Science Explains: How do Heavy Metal vocalists perform without damaging their vocal folds?

True story: I was sitting in my dentist’s chair this past Monday morning and we got to talking about metal (I recently turned him onto Gojira). He asked me how it was possible that all these metal vocalists are able to scream their guts out for extended periods of time and not constantly a) blow out their voices and b) develop nodules on their vocal cords? Fair questions, and I was somewhat embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have any good answers.

Luckily, science does! According to this new video from Inside Science, San Francisco’s Dr. Krzysztof Izdebski of the Pacific Voice and Speech Foundation, who specializes in working with patients that have damaged their vocal cords, believes that metal singers have basically figured out a way to do what comes naturally to human babies. And no, he’s not talking about Lead Singer’s Disease/throwing tantrums:

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.

Dr. Izdebski goes on to explain that by using a very, very high-speed camera (16,000 frames per second — by way of contrast, note that a movie is traditionally only 24 frames per second) placed inside a singer’s throat, he was able to determine that the vocal cords of your average metal frontman or woman never collide, which is how damage to those cords is normally created:

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.

Dr. Izdebski also believes this knowledge could be helpful to his patients:

When you crush the larynx it cannot be repaired, and these people suffer — they cannot talk. So, you know, we can use this, this technology — this artistic technology — perhaps to try to restore some phonation in these individuals.

Fascinating stuff, right?

Heavy Metal Singers are Just Big Babies (watch video here):

Source: Metalsucks | Inside Science

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