Singing With A Raspy Voice: Is It Bad? Is It Stylistic? Wednesday June 7 2023, 8:45 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
Singing With A Raspy Voice: Is It Bad? Is It Stylistic?

Singing With A Raspy Voice

Singing with a raspy voice gives you a unique edge in your performance, but tons of vocal coaches also say that it's unhealthy to try and force yourself to sing with this method. Is it worth the risk? Is there a way to do it healthily?

And what about legendary raspy singers that we know and love? Rasp can give your voice sultriness and soul. Many raspy celebrities had a good career, so why can't you?

Let's discuss some pros and cons when it comes to raspy vocals, and how you can incorporate this skill without doing any harm to your vocal cords.

The Problems With Raspy Singing

Vocal Strain

Singing with a consistently raspy voice can put a strain on the vocal cords. The vocal cords are delicate muscles, and excessive or improper use can lead to vocal fatigue, hoarseness, and even vocal cord damage.

It's essential for raspy singers to maintain good vocal health and employ proper vocal techniques to avoid strain.


Vocal Fatigue

Singing with rasp can be physically demanding, requiring your vocal cords to work harder to produce the desired sound.

Over time, this increased effort can lead to vocal fatigue, which may result in diminished vocal performance, loss of range, and a decreased ability to sustain long notes or perform for extended periods.

Related Post: Vocal Fatigue - What It Is And How To Avoid It

Limited Vocal Range

Raspy singing often involves a rough or gravelly quality in the voice, which can affect the singer's ability to access their full vocal range.

The raspiness can create a natural limitation in the higher or lower registers, making it challenging to hit certain notes or sing with the same clarity and control as a non-raspy voice.

Articulation and Clarity

The raspiness in a singer's voice can sometimes make it more difficult to articulate lyrics clearly.

The rough texture of the voice can interfere with precise enunciation, leading to a loss of clarity in the words being sung. This can pose challenges in conveying the intended message of a song and connecting with the audience.


Natural Raspy Voice Causes 

Infections or Illnesses

Certain infections or illnesses can cause temporary changes in the vocal cords, leading to raspy singing.

Respiratory infections, such as laryngitis or bronchitis, can inflame the vocal cords and disrupt their normal function. Inflammation in the throat, sinuses, or airways can also contribute to a raspy voice.

Additionally, conditions like acid reflux, a cold, or allergies that cause chronic irritation in the throat can result in a persistent raspy quality in the voice.

It may be tempting to sing with that sexy raspiness when you are under the weather, but you may just be prolonging the irritation and inflammation in your body. 

Vocal Cord Lesions

Vocal cord lesions, such as vocal nodules, polyps, or cysts, can cause a raspy singing voice. These are usually benign growths that develop due to vocal abuse or misuse, such as excessive yelling, screaming, or singing with poor technique.

These growths interfere with the proper closure of the vocal cords, resulting in a rough or hoarse sound.


Dehydration or Dryness

Insufficient hydration or excessive dryness in the vocal tract can lead to a raspy voice. Adequate hydration is essential for maintaining optimal vocal cord function and preventing vocal cord dryness.

When the vocal cords lack proper lubrication, they can become dry, stiff, and prone to irritation, causing a raspy or hoarse voice.

Related Post: What To Drink Before Singing To Clear And Soothe Your Voice


Singers who have also smoked for an extended period as a habit are at risk of developing a raspy voice that can take away from their depth and full tone.

Smokers are also known to have their range significantly lowered, with many female singers who smoke having a uniquely low timbre. 

How To Sound Raspy Without Hurting Your Voice

Vocal Fry

Vocal fry is a technique that can be used to achieve a controlled raspy sound without causing harm to your voice.

This approach involves lowering your voice to a lower register and adding a slight creaky or crackling quality. To use vocal fry safely, it's crucial to maintain proper breath support and vocal technique.

You can access it by lightly making a rattling sound on the vowel "uhhhh" for example.

Start by practicing vocal fry exercises with a qualified vocal coach who can guide you in finding the right balance between the desired raspy sound and vocal health.

Remember to warm up your voice before attempting vocal fry and avoid excessive strain or tension in the vocal cords.


Soft Dynamics 

One way to achieve a gentle raspy quality in your voice is by using soft dynamics or volume. Singing softly can add a delicate rasp to your tone without putting excessive strain on your vocal cords.

By focusing on breath control and releasing tension in the throat, you can achieve a controlled rasp without hurting your voice.

Experiment with singing softly while maintaining good vocal support and relaxation in the throat muscles.

Gradually increase the volume as you become more comfortable, always ensuring that your vocal technique remains healthy and sustainable.

Mature With Age

It's worth noting that as individuals age, their vocal cords naturally undergo changes that can result in a slight raspy quality. The vocal cords may lose some of their flexibility and elasticity, leading to a rougher texture in the voice.

While this can contribute to a naturally occurring rasp, it's essential to continue practicing good vocal care and technique as you age.

Regular vocal exercises, warm-ups, and maintaining vocal health through proper hydration and rest can help you maintain a healthy voice and navigate any changes that occur with age.

Related Post: 7 Singing Techniques To Try For A Better Performance

Popular Raspy Singers 


Amy Winehouse

British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse is known for her powerful and soulful voice.

She possessed a unique blend of smoothness and raspiness that added depth and character to her music. Hits like "Rehab," "Back to Black," and "Valerie" showcase her raspy vocal prowess.

Tom Waits

Tom is an American singer-songwriter known for his distinctive raspy voice, often described as a gravelly and smoky sound.

His unique vocal style can be heard in songs such as "Downtown Train," "Hold On," and "Tom Traubert's Blues (Waltzing Matilda)."

Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong, also known as Satchmo, was a legendary American jazz trumpeter and singer.

His gravelly voice and distinctive phrasing made him one of the most influential jazz vocalists of all time. Songs like "What a Wonderful World" and "Hello, Dolly!" demonstrate his iconic raspy singing style.

Rod Stewart

Rod Stewart is an iconic British singer known for his distinctive raspy voice. His powerful and gritty vocal tone can be heard in hits like "Maggie May," "Stay with Me," and "Forever Young."

Related Post: 10 Singing Styles To Consider As A Vocalist

Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

If you are in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her services page.

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