As someone who, like many out there, hopes to thrive in creative industries as a professional, there is one major setback that looms over me anytime I set out to begin any task: I hate the sound of my voice. And not just on video! I hate my voice on the phone, when singing, but particularly badly when recording video, when my flaws can be replayed over and over, rather than just being a fleeting momentary embarrassment. But why is that?
Well, what affects me is the same thing that most people experience when they hear themselves recorded. I hate my voice because it isn’t the same voice that I hear in my head when I speak! it just isn’t! It is so far removed from the voice I have heard for as long as I can remember.
But can it really be the case that my voice sounds smooth, rich and buttery until the moment I’m placed in front of a microphone? Do my vocal chords decide to have a dance party in there? Nope!
I have done some research and it turns out that the voice that we hear isn’t actually the voice anyone else hears! We hear a very different and unique “version” of our own voices that no-one else in the world hears.
When we speak, a lot of what we are hearing isn’t actually the sound that comes out of our mouths and bounces around the room until it reaches our ears, but more the vibrations that come from our speech resonating in the bones of our skull. That’s why we often hear our own voice so profoundly different to our own.
BUT! It isn’t necessarily a case of your real voice sounding BAD, but more a case of you not being used to hearing it! Anytime that we speak without a microphone, we hear one voice that we have grown to accept as ours, and when something challenges that we are going to label it as “weird”.
Want to hear your own voice for real? Then get two large pieces of cardboard (about A4 size) and place them against your jaw, in front of your ears, then speak out loud. The voice you hear is your “true voice”, the voice everyone else knows and loves!
So, like me, you jump to the conclusion that your voice is ugly, horribly annoying and too “gruesome” to ever be heard on a microphone again! But, fear not, because it is not actually as bad as you imagine. Go easy on yourself because it isn’t all that bad. How many people do you know with really “ugly” voices? Not many, I’m guessing.
So accept that, while your voice doesn’t sound just like you imagine, it isn’t as bad as you think it is either.
Take a listen to the natural speech patterns and tones of a lot of professional voice actors for animations and commercials – many actually sound very nasal and (traditionally) “weird”, but that makes them valuable. Having a different voice makes you stand out. You can play with it and adapt it to embody an array of characters and situations and use it to express yourself or a character effectively.
I was once told by the popular voice actor Travis Willingham (know for Fullmetal Alchemist, Ouran Highschool Host Club, Avengers Assemble tv series, and more) saying the best advice for an actor he could give is to experiment with your voice and see how far you can really push your control.
Like they say “It’s not what you’ve got, it’s how you use it!”
If you feel motivated to work on developing (rather than changing) your voice, there are so many options for strengthening and honing your vocal skills.
As someone who has been to a vocal coach, I know that route can be incredibly expensive, a bit awkward, and very difficult to fit into your life if is not a move being made for your career- Coaches are a pricey pursuit if you are looking at improving your voice purely for your own peace of mind.
But there are a number of excellent books and courses available for reasonable prices that you can do from the comfort of your own home!
They often explain how the muscles involving speech work, offer advice and exercises for strengthening your vocal chords, improving control and doing so in a healthy manner that will not damage your voice further in the process.
Know Your Equipment
When you know at least the basics of how your voice works and how to use it right and keep it healthy, you can then turn your attention to the equipment you use day to day!
If you are interested in singing, voice-over, presentations, acting, conference calls, Youtube, etc, equipment is a major consideration. Depending on the environment in which you’re speaking, different tech suits different needs.
Consider the price range, reviews, specifications and software used. My go-to microphone is the Blue Snowball for it’s price, quality and the ability to switch between Directional and Omni-Directional pickup. Plus, it’s durable! The number of times it has survived being knocked off my desk is nothing short of legendary….
When it comes to audio software, the go to is Audacity because it is both free and excellent quality! Software is more often than not more expensive than the actual gear itself, so Audacity is a fantastic option that won’t break the bank.
There are many courses available online for learning how to effectively work the program and, with some trial and error, you can quickly yield excellent results!
So, what do you think of your voice? Is there anything you want to improve upon? I’ll be doing some research and asking some people for their advice on what to do to strengthen your voice and get you the pipes you really want to hear!
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