YOUR GUIDE TO FRY SCREAMING
Returning visitor? Take a full new read and listen. This article was updated with better instruction, more voice clips, and a new route to try, now including screams utilizing vocal fry. This combines fry shouts and fry screams into one article, covering the whole fry spectrum for you.
You hear singers in metal scream like this:
And you wonder: ,,How do they do this? How can I do this?”
Let me show you!
You may have searched the internet, watched every video but still it seems like there is something missing – and there is. In this guide I will show you what is missing. You will learn how to scream like Devin Townsend, Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Matt Tuck (Bullet For My Valentine), Spencer Sotelo (Periphery) and many many others the proper way. You will learn how to Fry Scream from beginning to end and from first step to last.
- How to Fry Scream
What is a Fry Scream?
Fry Scream is an umbrella term used to categorize certain types of screaming that established themselves in Metal music. Fry Screams can sound quite diverse, with varying degrees of pitch, voice, and distortion, but they share the same fundamental technique(s) used to create them. This is why Phil Bozeman’s, Dickie Allen’s, Randy Blythe’s and Devin Townsend’s screams are all categorized as Fry Screams, although they sound so different.
Fry Screams are all done exhaling. The in-depth anatomical explanation of Fry Screams will not be discussed, as this would a) make the guide much too long, b) is still debated and evolving, and c) not needed (and often not helpful) in learning how to do it.
Most Fry Screams have a characteristic white-noise-type, wet and smooth sounding distortion. Some Fry Screams can sound goblinish high and gurgly, some can sound rumbly low and monstrous, but usually Fry Screams sound wet and refined and have some degree of voice in them. They are what most people associate with metal screams. High, Mid and Low are terms referring to the pitch of the scream and NOT the style (Fry, False Cord, or Shout). In terms of versatility Fry is the most useful screaming technique with the widest array of expressions from super high to super low, from no audible voice to being able to sing melodies, from unhuman and monstrous screams to emotional singing.
There are lots of misconceptions about Fry Screams. Infamous ones are:
- Fry Screams are not done with your voice and thus you can only go full scream or no scream but there is no in between -> false and dead giveaway that the person proclaiming this is not doing fry screams. Fry Screams can have varying degrees of voice
- Fry Screams are done from vocal fry -> Fry screams can contain vocal fry. Some people get great sounding screams from vocal fry by combining it with compression and false fold distortion. MOST get stuck at quiet creaky noises. Let me show you a better way
- Fry Screams are done from head voice / falsetto -> a very distinct type of fry scream. Most are done with a heady or chesty mixed voice and starting from falsetto leads most people to an unsatisfying scream (often the creaky vocal fry scream)
How To Use This Guide
Screaming is not just an art form and a skill – it is a craft one needs to develop to do right and to do well. Some people are lucky and do all the little parts of a scream right and the scream just ”falls into place”. That is a very hit or miss situation and for a scream to happen lots of things need to be done correctly and simultaneously. These things will be explained step by step for you to build them on top of each other.
The technique of the Fry Scream is seperated into building blocks (components). These components I will show you how to do and how to combine. Take your time with learning the components properly. For most this is not a matter of replicating and doing it right immediately or after a couple tries. Each step may take days or weeks for you to get right. Do not become impatient.
When working with the guide do not practice for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. This is to prevent harm you might do to yourself when doing the exercises wrong. If you feel pain, hoarseness, changes to your VOICE, especially changes to the character of your singing or talking voice: it sounds thin, your range is limited, your head voice does not work anymore, your voice hurts – STOP. You have strained, tensed, been using too much volume, been doing the exercise wrong. Rest until your voice is back to normal and then try again.
Frequency beats volume. Practice OFTEN and not long. If your voice feels good you can practice 2-3 times per day for 10-15 minutes every day. You are not building muscle here -You are learning to execute and automate complex movement patterns. Your brain needs frequency to learn the patterns. Frequency of practice beats length of practice.
For a vocal health check up you SHOULD BE DOING every 5 minutes watch this video of mine:
How to Fry Scream
The Components of a Fry Scream or
Why learning how to Fry Scream is so frustrating
The refined Fry Scream you know and love happens when the following three things happen at the same time:
- While you sing a note the vestibular folds (aka false folds) create a sound (rasp or buzz), creating the main part of the scream = Rasp / Buzz
- The larynx is compressed (reduced in diameter) and the vestibular folds are pressed closely against each other, resulting in a more overtone rich and wet distortion sound = Compression
- The vocal folds become more atonal by EITHER vibrating irregularly (creaking / vocal fry) OR opening partially while phonating, letting air escape (breathiness)
Vocal Fry OR Breathiness? Yes, there are two different ways get to a pretty similar sound.
This ”conglomeration of techniques” makes learning how to Fry Scream so hit or miss, trial and error, and thus, frustrating: You need to stumble upon these components at once in a lucky accident to get the scream. This is why you will learn the three components of the Fry Scream step by step.
Component 1: Rasp / Buzz
The first step of learning the Fry Scream is learning how to use your vestibular folds to create a rasp or buzz while singing a pitch. Depending on whether you sing lower or higher, louder or quieter, placed more forward and brighter or less forward and darker the vestibular folds engaging will create a buzzing noise or a rasp. Both buzz and rasp originate from the same place and can be used for Fry Screams. If you have trouble with this component, try learning component 2: compression first.
Step 1. Start by learning how to use Twang to narrow the upper part of the larynx to create a bright and twangy but not metallic singing tone. This will get your vestibular folds closer to each other.
Step 2. Use lots of twang while raising your voice, staying on the same pitch. Crossing a certain threshold in terms of air pressure by going louder will activate a rasp or buzzing noise on top of your sung pitch.
Common mistakes to avoid are:
- not being loud enough
- going higher in pitch instead of louder
- losing twang while going loud
- pressing back and down with the tongue too much resulting in epiglottis rumble
- letting your voice break and crack underneath instead of singing a pitch.
This is the same rasp used in Rock singing. If you like the sound you can utilize it in your singing.
,,HELP! I TRIED IT OVER AND OVER AND IT DOES NOT WORK!”
If you have eliminated the common mistakes and you still can’t get it, try the following methods. Beware that using these methods is riskier as they are easier to do wrong and thus can wear out your voice fast.
If none of these work for you and you have given it at least two weeks of trying, proceed to component 2: compression and try to activate the rasp from the compressed larynx you learn there. This is less ideal but it also works.
Component 2: (Laryngeal) Compression aka: Compressed Voice
The second step is learning how to compress your larynx. Compression became a buzzword in the recent years. There are multiple types of compression. The most important one for the fry scream is the compression inside the larynx right at the level of the vestibular folds.
This ”laryngeal” compression reduces the circumference of the larynx and thus brings the vestibular folds much closer to each other, so that they cover the vocal folds. Since the vestibular folds are so close (or even closed above the vocal folds) they vibrate much faster, creating a distortion that sounds more fryish.
(To be completely accurate, when you use the vestibular folds for rasp or buzz you are already compressing the larynx. We just need more compression.)
Another effect of this compression is that the air goes faster through the vocal tract (same amount of air goes through a smaller tunnel). This not only leads to more overtones and a crisper sound, but it also makes singing high notes easier.
Have a listen to what compression does:
To sum it up: the compression is what makes the singing with rumble or rasp more distorted and wet sounding. From there we add the third component to go into the Fry Scream. It may also just happen on its own by you compressing correctly. Up next you find multiple methods of learning how to compress your larynx.
If you experience pressure building up in your head, you are pushing too hard. Even though it sounds quite heavy it should feel only like talking but with a bit of extra pressure at the abs and a lid that is almost closed on top of your voice.
We also don’t want any wheezing sounds, high whistles or breathy sounds at this step. What CAN happen though is that you also activate a wet sounding distortion. That is either your vestibular folds (rasp) or a vocal fry. Both are okay if they feel okay!
Step 1a. Learn (laryngeal) compression by abruptly stopping the airflow and keeping that ”lid is closed on top” feeling while talking normally underneath – carefully, not pressing as hard as we can!
Step 1b. Learn (laryngeal) compression by raising intra-abdominal pressure, like the one you need for heavy lifting or pressing out a poop (haha, i know).
Step 1c. Learn (laryngeal) compression by imitating a strained voice or old person’s voice.
Step 2. Learn to control compression while staying on the same pitch. This will help you with step 3.
Step 3. Add compression while also using rasp or buzz, without changing pitch. This will make the distortion more wet and fryish. The key is not to be loud. Try to do it with the least volume you can get away with using.
Congratulations! You are almost there. Before we implement the last component of the fry scream it is important that you have very good control over the compression, rasp or buzz, and both at the same time.
What do I mean by good control? This is your checklist:
- There is no ”squeaking” or ”whistling” happening and your voice doesnt crack.
- Your voice does not get worn out or changes after you practiced.
- You use only the necessary volume and not more.
- You do it without tensing up. Shoulders and traps stay low, neck is relaxed, facial expression is neutral and you don’t get headaches or pressure in your head.
- You can add and remove compression at will.
- You can add and remove distortion (the rasp or buzz) independent from compression
- You have found one or two notes where everything feels best and you can pull everything off consistently.
You want to take your singing and screaming to the next level? Let me guide you to your goals in personal one-on-one lessons.
Component 3: Vocal Fry or Breathiness
Once you have the vestibular folds activated (rasp or buzz) and your larynx is compressed you need to either adduct the vocal folds a tiny bit, so that extra air can pass through, to replace some of the pitch with atonality OR you go higher in pitch while going too quiet and too little energy to have your vocal folds close regularly, to let them be underpressurized, so that they close irregularly (vocal fry).
Unless you want exactly the sound I demonstrate with the breathiness utilizing screams I advise you to go down the vocal fry route, because the latter is easier to learn and produces very similar results.
The Vocal Fry Route
It is quite likely that just by playing around with rasp and compression you have gotten some vocal fry going on. The vocal fry will make the wet distorted singing we get from combining rasp and compression even more atonal and screamed sounding. Paradoxically it makes ”singing” easier than singing cleanly. Naturally, everything involving vocal fry will make your voice quieter and make the screams not sound very powerful in the room. Luckily, we are using microphones! Especially if you are used to singing clean it can confuse you how little support and energy coordinations with vocal fry need and require.
Method 1: Adding Compression to a high note to get it to go into vocal fry. Then adding rasp.
Method 2: From Rasp + Compression quieter or higher into your vocal break
Method 3: Rasp + Compression on higher notes, then removing volume
Don’t forget doing regular vocal health check ups (as mentioned in How to Use This Guide) to assess whether what you are doing is not harming you and working as intended!
The most common mistake is to FORCE vocal fry to happen by pushing, constricting, going louder, harder. It is exactly the opposite, go easier! As soon as you get it, just repeat it over and over and as soon as you can do it reliably, practice going in and out: clean voice – vocal fry – clean voice – vocal fry.
Do not neglect practicing your clean voice. Especially your falsetto and high notes. If you consistently enter vocal fry without regularly practicing clean coordinations you unlearn the latter and will have a hard time singing without vocal fry happening.
The Vocal Fry Spectrum
Depending on from what pitch you will go into the vocal fry, how FAR you go into vocal fry, and whether you use rasp or not, the scream can sound quite different, ranging from creaky and quiet to chesty and literally screamed sounding, but also from atonal to tonal. But the most drastic difference is in from which vocal fold coordination (some refer to them as registers) you go into vocal fry inside of the scream: falsetto, reinforced falsetto / heady mix, chesty mix or yelling register / full chest. In this audio I will show you how the different ”vocal frys” sound. I go into the screams by compressing and under-pressurizing (less support and volume).
You want to take your singing and screaming to the next level? Let me guide you to your goals in personal one-on-one lessons.
The Breathiness Route
As an alternative to vocal fry you can also add breathiness to the compression and rasp.
CAUTION: For most people this is much more difficult to execute properly than using vocal fry underneath their compression and rasp. I would advise you to follow the vocal fry route, unless you explicitly want the exact same sound I am showing with the breathiness utilizing fry screams.
On its own the breathiness, the adduction of the vocal folds, sounds like a breathy voice, like added breathiness. While you use compression, it sounds like the characteristic white-noise type distortion of the Fry Scream.
This part can be very tricky, so you need to pay close attention to how your voice feels and be very cautious with practice. You also need to be aware of how loud you are. Breathiness does not work when you are too loud and it also doesn’t work when you are very quiet.
Step 1. Introducing Breathiness
Step 1.5. Common Mistakes to avoid / Vocal health / doing it wrong
CAUTION: The most common mistake is pressing the vocal folds together and SQUEEZING air through. This sounds either like a very high and weak scream or like a wheezing or whistling sound and feels uncomfortable. If you catch yourself doing this STOP. Pressing the vocal folds together and squeezing air through is very stressful for your vocal folds.
Step 2. Rising in pitch
Step 3. Adding Compression
This last step might lead you into a Fry Scream right away like I showed you. For some people it is easier to add breathiness to the raspy singing, going into a Fry Scream that way and compressing afterwards. Although I do present you the Fry Scream as a progression path (first rasp, then compression, then breathiness), it is not linear but modular. This means that you can assemble the three components in any order. Use this to your advantage. That’s why I will show you how to assemble the Fry Scream from multiple directions.
Combining Vestibular Folds, Compression, and Breathiness into a Fry Scream
One little disclaimer: YOUR Fry Scream may sound a bit different from mine. Lower, higher, darker, brighter, more voice, less voice, rumblier, wetter, or in hard to describe ways. As long as you adhere to the voice care I showed you in How to use this guide at the top, that is OK! Don’t be discouraged if it does not sound the exact way you imagined and continue practicing – safely!
But now on to assembling the Fry Scream with Breathiness. You can assemble the components in any order you like. Some orders may work better for you, some worse. Doing it on some pitches might be better, on some pitches it might be worse.
CAUTION: Again, the most common mistake is going wrong at the breathiness step by pressing the vocal folds together and SQUEEZING air through. This sounds either like a very high and weak scream or like a wheezing or whistling sound and feels uncomfortable. If you catch yourself doing this STOP. Pressing the vocal folds together and squeezing air through is very stressful for your vocal folds. You need to use breathiness properly or choose the vocal fry route.
Let me show you how to combine the components and what this sounds like.
Method 1. Rasp – Compression – Breathiness
Method 2. Buzz – Compression – Breathiness
Method 3. Compression – Rasp – Breathiness
Method 4. Breathiness – Compression – Rasp
Method 5. Rasp – Breathiness – Compression
As you can guess from here, there are a couple more combinations but these are the major ones that work most often. Use the recordings as a reference point.
Due to the plethora of techniques happening when assembling its impossible to tell in advance where YOU might have problems. Assembling the components is not easy and will proabably take you some time. Don’t be frustrated if it does not work the first couple of times.
KEEP IN MIND: You need to have good control over every aspect before you start assembling or trying vocal fry breakup! You may go into a Fry Scream intuitively by combining only two components.
If you cannot get the Fry Scream yet, do not give up! Odds are there is something wrong with how you do one of the components. Listen closey to the audio clips and try again. Even with my students, there are some where it just takes a while and some who get it in just a couple sessions. Most people who learn how to scream without any proper guidance take anywhere from multiple months to years. This is a skill, not a gift. It takes time to learn it.