Not Listening To Yourself

It is a common premise in classical vocal training to be told “don’t listen to yourself” or “you can’t hear yourself like others do” so don’t try to hear yourself at all. Students are ENCOURAGED to pay no attention to the sounds they make.


There are many studies in Speech Language Pathology that show definitively that when a subject’s ears are blocked using “white noise” they cannot control their voices or pitch, in fact, they can’t control very much of anything at all. Is this a surprise? Deaf people who learn to speak through bone conduction and/or mouth reading do not sound like hearing people sound and they do not sing. DEAF PEOPLE DO NOT SING.

Yet, recently, I had someone (a teacher) strongly disagree with me on this point because she had attended a seminar on singing in which the presenters “proved” that you cannot hear yourself and that it is not good to try to listen. That is like saying, “When you look into the mirror, don’t see yourself.” Huh?

Listening is a KEY ingredient in singing and learning to hear yourself objectively is crucial to sounding good. Luciano Pavarotti says in his first biography that he loved the sound of his voice. I guess so. If I had sounded as good as he, I would have never listened to anyone else!!! It wasn’t a narcissistic statement, “I love my voice but only my voice and not anyone else’s”. It wasn’t a statement that said “The only time I am happy is when I am listening to myself”. THAT would be not good. Making a sound that you are happy to make, however, is part of why good singers can stand up in front of an audience and confidently open their mouths in the first place. If you are ashamed of your dirty clothes, your messy hair, your beat up shoes, and do not know how to present yourself to the world, surely you would not feel confident walking down a fashion runway. If you hear something coming out of your mouth that sounds screechy, garbled, unpleasant, and is unreliable, why, if you were a normal, functional person, would you want to stand up in front of others to sing? But if you know you look OK or sound OK wouldn’t it be more possible to have confidence in that and share yourself or your sound with others? Seems like common sense to me, but clearly that is not the case with the folks who are the “do not listen to yourselfers”. I put them alongside the same rocket scientists who think Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii and the folks who think that W was a good president.

Try not listening to yourself tomorrow as you converse with someone. Let me know what you didn’t hear.

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One thought on “Not Listening To Yourself”

  1. Lovetri said “I put them alongside the same rocket scientists who think Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii and the folks who think that W was a good president.”

    And for this, I love you even more!


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