How To Sing With Grit And Distortion Safely (Step-By-Step Guide)

how to sing with grit header

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This is a comprehensive guide for you to learn how to sing with grit for your vocal cords.

This will help you if you want to learn how to sound like your favorite rock singer safely and add style to your voice without destroying your throat (and develop vocal nodes…)

Plus, I go over the tiny details that many advanced rock singers used to develop their grit that you can use even if you’re just starting out.

So let’s get started.

1. You Need A Very Strong Foundation In Your Voice: Advanced Singing Technique

Learning how to sing with grit is not for beginners. Especially if you haven’t practiced with your vocal cords and strengthened them. This is an advanced singing technique.

You need to have a very strong foundation in your voice and should be very comfortable:

  • Staying on pitch on a note cleanly for a long time…
  • Adding volume to a note comfortably with little strain…
  • Having solid breath support with proper technique…

That’s the bare minimum you need so that you don’t destroy your voice.

If singing is like running a mile, then adding grit is like doing parkour across buildings mainly because you could damage your vocal cords.

Plus, you also want to have your voice warmed up already since this is going to be an unfamiliar feeling for you where you are going to experiment to find the right sound.

Here’s the prerequisite to singing grit: Can you sing and hold a note in your higher range cleanly with power?

If you can, then you’re ready to learn how to sing grit and add them to create your gritty vocals and sound like your favorite rock bands. 

Otherwise, if your pitch is a little shaky, then you can check out this guide to learn how to strengthen your voice.

If you are feeling solid with your voice, then you can practice grit with the following techniques below…

2. Imagine Growling Like A Bear

growling like a bear

The first step in learning how to sing with grit is to understand the “feeling” of doing this correctly.

There should be no strain in your shoulders, neck, or throat and absolutely no pain when you add grit to your voice.

Imagine growling like your favorite bear (since I think bears have nice growls…)

When you growl like a bear, you should feel no tension in your throat or vocal cords.

Rather, you will feel vibrations in the back of your throat and there should be no straining involved.

Now, what you want to do is try to raise the notes up and down while you are growling. Get used to this feeling of growling when you increase and decrease your voice and ingrain this feeling of no pressure.

The goal of adding grit and distortion is to combine this “growl” with your singing voice to get that raspy and gritty sound.

If you’re having trouble growling, try doing this:

  1. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth
  2. Imagine trying to get something out of your throat 
  3. Use that vibration and try to make it last as long as possible…

You don’t need to put your tongue on the roof of your mouth, but I noticed for me it’s a lot easier to get that growly sound.

This is a technique designed for you to understand that adding grit to your voice should not require straining and pushing your throat.

Once you can get this down, then we move on to adding the grit to your actual voice.

3. Start Adding Grit To Your Lower Range

When you’re starting out to learn how to sing with grit, you want to start in your lower range. This helps you get used to the feeling in your vocal cords when you start doing grit singing.

This is because this is where you are most comfortable with your voice since you have been using it for most of your life when you are speaking to your friends and family.

So, for example, let’s say your maximum range is a G4, then you would want to add grit to around G3-C4 below…

adding grit to your lower range

Somewhere where it feels very comfortable in your voice and vocal cords.

This is because you want to get used to the feeling of adding grit to your voice without putting much strain in your voice.

Now you want to aim for a small amount of growl when you first start out.

You don’t want to jump to your favorite rock singer yet since skipping steps might damage your voice.

Now here’s how to safely add grit to your voice:

  1. Stand with proper posture and sing a note cleanly with a good amount of intensity (ex. G3)
  2. Start trying to add a bit of twang in your voice. Rather than push from your voice, experiment with pushing from your diaphragm (It should add some huskiness to it…)
  3. Add a bit of pressure from the back of your throat (5-10%) with the same feeling of a small growl.
  4. Slowly start adding more pressure once your voice gets comfortable

If you did this correctly, you should notice that your voice got a little grittier. If not, then start experimenting with your voice to add that grittiness to it.

Here’s a quick tip: You should be able to do this while shrugging your shoulders and not feeling tense in your throat.

Even though it may sound like you’re screaming when adding grit, the difference is that with screaming you can lose your voice (which I’m sure you can understand with karaoke…) but proper with adding grit means you can add that “scream sound” without losing your voice.

Here’s another way to think about it: It’s the complete opposite of having a breathy tone.

Whereas having a breathy tone means you let more air through your vocal cords and being more relaxed, adding more grit means you want to slightly add more pressure to your throat (but still being pretty relaxed…)

It’s a balance between being relaxed and adding pressure, which you gain through practice and experience.

4. Start Adding Grit To Your Higher Range

So if you can sing with grit in your lower range, then it’s time to increase the range and power of your grittiness and work on your upper vocal cords.

Now It’s where it gets pretty exciting because most of your famous rock singers in their respective rock band use grit, especially during a chorus.

So if you were able to do it in your lower range, what you want to do is replicate that feeling in your higher range.

You want to also slightly start increasing the range but at one note at a time…

adding grit to your highest range

There’s going to be tension when you’re singing in your upper range (so your vocal cords don’t break) but there should not be any strain.

Rather than try to force out the grittiness in your vocal cords, you want to notice and analyze what’s happening and try to add that growly sound.

Now, your voice is going to get tired quickly and you can probably do this twice before your voice gets exhausted, which is alright.

Now when you tried to add grittiness to your upper range and if you couldn’t do, was it because:

  • The note was too high? Then lower the range and try again.
  • You can’t add the growly sound? Lower the range and intensity and try again.

It’s a very unnatural feeling when you learn how to add grit, but you do get used to it over time.

5. Refine It Slowly With Intensity

Once you can understand that feeling of adding some grit to your vocal cords, you can start to slowly add pressure and create a more distorted and gritty voice depending on your preference.

But just remember, it’s going to take time to build up your voice and learn a new skill.

In order to slowly build pressure, you want to practice this when your voice is in tip-top condition and practice it.

This is something that you will not learn overnight, and it’s going to take a lot of time and hard work. But when you start singing grit properly in your vocal range using proper vocal techniques, it is one of the best feelings.

“There’s no half-singing in the shower, you’re either a rock star or an opera diva” – Josh Groban

6. Sing With Grit Using Your Falsetto Vocal Cords

singing with falsetto

Few people do this, but it is possible to add distortion and grit to your falsetto as well.

The only thing I recommend is that your falsetto should have a solid foundation and be almost as good as your chest voice. This is so you can have that nice raspy voice while your grit singing in your head voice.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Repeat steps 1-5 from this guide OR…
  • Skip to Tip #7 and have a skilled vocal teacher teach you.

It’s the same principle with falsetto.

You can check out examples of Daniel Davey from the Cradle of Fifth if you want to hear how it sounds.

7. Hire A Skilled Vocal Teacher To Ensure You Have Proper Technique

Now, most of this is so that you can learn how to sing with grit on your own, but I highly recommend that you find a vocal teacher who can watch over you.

This is to ensure that you don’t develop any bad habits which would be difficult to break in the future and to make sure that you aren’t destroying your voice with poor technique. You don’t want to ruin your singing career by destroying your voice.

Here’s how you know they are a skilled teacher: They can sing well with grit and their voice is still healthy.

How Singing With Grit Works: Developing Gritty Vocals

The way singing with grit works is that what you are doing is called glottal compression, where as the name implies you are compressing the glottis in your throat.

The glottis comes into three parts which is the sub-glottis, the medial, and the supraglottis and what you’re doing is you are bringing air into your throat and compressing the glottus to create that grit and distorted sound.

glottal compression

And that compression makes that gritty sound that you want to have in your voice.

You don’t have to worry about the science in how to make that gritty sound but it’s always nice to know in the back of your head.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Are Famous Singers Who Sing With Grit And Distortion?

Here’s a list of them with a raspy voice so that you can go check them out on Youtube and find inspiration to see how they add grit to their voice…

  • Robert Plant (From Led Zeppelin)
  • Bryan Adams
  • Bon Jovi
  • Axl Rose
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Mick jagger
  • Daniel Llyod Davie
  • James Hatfield

How To Sing With Grit Like Layne Staley

It’s the same principles as the tips as above, but what you want to do is that once you have built a solid foundation and can add some decent grit to your voice already, then listen to Layne Staley.

Analyze his voice and see how much grit he adds to his voice and then try to replicate it.

If you’re watching on Youtube then slow down the speed to 0.5 or .075 and try to replicate it and it’s going to be a lot easier than doing it at full speed.

The amazing part is that your body will try to match up his tone and the way he says his words over time without you realizing it.

And the more times you do it, the more you will learn everything from the mouth movement, volume, and the amount of grit he uses in his voice.

Conclusion: Sound Like Your Favorite Rock Bands With Proper Technique

I have taught you in this guide how to sing with grit safely and with power on your own, even if you have no experience.

Just like all musical instruments, you want to take care of your voice by doing this with correct technique and breath control.

It’s something that I highly recommend you do once you have a stable foundation in your voice so you don’t destroy your voice. We go over many techniques advance singers use, and famous singers you can use for inspiration to add grit to your voice.

Let me know in the comments below if you were able to add some grit noises to your sound.



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anthony nebel

Hey, I’m Anthony. I’m an experienced musician with 10+ years experience (mainly piano and guitar) and a vocal coach with 3+ years experience transforming his own voice and other students who never sang before.

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As a seasoned musician with multiple years of experience, Anthony writes about tips and tricks to improve your craft whether you are a singer, pianist, or guitarist here at Melody Beats.

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