Recording Your Voice
By Jeannie Deva
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 (any recorded media) is the result of the electronic alterations of acoustic sound by the recording process as well as how you are singing.
How We Hear Ourselves
There is also the added factor that we hear ourselves differently than how others hear us. We hear ourselves simultaneously through two conduits; one is from inside our heads by bone conduction through our inner ear and the other is outside by air vibration entering into the outer ear. The latter is obviously, how everyone else hears you. So when you hear your voice 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.
The human voice is an acoustic instrument. That means it is designed to resonate both internally within your body as well externally with your immediate surroundings. In order to capture the full sound spectrum which makes your voice characteristically “you,” the sensitivity, placement and specifications of the microphone with which you record your voice is quite important. For example, the German Neumann U87 is known for its brighter sound while others find the less expensive Australian Rodes mic lets them sing full throttle.
If you are standing too far from the mic your voice will tend to lose presence and can sound thinner with possibly more head tone quality. If the mic is placed too close to your nose it can tend to enhance your head/treble resonance. This higher placement is sometimes preferred for backup vocals, but I usually do not find it suitable for the lead.
Acoustics and Electronics
The dimensions and acoustic design of the recording room or vocal booth, along with the capabilities of the recording equipment and digital recording program also play important rolls. It is essential to realize that both the overuse as well as the absence of electronic effects on your recorded voice will either approximate or diverge from your acoustic voice. Effects such as reverb for example help to restore the acoustics that have otherwise been electronically stripped from your voice. However, too much reverb can accentuate the treble in your voice. To hear your voice totally dry — without effects — and expect for it to sound exactly like you, is usually folly. Sometimes the EQ (equalization) needs to be set appropriately for your voice. This is especially true if the mic is not the best match for your voice or the recording equipment needs to be upgraded.
If you record your voice on home equipment which is less than professional quality, don't expect it to sound exactly like you. Again, I point out that there are many facets electronically which need to be present so that your voice is being truly replicated once recorded. I recently heard a demo recording of an excellent singer. However, in the mix, the producer put so much compression on his voice that it actually altered his tone and made it sound lifeless and almost strained. Only a very educated listener would be able to identify the alteration made by the electronics and recognize that it wasn't how he was singing or how his voice really sounds.
Head resonance itself is an important aspect in the amplification and resonance of a voice. But where it can become troublesome is when there is a lack of the complimentary mid range and bass resonance in the vocal spectrum. To develop a fuller spectrum sound in your voice, it is important to achieve a relaxation of the back of your tongue, fuller natural vibration from your vocal folds and the development of rich resonance. This requires exercises and accurate coaching which is why I created “The Deva Method Vocal Warm-Ups and Cool-Downs” as well as “The Contemporary Vocalist” series.
Until next time,