How To Sing With Grit and Distorted Voice

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Male singer is practising to add distorted and grit voice in his singing.

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Gone were the days when almost everyone wanted to have a raspy voice. Yet, during the late 60s and the seventies, almost all rock vocalists had a raspy voice. For example, in the early days of the Beatles, John Lennon did not sing much in a raspy voice. Yet, in the later years, you would notice that his voice had started to become raspy. Maybe because it was the trend in the 70s.

Mick Jagger, the vocalist of Rolling Stones, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and even Rod Stewart epitomized the beauty of having a raspy and gritty voice during those bygone decades. In the 90s, there were Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, Axl Rose, and many more who sported a raspy voice. Axl Rose voice was also very popular. Yet, these famous singers are still in the middle range of the gritty vocal spectrum. This is because at the far end of this spectrum lies the gritty and distorted voice.

The emergence of heavy metals, death metals, and many other similar music genres brought about the popularity of vocalists like James Hatfield of Metallica and Daniel Lloyd Davey of the Cradle of Filth. If you idolize any of these two metal icons, you may be aching to mimic their grit and distorted voice.

Yet, you should relent in imitating their voice. You should not do it if you are not naturally gifted with a gritty and distorted voice. This is because you may damage your vocal cords in the long run if you try to do it without proper guidance.

Although gritty and distorted voice has not yet been studied thoroughly; yet, it can be learned. Moreover, there are basically two types of gritty and distorted voices.

  • One is that which is coming from the chest like that of James Hatfield.
  • The other one is the distorted falsetto voice like that of Daniel Davey.

Facts You Must Know About Distorted and Gravelly Singing Voice

As mentioned above, having a raspy voice with grit has been the trend for rock bands since the late 60s. A raspy and gravelly voice, of course, provides angst and emotion to rock music. Moreover, a raspy and gritty voice tends to make a song classic. This is because there seems to be an innate characteristic in a raspy and gritty voice that is endearing. Besides, it makes the listeners never get tired of a song.

In the voice spectrum, singing with grit is less extreme as compared to singing with distortion. At the extreme end of this vocal range, singing with distortion lies on the spectrum’s far end.

If you are raring to sing with grit, you should first figure out how far you intend to go when singing with grit and distortion. Moreover, you should first figure out if your voice is appropriate for such type of singing if you want to extend your singing career.

Useful Techniques for Grit and Distorted Singing

When rightly done, singing with grit may be manageable for you without doing damage to your vocal cords. At the onset, you should take the necessary steps and learn the following tips on how to do it right:

Engage in Diaphragmatic Breath Control

Learning and engaging in diaphragmatic breath control is a prerequisite to any type of singing; more so, if you want to engage in singing with grit and distortion. It may be harder for you to engage in breath control if you sing with grit and distortion. If you would learn how to position your diaphragm support, you could surely support all the necessary notes while singing with distortion. Moreover, you can apply the necessary breath pressure to your vocal cords at all times.

When singing with grit, there is only one thing that you should tighten, and that is your diaphragm. The diaphragm, of course, is the muscle that supports the lungs and heart. This muscle is critical to the breathing process. Hence, proper support of diaphragm brings in a new resonance to your voice.

You should not tighten your throat nor your neck while you sing with grit. Keep your neck in a relaxed position. Let your vocal cords vibrate to produce that growling sound, just like the sound of a dog that is growling.

Manage Your Breathing For Grit Singing

Corollary to diaphragmic control is the management of your breathing and control of the air. If you have attended a classical singing lesson, you will learn how to stagger your breathing. The improper use of air is the number one culprit behind the failure to produce good sound. It is also one cause of throat inflammation, as well as the irritation of the vocal cords.

So, you should learn the proper way of controlling your air or breathing. Make sure that you manage the airflow in your vocal cords to avoid the abovementioned dreaded consequences. Learning to stagger your breathing allows you to take care of your vocal cords while managing to produce the necessary notes while you sing with grit and distortion.

Glottal Compression

Glottal compression is an advanced singing technique that is often misunderstood. Glottal compression, of course, is simply a process that includes pressure, vibration, and even resonance. You can master this technique if you work hard enough.

Glottal compression implies support of breathing while you engage in compressing your airways to increase the air pressure along the air passage. This creates a powerful and resonant vocal tone.

Moreover, it is called glottal compression because this compression happens in the glottis. The glottis comes with three main parts: the subglottis, the medial, and the supraglottis. Balancing the pressure in these three areas constitutes the glottal compression.

Be Confident

One prerequisite when singing with grit and distortion is confidence. You got to own the stage when you perform. Confidence also entails knowing when to control your voice without necessarily tensing your throat, neck, and shoulders. This ability to control leads to perfecting singing with grit and distortion without damaging your vocal cords.

You can gain enough confidence if you practice all the proper techniques until they become habitual for you to use them. So, at the onset, you should first focus on mastering the vocal techniques. Avoid experimenting with distortion and grit until you have learned the different vocal techniques.

Do it Step-by-step

Before you can sing with grit intensity, you should first learn how to do it step-by-step. First, you need to practice correct breathing. Learn to stagger your breathing likewise. Then, start with a low level of grit and mimic the voice of Rod Stewart or Kurt Cobain. Once you have achieved a low level of huskiness, start singing one note. Then, add a slight growl. Then, move on to a light scream.

Check if you feel any irritation or pain in your throat. Sing a line and play with words as you sing. Then, practice the high and low range of vocals while you sing with grit. But make sure that your vocal cords are still relaxed. Do not overdo it and leave something for the next practice session. As you engage in constant practice, shifting from a clean voice to something gritty and distorted will become second nature to you.

Feel Your Voice

Not all types of voices are designed for achieving perfect grit and distortion. So, you should at least get a feel of your voice. If you think that engaging in gritty and distorted singing is not for you, you should come to terms with yourself. Don’t push it if it is not meant for you

Moreover, if you feel that whenever you engage in gritty and distorted singing, you feel pain, then, it is time for you to let go of your vocal obsession. Yet, if you feel that your vocal cords can handle the pressure of singing in a distorted way, then go for it. As long as you feel relaxed while you distort your voice, you can go on with it. Employ the necessary tips and stay relaxed.

Don’t Overtax Your Voice

Singing with grit and distortion is different from shouting. When you shout, you compromise the health of your vocal cords, especially if you do it for a prolonged period. Before you submerge yourself in gritty and distorted singing, make sure that you have already covered the basics.

Singing with grit means singing rightly, while shouting implies that you have already lost control of your singing voice. Moreover, you cannot shout for a very long time without damaging your vocal cords.

Become Singers also has an article on popular baritone singers.


Singing with grit is not for all types of singers; moreover, it is not easy. Yet, it is achievable if you have the basics covered. So, at the onset, you should learn the basics and master them by heart. Learn to stagger and control your breathing. Engage in diaphragmic exercises to gain control of the diaphragm. Learn the glottal compression technique likewise. Moreover, you should master airflow control. Once you have mastered these techniques and have practiced more often, you’ll feel confident while singing with grit and distortion.

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