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Mar 11, 2021Liked by Michael David Cobb Bowen

I first encountered vocal fry as a label in an article about Adele's hit "Someone Like You." [1] I found the song both depressing and compelling. If I imagine Adele singing that song without vocal fry, it's just depressing. The vocal fry connects it to the blues and makes it more believable, like she's experienced what she's singing about.

There's some interesting research around this. For example: "Vocal Fry May Undermine the Success of Young Women in the Labor Market." [2] I was working at a consulting firm in 2012 and passed this paper along to a female coworker who then used it to good effect. When presenting, she used what she called her "Yale voice" - clear, precise, and smooth. When attending the often obligatory cocktail hour with clients, she'd use a bit of vocal fry and capture buckets of likability points. I spoke with her several weeks ago. She has her own consulting firm and mentioned that this skill has served her well.

I think of our voice as any other tool, it needs training to use skillfully. Vocal fry doesn't work for me. In fact, it would in all probability have the opposite affect that it has with my female friend. But I do leverage the advantages gained with my lower pitch voice. (See Running Head : "Voice Pitch Predicts Labor Market Success among Male Chief Executive Officers" [3])

For myself, I find vocal fry in the spoken word annoying. When overdone, it pushes the needle on the nails-on-chalkboard-o-meter. Plus, since I'm familiar with the research, the first thought is that I'm being played for something. Judy Dench may be an exception and I have to wonder if what we hear in her voice is due to age. On the other hand, she is a phenomenal actress.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLQl3WQQoQ0

[2] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0097506

[3] https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Running-Head-%3A-VOICE-PITCH-PREDICTS-LABOR-MARKET-Mayew-Venkatachalam/ca2f2d4738c41ab67b38a7a1461e5465006af6d5?p2df

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