Topic: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Hi all. I'm wondering if anyone has tips/techniques for adding a bit of grit to a vocal without hurting your throat? I sing mainly Celtic/irish/East Coast pub songs, and would like to occassionally add a too-much-whiskey-and-cigarettes edge to my voice without having to smoke or drink to excess to get it - I'm way to old for that!

I coud go all out and get gruff on everything, but I can't sustain that sound for a 4-hour gig, nor can I switch to a smooth, tender sound for the tear-in-the-beer ballads afterwards.

Any tips or techniques to help facilitate things would be great.


'A pub without live Celtic music is just a bar." - Celtic Charlie

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

I have more than my fair share of grit; so, here's my two cents worth, based on my own experience.

My grit is produced primarily by the side of the throat muscles pulling down, and immediately affecting the lower jaw (and more).  This action also affects the inner throat muscles surrounding the larynx and the nasal pharynx.  These throat muscles pulling down and sideways are also frequently an expression of anger, frustration, or sorrow.

A melodic sound, works frequently much in reverse--it is a down drop of the central part of the jaw muscles (with its ensuing relaxation of the side of the throat muscles).  It is usually a happier emotion.

Hence, there is an opposition between a gritty and a melodic sound (anger vs. happy).   If your natural voice is preset for one, you have to work a bit harder at the other.

To produce a girtty sound, simply grrr (and pull down on the side of the throat a tad more) and assess how your muscles are set around your throat and jaws.  Imagine you are really angry with someone.  When singing, what you want to do is to add a touch of this grr muscle set to your normal melodic singing.

When one is singing with volume, the grr producing muscles are under a great deal of strain.   So, to produce the grit without a great deal of strain, recognize that as the volume increases, the grr can still be produced with volume by lessening the grr-producing muscles, primarily because (in my amateur opinion) that the taut side-of-throat-derived muscles still have their near-same effect, when less taut but under more vocal-volume-pressure conditions.

Anyhow, this is my own experience.

Last edited by WebAndNet (2008-10-28 06:56:03)

Chen Sun, Strategic Web Marketing has unique singing-related content-- posture and voice, vocal structure, ergonomics, Zen and ancient philosophies' relevance to voice. is also in blog stage. Thanks

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Hi ya of the instructors on this site also teaches that grit should be placed in the soft palate to protect your vocal chords i believe....not sure but it may be Ms. Cross???? or maybe Jaime? Robert?

Ancora Imparo

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!


Rychemaiden is correct about all three instructors.

Jamie has an excellent chapter in RYV II,  "For Hard Rockers Only". It also includes excerpts and tips provided by Melissa Cross, Elizabeth Sabine, and Jim Gillette. (Hope I haven't left out anyone). 

Excellent !

Last edited by Nightprowler (2008-10-30 11:36:10)

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Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Just Melissa Cross

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Firstly: what is grott/rasp/distortion exactly? well, vocal "distortion" is the decay of a sound - its not a pure note, so don't think of it in terms of producing a note. It's the decay of a note. There are two way to approach rasp/grit/grott: as a vocal trill or as a decayed sound.

Jaime Vendera has a great example in his Raise Your Voice II series: he calls it a "gargling tone" but its basically a vocal trill. The sensation is like gargling without water. Its produced in the soft palette. The trick is to get the placement correct. You want it deep down and not high up in the mouth. Its hard to explain - you'd really have to hear his audio example. A good example of a vocal trill singers are Ronnie James Dio and Brian Johnson of AC/DC.

The other approach is taking a pure tone/note and gently backing off the air pressure until the tone decays and distorts. Getting the right amount of air pressure to get the distortion is tricky and takes continuous practice. But once you get it, you just have to work on getting good resonance so it projects. A distortion singer is someone like Bon Scott of AC/DC (RIP).

Some singers can do rasp/grit naturally while others (like me) had to learn it. I was "gifted" with an incredibly clean vocal tone ala Steve Perry/Geoff Tate/Don Dokken so grit didn't come easily to me. I had to learn it and even though I don't use it much - its nice to have it in my bag of vocal tricks.

Melissa Cross - A word of warning: "The Zen Of Screaming" (version 1 or 2)will NOT really teach you how to scream. Melissa Cross is a former cabaret singer who teaches extreme singers how to do it without blowing their voices. She can barely do it herself, but her methods are sound.

Last edited by Rockaholic (2009-01-25 21:46:48)

Rock On!
Kevin Richards

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Sorry man...those singers sound the way they do because of style or genetics.  Try recording when you first wake up in the'll add some gruff...or, buy one of the TC Helicon rack modules that offers up voice modeling - you can be as scary as you want!!!  Always try to sing from your belly and butt (sounds funny - but true) and you won't hurt yourself.  Anytime you sing from your throat you risk damage to your voice.  Smoking will definitely get you there but it sucks.  If your face turns red and eyes pop out, when you sing, you're probably not doing it right smile  Effects such as megaphone, telephone, or any of the pole filters will help you to acheive a certain rattiness that is cool.  I'm a crooner, and have always wanted to belly out the death vocals, but I just can't, so I rely on tech to get me close and experiment with it until I find something that works for me.





To utter (something) or cry out loudly and vehemently, especially in protest.  Sing with your last breath!!!

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Kinda funny how all people have built in things and lack other things.
  I often have to work to get clean, I can go from Bon Scott to Plant with ease but now Ive added that Axel pang and whine sound and it helps me clean and thin and add compression, I find that the right amount of grit can get me right thru my breaks with ease also.  Ciao for now.  John

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Thanks for the replies, folks! I'm still working on this one from both the vocal technique angle and the "tech support" vocal effects angle.

Does anyone know if the Create pedal might provide some useful presets?

'A pub without live Celtic music is just a bar." - Celtic Charlie

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

This forum is must for people like me.



Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Finally i found this through google



Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!


This posting has been very useful to me because I've been struggling with the same problem and it has become an obsession!! I sing in a rock/metal band but unfortunately, I have a very clean and clear voice. Over the years, I've been trying to develop that "grit" in my voice but I find it very hard. I don't want to have that voice all the time, and I can easily scream in a more "metal" kind of way (archenemy), but I find that very boring since it's not what I want to do. What I'm trying to learn to do well is "sing/scream". Courtney Love does this extremely well, it's a real scream with a pitch, not quite a scream though, mostly an angry voice. When I sing in a low volume, I'm able to achieve this, but as soon as I sing louder, it is though my throat stretches or widens and the effect is lost. Webandnet mentioned something about muscles pulling down, how does that happen, is it like putting a little tension in your throat?
thanks a lot

Last edited by marla_singer (2010-08-27 09:35:22)

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Bless the people who make videos like "rasp" for us. I do know it takes a variety of confidence to "act out" a music like that with out a backing track. It's fascinating to listen to what a voice seems like without all the other music. Like much of standard music, the entire might sound great, however the parts sound a bit awkward alone. An excellent lesson about vocal expression in a band context as well.

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Rasp and distortion has very little to do with talent and genetics in most cases... It has more to do with HOW you hold your voice. If you are singing in a 'light' way, and try to force yourself to get a deep sound and add grit to it, you will probably hurt yourself.
But as mentioned above, it's a good idea to try and find different types of distortion... especially by experimenting. I have found three thus far, all very subjective sensations that are hard to describe, with the exception of soft palate distortion, which is fairly easy to figure out once you are supporting a note correctly.

It's a rattling kind of sound, made from the back of the roof of your mouth (there's a muscle there)

There's also a type of distortion that is a sort of 'grinding sound' that the vocal cords can make. It also should be effortless, depending on how you hold the note.

The third distortion is a 'throatiness' that you can hear in later day coverdale and chris cornell. I like it quite a bit, but it distorts the note in such a way that too much makes it very unpleasant sounding.

I use the last two, and a bit of soft palate distortion in this song if you want to hear an example

But whatever you do, don't force distortion on a note, that is how you hurt yourself.

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

Another important aspect of all easy singing lessons is breathing. You might not realize how important breathing is to singing until you start to try it yourself. Have you ever wondered how those singers get those long deep notes out? It is all because of their breathing. You have to learn how to push the air out of your lungs. Breathing when you sing is much different from your typical inhale and exhale. You have to work on your diaphragm muscles, which if you have never sung before, could be pretty weak.

Here's a video to help you sing better: How To Perfect Your Singing Voice

Re: Adding grit to vocals without damaging yourself!

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