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You Cant Hear Your Own Sound In Real Time

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Matt
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There is an oft-quoted theory that you can't hear what you actually sound like, that your ears filter the actual sound for you, and that you shouldnt go by what you hear in your head.

A while back I posted a thread about a 20 year old recording from a gig I did as a kid, where I discovered, to my astonishment, that I sounded more like I want to back then, than I ever have as an adult. I also used to receive much more compliments for my voice then, than I ever did as an adult. I came to the conclusion that what I've forgotten to do as an adult was listen to myself, because I had got so caught up in trying to feel what was going on in muscles in the neck, abdomen etc, instead of listening to what it actually sounded like. Back then, I didnt give a damn what it felt like, I sang purely by ear. I remember making a similar mistake as a guitarist too. Ive reverted back to trying to sing by what sounds good in my ears in real-time (combining with what little technique I have learned), and realized that if it sounds the way I like it that way, it sounds pretty much the way I like it when I record it too.

A huge amount of our vocal heroes, the ones that were/are unschooled, from the paul rodgers, through the lou gramms, to the ronnie james dios, learned to sing by emulating their heroes; by hearing a song they liked on the radio in the 60's and then trying to sing it the same way or a way that sounded good to them in real-time. They learned to sing to a very large extent by listening to their own voices and doing what sounded good to them, which often set them on a reasonably healthy path, since sounding good is often about sounding resonant and relaxed, which usually demands a reasonably healthy technique.

Thus, I pose, that the argument in my first sentence, can quite well be contested.

Disagree?

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I agree, Matt, and I am in the same place as you are, though we are separated by continents and an ocean. I, too, have spent some time, certainly since being here, working on some physical things, some well, some not so well. And I go back to my "old school" feel, but with a better grasp of basics. My breath support is more consistent and I have learned to let that be where the tension is felt, not in the neck. And I have since learned to simplify some things, at least for myself. Some vowel colors are more simplistically a cue for the formation of the mouth, which aligns throat muscles and either raises or lowers the soft palate. So, rather than specifically "try" to sing in full voice or back off of it and specifically try and get some particular type of distortion, if any, on a note, just to achieve a certain sound that I don't use very much, I go back to just singing the song as I feel, which involves how I hear it. Inside my head and in playback. In fact, I do better when I am doing the acoustic versions, where I play guitar and sing at the same time. I don't need the headphones for that and it would just hamper me. And it helps me relax. Sometimes, with the headphones on, I oversing. Without them, I adjust what I am doing as I have always done.

So, I totally get your point and you should continue on with that. Not that you will go back some of the old ways that would damage your voice. But, yeah, get back to the feel of it. At some point, whatever techniques that would be come pertinent to you should support the feel.

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I mean, certainly, there is credence to the thought that you can't hear what you sound like in your own head but I think you are right. Proof is in the pudding. If you sounded good on something in playback and it sounded a certain way in your head when you were performing it, stick with that, to an extent, minus the uncontrolled parts that left you hoarse, of course.

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I think it's very important to hear oneself and like what we hear, but on the other hand, I think it's extremely important to know how to "feel" our voice because in poor monitoring conditions, I have ruined my voice because I couldn't hear myself well and then I realized how important it is to "hear" with your muscles as well. Finding the perfect balance between the two would be ideal, but I still haven't been able to :(

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That was kind of my point, Blackstar. If we felt or heard a certain thing while recording and liked it in playback, then we have a physical cue of what we need to do. And, what Matt is saying is that, often, we like the sound while we are performing and don't connect it to what we did in recording. We can often get mired in this or that technical bit or try to change something based on someone else's review. And that can be an odd road, as wel. For other people have their own psychology, as well. For example, some people like the scream sound in the vocals and think others should do that to have "proper" rock vocals. I don't really like to scream and probably don't do it well and so someone waiting for me to scream is going to have a long wait. And that's part of my going back to old school, for myself. If my voice doesn't "fit" in hard rock and heavy metal because someone thinks I should sound more like Dickinson's "scream" timbre in "Run to the Hills" or more gravelly like Ronnie James Dio's performances of say "Rainbow in the Dark," well, I have some responses to that. First off, f.o. It's not my intention to sound like a particular singer, even if I pick up stylistic impressions of them. Has anyone here heard me sound like Axl Rose, the person who inspired me to develope my upper range? Not one, I bet. I can be inspired by someone without trying to sound like a carbon copy of them. I am also inspired by Geoff Tate and I sure as heck don't sound like him. "Highway to Hell" is the theme song of my life so much that I chose it for the general ring on my ringtone. But I don't sound like Bon Scott, though Mike has accused me of getting pretty close to it, closer than he thinks he can get.

But, I too, can fall prey to trying to institute this or that thing. Only to find that I am better off with my own instincts, which I think is also what Matt is getting at. Sing what your heart says and your voice can do. The main refinements are the basic ones. Breathing and resonance. The rest is your individual brush stroke on the canvas of art that is music.

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I agree Matt - you can't really hear what you sound like from inside your head. And - a recording of your voice - if not a favorable environment can be detrimental. Back when I did a lot of studio work my engineer made my voice sound good. I always thought that he had a majical EQ setting to remove the "boxy" midrangy crap that I thought my voice had. Because whenever I recorded at home my voice sounded bad. Up until a couple of years ago when I started researching acoustics and then recorded in a much better environment. Now I can hear how my voice really sounds, and I don't mind it.

I think it is really important for us singers to know how we really sound. And when we record - try to do it in front of a closet full of clothes or pick a room that sounds decent. Otherwise it can play tricks on your mind. A decent mic can be bought for really cheap - less than $100. And then just kill the reflections with blankets or something. It's the reflections off walls and standing waves that add that boxy midrange that sounds bad.

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And that brings up another good point, Geno. Once you heard a decent mix of your real voice, "it wasn't so bad." Truth is, it wasn't bad all along. But your perception made it seem so, partially due to mic type and placement and what room you were recording in, partially due, I think, to psychology. I've lost count of the number of times someone came here with the notion that they sounded like crap only to find that they sound just fine.

Then, again, I think there's the basic entertainer psychology at work, too. It's tempting to showcase in the review section because we are really looking for applause. Yeah, some critique or pointers, too, but mainly, applause. And this is a tough crowd. One can actually showcase on one's profile page in the main site but 99 percent of the time, there are no responses to what you do, even if people liked it. They just don't comment. Because they, too, are showing their stuff.

So, the biggest struggle, after fixing pitch issues and finding a timbre one is comfortable with, is to learn to accept that one's own voice is strong and valid, in its own way, And that is the hardest part of all. Technique? it's like playing golf. Eventually, you learn some physical things that get what you want. But accepting your voice is good? That is much harder to do. Partially because we keep comparing ourselves and our compatriots here to other singers, which is not always fair or worthy of doing. Secondly, because we keep listening to our detractors, especially our family and close friends who, for their own psychological reasons, think it is absolutely necessary to step on us every possible stinking chance they get. Often, to assauge their own perceptions of their own failings. That is, people have to step on others to feel superior and they need to feel superior at the cost of others. I know that's getting deep but how's about someone prove me wrong on that?

To me, the most important thing in listening to a recording, whether it is my own or someone else's, is, did the singer hit the notes? Did they convey the emotion of what the song meant to them? So much critique is not so much a technical problem (unless the singer is trying to specifically sound like someone else) as it is a difference of stylistic preference. I try to avoid that, myself. I may not be all that into singing the blues but I can appreciate a fine blues singer. I'm not really into torch songs but I can appreciate a souful jazz singer, without expecting them to sound like Bruce Dickinson. I totally appreciate an opera singer if they never hit a twangy rattle. Did they sing the way they feel in the way that they wanted to and had at least relative pitch (which is all most of us can hear, anway)? Then they did a good job.

I've tried to change the way I do a song based on someone else's critique. I don't know everything and I can learn from anyone, even someone young enough to be my son. And when I did that, I messed myself up. Twice. Which doesn't mean that I still can't learn from someone younger and less experienced than myself. Just the same, I should learn to trust my instincts, which I think is a point that Matt is trying to make. Sometimes, your instincts are right and don't be afraid to go with that.

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you know folks, i think one thing you have to try to accomplish when you sing whether it's intensely powerful, or soft and delicate is to move your audience. i hope you don't take we wrong or think of me as being arrogant but i really want to leave the crowd with an impression like holy shit, that was really something. i don't think it's enough (or enough anymore perhaps) to just sing a song well...you have to raise the bar, but per your particular self.

and what i have found is the vocal study gives you more tools and tricks of the trade to call up. like this palete ring steve fraser taught us....the tone you can get in your voice on various uses with that ring is literally incredible.

for example, i've seen so many singers, good singers in karaoke, sing a phrase but fail to polish off the ends or add that little extra push or pull or whatever...they're just good, on key, perfect vibrato "safe" (boring) singers. they have their little repertoire and they sing the same shit night after night..

to me this is not singing it's duplication....that's how i feel.

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Or maybe they worked long and hard to get that consistency, only to find they are "boring." And that can't be fun for them. Finally get it right and "wake me up when your done." How's that for a pay off? Work and work to get the tones and timing right and get the huevos to get up in front of other people, even if they don't sound like Sam Cooke and give it their best shot and .... snore .... Although I have seen some very meek people get up and knock the crap out of a Patsy Cline song.

Yes it is good to have technique. But it must support feel. Only guitar freaks have heard of Yngwie Malmsteen. Everyone and their aunt's dog has heard of "Slowhand" Eric Clapton. A handful of people know who sings for Iced Earth. And there's just about no one on this earth who has not heard of Mick Jagger.

Then, again, I don't recall anyone in this thread, as yet, disregarding technique, just looking for a way to recapture the heart of rock and roll.

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