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That CAN’T be my Voice: Perception and truth about your sound

Likely the most common complaint people have is about how they sound on recordings.  Many people just HATE their recorded voice.  What’s up with that?

There are a lot of articles on this topic and many of them contain root causes but I noticed that most mentioned one or the other cause of this phenomenon, but not all causes.  So here is an attempt at clarity.
These are the primary reasons why you do not like your recorded voice:

  1. When you speak you are not hearing your voice.  Really.  You are hearing too much voice.  What we actually hear is the vibrations from our vocal cords as they travel the cavities inside our head.  We also hear those vibrations as they conduct through the bone in our head (bone loves to conduct sound).  Our brain processes all that vibration into what we recognize as our voice.  But wait, there’s more.
  2. That sound we heard in our heads is not the same as the sound that everyone else hears.  What everyone else hears is our voice as enters the room and bounces off surfaces in that room.  We hear that too as the sound bounces and returns to our eardrums.  So why we don’t hear an echo (in most rooms)?  That’s because our trusty brain is ready for that as well and gives us the beautiful fiction that is the voice we hear while we speak.  Yup.  The brain makes it up on the fly by compiling all the data.
  3. Still more.  We don’t record our voices often enough, so we don’t recognize ourselves.  Have you had the experience of suddenly catching your reflection and going, “Woah, is that me”?  It takes very little time for many of us to lose the perception of our exact appearance despite the fact that we tend to look in a mirror at least once a day.   Imagine then, how easy it is to lose the perception of your actual voice given that you are hearing another (fictional) one every day.  So that our real voice starts to sound false to us.

So how do we reconcile this and why do we have to?  The fix is easy.  If you want to love your actual voice and especially if you speak as part of your professional life, you need to start recording yourself and listening back.  Will this “fix”  the things you don’t like about your voice?  No.  It will let you recognize and actually assess your voice so that you know what others hear and can improve about that.  As an added bonus, developing a recording and reviewing habit will also improve the accuracy of the fictional voice that the brain is producing for you because brains are awesome.

Seriously, we all make judgments based on how people sound to us.  So you should really get to know the voice you are presenting.  It is the only way to be certain that your voice is the best representation of who you are and what you know.

The Good News:  Voices are trainable.  If you are recording on a regular basis and still hate your voice.  Change it.  Pitch, cadence, air use, alignment, and even strategies for what you are saying can fundamentally change how your voice sounds in the room.  You deserve to have a voice, that represents you and that you love.  Hire a pro.   Get it done.

Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay.  She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user.  Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as professional public speaker.  For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit

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