No two voices are exactly alike (that is of course, if we take out vocal imitators). When speaking of the attributes to a persons unique vocal sound, one portion is considered genetic, while the other portion is learned. Your vocal instrument is unique to you, it is your body. Some physical elements are flexible, some aren’t. A trained singer can manipulate the vocal tract, for example, to change his or her vocal sound.
Every characteristic of vocal quality has its opposite polarities and their may be some of these elements that you hear in your voice, some you may like, and perhaps some that you would like to work on or develop.
By simply paying more attention to the patterns of your voice and becoming more aware of vocal characteristics in general, you will be able to enhance your voice by having a clear intention of where to direct your efforts.
This sounds like an easy task at first; simply listen for different vocal characteristics! But the truth is that although we can easily describe what a person looks like to us (tall, dark, bald, …), we are not used to describing vocal qualities outside of the voice lesson, and so the right vocabulary may not be at our disposition right away. Not only that, but experts often disagree about exact descriptions of vocal qualities, which does not help us either.
In his book called “Sound Medicine”, Wayne Perry gives a short, straight forward list of characteristics for defining vocal quality that I would like to share with you.
Try to notice where your voice lies within each of the following:
Timbre (Tonal Color): Full, strong, bright, and energetic, or thin, weak, dull, and lifeless.
Texture: Resonant, smooth, and clear, or cracking, rough, and raspy.
Volume: Well-modulated, appropriate, and easily adaptable, or too soft or loud, inappropriate, and not easily adaptable.
Enunciation: Distinct, clearly articulated, and with appropriate emphasis, or slurred, poorly articulated, and with inappropriate emphasis.
Delivery: Natural, unforced, relaxed, and open, or strained, forced, constricted, and blocked.
Flow: Evenly paced, fully integrated, appropriated dynamics, and good resolution, or erratically paced, words run together, starts or stops abruptly, and trails off.
Attitude/Spirit: Enthusiastic yet calm, confident, self-loving, and appealing, or repressed, nervous, fearful, and repelling.
The best way to evaluate your vocal quality is to record your speaking and singing voice and then listen with an open mind to take note of the strong characteristics heard in your voice and then ask yourself if there are qualities that are more pleasing to your ears than others.
There is a great deal you can do by simply listening to your voice, making tiny adjustments and listening again for improvements. You could also try listening to other voices and see if you can come up with a list of characteristics to describe each person’s vocal quality.
Of course, there is a long list of other characteristics that could also be used here, such as hypo nasal, breathy, hoarse, … but the list above is a good, simple basis to start with. Remember that a change in emotion will surely change the sound quality of the voice so this must also be taken into account.
A good, knowledgeable voice teacher can help you out when you need a second pair of ears as well as a list of appropriate exercises to help you achieve your vocal goals as there are many things a singer can do to manipulate his or her vocal sound like, for example, changing the contours of the vocal tract to improve the sound coming out. These types of tips, tricks and exercises can also be found in the singg.tv training program called “Mastering the Voice” (refer to lessons #5, 6, & 8).
Just remember that when it comes to pitch, a singers’ natural pitch range is the healthiest as trying to speak or sing higher or lower than what is comfortable for you simply because that is what seems to be popular at the moment, is not the right approach. Although character roles for singers will often demand adjustments and changes in ones singing approach, finding and respecting ones own unique voice is most often the healthiest route to take, and the most rewarding as well.