Why does my voice ‘not sound like me’ when I hear a recording of it?

When you hear someone else's voice, or when someone else hears your voice, the voice is heard as the sound waves travel through the room and eventually arrive at your ear drum.  Those sound waves are subject to a small degree to the conditions of the room.

When you hear your own voice, you hear it distorted by two factors.  One, your ears are behind your mouth, so you are hearing your voice from an unusual direction.  A more significant factor, though, is the fact that as your vocal cords vibrate and produce sound, that sound resonates in your chest and/or your sinus cavities before coming out of your mouth as sound.   You actually sense the vibrations that occur as part of  this resonance and perceive it as sound.  That sound travels through the various parts of your body before arriving at the inner ear, and that sound is then mixed with the sound that comes out of your mouth.  It's almost like your voice is being blended with a second, different voice that nobody else except you hears.  When you hear your voice on tape, you are hearing it without the mixing of that  familiar "second" voice.

What factors can negatively affect my voice?

As a singer, your body is your instrument, so anything that effects your body can have an effect on your singing voice.  Some of the worst culprits that will affect your voice are:

      1. Smoking
      2. Alcohol
      3. Lack of sleep
      4. Being sick

Other factors that can significantly affect your voice are:

    1. lack of physical energy
    2. dairy
    3. allergies

To a lesser extent, other factors could include: 

    1. caffeine
    2. sugar
    3. hot/cold liquids
    4. citrus
    5. lack of emotional energy
    6. weight gain / weight loss

Quite simply, a healthy singing voice requires a healthy body and a healthy state of mind.

How do I make the best of the voice I have?

There are a few ways of making sure your singing will be perceived in the best possible light.

1.  Stay within your range.   Imagine Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam trying to sing Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden.  Vedder sounds perfectly convincing singing songs in his mid-range baritone voice, but he'd sound terrible trying to wail out high Cs and Ds like Bruce Dickenson simply because his voice isn't built for it.

2.  Pick songs that suit your voice - not just in range, but in character.  Imagine Dolly Parton country-twanging her way through Memories.  Sure, she could probably do it, but it just wouldn't sound right.  Similarly, imagine Barbara Streisand singing Hole's "Doll Parts."  On second thought.... don't.  It would be about as ridiculous as someone casting Arnold Schwartzenigger as a Kindergarten teacher.  Oh, wait.... someone did do that.  Oh, yeah... it was a comedy though. 

There are lots of singers out there with limited ranges and skill, but are successful because they write for their voice.  Neil Young, Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, Harry Chapin, and Avril Levigne are all good examples.

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