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Performance Corner: Your Unique Voice



I am so excited to talk about today's topic!

Actors and Singers, for you especially, this will be a very interesting thing. However, for anyone with vocal cords and a metaphorical voice, this should interest you, too.

So many of my students come to me thinking their voice is inferior, it doesn't matter how new or experienced they are, almost everyone has the very trendy term "imposter syndrome" surrounding their voice. I hear students and colleagues talk about how they feel their voice "isn't good" or "sounds bad" or they "don't like the sound of their own voice". Basically, imposter syndrome mixed with a misunderstanding of how our instrument works with the rest of our body. I often tell my students to stop listening to themselves as they sing or speak and start to FEEL what their body feels like as they sing or speak, both physiologically and emotionally. It helps them get out of their own head and it brings them into the present moment so they are actively aware of what their instrument is doing.

Think of it this way, when you play the piano, you can see the keys. You can feel the keys with your fingertips. And the piano functions in the same way when you do things to it, like pressing down the key.

Our voices are similar to other instruments, but because we cannot see them, and because they are attached to the function of our brain and muscles, it can be harder to understand how they work and how to manage the sounds that come out of us.

Especially in the arts, but really in life in general, we start to compare our unique sound with those of others, not realizing that there is no way we could ever sound exactly like anyone else.

This leads to a complex about our own voice and how it must be inferior to others because we can't hit that note or say that word in the same way someone else did, or even in the same way we did on a different day.

And that complex in turn leads people to believe their voice is bad, doesn't sound good, or is not worth being heard.


I'm here to tell you, these thoughts and feelings are normal and this is all just anxiety trying to tell you you're not good enough. The thing is, we all have that little voice inside that tries to convince us that we are not good enough. It uses supposed "facts" to try to present the case that our sound is not worth hearing. But this couldn't be farther from the truth.


Because your voice is YOUR voice.


No one else can ever sound like you, ever.


Your sound is unique to the fabric of the universe and is worth hearing.


There are many, many factors that go into creating your unique sound.


There's the physiological aspect: the size and shape of your actual body and instrument make a huge difference in your sound. From the size of your larynx to the length of your vocal folds, to the space in your sinuses and other resonators. Hormones play a HUGE role in your sound, too.


Your environment, both physical and emotional, also makes a big difference in the sounds you produce. Has anyone ever experienced allergies? That post-nasal drip can have massive impacts on the inflammation in your sinuses and throat, which affects your sound.

What about when you are having a stressful day? Ever notice that notes and words seem to be harder to hit or remember when you aren't feeling your emotional best?

And how about external factors? Hydration, caffeinated drinks, the food you eat, the humidity level in the air, all of these things affect your body, which houses your instrument. Of course you're going to feel different when these things change.


Messages from your brain also absolutely affect your voice. Neurons are constantly firing little messages to the muscles. Emotions and what's going on in your environment can affect these messages. This in turn affects how your sound will come out. The cool thing about these things, especially the emotions, is you can learn to control them so that you are creating the sound you want to come out with a specific emotion.


Just like any other muscle, your voice can strengthen and grow, or atrophy and weaken based on how you use it or what environmental factors are around you. This is why taking lessons in singing, acting, or speech can help you gain confidence in both your singing and speaking voice. Performing can also help you gain confidence and work out your vocal muscles.


But the most important thing to remember is, your voice is YOURS. It is as unique as a fingerprint. So no matter how you use it, understand that you are in the driver's seat when it comes to creating the sounds you make. And since this sound is unique to YOU, that makes you and your voice very, very special. Remember that the next time you hear a recording of yourself and feel like beating yourself up because you don't sound like your favorite singer. You can't ever sound like them, but they could never sound like you either. And that, my friends, is pretty cool, I think.


And just to re-enforce the science behind all of this, take a look at this video:




That's all for now!


In the meantime, what are three things you notice about your voice that make you unique? You can leave your answer in the comments section below.

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