Vocal teachers hear it all the time. “I hate the sound of my voice”. Lately, I answer with “Welcome to the club”. (And then I sigh heavily because it is difficult to work with singers who can’t stand the sound their voices.) Usually, the student has a truly beautiful voice – a joy to listen to, and yet they hold back, make sad faces and complain. Sometimes, they accuse me of lying to them when I compliment the sound. Helping singers “make peace” with their voice is challenging.
It’s not just singers – Most people upon hearing their speaking voice from a recording are often shocked to hear what they sound like. This quick little video from Business Insider does a great job of explaining why this is. I have been sharing this with my students and it has been very helpful.
I encourage singers to record themselves and listen back to the results. Try this:
1. Record their speaking voice. Ask them to read a short paragraph aloud as if to an audience, and then listen back together. Discuss the sound, speed, quality,clarity, tone of the sound of their voice. Make them comment on what they do like. If they can’t find anything good, offer your opinion. This is a great exercise. If they don’t like their speaking voice – They aren’t going to be thrilled with their singing voices either. (I make all students introduce themselves and their songs at recitals so this exercises goes a long way in preparing them for a performance.)
2. Record performances audio only in their lessons. Often. Again, make them listen back. A lot of singers won’t do this without some encouragement (or force). Always ask them to find the good things – no matter how small. Encourage them to be kind to themselves.
3. Do not allow students to put themselves down. I have a “no negative self- talk” policy in my studio. Those unkind words that students (of all ages) say about themselves – even in jest – slowly chip away at their confidence. Those unkind words will burden them down to the point where you won’t be able to help them.
4. Encourage families to be kind. Siblings and parents need to be supportive at all times. Even a little teasing can destroy the student’s confidence and make practising at home impossible. Singers need private practices spaces where they feel safe to sing without being heard. You might need to ask parents to give the singer some space.
5. Encourage singers and families not to compare themselves to others. Every voice is wonderfully unique. I always remind the audience at a student recital to refrain from comparing or judging the singers – They are all at different levels and they all have a unique instrument. I ask everyone to open their ears and listen for the wonderful moments in a song rather than look for the weaknesses.
Any other suggestions about how you help your singing students “make peace” with their voices is welcome below!