9 Reasons You Need To Record Yourself (Even If You Don’t Want To)

As incredible as it sounds, you are the ONLY – I repeat ONLY! – person who hears your voice the way that you do. All those bones, muscle and tissue in your head and body keep the lower tones of your voice closer to your ears. That is why, in our heads, our voices sound lower. (Or, conversely, why our voices sound so much higher on recordings. Yes, this IS how you sound to everyone else).

  1. To align your inner and outer voices. Because, we hear our voices differently from the way everyone else does, we have to teach ourselves to relate what we hear inside with what others hear when we sing. We build this understanding through lots and lots of feedback. (Note: Microphone practice using monitors can help with this, too.)

  2. To improve your vocal tone. Sometimes singing that feels good, doesn’t sound so great. A vocal tone that resonates deep in the chest may feel rich and resonant inside, but may sound muddy and swallowed to listeners; a tone that seems clear and bright to our ears, might sound tinny or brassy to listeners. (One of my singer friends said after a session in the studio “Why didn’t anybody tell me I was screaming like that?!” *smile*)

  3. To clean up your diction. The way we speak some words is different from the way we need to sing them. Try recording yourself singing the words “see” and “say” in a higher part of your voice and you will see what I mean. As you listen back, can you tell them apart? (Be honest.) It gets harder and harder to differentiate vowel sounds the higher we move in the voice. And just because we are changing the vowel shape doesn’t mean we are having the effect we desire. Listening back carefully and honestly will help you sing the words you mean.

  4. To stop oversinging. Using proper technique we can get volume and power without straining, but … it can be (really!) hard to break the habit of pushing. In our past singing experience power equaled pushing. If we are hardly working (which is how singing with the right technique feels *smile*) to sing something that used to be really taxing, we may wonder if our new sound still has power. The answer is yes – get a recording to prove it! *smile*

  5. To add dynamics. Singers can add tension through the use of volume, but we often don’t make big enough changes. We feel we are changing dynamics, but our listeners don’t hear a change. (It’s that whole inner vs. outer voice thing again.) When we record ourselves, we can hear when our dynamic changes are large enough. (If you doubt the importance of dynamics think about the impact of a whisper versus a shout.)

  6. To experiment. I almost always record myself when I am working on song/lyric interpretation or practicing improvising. When I am working on finding a unique interpretation for a song, I often try singing the song using different characters or emphasizing different words to “unlock” my version of the song. As I’m experimenting, I might do something I think is kind of cool, but since I just invented it, I don’t remember it exactly. This is because it is hard to create and document at the same time (sight singing proves this! *grin*). If you record your inventing sessions, you can go back and commit the ideas you like to memory.

  7. To separate critiquing from performing. I have learned from recording enough of my improv practices that some of my most interesting ideas come when I FEEL like I am singing really badly. (Yes, sometimes I am just singing badly *grin*, but …) If I were to trust only my inner voice (and inner critic), then I could easily get discouraged, become timid and fail to explore new ideas. If I know I am going to go back and listen critically LATER, then I can let myself off the hook a little bit while I am singing. This helps me keep taking chances and feeling authentic and original when I sing.

  8. To hear your progress. It is easy (and common!) to hit plateaus in our singing practice. Recording ourselves regularly allows us to go back and hear progress even when it might feel like we have not been making any.

  9. To listen with kindness. Many of us have to learn to listen ourselves kindly – or just objectively. If you cannot listen to yourself without cringing, you need to record and listen back to yourself EVEN more. Before listening back, decide for what you are listening and then don’t get distracted or hypercritical. Singing well is about trusting your voice to do what you ask and trusting yourself to sing what you mean. Our identities and sense of self are all wrapped up in our singing. So if every time you listen to a recording of yourself, you are thinking “I hate my voice!,” your singing will NOT improve. (How could it?)

Think about how you would critique a singer friend and make those the guidelines for critiquing yourself. Would you really say, “I hate your voice” or “You sound horrible!” to a friend? (I mean, mo matter the quality of the singing, this is your friend, right?)

So is your voice. Start thinking of it that way. Be friendly to your voice and be kind to yourself. Use your recordings to improve your singing by noticing – and acknowledging – your improvements.

In short, your inner voice and inner critic are not always the best judges of your singing. Recording yourself puts another set of ears (even if they are still your ears *smile*) in the room when you practice. Before long, you will like what you hear.

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