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Vocal Recording BlogHello! I hope you’re doing well.

Since vocal recording can be an important part of a singing career, this week's blog post is a question sent to me and my answer which I hope you find informative.


Q. “My voice sounds different on tape; due to what I think is caused by head resonance. What can be done about it?” - R.S. A.

The sound of your voice on tape, hard drive or any recorded media is the result and combination of three factors:
  1. how you are singing
  2. how your acoustic instrument (your voice) is being perceived and documented by the electronic equipment you're using
  3. how acurately the electronics are transferring your voice or how they are altering it.
Then we have the added factor that we hear ourselves differently than how others hear us. 

How We Hear Ourselves
We hear ourselves simultaneously through two conduits
  1. from inside our heads by bone conduction through our inner ear
  2. by air vibration entering into the outer ear.
It's like a stereo system but each of the two ways presents a slightly different tonal sound that blends together. The latter is obviously how everyone else hears you.

So when you hear your voice back on a recording, the inner ear vibration is not present and it will usually sound different for that reason alone.

That being said, it can also be the fault of the electronics making you sound differently, so various elements should be explored to ensure you address the correct source of the problem.

These include but are not limited to 5 factors:
  1. Matching the mic to your particular voice and style
  2. The headset brand you use
  3. Your headset mix
  4. The room in which you are recording
  5. The position and distance of your vocal mic
In future blog posts I'll cover more on how recording electronics can match or alter the acoustic voice and what to do about it. 

Comments

  1. Sandy Andina on September 8, 2014 at 9:25 PM said:
    That used to drive me crazy and for the longest time I was convinced I was delusional about having a good voice and that people were telling me I sounded fine just to avoid hurting my feelings. But first onstage, and later in the studio, I found the judicious use of reverb added back some of that resonance from bone conduction that didn’t make it out to the mains or on to the track. I record “dry,” of course but do ask for a touch of reverb in my headset; we add just enough of it to the track to make it sound more like what I hear unaltered. It is definitely a confidence-booster. And when singing unamplified (such as at a house concert), I’ve learned to discount the bone conduction and accept what the audience hears.
  2. Jeannie Deva on September 8, 2014 at 11:29 PM said:
    Thanks for your input Sandy! Yes, reverb is the electronic means by which to restore the acoustic quality of the voice - not just the missing bone conduction of how we hear ourselves, but the acoustic dimension of the voice: the way it interacts with our surroundings. That's part of what makes it what it is. Some singers think they shouldn't use reverb (in their headset mix or in live performance). But at least when used in moderation, it's part of the acoustic sound of our instrument which gets stripped out by the electronics (and then is reproduced electronically).
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