10 Tips For How To Sing Grunge With A Raspy Voice

how to sing grunge

Grunge is one of those musical genres that, if you grew up in the 90s or have a fascination with that era of music, you probably love it. 

I can appreciate how a lot of folks don’t buy into the raspy and emotionally-wrought music, but it still serves as a good musical vehicle for getting your point across. 

But if you stop to think about it, some of the grunge artists like Eddie Vedder, Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain, or Courtney Love have some serious singing chops. 

If you want to learn how to sing grunge, I’ve got some quick tips to get you going right away. 

Get all the experience of singing lessons at a fraction of the price (and at your own speed) with 30 Day Singer.

Don’t Neglect Your Foundation

The first thing people make the mistake of believing is that grunge singing doesn’t require a solid vocal foundation. 

Truth is, it requires more than most other pop music styles. 

Sure, the range isn’t always wild, and the singing sounds raw, but without a good foundation, you won’t be able to keep up this singing style for more than a song or two. 

The tension in the voice is real, but the pros sing it with intentionality and the support of training and fundamentals. 

Don’t neglect your breathing exercises. Practice good warmups to expand your range. 

Sing like a classically trained singer. And then push yourself with some edge. 

Further Reading: Tips for singing less breathy

Experiment With Your Gravel Or Rasp

Raspy and tense singing doesn’t come naturally to most people. 

It’s either made artificially through one of two things: 

  1. Adding tension to your vocal folds. 
  2. Smoking heavily. 

I don’t recommend the second option by any means, so you need to add tension and pressure to your vocal cords. 

There’s no sure-fire way to do this, so you need to experiment. 

Start by singing a simple melody with a pure tone and classically good sound. 

Then, add bits of rasp to your singing by gradually adding more “growl” to your voice. 

Listen A Lot

If you’ve spent time checking out the tips on this website (for singing or for playing instruments), I’m always advocating for more listening. 

And not just listening in the background, intentional listening. 

Pick one or more of your favorite grunge singers. 

Do they always sound raspy or tense?

Are there times when it gets a lot raspier? 

Why do they make the choices they do when singing?

Sing along with them and attempt to emulate that sound as close as possible. 

You’ll be surprised at how many nuances you pick up when you do this regularly, and your voice will respond as well. 

Spend Time With Your Mixed Voice

Experienced singers know there are different ways your vocal cords engage with singing and talking. 

When the muscles used close your folds as they vibrate, this provides a powerful chest voice sound. 

This is where you sing lower and with a stronger tone. 

When the muscles leave some air going through all the time and never fully close, this is called the head voice. 

This helps you sing higher and lighter. 

Strictly using your “head voice” is actually called falsetto; this is your “little kid” voice.

Further Reading: Head voice vs. falsetto

For grunge singers, you don’t really want to slip into the lighter falsetto or even the slightly mixed head voice. 

You want to do what you can to send your chest voice up higher. 

This is called a mixed voice, and it involves gradually adding in the head register until you find a good combination of power and high-range singing. 

This is a hugely complicated topic I’m giving you in minutes here, but here are two things you’ll want to do to help your mixed voice. 

#1 Find where your voice wants to break – Sing a scale from low to high and pay attention to where it feels like your voice starts to crack. 

This is literally called your break. 

The goal here is to increase your abdominal pressure and air to help send the chest voice up higher. 

You’ll also want to open your mouth taller (not wider) and imagine sending the sound through the middle forehead.

#2 Exercise your fundamental scales often to improve your muscle stamina and coordination. 

Find Singers With Your Voice Type

In addition to listening to other grunge singers, you’ll specifically want to listen and sing like those of your voice type. 

Finding someone with a specific type matching yours will go a long way to helping you feel and be successful. 

After all, if you’re a bass singer, you’ll never be able to match Kurt Cobain, who was more of a baritenor. 

Hydrate Like Crazy

Singing with the “grunge factor” is taxing on your voice. 

This is why I recommend sticking with a lot of fundamentals to strengthen your voice. 

The other side of the coin is vocal health. 

Your voice needs to hydrate like crazy. Drink water before, during, and after singing to keep your folds working well. 

Yes, when you’re tired, your voice will naturally get raspy and edgy. 

This is kind of cool, but it also hurts your voice. 

In time, you’ll lose your voice for a while (at best).

In the worst cases, you can even develop vocal nodules on your larynx, which may require surgery to fix and restore your voice. 

Move Your Tonal Center Forward Into Your Nasal Cavity

A lot of grunge singers are known to have a twang in their voices. 

It’s not a true country twang, but it’s something similar. 

Both grunge and country tend to have singers who focus more of their sound through their nasal cavity. 

This gives them a more intense and focused sound rather than the large and broad sound of Broadway or classical singers. 

Next time you’re singing, touch the middle of your nose with your thumb and forefinger.

Now pull your hand away and imagine your pulling a string out of the middle of your nose. 

Imagine your singing sound traveling through this string. 

This will help with placement and make your voice come more through this space. 

Find Someone Who Sings Grunge And Learn From Them

The best way to learn is from someone who does the thing you want to learn. 

There aren’t a lot of grunge singers around anymore, but there are some. 

My area is pretty small, but I know of at least three bands who play a lot of grunge. 

I’d approach their singer and ask them for advice or even for lessons if they’re interested. 

Pay Attention To The Details

Grunge is known for a lot of awesome vocal style elements, but grunge music is also very emotional. 

A grunge sound uses a wide variety of style choices (and no, I’m talking about grunge fashion). 

I’m talking about things like dynamics (loud and soft) and articulation (short and long sounds and how you say your consonants). 

Take some time to go through your grunge lyrics and make sure you intentionally decide how you want to say every single word. 

These details are what separates an amateur from a pro. 

Go Through A Singing Lesson Course

No one can learn everything on their own.

If you don’t want to pay for a lesson teacher or if you want to supplement your singing lessons, sign up for a quality online video course. 

Of those out there, I really like 30-Day Singer. 

They have a ton of excellent singing models for you to follow. 

Some of it will even edge on the grunge side of things. 

But it will cover a ton of fundamentals, which will set you up for long-term success with your singing hobby or career. 

Get all the experience of singing lessons at a fraction of the price (and at your own speed) with 30 Day Singer.

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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