The raspy voice has been a signature sound for some singers with legendary careers. Rod Stewart, Stevie Nicks, Bonny Tyler, Macy Gray and Brian Adams are among the artists that come to mind who have successfully used this sound. In many contemporary music genres, a degree of raspiness can add a cool, communicative factor to vocal performance.
The raspy voice can also be the tell-tale clue to vocal damage. It's one of the signs of vocal nodes, polyps, cancer, spasmodic dysphonia. Yes, there are surgical techniques to remove and repair damage. But watch these vocal surgery videos (especially the first two) and I think you may find yourself freshly dedicated to preventative vocal cord care instead of possible vocal suicide!
So should you sing, or learn to sing, with a raspy voice? It depends on several factors such as:
- the degree of vocal strain or damage present (vocal health)
If you have a raspy voice already, it's important to know why it sounds that way. For instance, you could have excessive mucous on your cords from allergies or dehydration. You could have a growth on your vocal cord(s). You could have throat cancer. You could be fatiguing or damaging your voice by the vocal fry you use when you speak.
Contrary to what you may hear, it is not a good idea to ignore it just because you've had vocal raspiness for a long time, and think it's 'natural' for you. Any chronic case of vocal raspiness, hoarseness or discomfort should be investigated by a doctor. It's best to go to a vocal health center where medical voice specialists can scope your cords, rule out anything serious and illuminate you about anything you may be doing or not doing that is causing the sound.
- the level of strength of the vocal apparatus (vocal stamina)
- the way the voice creates the raspy sound (vocal technique)
Don't sing or speak with a raspy sound or vocal fry unless you mean to. And if you do mean to, learn vocal techniques to make those sounds in ways that protect your vocal cords. Raspiness can be cool, or it can be a voice killer.