How do I deepen my voice without smoking?
January 24, 2007 10:22 AM   Subscribe

One of the few benefits of smoking for men is it deepens the voice. I've quit smoking and don't want to start back up, but is there anything else that has that effect - a drink maybe, without that whole dying a slow death from cancer bit?
posted by Andrew Brinton to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I am a professional broadcaster who relies on his smooth, deep voice.

I am also a smoker who has tried everything and everything else short of suicide to give up smoking and desperately want to stop.

If you want a deep, gravelly voice, drink water, talk from your abdomen, eat foods that build up mucus in your throat like milk or chocolate.

I stay away from milk and chocolate on days that I record, but I can't stay away from cigarettes and it is so bad and I hate it. So please, don't go back to smoking just because you think you sound better. I would give anything to be smoke free and I rely on my voice for a living.
posted by parmanparman at 10:28 AM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, as a sometime singer who's had some training, smoking doesn't do a damn thing to deepen your voice. It gives your voice something of a gravelly texture, but deepening has to do with where the breath is coming from. You can change this without smoking; parmanparman's advice is very good: speak from your abdomen.
posted by koeselitz at 10:31 AM on January 24, 2007

The voice you have after you quit smoking is more your natural voice. Smoking damages the larynx and esophogus and thus the voice is more raspy and deeper sounding. I think you should just accept your voice. Perhaps practicing with lower sound would help to some degree.
posted by JayRwv at 10:32 AM on January 24, 2007

I did television work awhile back. Relaxing does help. I notice when I'm stressed or tense, it affects the diaphragm somehow and a lot of the deeper tones are diminished... I think it makes you prone to speak from the upper chest rather than with your whole torso.
posted by rolypolyman at 10:53 AM on January 24, 2007

I'm NOT suggesting this, but Tom Waits used to scream into a pillow in an effort to make his voice more raspy. He also drank whisky and smoked, so I'm not sure which of these methods worked for him. Probably all.
posted by fletchmuy at 11:02 AM on January 24, 2007

Relax. Talk slowly and confidently.
posted by goethean at 11:05 AM on January 24, 2007

Screaming; harsh, throaty screaming, even for 20 seconds; lowers my voice dramatically for the entire next day. Find a meadow or abandoned mineshaft. Taking any more than one drink, particularly of spirits, has the same effect.
posted by Black Spring at 11:08 AM on January 24, 2007

You can get a certain gravely tone by using what linguists call "creaky voice" and voice coaches call "glottal fry." Googling either term will give you information.

(For what it's worth, this is also the technique that some metal singers use to get that "cookie monster" growl. You wouldn't want to push it that far, but a little creak in your voice will give it a sort of well-worn sound and the illusion of lower pitch.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:12 AM on January 24, 2007

Age will help a little. Relaxing and doing theatre exercises will help too.

Most men's lowest registers are much below their normal speaking voice, however.

Other than Sulphur Hexafluoride there isn't much that will actually lower your voice, although throat infections and smoking will make it more grizzled.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 11:14 AM on January 24, 2007

I read in one of Joe Eszterhas' books that Robert Evans attributed his smooth, deep baritone voice to humming. Humming a lot.

It might be worth mentioning that Evans has also been known to (makes 'puff-puff' gesture) and (makes drinky-drinky gesture), and it's certainly worth reiterating that we're talking about Joe Eszterhas and Robert Evans here.
posted by box at 11:14 AM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I quit a couple of years ago and my voice is a little higher (or least that's how it seems to me) than it was. One exercise that you could do is to croak (not sing) a very low pitch for a moment or two and then to speak.
posted by ob at 11:18 AM on January 24, 2007

aren't much below. Sorry.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 11:21 AM on January 24, 2007

My understanding (or as my Speech Pathologizing wife tells) it's not really that possible for men to lower their voices much.
posted by drezdn at 11:30 AM on January 24, 2007

I’ve never smoked, but whether it’s deepening in the sense of singing or not, I know a (neat) whiskey hangover makes me sound a hell of a lot more something that is more characteristic of middle-aged men than teenagers. My one actual regret from my schooling is that I didn’t go in to my University French oral final exam with just such a hangover, because it makes my French a hell of a lot more <gravelly voice>sergegainsbourg</gravelly voice> and impressive.

Maybe with some experimentation you could pick the number of drinks in an evening that gives you that voice without, y'know, the actual negatives of a hangover. And then, hey, you have a less specious reason than the rest of us for drinking whiskey every evening!
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 12:06 PM on January 24, 2007

I think it's the muscle-relaxant effect of a large amount of alcohol that deepens the voice as Aidan Kehoe notes. I have noticed the same effect myself.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:12 PM on January 24, 2007

Shooters of vodka kept in the freezer gives me a temporary sultry/graveliness that my voice doesn't typically have. I think that's 'cause I've just frozen my freakin' vocal cords though, so I certainly can't recommend it.
posted by Gucky at 12:24 PM on January 24, 2007

posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:46 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I have heard that waiting until you have a cold and then going to the top of a mountain and shouting as loud as you can will give a permanent deepening change. I would seek wiser counsel before doing it though.
posted by Iron Rat at 2:06 PM on January 24, 2007

Screaming; harsh, throaty screaming, even for 20 seconds; lowers my voice dramatically for the entire next day.

There is a popular story that Richard Burton used to do this, shouting himself hoarse in the Welsh hills, but I couldn't find a good reference.
posted by teleskiving at 2:28 PM on January 24, 2007

I think you need to be clearer about what you mean by "deepening." If you want to lower your pitch, sorry, you're out of luck. That would mean increasing the mass of your vocal cords somehow, and you can't really do that.

Harsh screaming will lower your pitch, but that's because your vocal cords get abused and swollen. It's not too good for them.

Maybe you can play with the pacing or intonation of your speech to get a different effect. Like, if you thought the deeper voice made you sound more sophisticated or like a character, there are other ways to give that impression without abusing your poor vocal cords.

Good luck!
posted by christinetheslp at 3:42 PM on January 24, 2007

I answered a similar question here. (I'm a voice teacher, by the way.) You can use a more "chest voice" type of sound to appoximate that "deep" quality you're looking for... but the above commenters are correct: unless you actually increase the thickness of the vocal folds (which can't really be done), you're largely stuck with the vocal quality you have.
posted by the_bone at 5:26 PM on January 24, 2007

Smoke pot instead. No proven risk of cancer, and you can rough your voice up just fine with it.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:13 PM on January 24, 2007

Frank Zappa's voice dropped by a third after he crushed his larynx by falling backwards into an orchestra pit during a show. Not that I'd recommend attempting to recreate this in pursuit of a lower voice. As far as I can tell, my quitting smoking about two months ago has had little to no effect on my voice.
posted by ripple at 6:57 PM on January 24, 2007

I believe it is possible to lower your modal pitch through study and practice. The technique is basically the same a singer uses to produce a rich and consistent lower register; after that it's a matter of constant practice until you have made the lower pitch a habit.

There was a documentary about cross-dressers I saw last year that included scenes of a speech coach who taught men how to feminize their speech. The process entailed more than adjustment of modal pitch. She also taught inflection, i.e. the melodic shape of a sentence.
posted by La Cieca at 8:23 PM on January 24, 2007

I read something somewhere about what to do if you have an unpleasant voice and you think people react negatively to you because of it. You get a friend with a nicer voice to record sentences of them saying stuff, then you listen to the recordings (a sentence or two at a time) and talk along with them, over and over. It's important that you don't read along, but go from memory, since that doesn't work.

Apparently, your brain will try to match what you sound like to what you're hearing, and if you keep at it long enough you'll eventually sound a lot like the person on the recordings, but there's a happy medium where you just sound more pleasant/whatever.

So, this should work for making your voice deeper, too. You wouldn't even have to get someone to record themselves; you could just pick a movie/radio broadcast where a deep-voiced person does a lot of talking.

I haven't tried this, though.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 8:44 PM on January 24, 2007

I heard heroin will do the trick, and kills most people even more slowly than cigarettes.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:46 AM on June 24, 2007

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