Do singers like Waits achieve a "gruff" vocal sound by some sort of technique, or is it just from smoking a lot?

3 Answers 3


Tom had this to say in an interview:

"I bark my voice out through a closed throat, pretty much"



The smoking didn't hurt, but it's a vocal technique. Check out Captain Beefheart and Howling Wolf. They were both influences to his vocal style.

Captain Beefheart

Howlin' Wolf


It could be HPV (human papilloma virus) which can in a small percentage of men attack the vocal chords. Instead of vocal cords that resemble violin strings, HPV turns them into jello, making clear crisp sounds difficult.


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