Published May 24, 2017From low, guttural growling to high-pitched shrieking, the vocal acrobatics on display in heavy metal music are no easy feat. How is it that the vocalists tasked with screaming night in and night out don't ravage their vocal cords beyond repair?
As a video from Inside Science shows, scientists believe that metal vocalists are simply big babies, in that their vocal technique is something human children are born with. Dr. Krzysztof Izdebski of the Pacific Voice and Speech Foundation elaborates in the clip:
A little baby has all the sounds — it has the sounds of scream and growl, and inhalation and high pitch and whistle and low pitch, and so I thought, wow, you know, all of this we have, we learn from the beginning. We have it and then we somehow lose it, and the patients who suffer can't learn how to do this.
Izdebski used a high-speed camera placed inside a singer's throat to capture the movement of the vocal cords at 16,000 frames per second. In reviewing the footage, he found that the vocal cords of a metal vocalist do not collide, preventing damage.
The images that we recorded clearly show that it's produced predominately, predominately by structures above the glottis. So, the vocal folds do open and vibrate but actually don't collide, and the entire sick area above — aryepiglottic folds, arachnoids, epiglottis — everything claps and dances, basically, and creates vibrations and creates acoustic orchestration… It's that the area above [that's] very loose and the air turbulence that comes through. The air that comes through produces turbulence, and the turbulence produces the sound.
Izdebski specializes in working with people who have lost the use of their vocal cords, and believes the findings above could help his patients moving forward. Watch the video in the player below.
Thanks to MetalSucks for the tip.