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Why does the sound of my own voice make me cringe?

Question : Is it normal for a singer to dislike the sound of their own voice?


Answer : Yes it is totally normal — and not just for singers, but most people don’t like the sound of their voice when they hear it on a recording and you are definitely not alone if hearing your own voice makes you cringe.

Not liking the sound or your own voice was actually given a name in a 1966 scientific study where they named it: voice confrontation.


Normally we hear our own voice whilst we are talking. We receive sounds transferred to our ears externally through the air as well as sound being transferred internally through our bones and this gives us an internal richer and deeper sound. But when we record our voice it does not pick up these internal frequencies. The sound on the recording has traveled through the air. So when you hear your recorded voice back without the inner frequencies, it sounds higher – and different.


And because our recorded voice does not sound how we expected it to sound, we tend not to like it.


Rebecca Kleinberger talks here about the the outward voice (the voice that others hear when we speak), the inward voice (the voice we hear when we speak), and the inner voice (what we hear when we read something silently, think, or dream). It is an interesting watch as she discusses the mechanical, biological and neurological filters affecting the ability to hear our own voices as others do.


There are a few reasons why we don't particularly like the sound of our own voice and Kleinberger says one reasons is that our voices reveal a lot about a person including emotions, mental state, and where you are from. We have to make an extra effort to be aware of everything we transmit through our voice.


However research has shown that the more you get used to hearing your own voice back on recordings, and the more familiar you are with something, the more you tend to like it.

Take a radio presenter who had been doing shows for three years and listening back to them as an example, he tells of how he noticed his reaction to hearing his recorded voice gradually. Over time he says he moved away from "Oh my god, that’s my voice?!" to "Oh hey, I don't sound that bad at all.”


So good news is you can learn to feel more comfortable hearing your own voice with practice.


Listening back to your own voice can be a great way to ‘self analyse’ what you want to focus on to improve your singing or speaking voice and check if there are any bad habits you wish to address . And with practice you will get used to hearing your own voice recorded and become more comfortable if done frequently enough. A vocal coach can also help you identify areas of focus to help you improve your sound, or create a different tone or style and teach you the techniques and skills you need to achieve this. Book a lesson


Although hearing your own voice can feel uncomfortable and those little nuances that make you cringe, don't forget others may just think that’s what makes it sound like YOU.


We can learn lots of techniques, tricks and skills to create different sounds, styles and accents with our voices, like actors and singers in musical theatre have to do to create a character all the time. However, remember, when singing that using ‘your voice’ is what makes you unique and this could be the best gift you keep in your singing.


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© 2020 by Ronni Bailey