Ariana’s Autotune and Steven Tyler’s good genetics

I spoke today for a varsity choir about the importance of vocal hygiene and vocal health, and a few questions were posed following my lecture that I wanted to address in my blog.

1. Is there something wrong with Ariana Grande’s voice?

First off, I read an article recently that discussed the strange sound of Ariana’s words and the article even had side by side comparisons of what her lyrics actually were compared with what they sounded like. I believe that her unintelligible diction is a direct result of compensating for laryngeal cavity space necessary to keep correct vocal tension as pitch increases. There is another article that discusses Ariana’s innate vocal talent and that she is using autotune for an unknown reason. Also included here is a comparison of Britney Spears singing Alien with and without autotune, which reveals a night and day difference Britney’s tone quality, but more importantly for the actual pitches she should be hitting. It’s painful to listen to her try to hit these notes. I just want to tell her to use more breath support and to stop singing from her throat…. Back to Ariana Grande, another article mentions a vocal fold hemorrhage that happened to her last year. So I don’t believe Ariana has something wrong with her at this time, but people think she sounds strange because of the physical limitations of the human vocal tract.

2. What has Steven Tyler been doing to damage his voice?

Steven Tyler has been the subject of scrutiny regarding his raspy singing voice during a rendition of the National Anthem. I found information online that he had a vocal fold hemorrhage within the past few years and that he had surgery to stop the bleeding without scarring the tissue. His physician also monitored his vocal folds during just one concert and reported that Steven had 780,000 vocal fold collisions! The physician mentions that Steven has had years of vocal fold damage and abuse, as well as having the vocal folds age just like other muscles in his body. Technique, genetics and hygiene all play a role in whether a person will develop a vocal fold pathology or not.



Kristie Knickerbocker, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist in Fort Worth, Texas. She rehabilitates voice and swallowing at her private practice, a tempo Voice Center, and lectures on vocal health to area choirs and students. She also owns and runs a mobile videostroboscopy and FEES company, Voice Diagnostix. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 3, Voice and Voice Disorders, and a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the Pan-American Vocology Association. Knickerbocker blogs on her website at She has developed a line of kid and adult-friendly therapy materials specifically for voice on TPT or her website. Follow her on Pinterest, on Twitter and Instagram or like her on Facebook.


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