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Being objective when listening to your own voice.

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MDEW
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Being able to tell that you are having a problem with pitch is usually pretty easy. How about the reason for the problem? Or perhaps you can tell that the tone could be better. Can you really listen closely enough to tell that you should use a different larynx position or different shade of vowel?

In training we can use some really ugly sounds meant to do certain things to help with the ultimate goal of having beautiful or expressive voices. Can you really be objective when listening to yourself sing and say I need to sing that differently I sound like my larynx is to high or low? Or do you hear the flaws and just think "that is the way my voice sounds when I am using good technique I cannot change that?

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Without answering a question directly, here's what I think:

You can't fix a technical problem without learning and practicing the technique that solves it*. Can you listen to your voice objectively? Yes, it's a prerequisite for learning to sing without having someone constantly monitoring you. And even if you had someone, it'd still be required.

Can you listen to your voice and understand there are tonal qualities you're not matching with a singer, a teacher or a theoretical concept script? Yes. And that's also a prerequisite for ever even beginning to solve the problems with your technique. You can go to a teacher and say "here's what I sound like lah lah lah, here's what I want to sound like (play a record)." For those who are unable to do this due to whatever, it's about listening to yourself more than anything else, and learning to match what you hear. Yes it can ingrain bad habits, but the question was "can you fix a tonal problem" or something so I think that gets the job done.

Find a reference (the best case would be a vocal instruction video/recording with spoken, thoroughly explained instructions and reasons for the exercise), listen to it, vocalize, record, play back and repeat until you get it right. If you're unable to do this, the next logical step is to hire a teacher.

*Learning, in this case, does not mean studying and paying money for lessons. Learning happens, and there are lots of ways to learn. A good example of this is the sister of my spouse who's never had formal vocal training but sounds amazing because she sings/practices and corrects herself every single day. So I understand my point is contradicting itself, but what I mean is you can learn by good old "try try again." It's just a long road.

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Thanks Khassera. All good points.

I am no singer,teacher or expert in any way. What I am speaking of is not necessarily a problem of technique but an impression of the sound. It does come down to opinion with a grain of technical aspects.

Speaking for myself I always new that I did not like tone in my voice but was also told not to try and sound like someone else. I learned to accept what my voice sounded like and worked with that. I would then listen to my recordings and thought that I sounded pretty good. After posting several songs here it was mentioned that I sound too nasal with too high a larynx position. Some people would find that as just being an opinion on behalf of the person who mentioned it.

There are some here who are the experts or who have been training for a while and to my ears they may sound too nasal, too dopey, too whiney, too piercing of a tone....... but if you mention it them they will say it is a matter of opinion or do not notice it themselves. There is no need to mention any names there is no one in particular to point out. It is just the fact that these things are there, at least to my ears. They have the tools and can point out in others these things but fail to notice in their own voice.

I did not notice in my own voice what was the problem. I thought I was sounding the way I was supposed to sound. I was finally relieved to have someone actually point out to me that it was annoying and what to do to correct it. I am taking that into account in my own training.

Thus the question of can we really be objective about the sound of our own voice.

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Yes MDEW we can be objective about this stuff. It's an state of awareness that grows over time if you are truly learning and improving. When you become an advanced singer you can self coach and not have to ask others for critique because you have developed this complete objectivity and awareness of everything about your singing, and also a value system from which to base your results on.

Now this value system is subjective and varies per person. Let's take for instance Rob Lunte, who has quite a unique singing style, more Geoff Tate-like and floaty but heroic sounding. Some people aren't familiar with that sound and so they criticize it. But the reason Rob sings like that is simply a difference in his value system of artistic preference. He has a different sound he wants, and he fully understands how to get it. So that part is subjective. We all have our preferences and I'm not going to argue how much my preferences matter vs. the general public's preferences. Every day of my life, I wonder about, reevaluate, and adjust where I feel the best balance between those two is. Artistic choice is one of the most beautifully subjective things in the world. But what does become something you can be fully objective about eventually, is how you use technique to get the sound you want. How you live up to your own standards through control of all aspects of singing. That whole inner game is entirely objective, you figure out what is right according to your individual standards and then you work and work to live up to it. The only subjective part is the end result and whether your audience likes it.

I hope that makes sense and is a valid opinion. As I said, I still ponder this idea everyday.

To answer your individual questions (in order of appearance):

1. Yes, this is the objective awareness you develop of the technique required to achieve your artistic preference

2. Same as the first question

3. No, that's undesirable. Not in singing. In exercises of course, if it's supposed to sound ugly, you learn how to do it correctly and you accept that. But with singing, correct technique should never be at the compromise of the sound you want. It may be at first as you're learning and you have to decide whether you're going to throw away technique for this song or style because you don't know how to fuse them yet. But once you get very advanced, technique and style always support each other.

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It took me a bit to figure out how to respond to this thread, rather than the first thing that may pop to mind. Yes, one can be objective but it takes work to reach that objectivity. To get past the subjective love/hate thing we have with our voices.

And then there is the technical side. It's funny but when someone has said I was pitchy, it was never the same spot that I heard. For I have heard where I was pitchy on a note and no one caught it or they let it go.

And objectivity has two sides. Yes, there is the part of objectivity that you must have to say, man, I botched that note all to heck. And there is the part of objectivity to recognize, well, that was good. I need to repeat that or practice whatever it was that led to that.

But mostly, I think, this thread is about objectively viewing the bad parts. And how can you do that and say, well, the note was on pitch but the tone doesn't match what I was wanting.

Do you have the objectivity to try the suggestions of others? And believe me, before I can tell someone else to be objective, I had to learn to be that, also. Such as someone telling me some things about re-arranging a song. And dang it if it didn't turn out better. Because, before saying, well my cover was awesome, give the suggestion a try, even as a lark.

Or, try this song because it is a match for your voice. That's worked out well, for me, once or twice.

And in the end, there is a limit to objectivity. What is objectivity but a theoretical viewpoint comprised of what? People's opinions. How does one define objectivity outside of pitch accuracy?

But I will say this, listening to your own recordings can lead to a more "balanced" view of your voice. Once you get over the equal parts of "I stink" and "I am God," what is left is something usable that you can work with.

I used to think I was a baritone. Until I was able to achieve some objectivity and realize that I was not. And then, allow myself to go ahead and do some low songs. Not to prove anything but just because I like the songs, regardless of key.

Now, it doesn't matter what I am. I am a singer, with some range, some usable volume, some pitch accuracy, more often than not, in spite of views to the contrary. :)

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I thought that we would get more discussion out of this. We have the tools and the insight to let others know that they sound too nasal or too dark or too twangy but when it comes to our own voice we can overlook some things because of a sound ideal that we are trying for. As I said before, the pitch issue mostly is something that we can recognise in ourselves but the tone is different. Sometimes it is not apparent to ourselves that there is a problem with it.

I expected things like we can deceive ourselves by singing along mentally with what we recorded and thereby over ride what we hear with our ears with the sound that we are actually hearing with the mind.

Even though it can be a matter of opinion, tonal ideas can be misused and misdiagnosed in ourselves partly by what we percieve as a good tone and partly because we are striving for a sound that is just not possible with our vocal mechanism.

I do understand that we would be missing out on some really good entertainment if someone had said to Ethel Merman "My god woman you have great pitch but your sound is atrocious. You could fix that by cutting back on the twang and add a little softness to your voice." It is only my own opinion but I cannot handle her sound for very long. It is a little too bratty and piercing to me. Maybe if she used a classical tone "There's no Business like Show Business" would not have been the success that it was.

How about telling Willy Nelson... "The reason you go off pitch is because you sing through your nose." He has had Classical lessons. Doesn't he know how to raise his soft palate and direct the sound out of his mouth?

Truth be told Willy used to use that more classical sound, wrote a bunch of songs that were made famous by other people even though he also recorded them using a tone that was acceptable by the powers that be. It was not until he recorded his songs with only the guitar and maybe some drums that he himself achieved fame and he used that less than perfect sound with a nasal tone that set him apart from everyone else.

Still, being a forum on vocal technique, If someone with the bratty sound of Ethel or the Nasal sound of Willy posts a song shouldn't we inform them of the negative aspects of their sound? How can we just assume that it is a choice they are making and not the lack of technique or the opposite assume it is a lack of technique?

I started this thread as a topic for discussion. We are often told to get a coach because we ourselves have a scewed perception of our voice. We do not hear our voice as others hear us. It seemed to me a pretty good and valid discussion.

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Its very simple. If you do not believe that what the teacher is showing is good, find another, period.

It does not matter if the teacher is saying that his technique applies to everyone, that it is a matter of opinion, that bla bla bla. You need to find a teacher that you hear and say "now thats something I would like for me".

Life is easy if you allow it to be easy.

And remember that on the review section you are asking for OPINIONs. No one can give you an opinion without involving personal taste, doing so is simply a lie :). The only question you need to ask is whether that opinion is relevant for you and why.

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Felipe's post is excellent. Essentially, define your goal then work toward that goal.

But now, I think, MDEW, Your point is, how objective can you be with yourself and I think it reminds me of how both singing and listening is mental. Because you are right, even in playback, we are singing along with ourselves, at least in our heads. And maybe that is the value of having each other here, in this forum, and posting submissions because, in part, we recognize we are too close to the trees to see the whole forest. And even with that "objectivity," how useful is it? You cited Ethel Merman.

For me, it's Joe Cocker. I never really liked his voice. But I prefer his version of "Help from my Friends." Or Bruce Springsteen. Though, I could now imagine no other doing "Born to Run" and "Thunder Road."

What happens if you successfully clean your tone? Then you lose that "thing" in your voice that makes you sound a little like Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I, too, can still have problems being objective about my voice. To me, I sound like no other, which is okay, because that is my desire. And yet, others have said I sound like Glenn Hughes. I still don't hear the similarities, all that much and it's not out of some sense of humility that I could not possibly sound like him. I just don't hear it. How much of that is psychological? How much of that is others who find my voice similar to his operating through their own rose-colored glasses or even that they might not have the same musical ear that I have?

Are the fellow singers here that we seek comment from being objective? We all have our own "list" of important things, preferred music, etc. And that is what Felipe is saying.

And you, yourself, MDEW, sought to take on the divinity, the holy of holies, doing a song by Saint Pe-, I mean, Steve Perry, partially to get any kind of comment on things you can do to change your voice because no one would comment on the singer/songwriter style of songs or even country songs that you have normally been doing.

Because, objectively, I stink at reviewing singing. :lol: Too prone to act as a fan of music and not so much a teacher getting picayune with each specific note. Nor is a person bad if they can go into that detail with you. It's just not for me. About all I am good for is listening to vowels, as I have had my own struggles with them and can offer my homely and homey advice.

Ultimately, who will decide if you are worth listening to? The buying public or whomever your live audience is. Is that objective? Of course not. You want people to like you, which is not about objectivity.

If the idea of being objective is to listen to your voice without prejudices, well then, first define objectivity. Are you objective about other voices? Many are not.

We have many people enamored of certain singers and wanting to sound like those singers. We have others offering advice saying that singing in your own voice is crap and is lazy and that you need to incorporate the sounds of these other singers to be truly working at it.

But Felipe's advice is best, even though it is subjective. Define the things you want, then seek them out. And if that means getting a teacher, find a teacher that is doing the things you want and work with that person. And I would, for a while, ignore everyone else. It's not actually possible to gallop in 4 different directions. So, pick the path, stay on that path.

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Thanks all for your comments. I value your insights and opinions. We all have our own ideas of what sounds good.

I told my brother about the forum. He seemed to be confused and maybe a little disappointed in why I would seek advice about singing. "If you want to sing better, sing more".

I have been singing for 40 years or more. I always thought that I sounded pretty good. Not spectacular but as good as anyone else that was in the same area as myself. I would listen back to my recordings, Maybe there was a bum note here and there. Nothing more than the average singer around my parts. Yes there was a uniqueness about my sound but I did not think it was a major problem. I kind of thought it added a little character.

But here is the thing that makes me seek advice, makes me think that others hear something that I do not. I could literally be in the middle of singing a song and have my brother or a cousin walk in the room and have others yell over to them "Hey!....______ is here! How about you sing a song!" At that point I would start thinking WTF? I am in the middle of a song..... Can't you even wait until I am finished?

I would even ask why? What is wrong with my singing. Everyone would say that it sounded fine. Nothing was wrong with it. I would record it and listen back. To my ears I could not hear anything that would turn people off that much. Sometimes it even sounded better to me than the original singer.

To be honest some of the singers who other people are using as a standard of good singing to me sound aweful. Not as in awe inspiring but in just plain bad. I am speaking here about the tone they produce.

It seems that from the answers I have been given it is not the sound itself but the way it is produced. An underlying factor within the sound. Legato, consistency of tone(Regardless of the actual tone,Good or bad), Ring, air flow.....

Whatever it is that makes the difference, when I post to the critique section I am also asking for a personal opinion good or bad about the tone along with whatever technical problems or good points I may have.

I can admit that my own idea of what is a good sound is different from others and I am also willing to take others advice even if it is opposite of my own feelings.

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I can not listed to mysel singing in real time and be objective about anything. I have to listen to my voice on playback . It never sounds the same. That is why it is easier for me to practice with a PA system than without. Of course, I sold all my gear so I am unable to do that at the moment..

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I think I see, a little bit, MDEW. You were confusing rudeness on the part of others as a judgement of your worthiness in singing whatever song it was. Two things that were coincidental, rather than a chain of causality. The didn't interrupt your singing because it was bad or just not right for the song. They interrupted because they were rude.

I only have a few ways to deal with rudeness and not all of them socially acceptable.:lol:

But probably the one I can mention here is to ignore the interruptions. They want to act like you are not there? Return the favor. Some people have to learn the hard way. :)

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I think I see, a little bit, MDEW. You were confusing rudeness on the part of others as a judgement of your worthiness in singing whatever song it was. Two things that were coincidental, rather than a chain of causality. The didn't interrupt your singing because it was bad or just not right for the song. They interrupted because they were rude.

I only have a few ways to deal with rudeness and not all of them socially acceptable.:lol:

But probably the one I can mention here is to ignore the interruptions. They want to act like you are not there? Return the favor. Some people have to learn the hard way. :)

Once or twice from the same group of people may be only a matter of rudeness but a pattern throughout my so called "career" is something different. I used to suspect it was mere jealousy. But why from so many different groups if it was unfounded?

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There are improvements that come from conditioning certain aspects of your voice mdew. Legatto is by far the most important aspect that is a rather common point of problem.

If your voice CHANGES when you go from vowel to vowel, if you have tonal change when you are articulating, that makes your quality decrease. At the same time, if you hold it all in place, you lose clarity, it all starts to sound the same.

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Thanks Felipe. Some of these things are starting to sink in.

In my original recording of Faithfully I thought my tone was better. Others think that it was too Nasal. I also thought that even though I had trouble on the High note the sound was consistent and even through out.

When I made the changes for the second recording I had some natural vibrato and the tone was more full(for lack of a better word). I also thought I had too much of a husky sound in that one. Others seemed to like it. But I did notice that the sound could change between an Ah vowel and an i vowel most notable in dipthongs. This was brought more to my attention because of the Fuller sound of the Ah vowel. I can see that keeping a closer tone between the two could make things sound better.

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