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3 Reasons You Sound Bad When You Record Yourself Singing

Have you ever wondered why you sometimes sound bad when you record yourself singing?

(Especially when you sounded so good in the shower?)

Well, you’re not alone.

This is a super common issue amongst budding singers, who are recording themselves singing for the first time.

Hearing your own voice played back can be an uncomfortable experience, and one that singers usually get accustomed to over time.

However, you might be interested to learn that there are actually 3 distinct reasons why your singing voice sounds bad recorded:

Singers sometimes sound bad when they record themselves singing due either file compression, improper microphone technique or being unaccustomed to hearing their voice from a third person perspective. 

In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into each of these reasons, along with helpful tips on how to fix each one.

1. You’re Hearing It From A Second Person Perspective

As you’ve probably noticed:

Your voice can sound really different coming out of you than it does to someone else.

It’s easy to become all-too-accustomed to how your voice sounds when it’s coming out of your mouth, which is usually a little more bass-heavy and resonant than hearing it from a second person perspective:

Your voice gets resonance by traveling through your sinus cavities as you sing, which you’ll hear as it comes out of your mouth.

This gives a slightly false impression of the qualities of your singing voice when you’re hearing it from a first person perspective, which is why your voice sounds different on a recording. 

However, your recorded voice typically sounds higher than what you hear when you sing because you aren’t hearing that internal resonance. 

How To Fix It:

1. The Folder Method

Take two heavy folders or magazines and put them in front of your ears with them pointing out from the sides of your face.

These will act as sound sound deflectors and will stop you from hearing the false sense of resonance you’re used to, allowing you to hone your actual singing voice.

Practice scales or singing a song this way to see what you really sound like to others.

2. Practice Your Pitch

Many singers who claim to have a bad voice actually have a perfectly good voice:

The real issue they’re facing is bad pitch.

This becomes readily apparent on any type of recording:

As suggested in our in-depth guide on how to sing in key, it’s well worth practicing your pitch by using either a free app or an instrument for reference.

Bonus Tip: Run both your voice and an acoustic instrument through a powered speaker that is turned up so your speaker is louder than your internal hearing. This helps you hear yourself the way others do.

2. The File Is Overly-Compressed

Many file formats for recordings (notably MP3s) are seriously compressed. 

In some cases, the recording can be so compressed that it alters the tone of your voice:

Compression takes out some of the details (or color) of your voice and flattens the sound. Your voice loses the rich quality that makes it unique:

How To Fix It:

1. Relax

A lot of people get keyed up when they are recording themselves singing (when they’re otherwise relaxed during practice).

That can make for a terrible recording.

Try recording your singing while doing something else, like drawing or looking through a magazine to get your mind off the recording.

It may still be compressed, but it’ll have more color.

2. Invest In Some Recording Equipment

Use higher-quality recording equipment that doesn’t compress your voice. Standard recorders are okay for practicing, but you’ll need one with more clarity to get a true sound.

Work with recording equipment that has an equalizer so you can control things like bass and tone.

If you’re an amateur singer, all you’ll need to get started is:

  • A decent quality microphone. You can get a USB microphone that plugs straight into your laptop such as the TONOR USB Microphone, which goes for around $30 on Amazon.
  • Some recording software. A free program like Audacity will be fine to start, but eventually you’ll want to invest in a proper Digital Audio Workstation such as Studio One.

close up of condenser microphone

3. Poor Microphone Technique

Sometimes, the problem lies in the microphone you’re using:

Microphone positioning errors can alter the tone of your singing voice when played back:

  • If the microphone is too far away from your mouth, your voice will sound thin and reverberant.
  • If the microphone is too close to your mouth, it’ll sound bass-heavy and distorted.
  • If the microphone is obstructed, it’ll sound muffled or distorted.

 How To Fix It: 

1. Limit Reflections

Use blankets to dampen the walls or invest in an isolation shield such as this one to ensure the recording is as clear as possible.

2. Use The Right Microphone

Different microphones are built for different tones. Find the right one to fit your tone.

Three broad mic categories include:

  • Small-diaphragm condenser mics
  • Large-diaphragm condenser mics
  • Dynamic mics

The small diaphragm condensers feature slightly less bass, while the large diaphragm condenser mics are clean. Dynamic mics are more suited to louder, harsher sounding voices (i.e. rock or metal).

3. Stand The Right Distance From The Microphone

Standing close produces a warmer sound, while standing further away producing an airy sound.

In general, it’s best to stand around five inches from the mic to produce the best results. 

Closing Thoughts

If you sound bad when you record yourself singing, it’s more-than-likely due to you not being used to hearing it from a second person perspective. However, file compressions and mic placements can also play a significant role in a recording sounding bad.

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out our guide on why British singers sound American next?

About Author

I'm George; the founder of Indie Panda. I'm passionate about helping independent musicians realize the full potential of their talents and abilities through a strong work ethic, coherent project identity and a strong logistical foundation.