Friday, August 9, 2013

Good grief! Is THAT what I sound like?

Why does your voice sound so weird on recordings?
I remember the first time I heard myself on a tape recorder.  Somewhere back in my adolescence my big sister and I and some friends had the momentary use of their dad’s machine. One of those suitcase-sized reel-to-reel jobs.
All being blessed with a dramatic bent, we decided to produce a radio show. It was a Dragnet-style mystery (entitled “Killnet”) where a major movie star at a big Hollywood party gets murdered. Well, my scream won the audition for the opener, but I also scored a bit of dialog.  When we played back our proud creation I was horrified. That’s what I sound like? I was Ricky Nelson from Ozzie and Harriet, for heaven’s sake. Before his voice changed, that is.
Later, out of college with my voice radio-ready for real, I still sounded like a pre-teen boy in the announce booth. Flashing forward to middle age recording automated attendants for AT&T, it seemed the phenomenon prevailed. But obviously I wouldn’t be getting voice work if that’s the way I really sounded.

So why does your voice sound so weird on recordings? There’s a scientific explanation, but the upshot is – it doesn’t.
Your inner ear plays tricks on you, see. It not only sends you the sound vibrations coming out of your mouth, but the vibrations traveling through your bones as your vocal chords move. According to Amanda Green and Matt Soniak in 25 of Your Most Pressing Questions Answered, “This combination of pathways enhances certain vibrations, lending your voice a fuller, more resonant quality that ‘air only’ recordings don’t replicate.” Not sure I follow, but thank goodness we don’t sound so bad to other people’s inner ears!
(Quoted article from fall issue of mental_floss)

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