How Do I Find My Authentic Voice?
One of the questions that seems to have been cropping up a lot lately is "How can I find my own unique voice?" It's an exciting topic to write about because wanting to be authentic to who you are is AWESOME.
So in this post I'm talking about the challenges we face when discovering our individual voice and a few tips and ideas to test out to get you well on your way to singing with authenticity.
Disliking your voice from the word GO.
The first hurdle is to overcome the common dislike for your own voice in your initial attempt. I often see singers push their voices into something they hear as "better" because they don't like what they hear first off.
A better approach is to identify what elements you don't like and then figure out what you can change or improve on technically to get closer to what you want.
For example, if you want more strength you'd look at your breath control and support. If you're after more brightness you might try lifting the soft palate and changing the vowel shape slightly.
Too often we label our voice as "awful" (check out this post if this sounds like you) rather than seeing the lovely characteristics that come naturally and building on those that may need fine tuning.
Imitating other singers.
The next challenge we face is imitation. Many of us consider the recorded version of a song to be the "right way" with the "right tone" as the only way it should be sung.
We then tend to control our voices so that they fit in a very specific box which sometimes doesn't suit our voice or is a step beyond where we're at in our learning (which can lead to strain and frustration).
Don't get me wrong, imitating other singers isn't all bad. I've had students who have learned a lot about their voices and what they can do with them through replicating the sounds they hear others make.
Keep in mind though that using it as a tool to experiment and be curious is different from labelling one sound as right and all others as wrong.
If you find yourself imitating a lot, I've found that listening to plenty of cover versions of the song you're working on can be useful, to give you a variety of tones to associate with it. Otherwise singing without the artist (either a cappella, with a backing track or with a live instrument) and concentrating on letting your voice come out with ease can help.
Overwhelmed by the options.
The final hurdle can be feeling overwhelmed with the multitude of choices you have. Your voice is pretty incredible and can create a huge range of sounds and colours, so which one is your authentic voice?
They all are my dear.
Embrace your versatility as an artist. Play. Experiment. You'll eventually find one that you enjoy using more than the rest or maybe a selection that you love.
Exploring a range of styles can be a great way to dabble in different tone colours.
Recording yourself and listening (constructively) to each phrase of a song to analyse what sections you enjoy most and why is a great idea. Stick to using adjectives to describe what sounds you like best and start to figure out how you can use these more consistently.
Warm, rich, dark, bright, breathy, strong and light are some ideas to get you started.
Finding your authentic voice takes time and a sense of curiousity. You might find that what you love singing and the tones you like change over time. You may be a jazz nerd who loves a husky tone who then swings into getting excited about a clear, bright musical theatre type sound down the track.
You are constantly changing and your taste will change too. Go with it.