Oftentimes when we think of clean singers and the techniques they use, we might describe them with terminology such as chest voice, head voice, falsetto, or belting. These are the most commonly used singing forms in popular music.
Likewise, in lesser known music genres such as rock and metal, you might have the growl, the vocal fry, or even the pitched scream. However, if there’s one technique that is still applicable to a broad range of music styles that we seldom see mastered it is the vocal rasp. This is achieved by using your false vocal cords to add various degrees of grit, or sometimes we will call this distortion. It’s an extremely powerful vocal technique that injects energy, emotion, and life into your performance.
You might hear some people incorrectly claim this technique can damage your voice, but this is not the case when done correctly. So please join us as we take a look at some of the best raspy voice singers who have mastered this technique and use it to enhance their delivery as singers.
Read more: Top 5 Singers With Deep Voices
Popular Raspy Voice Singers
We are all familiar with the pitched screeching of AC/DC. Seldom would you see a singer be able to reach such heights, both in emotional delivery and in literal musical note, while pushing so much rasp and dirt into their voice.
Brian has an extremely strong, pushed, and energetic vocal style that made him the perfect fit for AC/DC when he was asked to join back in 1980. Amazingly his very first effort with them became the second best selling album of all time! one hell of an achievement.
To date, there has never been a frontman quite like Brian who has been able to maintain this style with unwavering consistency for over 40 years now. He is a true rock legend that has inspired many a vocalist to adopt his raspy style to add the same level of passion and energy into their vocal performances.
See his full bio here.
Very often singers will employ rasp or vocal fry as a way to highlight a particular moment in the song. Perhaps a high note on the chorus or at the end of the climax. But for Bon Jovi, the grittiness and rasp is just a natural part of his voice making his ability to utilize the technique more natural and fluid than normal.
He’s able to sing entire choruses of power ballads over a wide tonal range while retaining his raspy tone seemingly effortlessly. It’s this unique flavor that is one of the reasons why Bon Jovi can create such powerful and anthemic vocal passages.
Another thing that’s very impressive about Bon Jovi is his extreme vocal range, he has a fantastic ability to utilize the naval cavity in order to hit those high falsetto notes with ease and confidence in a way few other singers can emulate.
Read more about Bon Jovi here.
Primarily known for her pure raw power combined with fantastic pitch control. Adele is able to masterfully add in just the right amount of grit to inject that emotion and flavor to her vocal performances, making her voice one of the most heavily recognized and praised around.
However, she unfortunately suffered some damage to her voice which required corrective surgery. So these days she skirts a little more carefully around using her full power. This is overall beneficial when it comes to protecting your voice and making sure you can enjoy the longevity of vocal performance without any degradation to tone you can produce.
Even after this surgery she remains one of the most prolific singers around, claiming a multitude of awards, best selling albums and an extremely passionate and dedicated fanbase who are all in love with her uniquely powerful voice.
Having started his career as an extreme metal vocalist, Devin was exposed very early on to utilizing the false vocal cords to perform both fry, growls, and gutturals for extended periods of time. This put him in an ideal position to be able to combine it with his already powerful and rich clean voice in order to create sounds that were both technically impressive and pleasant to the ear.
After his time singing for guitar legend Steve Vai. Devin, along with his band Strapping Young Lad would experiment with all manner of vocal styles. So that nowadays with his solo material and numerous side projects, which lean a little more on the use of clean vocals.
He can weave in his previously trained harsh vocal skills to create a tonal palette like no other. Devin has been performing music for many decades now and he is one of the few voices that seem to have consistently improved over time and shows no signs of slowing down. A true singing legend and lovable personality.
Throughout the 80’s we were treated to a tremendous amount of glam rock. With audacious outfits, pyrotechnics and a copious amount of glitter. In response to this, we saw a counterculture start to emerge which aimed to oppose the bright lights and showmanship of glam with a darker, more moody, and angst-filled vibe that resonated heavily with the younger generation.
This became known as grunge. At the forefront of Grunge is the band Nirvana, fronted by Kurt Cobain. Kurt had a unique raspy voice that tapped in the dreary, melancholic hopelessness while still holding that bite and anger that could stir the emotional soul of the youth.
This was in large part due to his natural use of vocal rasp which added a level of dirt that really accented the unique tonal quality Nirvana delivered. What’s interesting about Kurt is he was not considered a technical singer, this was something that came to him very naturally and fit into the style the band wanted to present very naturally.
One of the wonderful things about Alice Cooper is his personality and voice as a musician was far more than just the sum of his vocal performance. Combining fantastic theatrics and stage costumes to present a slightly satirical form of horror drama.
Some fans have lovingly nicknamed this as ‘shock rock’. But underneath the showmanship and theatrics lay a genuinely solid vocal performer and one of the premier singers who would utilize the rasp technique to enhance their on stage persona. It helped with presenting the horror theme of the music by creating a slightly menacing and evil tone.
Yet despite this, he would maintain this raspy quality onto the most soaring of anthemic choruses without ever needing to break this style due to any limitations of his technical skill. Sometimes he has even been criticized for his overuse of the raspy style, with some calling it a cover to hide the absence of any real ability to sing. But regardless of how technically gifted (or not) you think he is, there’s no doubt he is the perfect fit for Alice Cooper.
Aerosmith is one of the top selling rock acts of the ’70s, with multiple gold and platinum selling albums. Extremely successful tours and fantastic commercial success. This was in large part to how their music skirted the hard rock edge while retaining the more emotional side of music with the power ballad. Frontman Steven Tyler was a large factor in why the band had this musical success.
With a broad vocal range that could pull off both fast, high energy tunes all the way to emotional songs about love.
He would use the rasp to add an additional layer of depth to his performance that was seldom seen from other bands. Never seeming to struggle too much to pull it off, it became a seamless, natural, and signature part of his sound and would become seen as an important part of the band’s sound and identity.
Steven had a slightly tumultuous journey as he was struggling with drug and alcohol dependence, but through all of this his voice remained intact and he is still today sounding just as good as ever!
Having sold all his worldly possessions to buy a small van and give his best shot at hitting the music industry major leagues. Wayne Static knew from very early on that he had something special about his voice.
His main band ‘Static X’ focussed on quite simple songwriting and catchy melodies. So how did they become so popular? It was largely due to his unique sounding raspy voice, which could make the simplest of vocal melodies feel like a powerhouse performance where you could really feel the squeeze of his vocal cords.
One thing that was impressive about Static X is that they would use this raspy vocal style throughout the length of their live performances, proving that he had mastered the technique and could perform it easily for a dozen songs straight.
Not only that, but he would also be playing the guitar at the same time. Wayne has unfortunately passed, but his iconic voice and style is one that is remembered fondly amongst peers and fans alike. With many now trying to emulate that style and re-create the aggressive, yet pleasant signature Wayne Static rasp.
Commonly referred to as ‘The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Tina is one of the most successful solo singers of all time accruing a whopping 100 million album sales worldwide.
She is also a heavy user of the raspy voice.
With an old record label president, upon hearing her sing for the first time, describing her voice as sounding like “screaming dirt”.
Able to use vocal rasp at the right moment and with emotional intent allowed her to carve both a unique and powerful sound that made her stand a few rungs above other musicians in the same space.
As soon as the public heard her voice they instantly fell in love, having been able to achieve commercial success from her very first single ‘A Fool in Love’ in 1960. She is an incredibly hard worker, having released 10 studio albums and going on 12 tours where she would blow audiences away with her accurate and confident live vocal performances.