We had a wonderful voice intensive event yesterday, with some lovely singers focused on developing and improving their voices.
One of the many great questions/ponderings that was raised was around the challenge of “trying to find my own sound“.
Finding your sound
It’s an all too common experience for singers – both for singers who are just starting out as well as for more experienced singers – to go on a mammoth journey trying on different vocal “fashions” in repeated attempts to find “their sound“. A singer will try singing this way, or that way; they’ll try singing like singer X or singer Y; singing with more air, with less air; more volume here, less volume there; etc.
Those who then go read online singing forums or scour Youtube for singing self-help and how-to videos then discover smaller degrees of control advised by many online personalities, e.g. try singing by raising your larynx, or by lowering their larynx, by attempting to have more or less vocal fold adduction, more or less nasal resonance, stick your tongue out, pull your tongue back, etc. — NOTE: If you’re confused or bewildered by these ideas, I’m not surprised! I am NOT advocating you go and try any of these confusing ideas, just keep reading.
If you’re reading this article, you likely relate to the above experiences, and may still be going through this mammoth journey trying to “find your sound“.
And yet, what 99.99% of such singers find through such overly conscious efforts is typically some short-term satisfaction, followed by uncertainty in the direction approach X is taking your voice, followed by a medium-term not finding that it doesn’t feels or sound quite like they think they should sound (NOTE: we’ll be coming back to this point, as it’s quite important). This is then typically followed by such singers returning to changing still other parameters in their voice, in an attempt to find their sound.
Here’s the question:
When you try approach X, Y or Z, and you notice some improvement but it just doesn’t feel or sound quite like you think your voice should sound…
… how is it that you know your voice shouldn’t feel or sound like that?
Something deep in your intuition tells you that whilst there’s an improvement, it isn’t right. But how could you know this? What experiences could you possibly have undergone in your life that makes you react internally with the response “hmmm, that doesn’t seem quite right to me“? Where does that dissatisfaction come from?
As it happens, there is something you’ve experienced. In fact, you’ve been developing this intuition every single day of your life. And that is using and experiencing the sound of your own voice when you speak. You are intimately acquainted with the sound and feeling of your own voice. It’s already there, it’s already functioning, it already has it’s own sound that you know. That’s your sound right there, and it’s the internal compass that’s telling you where all those other approaches aren’t quite right.
More than just “knowing” your voice, you feel your own voice.
More than even that, you can tell when it’s feeling “off” by even the tiniest of degrees day-to-day. When you wake up and it’s feeling a little heavy, or a little croaky, you know it instantly. The indicator needle on your vocal calibration sensor (metaphorically speaking) has shifted from balanced, normal and systems A-OK and is telling you “this doesn’t tally up with what we feel day in, day out”… and that sensor is extremely refined in most people.
It’s this same internal sensor that’s telling you something isn’t right whenever you try manipulating your voice this way and that in a vain attempt to sound better, or to “find your voice“. Your voice is the same instrument whether you’re speaking or singing. Of course, the demands and dynamics of singing can be greater than speaking in many instances, but the instrument is the same.
You’ve already found your sound: it’s been at home the whole time.
It’s been that little voice in your head telling you “this isn’t right” whenever you try and sing in a way that deviates from your normal voice.
On a technical level, the process we need to use to integrate this is covered in the prospectus on my site (signup link to receive is at the bottom of this page). We’ve got to establish our own chest voice first, then build that sound and experience upwards (across our various vocal registers) to maintain that sense of “this is still my voice” as we ascend.
In turn, if those high notes that once felt strained and out of reach then start to feel identical to the lowest notes in your range, your body has no reason to react negatively to them – because there are no cues that indicate it’s any different or more difficult than the notes already in your range. You’ll also be able to (in effect) feel like you are just saying the lyrics over pitch, in your own voice. No manipulation, no putting on an accent or remembering to do X, Y or Z as you navigate your range.
All these tonal, psychological and musical benefits are the reason you need to go back home to the voice you’ve already got, and build from there.