“Overdriving” your vocal cords

Weekly Teaching Tip – June 4, 2012
Question: Is there any possible way to apply the “drive” technique without damaging the vocal chords?
Answer: The short answer is “no”. However, whenever you sing or even speak you are using and exercising your vocal cords and so in some ways we are always “damaging” our vocal cords whenever we use them. This is not necessarily a bad thing. When you physically exercise you are in effect “damaging”, “tearing down” or working your muscles. The muscle then repairs itself and becomes stronger. However, if you over-exert the muscle too much you strain it or damage it to a point that it either can’t repair itself or it takes a long time to repair. So, with singing we want to make sure that we are not overexerting or overstressing our vocal folds. They are tough, but they are also delicate and they are the only set you will ever get so you must protect and take care of them.
In a “perfect world” we would never abuse or overexert our vocal folds. However, when you sing very aggressive styles of singing you are pushing your vocal folds to the limit. So, we always want to try and sing with good vocal technique to limit the abuse as much as possible, but we need to also remember to do things that will take care of the vocal folds, protect them as much as possible and help them heal. Things like drinking water (hydration), doing a good vocal warm up and a warm down and vocal rest are very important. For example, when lifting weights it is usually recommended that we only lift every other day so that we give the body time to rest and heal itself before lifting weights again.
If you want to sing a very aggressive style such as hard rock or death metal, I recommend singing with a “vocal fry”. In actuality, the only place you can really have a “fry” is in the very low notes of your range; however, you can carry this sound up through the higher ranges where it really becomes more of a “bubble” between the vocal folds, but gives a similar sound. This way you get a very aggressive sound, but you don’t put a lot of stress on the vocal folds. A good website to learn about this way of singing is: https://www.melissacross.com/home.php. This is my preferred method of getting a very aggressive sound as it keeps as much pressure off the vocal folds as possible.
If you feel that this “fry” sound just isn’t enough for the sound you want, then you are going to have to really be careful about caring for your voice and helping it to recover with rest and other things. A good article on this is:

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