monday musings: learning to love your voice

the art of seth

“I hate the sound of my voice.”

“I sound awful!”

“Blech” (scrunchy ick-face)

Rarely do clients come to me loving their voices.

Most of my clients come to me because they want to sound “better”. Most don’t know how to define that right away. My professional singer clients like their voices, know that they are good enough; they’ve already had people paying them to perform (i.e. evidence the general population thinks they sound “good”). Professional singers mostly come to me to work on maintaining a healthy free sound, or to help unwind muscle tension so that they can make a freer easier sound. My goal with them is to make sure they can making the sounds they want for as long as they want. We all want to sound good. We all want to be liked. Much of the time, a singer’s psyche (even subconsciously) often wraps those two in one package. If people like the way I sound, they’ll like me.

Of course, that’s not true. So, I propose that we could just believe:

I am a good person.
I am a good singer.
Sometimes, I make bad sounds (sounds I don’t like).

Let’s define good and bad. Wait. This is a blog, not a survey. I’ll bet each of you reading has an opinion on what a good sound is from a singer, and I bet if I asked you to all weigh in, we’d get almost as many different answers as the number of you that would answer. Singing is art. Art is preference.

The onslaught of competitive TV shows celebrating certain voices as “the best” or “the winner” certainly doesn’t help the most confident among us. Just so we’re clear, these are popularity contests - there is no clear winner of a race - it’s who the voters or judges like best - that’s called preference.

I prefer certain artists’ voices/songs to others. I like to listen to Dolly Parton, Ingrid Michelson, Amos Lee, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, to name a few. I tend to sing their songs too. I like to sing what I like to listen to. That’s true for most of us. What do I like about their voices? That’s a new question for most people. What is the tone quality? What is the texture of sound that you like from your favorite singers? Is this the sound you want to emulate? Will trying to make these sounds make you “better”? Most of the voices I listed are lighter in texture.

I propose that we need to get to know our voices, and how they work making a myriad of sounds. Find the music that we like to sing and what key it needs to be in so that it feels good and we like the way it sounds. There are so many ways to change or manipulate (within reason) the sounds we make. When people begin to get to know their voices, they begin to like them better. It’s a learning curve. I suggest clients begin listening to their voices in recordings immediately and often. The look of horror on their faces!! We don’t sound like we think we do (we hear ourselves differently in our heads). It’s helpful to get used to it.

Start with acceptance. Ok, that’s my sound. If you want it to be better, define that! Do you want the sound to be softer, thicker, gravelly, stronger, louder, smoother, rougher, more strident, sweeter, more powerful? Some of these are textures that you can apply by strength-training; some of these sounds need more air flow/pressure coordination; some are emotionally related, where your intention and spirit come in to influence your face, your throat. I promise we can find a sound you like; you can sound better, you just have to know what you want, what you like, so you can be your best!

Here’s to loving our voices!