A name for this vocal phenomenon?

Your vocal cords can engage in a wide variety of behaviors, far beyond just modulating pitch and volume. Most people speak in their modal voice, but some singers employ a falsetto voice, either full time or intermittently, for artistic effect (e.g. Bruce Springsteen in “I’m On Fire”). There’s even a whistle register, (think Mariah Carey at the top of her range) although from the description there it sounds like not everyone can hit that range.

There’s also the vocal fry register, which seems to be getting a lot of mention recently.

So the phenomenon I’m thinking of us a kind of growlling, rumbling sound at normal speaking or singing pitches. The two most prominent examples are Bobcat Goldthwait (during the 80’s) and Joe Cocker. For comedic effect, Goldthwait alternated between a timid/nervous voice and a manic, almost angry voice; it’s the latter sound I’m thinking of here. Joe Cocker goes in and out of that mode too. Here’s an example; listen to the sound of his voice from 0:57 to about 1:10. It’s intermittent, but seems to happen when he hits a concert G, the highest note in the chorus.

Actually, there’s a third example: Louis Armstrong exhibits it quite a bit in What a Wonderful World.

So…is there a name for that?

Also Harrison Ford, on at least one line in every movie?

And Tom Waits, pretty much always?

I’m pretty sure it’s also vocal fry.

Is that not just a type of vocal fry?

Sure, vocal fry. But you can get too caught up in there being a distinct “register”; in Cocker’s and Armstrong’s voices, the sonic tweaks of the vocal chords are part of their voice, plain and simple, part of harmonics predominantly associated with establishing a pitch (frequency). They aren’t the trailing off of valley girls, nor are they the immediate frequency doubling implied in “falsetto” register.

Wiki Vocal register is good.

Sure, but the trailing off of valley girls isn’t a defining trait of “vocal fry.” That’s just extending the vocal fry.

NO!! I’m not allowed to insult the poster, just the post, so: THIS IS BULLSHIT!!

::what? Oh, I thought you were disagreeing with me. I’m feeling pissy today…::

I assume that is supposed to be an example of vocal fry, and is supposed to be read in a Valley Girl tone of voice? Sure, vocal fry is part of that Valley Girl intonation, but only one part. Vocal fry on its own does not sound like a Valley Girl.

I don’t think vocal fry is what I’m talking about. Fry, falsetto and whistle are all “all-or-nothing” modes: either you’re in that mode, or you’re not. I can duplicate what Cocker, Goldthwait et al. are doing, and I can gradually phase it in on top of a modal voice or a falsetto voice. Something else is going on: beginning from a modal voice I flex something in my throat, and at first I start to sound like Barney from The Simpsons, and then when I flex that something a bit further, I start to get intermittent occlusion that results in that growl kind of sound, and I can modulate that growl from minor to severe.

I don’t know, but if you Google “Joe Cocker” along with “vocal fry,” the term is used for that style. Maybe there’s a more technical word for it, but, to me, it sounds like fry.


I feel compelled to revive a comatose thread because I was asked a question and I’ve been feeling a little guilty for the last few weeks.

Specific question: yes, I agree. I was referring to was trail-off, pure fry after all other phonemes of verbal meaning have been exhausted, which you sometimes hear when the (affectation, still?) is most evident.

General comment on my post (cited here), which prompted that question: it wasn’t meant to be a reply expressing my disagreement, as I thought I had made clear in the final “::” part.

But apparently you thought that was a meta “::”. Using “::” alone is a knowing, meta “comment thought by the SD poster.” You gave me far too much credit by thinking I was meta-ing that meta by imitating a Valley Girl SD poster.

In fact, my entire post was nothing more or less than a thread-turd. I, Leo, was feeling pissy, and noticed how, when I read your previous post, my intellectual aggression rose ever-so-slightly before I had even grasped your point. Intellectual aggression is often intermixed with emotional aggression, as we Interneters know full well, and is stupid for any number of reasons.

At the same time, or a microsecond later, I realized I liked SD people, and the forum in general, and had the floor, to speak. I meta-ized by self-satire my own unknown-to-anyone-but-me mood, by agreeing with you and in the ::'s tried to explain the joke.

All clear? :: “I’m afraid our time is up, and we’ll continue this at our next session.” ::*
As I say, thread-shitting.

*Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (The Standard Edition) (Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud) [Paperback]

I think it’s called gravel or growl.

Sax players also employ that technique. (You learn to do it at first by singing into the sax as you play it, but good players tell me that’s a crutch and eventually you learn to do it without singing.) I believe it’s called “growl” as a sax tone technique.