Many people think that it is, but in reality… “Is your voice deeper than you hear it?” Well, to answer the question will take a little exploration and understanding, and we will need to take in some basic biology to consider how hearing works.
Hearing Is A Complex Activity
We take it for granted, but our hearing is a complex activity allowing us to hear sounds occurring deep in our ears. Sound causes vibrations, and these are picked up in the inner ear. The sound is most commonly collected by something known as air conduction. This is the transmission of sound waves through the air to the ear.
This is an important part of the ear as it takes the vibrations and converts them into sounds in our brain. The vibrations reach the Cochlea after reaching your middle ear via the eardrum.
Two things are happening…
Besides air conduction, other things are going on. When you are talking, you hear your voice in a certain way. The sound is created by your vocal cords. Your vocal cords, forgive me for saying the obvious, are part of you. But it goes a little deeper than that, as I will explain.
There is an element of the sound that is collected on its travels through the air. And that will pass through your inner ear system. But there is a second thing that is happening. Your voice is reverberating through various muscles and bones in your head.
The effect of this is that you are hearing a mixture of two very different sound waves. One coming through the air, the other through your head. The sound through your head will automatically give some prominence to the lower frequencies. This enhances the sound of those frequencies.
When You Hear Only One Thing
So, having identified that what you are hearing is a mixture of two very different sounds, what happens when you take one of them away? When you hear your voice purely externally, through speakers, for example, the results are much different.
You have taken away the sound created inside you, the sound that emphasizes the low frequencies. Your voice suddenly sounds higher in pitch. That can be quite a surprise.
A Personal Experience
I was working at Morgan Studios in West London on a bass guitar session. They needed some extra voices for the track, so they rounded a few of us up and stood us around some microphones. One mic each. They gave us our notes, a three-part harmony. Quite simple.
Now, I played with a band taking the higher harmonies in a three-part and considered myself a bit of a Randy Meisner. Oh dear, what a shock. When I asked who was making that screeching noise, they all laughed and said, “You!”
I thought my voice had a certain sound. It didn’t have that at all and was nothing like I was hearing. Everybody else was used to it because they heard it all the time. But it was a shock for me. My perception of how my voice sounds was not how I “thought” I sounded at all.
The Same For Everyone
Take away the sound that reverberates in your head, and your voice will sound higher. But does that mean it is? It is a daunting experience the first time it happens to you. But once you are aware, you can realize and accept it. So don’t let it put you off.
When you hear your voice played back to you on a recording, that is very much how you sound to others. What you think you sound like is not accurate for the reasons I have discussed.
Do You Sound Bad, Or Is It You Just Thinking You Do?
No, you probably don’t sound bad at all. It is just the surprise of hearing something you weren’t expecting. You compare that to what you thought you sounded like and decide that it is very poor.
John Lennon, as an example, did not like listening to his voice on playback. Everyone else thought it was fine, and of course, it was.
It Happens In All Vocal Situations
And this doesn’t only apply to singers. It applies to chat show hosts on TV, news readers, podcasters, and anyone speaking. The first time they hear themselves played back on a recording, the same thing happens.
There is a mixture of psychological and physical aspects thrown in together that make you feel insecure. For years, since you can remember, you thought you sounded a certain way. Now, you are confronted with a reality that you don’t.
Some definable reasons encourage us to dislike the way we sound. The sound that is different from what we are used to is one we have discussed. But then there is the psychological aspect because your voice makes you feel self-conscious.
Is It All You?
Hearing your voice come back through a speaker is something you are not used to. But, if the speakers are of poor quality, that could make it worse than it is. A further consideration is the quality of the mic you used for the recording. A cheap mic will usually give you a substandard performance. Too much in the way of high frequencies is often a problem. That isn’t going to help.
Whilst not strictly the reasons why your voice sounds different on a recording, they could have a slight effect. It is a mixture of the psychological and the physical, but it is the psychological aspect where the difference really is.
Getting The Best From Your Voice
It is going to help if you know that you have done everything you can to get as good a vocal sound as possible. Here are some simple suggestions:
- Record in a space where the acoustics are good for vocals.
- Use a good mic that has a track record for recording good vocals (I’ll look at that a little closer later).
- Make sure you use any ancillary equipment you need (e.g., pop filters).
- Use decent speakers for playback.
- Be prepared for whatever it is you are going to record; knowing your subject matter will give you confidence.
- Relax before you start to record.
You have been familiar with the sound of your voice up until this point. That is bred from just being used to it. The more you record and hear it in a playback situation, the better. Then you will get used to that ‘voice’ as well.
There Will Still Be A Difference
The voice you hear in your head and the playback version will always be different. You can’t avoid that. The key is to get used to and appreciate both voices.
If you are recording in a small studio, or better still, at home, you can take advantage of modern recording technology. Using a simple recording package at home, you can make multiple recordings. That will allow you to make comparisons on your performance.
Then you can play around with the sound, use some effects, and choose the one you like the best. That is a good way of getting used to how your voice sounds when recorded.
Use A Good Microphone
Let’s return to the subject of the microphone you use. To make your voice sound as good as it can be on a recording, you need to use good equipment. And the most important element of that is the mic.
As expected, you cannot get a good vocal sound from a poor mic, especially the mic that is built into your computer. You will find that the best recording studios use either a Condenser or a Dynamic microphone for vocals.
A Condenser mic is what you would use for more delicate and nuanced recording. A quieter voice, perhaps with high frequencies. Good for softer, more thoughtful vocals and also very good for the spoken word that may need emphasis.
The Condenser mic will capture emotion in the voice. Providing the voice isn’t too aggressive and does not have too much attack.
Often used for louder sounds. A powerful rock vocal, or even loud electric guitars and drums are recorded with Dynamic mics. If it is a loud performance, you will be better off with a Dynamic mic.
Of course, both Condenser and Dynamic mics have good, and shall we say, “not so good” options. I have listed a good option from both below.
These guidelines will also apply to narrations and the spoken word. Some people have naturally louder voices than others. That can have an impact on the finished recorded product if you choose an unsuitable microphone.
Depending on your budget, what you want to record, and how there are other options.
If you are doing voice-overs, podcasts, or other internet-based work, you might consider a desktop mic. The quality won’t be as impressive as a good Condenser or Dynamic mic, but they often cost a lot less.
They are usually USB mics and so will plug straight into your computer. Again, there’s an example at the end of the article.
Depending on what you plan to record, a Lavalier mic might be useful. Once again, you won’t get a “studio-level” performance for your voice. But, if you are recording outside on the move, they allow you to do that. Additionally, they are clip-on, so you don’t need a stand or any external help to support them.
Is Your Voice Deeper Than You Hear It?
If what you are talking about is deeper than what you hear within yourself, then the answer to that is, no, it isn’t. It will be at its deepest when you are hearing it yourself as you speak or sing, as I have already explained.
What you are hearing back through speakers or headphones it is a different question. You are hearing back what others hear. And that is what speakers and headphones will give you on playback. Minus, of course, any effects and ‘tweaking’ you give it. That voice hasn’t got the benefits of any internal vibrations and resonance being created within your head. And they play a big part in what you hear.
So, the answer to our initial question, “Is your voice deeper than you hear it?” is not straightforward. Your voice will sound deeper to you when you sing or speak than what will be played back through speakers. And, it will be deeper to you than what other people are hearing.
Is There A Problem With This?
The problem is in your own perception, as I discussed. What you hear on playback, what other people here, is not a sound you are used to. You don’t recognize it as you. But, if it has served you well this far, and no one has commented, then it must suit what you do.
Therefore, there is nothing to concern yourself with; it is just your own ‘idea’ of what you sound like. The more you listen to the playback version, the more accustomed you will become. You may even get to prefer your ‘other’ voice.
What If You ‘Really’ Don’t Like The Other You?
Are you stuck with it? To a certain extent, you are, but there are some things you could do if you really don’t like the sound.
You could try using a quality microphone, either Condenser or Dynamic. That could have an effect depending on the timbre of your voice. There is one of each listed at the end of the article.
Using The EQ
If you are using a recording package, it likely has an EQ built-in. You can make some slight adjustments to how deep your voice sounds. Although, these will not alter the pitch, just the sound of it.
Try To Learn To Sing Deeper
This may be possible for some. Just learn to pitch a little lower than you are used to. And while you are doing that, pay special attention to pronunciation.
A Pitch Shifter
You can get an effect called a Pitch Shifter. This will take your voice up or down in semitones. However, use it too much, especially at higher pitch intervals, and you will sound like a cartoon character.
Likewise, you can apply other effects that you will find in your music software. Effects like Reverb or Delay will change the sound of what you hear. Or try double-tracking it, i.e., record it twice and play them both together with one about two-thirds louder than the other (obviously, adjust it to taste to get the effect you are looking for). This is a common trick used by producers to make voices sound fuller and more emotional.
I have tried to keep them at or very near a certain price point. The first mic is one of the best all-around mics ever made. Not the very best vocally, but used by more people, in the studio and live, than you can count. An excellent mic at an excellent price is the Shure SM58LC Cardioid Dynamic Microphone.
A very good Condenser option is the Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone. If you want a tabletop mic, then the Blue Yeti USB Mic for Recording and Streaming on PC and Mac is a decent enough buy. It won’t have the quality of the first two we looked at, but useful in some circumstances.
And finally, if you decide you need a clip-on Lavalier, then the Rode Lavalier GO Professional-Grade Wearable Microphone is an excellent product.
Want to Know More About How You Sound?
Then take a look at our handy articles on Types of Vocal Timbre, Voice Types Explained, the Best Daily Vocal Exercises for Singers, Axl Rose’s Vocal Range, and the Best Vocal Range Test Apps and Websites for more information about vocals and singing.
Also, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Live Vocal Mics, the Best Microphones For Recording Vocals, the Best Dynamic Microphones, the Best Lavalier Microphones, the Best Condenser Microphones, the Best XLR Microphones, and the Best Computer Microphones you can buy in 2023.
Is Your Voice Deeper Than You Hear It? – The Bottom Line
Your voice is what you have. And while you can make some effort to change its sound, it is not going to be a dramatic change.
The more you record and playback, the more you will get used to your ‘playback’ voice. And as I said, given time, you may find that you prefer it.
Until next time, let yourself be heard.