When I was at uni, I got a job as a DJ for our campus radio station. Over Christmas break they played back old shows to fill the time, and one morning I managed to actually tune into myself on the radio. It took me a few moments to realise that the person talking was me, and my first thought was a surprised “Oh no, do I really sound like that?”
I do. Truth be told, we all sound a little bit different to other people than we think we do.
Vocal coach Chris Beatty explains that the issue is we get a preview of what our voice sounds like coming up the side of our face, directly into our ears. Along with that comes some inner vibration in the ear and head. Put it all together, and that’s what we think we sound like. We’re wrong.
Obviously, you can record yourself on your phone or somewhere else and play it back to get a taste for how you sound, but if you want to actually adjust that sound, real-time feedback would be much better.
For that, Beatty suggests using two file folders (or magazines, or a few pieces of paper), and placing them in front of your ears, sticking out from the side of your head. That blocks the preview of sound coming up the side of your face.
Instead, the sound has to go in front of you and around the room, including its carpet and furniture, in order for you to hear it. That means you’re hearing what you actually sound like.