Q&A - Question About Hearing Our Own Voice
I am a faithful follower of your blog and advices, I can’t tell you how much you helped me with your writings. It is very helpful to know what we should feel at body levels when singing.
I have a couple questions
I am very concerned about the size of my voice.
I am a tenor, light tenor apparently.
My first question is: I don’t seem to have a break in the registers. From the note d upwards my voice starts to sound with an alto color and I don’t seem to find the way to sing with a “tenor” color…The lowest note I can reach is C… Am I doing something wrong? or is it possible that it is the natural quality of my voice.
My other question has to do with the size of the voice and it is somehow connected to the other question I made.
When I sing I have the impression that my voice is very small. But people singing next to me have told me that my voice isn’t as small as I think. Also, when I sing in choirs I have the impression that the sound of the people around me “swallows” my voice and again I feel like I have a very small voice compared to theirs…but when we sing and we end a phrase it seems to be my voice color the one which keeps resonating with reverberation…I assume that my voice must reach further than what I think.
Have I all impressions wrong?
I know it is hard to give some advice just by reading some descriptions…When I feel my voice is small, I push it to try to get even with the surrounding voices, and of course, the result is the opposite. It is helpful to know that what I feel is normal then…(though of course, there must be a lot to correct yet).
Going back to my first question, after some thinking I realize that what I want to know is this:
I know it is hard to connect the head voice to the chest voice, the chest voice is more natural to us since we speak in that register…but, is there a possibility that I am strongly familiar to my head voice and can’t find the way to reach my chest voice? That might be the reason why I don’t have good low notes and why I don’t find the “tenor” color.
I am 35 years old and I never felt a break in my voice during puberty, there was a break but I didn’t suffer it like most boys do. My speaking voice is usually high pitched (but perhaps because there’s too much tension in my voice while I speak)…some voice teachers have told me I am a true tenor (don’t know what they meant by that) but lately some have told me I could be alto countertenor, but I doubt it (or I lack the technique) since I feel there is a change of register or should be some “adjustment” in the Bb (middle line in the pentagram) upwards, I feel it an octave lower to and nowhere else (as tenor I should feel that near E or F right?)
So, I am confused since I don’t know what is the true personality of my voice, therefore I don’t know what is the most appropriate technical approach for me.
Thanks for your feedback and questions. It is common to be concerned about the size of your voice. Many of us worry if our voice is big enough, regardless of voice type. If you have a fuller voice there is concern if it is big enough to do Spinto and Dramatic music. If it is light there is concern if it is viable for performance as a soloist.
So that is normal. What we need to remember is size of voice is not a product of loudness but one of acoustic energy. On the surface we may perceive it as being loud, but there is a difference. And the bottom-line is we can’t try to be big or we will harm the voice. We must work for complete coordination of all of the parts of the body involved to maximize efficiency of the vibration and natural amplification of the resonating system.
From your second question you reveal where this concern for size comes from. The short answer is what we hear of our own voice doesn’t sound big when balanced. But it should be somewhat intense and clear. This is because we don’t hear the acoustic amplification of the tone as the outside listener does. What we hear is the internal vibration and a limited amount of internal resonance. We don’t hear the resonance that completes the tone.
As a side-note, this is the same issue why old singers don’t sound as “big” as modern singers. The recording technology of the time couldn’t capture the amplified tone as it existed in person. So we hear mostly the pure tone but not its radiance. And actually, to a great extent, modern recording is not able to capture as much as we think. It does have a wider frequency response, but the full spectrum of what is heard in person is still lacking.
The difference is modern singers alter their basic tone quality to imitate that of what is heard in the hall by a pure singer. Another way to describe it is older singers sang with a pure tone that was fairly bright in quality. Darkness in the tone came from the complete use of the resonators and the acoustic response of the space in the hall. Recordings don’t pick up that darkness. That is why older singers sound primarily bright, especially the sopranos.
Modern singers imitate the darkness that used to come naturally from acoustics by over-stretching the throat and trapping the tone in the lower resonating space. This sounds dark to both the listener and the singer. It also distorts the vowels so the words are hard to understand. And it is unhealthy. But to the average person it often can seem impressive. (Just look at the popularity of Jonas Kaufmann)
To get back to your question, this is why it has traditionally been recommended to focus on what we feel rather than what we hear. Because we fall into the trap that you have stated, we push to make more sound and the very opposite happens. Plus we work harder and fatigue the voice.
Regarding the character of your voice, what you describe in general is good. But there are many possibilities that can’t be determined just by descriptions. I would have to hear an example to give accurate observations.
What seems likely to me is you have a naturally light voice that retained a lot of characteristics of youth. What is good is you haven’t resorted to making your voice more heavy just to give it size. At the same time I would guess that it is still disconnected to some degree.
The answer to all of your questions comes down to making sure everything is balanced and coordinating correctly. This includes having a complete vibration of the vocal cords. Many light voices don’t explore this aspect sufficiently. If that is the case for you that would be the reason for sounding more alto than tenor.
I often encourage people to find the smaller vibration of the upper register and then strengthen it without noticeably enlarging it. This is what is meant by reinforcing the little head-voice or connecting it to the chest. Think of head voice as the size of the vocal cords and chest voice as the strength of them.
I hope this is helpful. To try and go any farther without hearing you would be speculation and would require covering every possibility. And that would take a long time. Since you have subscribed you are welcome to send a recording for a more accurate assessment. Thanks!