9 Powerful Tips For How To Growl Sing (2023)

how to growl sing

Growl-singing isn’t something everyone does all the time. 

Even in heavy metal singing, famous for its growl and rasp, they won’t use it exclusively. 

But like any tool, it’s good to know how to do it well and without damaging your voice for those occasions when you want to pull it out. 

I used my 12 years of experience teaching music and asked the pros for advice on how to growl sing and came up with these 9 powerful tips: 

  1. Practice Your Normal Singing First
  2. Pull Your Tongue Back
  3. Isolate Growls On An “Oh” Sound
  4. Play Around With Your Vocal Fry
  5. Drink Plenty Of Water
  6. Use Air Support And Good Posture
  7. Listen To The Pros
  8. Keep It Relaxed
  9. Build Up Your Growl Stamina

Let’s get into each of these tips, and some other commonly asked questions in the rest of the article.

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#1 Practice Your Normal Singing First

For those who love the growl-singing genres, like metal, it’s tempting to go right for practicing the effect every time you sing. 

This is a huge mistake. Growling is a vocal effect. 

It needs to be added on top of normal, good singing. 

So, you need to spend a lot of time practicing your clean singing, especially at first. 

If you want a more specific time frame, try these steps. 

  • Practice the song you want to learn with a “clean” singing voice. 
  • Get it solid and strong at least 3 times through. 
  • Target several sections you want to add growl too. 
  • Practice those sections alone. 
  • Add them into the greater context of the song. Now, you’re doing a mix of clean and growl. 
  • If you want all growl, gradually increase the sections that are using the effect. 

Warning! When your voice starts to hurt, stop! Growl singing sounds painful, but it shouldn’t be. 

Practicing consistently and building up to it will help you sing with a growl for longer. 

Pushing through the pain will cause damage to your vocal cords. 

#2 Pull Your Tongue Back

What is a growl? What is growl singing? 

It’s an effect added to your voice, and the exact mechanics of it are unique for each person. 

You need to explore and find it for yourself. 

For many people, a part of a good growl is in adding vibration through your throat (uvula and more) or the back of your tongue. 

One of the ways that work for me to access the growl is to imagine pulling my tongue back in my throat along the bottom of my mouth as far as I can. 

Play with this and push supported air through, getting that growl sound only. 

Don’t focus on singing too. 

After you feel confident with some growls, add in a little of your vocal fold activation too for singing. 

Focusing on this builds coordination in your brain as to what growl singing requires. 

#3 Isolate Growls On An “Oh” Sound

I’m a huge advocate for warmups and spending a good amount of time lumbering up your muscles and sharpening your mind before you sing for real.

If you intend to growl sing, wouldn’t it just make sense to add some growl practice to your warmup?

I’d think so. But how do you do it?

Here’s a quick exercise to include in your warmups. 

  • Pick a five-note scale warmup. 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 or Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-Fa-Mi-Re-Do
  • Hum each note up and down a couple of times. 
  • Now, slow down each note, so you hum each note one time with every breath.
  • Imagine you’re making an open “oh” like bOAt with your throat (even though you’re humming. 
  • Gradually, introduce growl to your humming. 
  • Once you’ve added some growl and gone through the notes up and down, open your mouth to sing the Oh sound out loud with a growl. 

#4 Play Around With Your Vocal Fry

Vocal Fry is a way to add extra mechanical vibration from your vocal cords. 

Usually, you see the vocal fry more with a raspy voice than a growl. 

This is more like grunge rather than metal or blues. 

Metal uses the growl a lot, and blues, rock, and other genres will use the growl on occasion at specific points (Little Richard was great for this). 

But some singers use a bit of vocal fry to blend in with their growl. 

As I mentioned earlier, it’s unique to the individual. 

Vocal fry is when you make a sound with your vocal cords or vocal folds without engaging your whole voice. 

It gives you that crackling, vibrating sound. 

Make a fry deep in your throat with an open “ah” sound. 

Slowly engage more of your vocal cords to add singing while keeping some of that distorted sound. 

If you like it and feel ready, add in a bit of that throat and tongue growl. 

Experiment with a short singing phrase to find what you like and what works for you. 

Don’t forget to record yourself and listen to it for an objective listen. 

Further Reading: Singing grunge with a raspy voice tips

#5 Drink Plenty Of Water

I don’t think you’ll look through any list of singing tips on this website without finding a hydration and vocal care tip. 

It’s critical to care for your voice and not introduce effects through artificial means. 

I’m talking about smoking, drinking, or yelling to harm your cords and then take advantage of that raspiness. 

At best, you’ll lose your voice for a while. 

At its worst, you’ll develop tears or nodes on your vocal folds and either need surgery or never be able to sing again. 

Avoid excess caffeine before singing. Avoid smoking period (especially around the time when you sing. 

Drink plenty of water or non-sugary drink. 

Good vocal health is good vocal technique. 

#6 Use Air Support And Good Posture

Along the same lines as the last tip, we need to make sure we have good posture and use air to support our growl singing. 

In a vehicle engine, we need oil to lubricate the working parts and prevent damage and overheating. 

Air is the oil AND gas of our singing voice, especially when using a tense technique like growl singing. 

Good posture, being aligned from your core up, allows for more air and breath. 

Engaging your abdominal muscles and diaphragm to use more air support while singing provides more fuel and lubrication during a growl. 

Closing your throat and forcing with less air may fake a growl and tense sound, but you won’t be able to run on this for long. 

#7 Listen To The Pros

Whenever you want to get better at singing, you need to know what good examples sound like, especially if you’re emulating heavy metal music. 

To this end, I always tell my students to listen to their favorite artists, especially if they sing in the same vocal range as them. 

By critically listening and emulating their sound (at least a little), you’ll get better too. 

Here are a few people considered top of the growl-singing food chain as metal vocalists: 

  • Ross Dolan
  • Tomi Joutsen
  • Chuck Schuldiner
  • Mikael Åkerfeldt
  • Matti Kärki
  • Frank Mullen

#8 Keep It Relaxed

Despite what it sounds like, growl singers actually need to keep their body and voice relaxed. 

You’re not usually singing super high or low, so the tension you want to add when growl singing comes from the growl itself. 

But tension is the enemy of good singing for all the reasons we’ve mentioned before (damaging voice, thinning voice quality, lessening volume). 

When you’re growl singing, pay attention to how your body and voice feel. 

If you sense too much tension, intentionally make yourself relax. 

Be in control of your voice, and you’ll have a better end result. 

#9 Build Up Your Growl Stamina

Growling is a unique and unusual technique is you think about it. 

Singing is at least sustained and pitch-intentional talking. 

Growling isn’t something we do very often. 

Because of its rarity, the muscles and parts involved aren’t trained for it. 

You don’t go out and run a marathon without training for it, at least a little bit. 

Don’t expect to growl sing well or for very long without training it too. 

Build up your stamina by doing two things: 

  1. Practicing consistently 5-7 days per week. 
  2. Gradually increasing the amount of time you spend growl singing. 

Start with maybe 5-10 minutes per practice session. The next week, add another 5-10 minutes. 

Over months, you’ll build up the stamina and strength to go for a long period. 

Commonly Asked Questions

Does growling damage your voice? 

Growling is more likely to damage your voice than almost any other vocal effect or vocal technique. 

If you do it the wrong way! 

Adding tension, not building up to it, and using too much force for growl singing are likely to cause damage to your vocal tract.

But following the advice in the rest of this article will help avoid injury. 

Can anyone learn how to growl?

Anyone can learn this type of singing, but for some, it’s easier than for others. 

If you love the effect, spend the time on it, and it’ll come. 

Does growling make your voice raspy?

Growling makes your singing voice a little raspy-sounding in some cases, but only while you’re singing. 

Listen to pros who sing harsh death metal vocals, they still talk pretty normally! 

If you’re doing it right and in a healthy way, your normal voice should remain largely the same. 

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Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher in Michigan with 12 years of experience. He's the President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and founder of the Dynamic Music Room.

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