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argh! Trying to find my voice (literally)


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First let me say on my best day I'm no Sinatra or McCartney or whatever and have no delusions of ever being that. But I have sang in public and people didn't head for the door :) At times I dare say I have sounded good even. But this isn't simply about quality...I can sing in diff styles and voices, which seems to be a blessing and a curse. A blessing as I can approximate diff singers for various songs people want to hear, which is handy for performing, but have never really found my own true voice, my "timbre," for lack of a better word...and this is a major roadblock in recording my own album. I don't think it's a good idea to have a diff sounding voice on diff songs as it sounds like one is trying to chase their tail and imitate whoever vs just being who they are. To me it comes off...amateurish. 

 

Anyone dealt with this? I've tried explaining this to voice coaches/instructors but they don't seem to get it. 

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Do you also mimic when you talk or no?

If not, sing with the voice you speak with in terms of inflection, tone etc. Don't use one of your mimic voices. Should be fairly simple. 

That's what I do. I'm not a great singer either but I'm pretty good.

Then as you keep recording you can just keep singing like you. 

 

I will say this - some microphones will record your voice in a way that sounds much better than other mics. It is well worth the time and $$ to find the best vocal mic you can. 

It is something I've pursued and the journey has been worth it. There are currently 3 mics that I really like for my voice, bearing in mind I can't afford the fancy expensive stuff. 

I bought the first two used in excellent condition. 

 

The first is the Shure KSM8. The cardioid pattern is very even and rejects noise from the back. You can sing a bit off-axis and still have a full, rich tone. The proximity effect is more like an omni, the KSM8 is a dynamic dual diaphragm (back diaphragm is passive) mic. So it doesn't get boomy if you are too close (great for live work) and it doesn't thin out too much if you are back a few inches and off center a bit. That means much less sibilance and fewer plosives so it's easier to get good takes. 

 

The second is the Heil PR40, a large diaphragm dynamic mic. This does have quite a bit of proximity effect and should be used with a pop screen (I use a Stedman or a Blue, both are good).

 

You'll want a Cloudlifter for any dynamic mic, it really makes a big difference - 25+dB of clean, low noise, full frequency gain. They run on phantom power, most mic preamps and interfaces have this. 

 

My third go-to is a Microphone Parts T-67. I bought the kit, it was under $500. You'll need to be good at soldering and have a small, sharp tip on your iron and thin solder. I would suggest a light with a magnifier, it made it much easier for me. 

It took three calm, careful sessions for me to build it and it worked perfectly the first time. This is a large diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone and huge bang for the buck. Mine came with the Platinum transformer, which is not currently on offer (probably backordered, you could ask).

The current price is a bit lower, probably due to less expensive (but still very good!) transformer options. I have 2 other mics that I upgraded using a MicParts kit. If you have an MXL990 they make a fantastic upgrade kit for that mic and it's much less expensive than buying a complete kit. Really good stuff!!!!

 

 https://microphone-parts.com/products/t-67-microphone-kit

 

 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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3 hours ago, bill5 said:

I've tried. It's lousy. Hence the problem. :) Thx for the response though. 

Very few of us like our own voices. 

I've been told that I sing OK and sound good, for one by the wife of a man who can truly sing. That made me feel less worse.

 

If you think it's hopeless, it is hopeless. No point in posting a thread then, is there?

 

Just start singing, record your songs, maybe share a couple with others and get some honest feedback. I've been tempted to hire in a singer sometimes and I've probably had worse ideas. But they need to know the melody in any case so away I go. 

 

And, choosing microphones that make me sound less worse has really helped. 

You have choices, stewing in your own juice isn't a great one. 😇

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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27 minutes ago, KuruPrionz said:

Very few of us like our own voices. 

So I hear. (Can you imagine being a great singer and feeling that way? At some point you'd think they'd have to accept reality!)

 

Quote

If you think it's hopeless, it is hopeless. No point in posting a thread then, is there?

? Never said it was hopeless. 

 

Quote

Just start singing, record your songs, maybe share a couple with others and get some honest feedback. I've been tempted to hire in a singer sometimes and I've probably had worse ideas. But they need to know the melody in any case so away I go. 

Yeah, I hear ya. I have interviewed several voice instructors, but (so far at least) they all go into "here's how I will 'classically train you'...."  that's all well and fine but my most important concern is "finding my voice" and when I bring that up, they seem at a loss and just want to cram me into their cookie cutter process, not to mention I have a clue about singing, proper breathing etc. This is less about general skills and more about finding "that sound."

 

Probably not helping is I have a wide variety of styles that I hope to do, from gentle ballads to gritty blues/rock to jazz, and diff types of voices lend themselves better to each

 

Quote

You have choices, stewing in your own juice isn't a great one. 😇

It's a fallback. :)  I guess that's the thing, I don't see good choices at the moment and thought there might be someone who went through something similar and how they addressed it. 

 

 

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32 minutes ago, bill5 said:

So I hear. (Can you imagine being a great singer and feeling that way? At some point you'd think they'd have to accept reality!)

 

? Never said it was hopeless. 

 

Yeah, I hear ya. I have interviewed several voice instructors, but (so far at least) they all go into "here's how I will 'classically train you'...."  that's all well and fine but my most important concern is "finding my voice" and when I bring that up, they seem at a loss and just want to cram me into their cookie cutter process, not to mention I have a clue about singing, proper breathing etc. This is less about general skills and more about finding "that sound."

 

Probably not helping is I have a wide variety of styles that I hope to do, from gentle ballads to gritty blues/rock to jazz, and diff types of voices lend themselves better to each

 

It's a fallback. :)  I guess that's the thing, I don't see good choices at the moment and thought there might be someone who went through something similar and how they addressed it. 

 

 

Our paths are not that different. I mimic live as well. And some of that gets incorporated into my recordings but not overtly. More like "good chop here, nice phrasing there". 

None of us are truly original, we all have influences. That's neither bad nor amateurish although it may have it's weak points on a personal level if you tackle something inappropriate to your abilities. And none of us can truly change who we are or what we sound like.

 

The most important thing about recording is that it does not lie. The worst, most terrible thing about recording is that it does not lie. 

Pick one of your songs and sing one track for each style you have. Listen back, you'll learn a lot. You'll probably learn that you sound like you, even when you mimic. 

 

You are not seeing good choices at the moment but none of us can say anything about how you sound or what you might do to improve because we have no idea what you sound like. Which is why I recommended above that you "maybe share a couple with others and get some honest feedback." Other listeners may make observations that are nothing like yours.

 

If you can find a local singer who gigs the clubs and maybe pay them to share some techniques with you that might be more in line with what you are wanting from lessons. 

Some teachers want you to go through the courses and jump through the hoops. I got a lesson once that gave me things to work on forever, not from a "pro" lesson teacher but a fellow musician. And I recently gave a lesson to an intermediate guitarist who wanted to know about some specific things and I taught him things he will use for the rest of his life. 

 

There's nothing "amateurish" about singing different songs differently. Did Elvis sing Love Me Tender or My Way the same way as he sang Jailhouse Rock or Hound Dog?

No, he sang them differently. There are plenty of examples and of course there are also lots of singers who found success with a formula and stayed right there for the most part. 

 

It seems to me that you are your own biggest obstacle. Lunge forward anyway, recordings may show you that you have different problems than you thought and how to solve those problems. Nothing will change if you cling fiercely to your own fears. 

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It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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  • 2 months later...

I was just writing a few lines on self sabotage and found this post.  🙂

 

Specifically, I, like you, have some technical ability though I consider myself a rather mediocre singer. I have gotten to a point where I don't cringe when I hit playback and I get compliments on my voice - and actually always have. What I don't have is the belief that I can sing well. I have a belief system that I'm somehow not quite up to scratch. And I struggle with this singing in my own true voice thing a lot. One of my brothers was like "Why do sound like an English guy on that song Dave?" I told him that the song needed me to sound like an 80's pop singer. Nothing to do with me at all. Liar that I am. I especially struggle on high notes...being able to confidently sing in the mask eludes me. Doesn't stop me, but it leaves me dissatisfied.

 

Anyway, last night - in my community there's a hosted evening once a month for songwriters to come and play a couple tunes to an audience of songwriters. It's weird and nerve wracking and fun. Everyone is actually listening and some of the people are remarkably talented. I had one too many 8 percent beers and totally crashed and burned one of my tunes. Like laughably bad. I'm an old hand at live gigs and this was pretty much the biggest train wreck ever lol.

 

Self sabotage. There was a guy there, no idea who is he, but holy sh*t, that guy killed it. He even sang a song about how he had a realization that he could be the guy that shared the music that was blowing his mind as a kid. That he could be the guy that made music that somebody else could enjoy as much as he did. And that light a fire in him and he keeps it lit, letting it burn in him. Owning it. It was a nice story about his mom helping him to that understanding. At least that what my ears interpreted. Powerful and thought provoking.

 

I think our self myths are correctable. In this life you are what you choose to be, you just have to give yourself permission to not be afraid of the shadows a strong light casts. And then work your ass off (again) to gain the technical things like stamina and consistency. I am definitely an emotional coward. Self sabotage.

 

You got this man. You obviously love it, so relax and let yourself enjoy the gift.

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I remember a post from Bob Dylan where he said "my voice sounds like a cat stuck in a barb wire fence. Should I pursue a singing career?"

 

There was also one from David Byrne that said "People say I sound like I'm psychologically disturbed when I sing. Should I pursue a singing career?"

 

And then there was the one from John Lydon. "When I sing, people say 'have you ever considered singing actual notes? Y'know, like pitch and stuff?'"

 

Sadly, there were all told they sucked. So they went back to delivering pizzas.

 

Bottom line: JUST SING WHAT YOU WANT TO SING. If people don't like it, that's okay. They probably wouldn't have liked something different, either. But if they like it... How many different voices did Bowie use? Or Madonna? (Or me, for that matter?)

 

I will say that vocals are one of the few aspects of recording where I think DSP processes can make the difference between "Why do I hate the sound of my voice?" and 
"Hey, that sounds good!" But when I write it up, people don't believe it's that simple, so they don't try it. Their loss :)  

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13 hours ago, Anderton said:

Bottom line: JUST SING WHAT YOU WANT TO SING. If people don't like it, that's okay.

Great point, and... as important or more so - if YOU don't like it DO NOT STOP YOURSELF FROM DOING IT!!!!!

When I started learning how to tie my shoes, I wasn't very good at it, at all. I kept on doing it, now I don't even think about it. 

The same is true for everything we learn. Some things come easier than others, I was pretty quick to pick up guitar and I have friends who've been playing for decades and sound like they just started trying to learn. 

 

We are all different, grant yourself the right to be you. Listen and learn, some of your vocal problems will be minor inflections that you can change, some of them will be poor microphone technique that you can improve, work on every one of those small, simple errors. None of us will ever be flawless and some of us were born to sing above and beyond the usual (not me!). But, for every Joni Mitchell there is a Lucinda Williams, for every David Bowie there is a John Prine. 

Tell YOUR story, that's what we all want. 

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It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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4 hours ago, KuruPrionz said:

for every Joni Mitchell there is a Lucinda Williams, for every David Bowie there is a John Prine. 

Exactly. It's the story told honestly that draws people in. Technical skill is largely an illusion in one sense. I've heard plenty of virtuosi that bore the dickens out of me!

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13 minutes ago, OG_Dave said:

Exactly. It's the story told honestly that draws people in. Technical skill is largely an illusion in one sense. I've heard plenty of virtuosi that bore the dickens out of me!

Yep, somebody can be great and just not inspire. A friend on Facebook has become obsessed with Mateo Mancuso and while I admire his virtuosity I can only bear to hear a short bit of it. His attempt at "blues" made me cringe. He starts off good and then sails off into his usual "not blues" licks.

 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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<cough> Not to disparage this young man in any way, but yea. I find it incongruous that so much effort can be put into developing an elevated craft yet somehow bereft of the ineffable. <scratches head> Did I say that right?

 

Al Di Meola bores me to tears. <Heresy alert> So did Jeff Beck.

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7 hours ago, OG_Dave said:

<cough> Not to disparage this young man in any way, but yea. I find it incongruous that so much effort can be put into developing an elevated craft yet somehow bereft of the ineffable. <scratches head> Did I say that right?

 

Al Di Meola bores me to tears. <Heresy alert> So did Jeff Beck.

I'm with you on Al Di Meola. 

I saw Jeff Beck open for BB King and I consider him to be one of the most unique and expressive guitarists I've ever heard. Just about the only guitarist without a vocalist that I can stand to listen to at all. So, we are different on that one. 

 

I mostly listen to songs for the lyrics, I want a story. There are tons of "great" musicians that just play music but it's just not my jam. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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1 hour ago, OG_Dave said:

Me too although I love "classical" music and Be-bop/swing. Then again, they tell stories there too use, but it's non verbal communication.

I love all sorts of music but most of it live. I find listening to recordings is mostly difficult lately, not as much fun as it used to be. 

A good verbal story always catches my ear. 

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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When it comes to singing, I started as a singer in punk bands, then got conservatory training, sang in some progish and funkish bands in the 90s and early 2000's and then stopped singing publicly for the next 20'sh years. I just started again, and honestly, it's taken that long before I became comfortable enough that I can say I sound like me and be ok with it.

 

Strangely, I now love singing and interpretation, but I hate writing lyrics. Which is odd, seeing as I am a professional writer/editor. It's just musically, I feel I lyrically have nothing to say, and being a drummer/synthesist, I tend to write from a more atmospheric and rhythmic place than I do a melodic place.

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Editor - RECORDING Magazine

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