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Do You Sound the Way You Sound?

If a singer falls below pitch in a forest, and no one is around to point it out, did it really happen?

VoiceCouncil’s Vocal Coach Residency: Mister Tim – week 3

Anyone who has ever cringed at the sound of themselves on a recording knows that what you think you sound like is not necessarily what you sound like. Your own voice, to you, exists in a place that no one else can experience: your head. You hear your voice through the vibrations of your skull as much as from vibrations through the air picked up by your ears. So when you hear a recording of yourself, you are hearing it from a different source, without your head vibrations, and it sounds… odd.

This can make it difficult to accurately evaluate your own sound. Something that sounds delightful as you sing it might not be as pleasing to others; some sounds that sound or feel odd to you are going to drive your audience crazy with enjoyment. How do you distinguish which sounds are good and which sounds are not?

Record! You are lucky to live in a world where it is ridiculously easy to record yourself and listen back! If you are careful to get past the weirdness of hearing your voice from a different source, you can quickly identify things to fix, things you might not hear while you are involved with your performance. It’s not always enjoyable, but if you want to get better you have to bravely face the music (so to speak).

Record yourself practicing, and then listen back. Record your performances, and then listen back. Record your lessons, and then listen back… and you’ll be able to hear what your teacher is trying to help you with…and you’ll be able to fix it.

Record, record, record. And then evaluate, evaluate, evaluate.

My Reactions to This Past Week’s Peer Reviews

Kelly Louise WarnerRunner Up, Ballarat Idol 2009
You have wonderfully solid stage presence. The choruses are rich, full, and very exciting! Your years of hard work are paying dividends, you sound great! The verses, low in register, are suspect pitch-wise. I have the same problem in my low range: it’s harder to hear the pitch center, and harder to support the sound. Concentrate on the lower notes, work to make them as strong as the higher notes.

Buck NorrisOkie From Muskogee
Gooooood country. One thousand videos? That’s fantastic. I sense your love for this music, and it’s fun to listen to. I particularly like how relaxed and warm your performances are: no bells and whistles, just good tunes. There are no unimportant notes: every note, beginning, end, middle, short, long, deserves a good, solid pitch center. Listen to this and others of your performances; I think if you hear that some of the notes are shaky you will know how to fix them. All the great country singers were (and are) able to sing very accurate pitches while making it sound completely effortless… it’s not easy, but it makes all the difference!

– Mister Tim

See Mister Tim’s Exclusive Interview for VoiceCouncil Magazine

Mister Tim is the mastermind behind more than a dozen award-winning a cappella groups, including 2010 Harmony Sweepstakes champions Plumbers of Rome, internet sensations moosebutter, beatbox quartet Mouth Beats, and all-original vocal bands VoxBom and THROAT. He is a published composer and arranger, a dedicated teacher, and a solo artist, most recently with his solo vocal live looping show “Vocal Magic.” He was a headline performer in the Las Vegas Strip production of “Toxic Audio,” is in demand for speciality corporate music projects, and is an active educator, coach, and clinician. mistertimdotcom.com