"Like most things I begrudge, I needed a kick in the butt..."
Here is my gift to you: my most loving 'kick to the butt.'
Early in my undergraduate career, much to my chagrin, I began recording my voice lessons upon request of my teacher. Back then, I had a rather “dumb” phone, so I purchased a Zoom recorder and an SD card. I would walk into the lesson room, pop on the recorder, leave it on the desk, and turn it off at the conclusion of the lesson. I didn’t listen to many of the early recordings because I thought I sounded… strange. I was uncomfortable listening to myself sing, let alone talk!
Let’s pause for a moment… There is one HUGE caveat to this blog and my recommendations. Dysphoria is real and can be triggered by listening to recordings of yourself. Dear reader, please know that I’m not about to advocate for kicking yourself in the butt if you are experiencing dysphoria. Talk with your teacher and come up with a plan. A plan might be to record just a few of the exercises. A plan might be for your teacher to listen to and assess your recordings and then give you their assessments. A plan might be to listen to the recordings together, listening specifically for the technical aspects you are working on. Ok, unpause.
Like most things I begrudge, I needed a kick in the butt, which I gave to myself. I started listening to the recordings, all of the recordings. It’s still awkward to listen to myself speak, but it’s much less so now than it was in the beginning. As with any sound (or song, or voice, or idea), it becomes familiar with time, and we become more comfortable with it.
The more complex journey than the mere-exposure effect is one of acceptance. It’s taken years… YEARS… for me to be able to listen to myself sing or speak and think “yeah, that’s pretty good.” Our slogan at The Voice Lab is “love your voice.” That’s a complex invitation because our whole identities are wrapped up in our voice - our literal voice and our figurative voice. Through our work in music, we hope that you can come to a place of self-acceptance.
But, we’re here to talk about recording your lessons… so let’s keep going!
Here’s a New York Times article about why we hear our voices differently than everyone else. (In other words: You hear the sound vibrations through your muscles and skull, which gives it different qualities!)
Once I got over the hurdle of “awkward”, I understood a few reasons why recording lessons (and this goes for any kind of rehearsal, too) is a MUST.
Alternatively, and/or when we return to in-person lessons, you can record right on your cell phone! It’s hard to find a non-smart phone these days, and because of this, I’m willing to bet that your cell phone has a “voice recorder” or “voice memo” app pre-installed. If you still prefer to separate the recorder from your phone, then there are a number of accessible recorders ranging from $20 - $100 and beyond. I mentioned Zoom (different company, same name) earlier–I’m a big fan of their recording devices. You can find an entry-level recorder of theirs around $100.
Whichever recording tool you prefer, start recording your lessons and reap the benefits.
This blog was originally published July 2018. It was updated and republished April 2021.
We believe in combining technical and pedagogical expertise with a deep love of voice and singing. At The Voice Lab in Chicago, our teachers bring a diverse singing and voice care background ranging from operatic to pop, language studies, songwriting, and voice science research.