Why You Hate Your Voice and How to Fix It
Do You Hate Your Voice? You're Not Alone!
If you're one of the majorities of people who feel this way, you've come to the right place because you're about to learn why you hate your voice and how to fix it.
As I was lurking around the "Question and Answer" forum on HubPages, I came across the topic, "I hate the sound of my voice" and decided to write a Hub about it. (Thank you Kallini for the post). This is not an uncommon topic, either -- in fact, I'd love to get a dollar for every person who's said to me, "I hate my voice." Nearly half of my students say the same thing when I asked them why they have come to see me.
Note: While hating your own voice can refer to both your speaking or singing voice, my comments are directed to the speaking voice for now.
For the next few minutes, make believe you are among the gazillions of people who, after hearing their own voice recorded, swear that they will never speak another word. In fact, only 10% of us recognize our own voice when hearing it for the first time. So, you're not alone, and vocal coach is here to help you. Here's what you can expect from this Hub:
- Learn about why you can't hear your true voice
- Why does your voice sound different to you vs. when recorded
- The male vs. female voice
- Common things people hate about their voice
- How to correct your vocal problems in a few steps
- You absolutely can change your vocal sound
- Breath right to sing right.
So stay tuned to learn why you hate your voice.
Why You Can't Hear Your True Voice
What we hear when we speak or sing is not our true sound. As we grow from babys to adulthood we think our vocal sound is true, but it isn't and here's why.
Sound reaches the inner ear by way of two separate paths, and those paths in turn affect what we perceive. I like Matt Soniac's description of this process:
"Every sound we hear—birds chirping, bees buzzing, people talking, and recordings—is a wave of pressure moving through the air. Our outer ears “catch” these waves and funnel them into our head through the ear canal. They strike the ear drum, which starts vibrating, and those vibrations travel to the inner ear, where they’re translated into signals that can be sent via the auditory nerve to the brain for interpretation.
When you speak, vibrations from your vocal cords resonate in your throat and mouth, and some get transmitted and conducted by the bones in your neck and head.
This combination of vibrations coming to the inner ear by two different paths gives your voice (as you normally hear it) a unique character that other, “air only” sounds don’t have. In particular, your bones enhance deeper, lower-frequency vibrations and give your voice a fuller, bassier quality that’s lacking when you hear it on a recording."
How many of us, growing up, record our speaking voice every day? Ridiculous question, isn't it? And yet, that's exactly what is required for us to grow into adulthood and accept and like our speaking voice.
Why? Because we never hear our true voice when we talk. We go through life thinking that the sound we hear is the sound others hear. That actually isn't so.
Your voice sounds different to other people than it does to you because of how you hear your sound. You're actually the only person who hears your voice the way you think everyone else does.
Let's examine why this is so.
Amazing View of Vocal Cords While Singing With Multiple Voices
Why Does My Voice Sound Different To Me vs. Recorded?
When you speak, the vocal folds in your throat vibrate, which causes your skin, skull, and oral cavities to also vibrate; we refer to this as sound. These vibrations mix with sound waves, which travel from your mouth to your eardrum. No one hears this sound but you. Your sound is confined within these resonators. Again, because it bears repeating: only you can hear this sound.
Your speaking and singing voice sound totally different to others. This is why it's a good idea to listen to your recorded voice as early in life as possible.
The first time you hear your voice recorded, you're likely shocked by what you hear. Your pitch is usually higher and your speech sounds slower. This is the moment of truth -- this is what your voice sounds like to everyone else.
Vocal Folds and Vibrations
- The glottis. Your vocal folds (bands, chords, cords) are positioned at the base of the larynx and are the "vibrator" of sound. They are flat triangular bands. The space between the vocal cords is called the glottis.
- Voice. Vibrations are caused when the vocal folds are set into motion because of air expelled from the lungs. This is called voice. Air is forced up the trachea from the lungs, at a certain pressure, forcing its way through the vocal cords and pushing them open.
- The pliable vocal folds are set into quasi-synchronous vibration as the air passes between them.
- The vibrations are amplified by resonators within areas of the body.
- Male vs. female vocal folds. Male vocal folds are larger than the female vocal folds. The male vocal folds are approximately 0.75" to .75" in length, while the female's are approximately 0.5" to.75" in length. This is one of the reasons for the difference in vocal pitch between genders.
To Change the Sound of Your Voice, You Must First Hear it By Recording
Correcting Your Vocal Problems in a Few Easy Steps
The good news is, you can change the sound of your voice. If you'd like a lower, richer sound you can have one. If you talk too fast you can learn how to slow your speech down and speak clearly. Regardless of how you sound now - you can learn how to sound better.
Changing your voice will take dedication and consistant practice. Without true commitment there is merely a repetition of something that needs to be redeemed rather than repeated.
Commitment, willingness, and agrrement can bring about real change.
The quality and sound of your voice is largely due to habit. And, luckily, bad habits can be broken and good ones learned. It just takes practice. If you are willing to put the time into learning correct vocal production, you can develop a speaking voice to be proud of.
Step 1: Listen to Your Recorded Sound
The first step to changing your speaking voice is to listen to your recorded sound. This can be done by using your computer. Locate the microphone and speaker and record a short sentence such as "Michael row the boat ashore," or "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream." You can also record on your answering machine or cell phone.
After recording the sentence three times in a row, play it back and listen. This will be the hardest part of the exercise. Don't expect to like the sound of your voice. Grab a sheet of paper and as you listen to the recording the second time, list what you hate about your voice. Continue to do this several times. Take your time with this first step.
Remember, it's normal to dislike what you hear.
Look at the following list of things we hate about our voice. Are your thoughts on this list?
Common Things People Hate About Their Voice
Dry -- monotonous
Too many pauses
Off-key (out of tune or flat)
Step 2: Practice Simple But Effective Exercises
Now that you are over the initial shock of hearing your "real" voice and your list is complete, the next step will teach you how to make corrections.
Remember also that tension is the worst enemy for the speaker, singer, and actor. As you practice your daily vocal workout, be sure to release all neck, shoulder, knee, and hand tension.
Let's begin with one of the most important factors for improving your speaking: too much tension in the tongue. The tongue is the rudder for sound. When we try to hold back emotion, we tense up our tongues. We must release this tension if we are to sound better when speaking.
During this step, you will practice this simple but effective exercise:
- Start with the tongue lying flat in the bed of the mouth
- Bring the tongue forward (stretching it), slightly over the bottom lip and pant like a dog.
- Then, gently pull the tongue back to rest in the bed of the mouth and feel the relaxed position.
- Get in the habit of teaching your tongue to feel relaxed when speaking all vowels.
- Using the word 'hello,' very slowly speak the word, noticing the relaxed position of the tongue on the first part of the word, 'heh.'
- Speak just the 'heh' three times, while keeping a nice, relaxed feeling in the tongue.
- The tongue will draw up to touch the hard palate (roof of the mouth) to form the 'l' and then drop down to form the 'o.' Be sure the tongue is positioned correctly, attacking no further back then just at the forward part of the hard palate. If the tongue is drawn too far back on the 'l' with too much tension, the result will be a throaty sound.
Relaxing Vocal Tension and Lifting the Soft Palate by Yawning
Step 3: Stretch the Top Of Your Throat (to Fix the Nasal Sound)
A closed soft palate (located behind the hard palate or roof of the mouth) will cause you to sound nasal. When you yawn, the soft palate rises which opens the back of the throat.
Yawning is actually a stretching exercise for the soft palate, which is the top of your throat, including the little movable part in the back of your mouth where the uvula quite visibly hangs down. The soft palate is responsible for the overtone in the mask area around the nose and sinuses. It's a kind of buzzing sound and feeling that helps the voice to carry and sound clear.
This step will teach you to stretch the top of your throat. All you have to do is yawn. But make sure your jaw doesn't come forward. A good way to do this stretch is to:
- Yawn as you regularly do.
- Yawn with your mouth closed, as if you're trying to stifle a yawn.
You must exercise the tongue and the soft palate on a daily basis. Then, forget them and let them work on their own. Let them do their job.
Because a closed throat results in a nasal sound, this exercise will help reduce speaking through your nose. The back of the throat needs to be open as we speak.
- Go into a yawn position
- Using the word 'yeah,' repeat several times. The sound should not be whiney or nasal with the throat open. Learn to do this exercise using different consonants and vowels.
- This requires daily exercising for several weeks before the nasal-ness is completely gone.
Step 4: Change Your Voice by Regulating Your Pitch
You can actually speak by generating sound from different places in the body called vocal registers. Each of these registers vibrate at different rates of speed to produce sound.
This step will teach you how to regulate your pitch (high, medium, or low). Let's say you don't like your voice because it's too high and you sound like a child. (Ladies, have you ever answered the phone and been asked if your mommy is home?)
Here's what you can try:
- Speak from your chest register. To bring the pitch down, or speak with a more mature sound, you must speak from your chest register. To connect with your chest sound, speak the word 'whoa' in a very deep voice, as if you are riding a horse and want it to stop. Place your hand on the chest area and feel for the vibrations as you speak the sound of 'whoa.' Do this several times, recording the sound.
- Get on all fours. To help you connect to the low chest register, while on the floor, position yourself on all fours while on your knees and hands. Make sure your head is positioned down like you're looking at the floor and say the word 'whoa' as low as you can without straining your voice. Really concentrate on the vibrations in your chest.
- Practice. Practice mixing the chest sound with your regular sound to bring out a nice, rich speaking voice. Then, record words and finally sentences.
- Mix it up. If your speech is too slow and boring, speed up your sentences and practice until it feels natural at your new pace. Accent certain syllables to add interest to your voice.
- Speak clearly. Speaking clearly is one of the most important elements for all speakers. Articulate. Do not "drop" consonants at the ends of your words.
- Breathe properly. Breathe correctly by using your abdominal wall (diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called the belly breath). Don't know how? Here are complete instructions to teach you how.
- Try jogging. Finally, your voice needs energy to sound its best. Try jogging in place while speaking a few sentences. If jogging is out for you, sit on an exercise ball and bounce up and down as you speak.
For Overcoming Sluggish Articulation
Step 5: Don't Forget About Tapping Into the Unused Portion of Your Vocal Tract
Choose the first line of any speech or paragraph in a book or newspaper.
- Imagine that the sound you are about to make is coming directly from the belly.
- Make a 'huh' sound.
- Say the first word of your text, matching the pitch of the 'huh.' Remember, the sound is coming from your belly.
- After the first word, allow your voice to go anywhere it needs to go to express the remainder of the line.
- Repeat this procedure with each successive line of the speech, starting with 'huh' and then match the first word of the line.
- Notice how starting each line with 'huh' puts your voice in a freer place.
- Practice this exercise for twenty minutes each day for several weeks. If you have success, then only think the 'huh' sound and match the first word.
- Continue to repeat and experiment with this exercise until it begins to feel comfortable and more natural.
For most people, the sound will start in the lower half of the voice. This is especially useful for women who tend to avoid the lower half of their voices.
The end result will be a richer, more confident, and pleasing sound.
Using The Abdominal Wall For Proper Inhalation Of Breath
The Breath Is The Life Force of The Voice
Breath is life. We come into this world on the breath and we go out of this world on the breath. It is how we breathe that benefits our physical and mental health This is also true for developing our voice for better speech and singing.
Until you learn how the diaphragmatic muscle works for functional breathing, it will be difficult to change the way you presently inhale and exhale. I encourage you to begin now to explore the difference between chest breathing and the belly breath.
I've provided this helpful hub for learning how to use the diaphragm for breathing.
Your singing tone "rides" on air (breath". Air acts as a cushion for the tone. The better you breathe, through diaphragmatic breathing, the better you will sound when you sing. You need the right amount of breath pressure to stabilize and enrich your voice.
Every sound that comes out of your mouth must be supported by the breath.
To Completely Relax all Tension, The Rag Doll Position Works
Have You Been Told You Can't Sing?
It's hard to believe that Enrico Caruso, the greatest tenor in the world, was told by his teacher that he had no voice.
Equally surprising is the following: Elvis Presley gave one performance In 1954 at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. He was immediately fired by Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry. "You ain't goin' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin' a truck".
The world would have been robbed of immense talent had these two vocalists listened to what others had to say about their voices.
Not everyone is going to approve of your singing. So what? Sing anyhow. Singing is all about you and how you choose to communicate a particular lyric. Stop giving your power away. You don't need anyone to tell you you're ok. You're already ok.
Life is a song that must be sung. It can only be sung by you.
Final Thoughts - Love Yourself to Love Your Voice
I hope you have learned something about why you hate your voice, and how to fix it.
It could be that you need to love yourself more and then you'll love your voice. There's no better way to feel love for yourself than by being of service to others. As you become a kind, patient, forgiving person, you are exhibiting love. And this love begins to fill your mind and spirit with love. This is the way to feel self-love. This is the quickest way to learn to love the sound of your unique, wonderful voice.
In the end, remember that you must really want to discover a better sounding voice and trust that you will. One of the biggest mistakes we make is comparing our voice to other singers. Stop doing this. Instead, find your own sound. Once you do this than develop and enhance the sound you hear as your own.
Your voice is an instrument and, like any other instrument, it must be taken care of. It is not enough to say, "When I get emotional, my throat tightens up and my voice gets squeaky."
Whatever happens to your voice when you get emotional is a habit. You must take responsibility for the condition of your instrument. Remember that most problems can be traced to tension in the neck, jaw, and tongue, along with restricted breathing.
I recommend recording your voice consistently as you practice to bring about change. You'll soon get used to your true vocal sound and accept it as part of the wonderful person you are.
Note: Please see your doctor whenever you experience throat pain. If any of the above exercises cause discomfort, stop immediately.
If you have heard your voice recorded...
Questions & Answers
Why isn't there a way to fix the voice of women with very deep voices? I didn't see an example for us.
Deep, rich voices produce a nice sound and should be left alone.
Is there any way of learning to slow down my speech? I have very fast speech that has affected my professional life.
One way to slow down your speech is to take a longer breath between each phrase. Because singing is sustained pitch, try singing some of your speaking lines a few times. This has been helpful for my students who speak too fast.
© 2012 Audrey Hunt