is caused by a distortion of sound created by imperfectly resonating vocal chords. Most vocalists work to economize and improve the efficiency and elasticity of their vocal chords; thus increasing their range and making their tone more pure.

Thus, most everything that you can do to increase this distortion would be to cause damage to your vocal chords. This is very important to consider because if done often for a long period of time, it can cause permanent vocal chord damage, and then you wouldn't be able to sing at all.

You are absolutely right that coffee can affect your voice - just as milk, soda, or juice. The preferred drink before singing is water since it is the healthiest for you.

I will do my best to offer suggestions that are the least-damaging to you. The first suggestion I have for you would be to sing normally and then have the audio engineer alter the timbre of your voice to have a more raspy quality.

Alternatively, it is relatively easy to make your voice more aspirate sounding by pushing more air through your vocal chords than you would use to make sound. To do that, start by singing a pitch, and then try and transition to just breathing outward; doing it as smoothly as you can. A breathy, aspirate sound will lie somewhere in between.

Lastly, you could try taking a drink of water; swallowing nearly all of it, but leaving a few drops in the back of your throat. This can help increase the distortion of pure sound by influencing the vibration of your vocal folds.

Try not to do it for a long time, too often, or too loudly. If you sing quietly the audio engineer should have no problem turning up the signal on your mic to compensate.

Also remember that your voice will deepen and become more raspy as you age; as your vocal chords lose elasticity, so anything you do now is going to be amplified when you're old. You ever see the commercials for Men's Warehouse? Imagine him when he's in his late 70's.

Hope that helps.

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This is very informative, thanks. Pushing more air through is a nice trick to keep in mind. "You're gonna like the way my voice sounds; I guarantee it." –  Banjer Jan 19 '13 at 19:14
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The time-honored, traditional method is whiskey and cigarettes. I have not tried this myself. I do not want my voice to be raspy at all.

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Apart from the irony and shear destruction, there are techniques and methods out there. Try to search for "belting" and "mixed voice", "screaming without hurting ourselves". –  atoth Jan 9 at 12:28
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