Why you should record yourself singing for faster growth.
Every time I record myself singing I'm amazed that what I think my voice sounds like is not really accurate. We can't hear the totality the sound when listening to our own voices unless we listen to a recording of our voices amplified through a sound system. What we hear is the external sound mixed with the sound resulting from sympathetic vibrations in our skull (kicked off from the vocal cords.)
One of the cool things about recording is that you get immediate feedback and can hear the complete sound of the voice. It's the external complete sound that our audience hears so shouldn't we know what it sounds like? If you aren't recording your singing on a regular basis I can guarantee that your progress will be much slower. By recording our voices we can listen back, make a more accurate judgement to identify what's lacking vocally from both a technical and artistic standpoint.
How we sing when practicing technical voice building exercises is usually different than when we're singing songs artistically. The nuances of how we tell the story and color the voice with our emotions need to be the main focus when "really singing." Recording allows us to hear how our voice behaves technically when singing from a creative, expressive, artistic place and let that point us to what technical work we need to do to improve. This is such a powerful way to take your singing to the next level! I truly believe that most singers will make more progress from recording, listening back, refining, in one day than by spending months practicing. I'm completely blown away by this every time I do it myself!
Here's an example; I recently recorded a rehearsal of myself singing "Imagine" by John Lennon.
The first day felt good and I was hearing some things that were working well, but also noticed that my low range sounded lighter than I thought. The main goal of recording the rehearsal was to prioritize "getting out of my head" technically and really focus on the artistic side. If we're always prioritizing technique it will be really hard to finish any music or perform. So I didn't switch gears and revert back to technique, that would have taken me away from what my main goal was.
What I did do was make a note to myself so that I could focus on exercises that spoke to what was lacking in my voice for the next day. For example; to activate a more firm low/chest voice I used exercises that would reinforce that coordination like the Vowel sound “a” (in “father” in most American and British accents,) and “a” (in “Cat” in American English.) So after warming up my voice and practicing my vocal exercises the second day I recorded another rehearsal of "Imagine" (you can hear the second day's rehearsal here.)
I could really hear that the exercises helped me sing with a better low voice than the previous day and that this was happening naturally as a result, rather than me consciously making my voice stronger. This is an important distinction for me because any time I'm trying to make my voice sound like something rather than let the emotion drive the sound I'm dissatisfied with the result when performing. I really believe it's because it's too much of a left brain conscious act rather that a right brain subconscious emotional process. Recording is like a microscope revealing every detail of our singing and just like a camera can tell when an actor doesn't really know their lines, the listener can also detect when a singer isn't fully present on an emotional level. Even if the listener can't quite put their finger on exactly what's missing they will feel intuitively something is missing.
After all, Vocal Technique should serve the Art not the other way around right? This can be a great way to work on vocal technique because it's based on going after what's lacking when singing artistically rather than from a purely mechanical standpoint. All singing exercises tend to reinforce specific things unique to that exercise like for instance; develop/encourage the low (chest) voice, higher notes ("mix" "head voice" falsetto") vocal cord closure, breath support, etc. Ultimately we need to both hear and feel our voices simultaneously and learn to trust that everything is sounding and functioning well. Learning to not only hear but also feel the voice when singing is a really important skill. One of my voice teachers Seth Riggs once said it's like learning to reverse our senses, to hear with our feeling and feel with our hearing.
Have you every performed on stage and had trouble hearing your voice because the band was too loud or other problems? I know I have! When you can't hear yourself singing there's a tendency for us to force the voice to be heard. Pitch problems and even straining the voice can occur from overcompensating. The more we know what the correct feeling is when singing, the less we need to rely on the sound and we can more easily navigate through situations like these without being thrown off.
It's also awesome to be able to trust that the high notes aren't as small sounding as they seem when hearing our voice in the room singing live without a sound system. This trust in both the feel and sound can really help to avoid overdoing things in an attempt to make the voice sound bigger by using extra muscles we don't need.
I suggest that singers work one on one with a knowledgeable voice teacher/vocal coach that has a solid understanding of how the voice really works and knows how to prescribe the right exercises for your individual needs. Start recording your singing to make the fastest progress possible and take your singing to the next level!
If you need assistance with your singing feel free to reach out to me with questions. If you're a vocalist ready to take singing to the next level and are in need of voice lessons I give singing lessons worldwide on Skype and teach in person sessions for vocalists in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can contact me directly here.) Happy Singing!