Vocal Fry

Ooooh, such a good article/video on the phenomenon known as “vocal fry.” I hadn’t known there was a name for this speech pattern, I just knew that it was driving me crazy. Could this be you? It’s not just a female phenomenon.

And while you’re at it, here’s PeaceBang’s advice on another annoying vocal tic.

And here’s an excerpt from a rant on vocal issues that I wrote after being totally bummed out by a seminarian presentation wherein the aspirant to ministry dressed and spoke in a way that absolutely did not support her obvious intelligence and leadership potential:

[A seminarian who] spoke with her head down, failed to be heard even with a microphone, and in all ways presented as such a demure being as to hardly have the right to stand up in public at all.

Here is an obviously a hard-working person who ostensibly aspires to some kind of ministry work. I wanted so much to walk up on the stage, pull her shoulders back, hold my hand against her diaphragm and command her to put some BREATH under her vocal efforts, and beg her to stop dropping the volume at the ends of all of her sentences to the extent that her voice went from baby soft and pleading to absolutely and totally inaudible.

… La voce, darlings!! La voce! I am still hearing far too many woman ministers using cutesy tones, pouting, flinging hair, shrugging (which is a non-verbal way to discredit what you’re saying), failing to speak out with full voice, and undermining their own authority by using girlish vocal tics like giggling, dimpling, and pitching the voice up at the end of every phrase in the pulpit. Stop it. Right now.

I knew you didn’t need to be reminded, but just in case you needed to be reminded. It’s never a bad idea to check in on our own vocal weirdnesses now and then. We all have them and you don’t want to be neurotically critical of yours, just be sure that you’re not inadvertently undermining your message through poor delivery and distracting vocal issues. And I don’t mean a speech impediment or other natural vocal uniqueness. I mean techniques like vocal fry that can easily be remedied by awareness and a few sessions with a speech coach.

6 Replies to “Vocal Fry”

  1. It seems to be so hard to tell the difference between a speech impediment (what I have) and just bad voice technique. I’ve worked with coaches, speech therapists, and even local radio hosts and there are days when I just don’t have the control I need to over my voice. It is so, so frustrating. (But my sermons on Moses are killer!)

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! I work with two bright, urban upwardly mobile women who are guilty of this, and I miss the ends of most of their sentences. So glad I’m not just hallucinating or going deaf.

  3. So that’s what it’s called! I had a telemarketer the other day who spoke like this and it drove me absolutely crazy. Of course, having a telemarketer call was not the “highlight” of my day but her vocal tone was really difficult to listen to. And then – to top it all off – she spoke really fast at the end – likeallhersentencesstartedrunningtogether youknowwhatImean? But with the vocal fry thrown in for good measure. Hmmm… hope this is a trend that goes away and soon

  4. It’s interesting this is getting so much negative reaction!

    I’ve found myself using vocal fry more often in church meetings lately, even though I would never use it in the pulpit. Not exactly sure why that is. [Interesting!I wonder if it’s a way of speaking that some of us use unconsciously to seem cooler or more relational, or not intimidating or something. Good for you for being so self-aware. I think most of us think “in pulpit” only, but it’s good to consider how we sound in all of our ministry. – PB]

  5. Sometimes I think that it started out with women/girls wanting to speak in a deeper voice, as a reaction against all the high pitched, little girl style talking that is around, but then many voices go into the vocal fry because they can’t actually speak smoothly as deeply as they are attempting.

  6. I realized this video is a great example of what I’m talking about! I use a ton of vocal fry at the beginning when I’m in interview mode, then much less in the voice-over at the end where I’m in a sort of casual preaching mode. I’d love your thoughts on how those vocal modes impact my presentation. Feel free to share this with your readers if you’d like!


    Oh, and the status of the movie is that we’re still filming/fundraising for this to ultimately be a full-length documentary film. We got some great footage of my ordination (at which Mieke preached) as well as Alex’s journey with his ordination committee etc. More info and a link to support is here: http://www.outoforderdoc.com/

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