Female extreme singing: Phoniatric, acoustical & aesthetic features

Chapter 35

  • Enrico Di Lorenzo
  • Giovanna Trantino
Keywords: heavy metal, extreme metal, death metal, black metal, scream, growl, female voice, phonotrauma, sonogram, fibroscopy, flexible transnasal endoscopy


The aim of this study was to describe the kinematics and acoustics of female extreme singing (FES) and to compare these features to male extreme singing (MES). Since the female vocal tract (VT) is smaller than that of the male’s, the overall resonatory characteristics of FES will differ from MES while the technique at the vocal fold level is not expected to show significant differences. Fifteen well-trained female extreme singers underwent flexible transnasal endoscopy (FTE) while performing growl (Gr) and scream (Sc) to reveal the activity of the true vocal folds (TVF) and the supraglottic structures (SGS). The simultaneous audio files were analyzed by sound spectrography. During both Gr and Sc, FTE showed simultaneous activation of TVF and SGS. TVF appeared to remain open (without detectable contact of the TVF edges) during all observed phonations in all cases while SGS showed different levels of activation between the different subjects. However, SGS appear to always be active. When compared to male extreme singers, female singers showed SGS activation and higher inter-individual variability. During Gr, FTE showed the larynx in a low position with an increase of all diameters of the vocal tract. During Sc, the larynx appeared to be in neutral position with a decrease of latero-lateral or anteroposterior diameter. Spectrographic analysis showed vocal spectrum was dominated by noise, but regular in intensity and frequency. During Gr in men, most sound energy was found in the lower part of the spectrum and a wide distribution of noise was found in spectrum during Sc. While male and female Sc show similar acoustic patterning, female Gr was less deep than the male one with the low sound energy concentration placed slightly higher in females than in males. The results showed that FES is essentially performed similarly to the MES with SGS activation and open position of the VF. Nevertheless, some differences in the role of TVF and the perceptual and instrumental depth of Gr was found. It is our opinion that these differences are related to the different dimensions of male and female vocal tract and to the lack of a strong and structured aesthetic tradition of female extreme singing.