Sunday, August 11, 2013

What to do if you don’t have a ‘nice’ voice

Many of us don’t like the sound of our singing voice. Some people won’t even sing in front of others because they don’t want to inflict their ‘horrible’ voice on them.

photo by konch

Is there anything we can do if we don’t have a ‘nice’ voice?

First of all, think of all those famous people who who made it big despite not having ‘nice’ voices: Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Marlene Dietrich, Tiny Tim, Bob Dylan – even Florence Foster Jenkins – to name just a few. I’m sure it didn’t bother them (at least not when they were cashing their royalty cheques!).

And what does ‘nice’ mean any way?

Usually it means that the sound doesn’t fit our preconceived notion of how our singing voice should sound. And that is because we want to sound like someone else, typically our favourite singer.

But you’re not them and never will be, so get used to your own unique sound.

Sometimes ‘nice’ can mean sounding like the flavour of the month or prevailing trend. For example, in the 1950s people wanted a rock & roll voice or a crooner’s voice; in the 1970s people wanted a rasping punk voice. But if you sound like everyone else, how is anyone going to notice you? It didn’t stop Kate Bush.

I came across a fascinating blog post the other day by Jennifer Mackerras: Lessons in music and life: remembering Gerald. She quoted several things that she’d learnt from Gerald, her singing teacher. 

Here are two:

“It is deceptive and unhelpful to listen to oneself when singing. The sound you hear is a combination of what is bouncing back from the room’s acoustics, and the resonance in your head. It isn’t what the audience hears.”

“This means that making changes to voice production so that it sounds nice to oneself is likely to create a less pleasant sound to people listening.”

Which means that even if you think your voice sounds ‘nice’ (or ‘horrible’), it’s almost certainly not what other people are hearing, and there’s very little you can do about it on your own.

It’s not up to you to decide whether your voice is ‘nice’ or not, and in any case ‘nice’ is in the ear of the beholder – one person’s ‘nice’ is another person’s ‘horrible’.

So stop worrying and just sing!

you might also like to read ...

How to be a confident singer

Why can’t I sing?

Learning to love the sound of your own voice

Can I call myself a singer?

Your singing voice: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

The only thing from stopping you being a better singer is ...

How to improve your singing voice

The pleasures of the untrained voice

Chris Rowbury’s website:

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