The human voice is more versatile than any instrument. With practice and dedication, a singer can develop various vocal styles and techniques.
Singers with raspy voices often stand out, as they are able to convey more emotion in their performances. Some people naturally have a hoarse voice, which leads to the misconception that this quality cannot be developed.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to add more rasp to your singing voice by using simple yet effective practices. Even if your natural voice is smooth sounding, there are many things you can do to develop a powerful, raspy tone.
How to Make Your Voice Raspy
Making your voice raspy requires consistent practice and proper technique. Firstly, you need to find the point that your voice naturally breaks up and then learn to project it from your diaphragm while maintaining control over your raspy tone.
How to Get a Raspy Voice
Every singer has a natural tone and sound to their voice that requires no effort or alteration. Some sound raspy without trying, while others have a more polished, smooth-sound voice.
It’s often assumed that a singer cannot make significant alterations to their voice, particularly when it comes to singing with more grit and rasp.
However, that’s simply not true. Even if you have the smoothest-sounding voice, you can learn how to have a raspy voice through a process of consistent practice and awareness.
Here are some of the best ways to develop a raspy voice.
Whether it’s the powerful sound of Kurt Cobain belting out a Nirvana track, or the razor-sharp tone of John Lennon’s vocals in early Beatles’ recordings, the raspy singing voice can be heard throughout popular music history.
There’s something that makes the gritty, slightly unpredictable sound of this vocal style so inviting to our ears.
For some lucky singers, this technique and sound come very easily. For others, we struggle to understand how we could ever possibly produce such a powerful, emotive tone from our vocal cords.
Like with all new skills and techniques, from learning to ride a bicycle to learning how to play the guitar, we have to start from the very basics and develop our ability from the ground up.
Making your voice raspy first requires you to do some self-research and learn about the way your voice naturally performs.
What happens when you try to make your voice sound raspy? Can you produce any hoarse sounds, or do you struggle not to default back to a smooth sound?
You might find that singing at higher or lower volumes allows your voice to crackle more easily or that you simply can’t produce any rasp at all, no matter what you do.
Take a few minutes to explore your voice, and write down any notes that you think may be useful as you move on to the following exercises. If you can’t sing with a raspy voice at all, don’t worry, you’ll learn how to develop the skill as we move through this guide.
Finding Your Break-Up Points
If you’re familiar with tube guitar amplifiers, you’ll know that everyone has what is known as a “break up” point. This is the point where the tubes are pushed to their limit by the gain added to the signal, causing them to be overdriven.
The human voice is very similar, but the only difference is that it is not necessarily gain – or volume – that is the catalyst for the break-up point. For some singers, this may be the case, but for others, they may begin to sound raspy when they sing a particular note, for example.
If you’re going to learn how to get a raspy singing voice and be able to use the technique whenever you want to, this is going to require you to figure out precisely what causes your voice to break up and become more gritty.
Firstly, before you attempt these exercises, make sure you’ve completed a vocal warm-up routine; otherwise, you may damage your vocal cords. You can scroll down to the vocal warm-up section later in this article if you don’t already have one established.
For this exercise, you’ll need an instrument (preferably a piano or keyboard) or a note-generating tool.
- Start by finding the lowest note that you can comfortably sing in your vocal range. Then, attempt to sing the note in a raspy voice.
- Move up the chromatic scale, attempting to sing every note with a raspy tone. If you can’t do it, simply move on to the next note.
- As you get into the middle and upper registers of your vocal range, attempt to belt out the notes with more volume and power, again focusing on trying to make it sound raspy.
- If you find a note that you can make sound raspy with singing, stop the exercise and spend a few minutes focusing on making that sound.
- Don’t be afraid to use different sounds, like “ah,” “oo,” “we,” or “oh.” The goal is to try and figure out what causes your voice to break up so that you can use this to develop your raspy tone.
How to Develop a Raspy Voice
Once you’ve established the natural capabilities you have for singing with a raspy tone, you can now begin to develop the technique further.
Other techniques, like metal screaming, overlap with the technique of singing with a raspy voice so it may be worth exploring them too.
Here are some essential tips that you can use to learn how to make your voice hoarse. If you combine all of the advice in this section, you’ll learn to sing in this way in a relatively short period.
Consistency and Perseverance
Learning a singing technique is very similar to learning a new technique on an instrument. When you first attempt it, it’s normal to doubt whether you’ll ever develop the skill.
This is even more true with singing techniques, as we have often been told the false idea that a person’s singing voice is something they are born with rather than something that can be altered or improved over time.
Sticking with a practice routine for weeks, or preferably many months, is hugely important if you are to develop the ability to sing with a raspy tone. If you don’t put in the effort over a prolonged period, then the exercises and tips in this guide will be of little benefit.
I would recommend developing a singing practice for at least half an hour, three days per week. This could be split into the following:
- Vocal warm-up – 10 minutes
- General vocal practice – 10 minutes
- Developing your raspy tone – 10 minutes
If you stick to this routine for a few months, I’m very confident that you will learn everything you need to know about your voice’s natural capabilities and how to sing with a raspy tone on demand.
Some people may be able to invest more time into their practice routine, and this will likely result in them developing a raspy voice more quicker.
Remember, it’s not a race, and you should try to enjoy the process of developing this technique. Once you master it, it will be worth the time and effort you’ve put in.
The Copycat Method
Unless they’re part of a tribute act, singers and artists often want to avoid trying to imitate others too much. It’s important for them to be original and develop their own signature singing voice.
While this may be controversial, I’m going to suggest that you ignore this feeling and do the opposite.
One of the most effective ways to learn how to sing with a raspy voice is by imitating singers who possess this ability. This means you should try to sound exactly like these singers in terms of tone, pronunciation, and every other aspect.
The reason that I recommend doing this is that it can speed up your progress dramatically and help you to figure out how it feels to sing with a raspy tone.
Once you feel the sensation, it’s much easier to reproduce the raspy sound whenever you feel like it. Otherwise, you’ll lack the confidence to try and sing this way.
There are many singers that have raspy voices which you can attempt to imitate, including the likes of:
- Janis Joplin
- Kurt Cobain
- James Brown
- Dave Grohl
- John Lennon
- Liam Gallagher
Choose a song by one of these artists or another that you can think of with a raspy voice, and try to sing it in exactly the same way that they do. You can repeat this every day, and you’ll find that as you become more familiar with the vocal sound, your own style starts to emerge from the imitation.
Using Recordings to Monitor Progress
The advancements in digital audio equipment have made it very easy for all musicians and singers to create recordings. When trying to develop a raspy tone, you can use recordings to your advantage.
You can use any microphone for this, whether you have a condenser mic, especially for vocals, or you just use the inbuilt microphone on your smartphone.
Choose one of the songs that you used in the previous exercise, and record yourself singing along to it, trying to match the raspy tone of the original singer. If you’re a musician, you could even recreate the instrumental or try to find it somewhere online.
Then, you can record one take of the song each time you practice it and categorize it by the date. Each week, go back over the recordings and try to establish whether you’re making any progress.
Your raspy singing voice may sound better on some days than others, and you can try to figure out why this is. The more you learn about how to sing consistently with this sound, the better equipped you will be to use the skill moving forward.
Recording your singing practices is a great way to motivate yourself to continue. You track your progress in real-time, which provides encouragement to continue.
Protecting Your Voice
Singing with a raspy tone may require you to push your voice to its limits in terms of volume and projection. This is fine if it is done responsibly, but if you don’t take the required measures to look after your voice, you risk causing it damage.
Hurting your vocal cords slows down your progress as you have to wait for them to heal before you can start to practice singing in a raspy voice again.
Warm Up Routine
Any professional vocalist or vocal coach will tell you that the single most important thing you can do when practicing is to have a good warm-up routine.
Your warm-up routine should be performed any time you sing. You can have different variations depending on how much time you have available and the type of singing that you’re going to be doing.
Some of the exercises I would recommend using in your vocal warm-up include:
- Pentatonic scales
- Singing with different sounds (ah, oh, mm, ay, etc.)
- Transitioning between chest, head, and falsetto voices
Your voice is like any other part of your body in that it performs best when it is gradually warmed up and prepared for action.
The Importance of Hydration
In addition to warming up before attempting to sing with a raspy voice, it’s vitally important to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water lubricates your throat and vocal cords, preventing them from being strained easily.
Some vocalists like to drink warm water with lemon and honey, which is known to soothe the vocal cords while singing.
If you feel your throat becoming dry while attempting to sing, make sure you take a break and drink some water before you resume your practice.
Making your voice sound raspy is something that may come easily to you, or it may take a significant amount of work and perseverance. However long it takes to develop this skill, it will be worthwhile when you can use it in your performances and recordings.