Do famous people hate their own voice?
February 20, 2008 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Do people who hear their own voice all the time (famous people, presidential candidates, singers, James Earl Jones) think that their voices sound odd?

I know that I'm not a fan of listening to my recorded voice, and maybe if I heard it all the time, I'd get used to it. But would I like and enjoy it or would hearing my voice just continue to feel uncomfortable?
posted by madh to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've been recording and playing back my own voice for a while now, and have gotten used to it, but once in a while it sounds darned strange to me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:37 PM on February 20, 2008

Just my personal experience: I generally hate the sound of my own voice. However, during a period of my life where I did a fair amount of public performances, and watched tapes of myself, I got used to it and it didn't bother me in the least. Now that I haven't done that for a long time, whenever I do hear myself on a video or other recording I hate it!

Some people never get used to it. Along the same lines, it's not unusual to hear of well known actors who never watch their own movies for the same reason.
posted by The Deej at 4:42 PM on February 20, 2008

Anecdotally, doing radio shows for three years (and listening to them on tape), I noticed that my reacation to hearing my own recorded voice gradually ratcheted down from "Oh my god, THAT'S my voice?!" to "Oh hey, I don't sound that bad at all, I guess."

Your experiences may vary. James Early Jones' experiences almost certainly vary.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:46 PM on February 20, 2008

James Earl Jones is somewhat famous as someone who is a stutterer. One stuttering treatment involves having one's own voice played back into one's ears, with a slight delay; I don't know whether he ever had that treatment, but I can tell you that stutterers are acutely conscious of the sound of their own voice.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:55 PM on February 20, 2008

ikkyu2: My boyfriend's a stutterer and he's not that conscious of the sound of his voice. Only when it's played back, but no-time else.

I would think that if your work involves a lot of speaking/singing, you'd just get used to your voice after a while. not completely that you get complacent, but after a while it stops weirding you out.
posted by divabat at 5:16 PM on February 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've worked with a lot of celebs and most of them are used to the sound of their own voice.

I've done a fair bit of voice-over work myself and it stops bothering you very quickly.
posted by unSane at 5:20 PM on February 20, 2008

I've worked and played in radio for over 30 years, after the first week I was over it. Most people seem to get used to it fairly quickly.
posted by Floydd at 5:23 PM on February 20, 2008

This article talks about both George Martin taking lessons to get rid of his accent and (something I've heard from him in a number of places) about how John Lennon hated his own voice.
posted by stefnet at 6:05 PM on February 20, 2008

This is an oddity of everybody I think. Both of my kids, the first time hearing their voice (and recognizing it as themselves) asked if that was really them. This being the case, I don't think that anyone is aware of what they sound like when they are talking. Over about the last six months though, of watching themselves and hearing their voices on video, neither of them find it odd anymore.

Also, after this self realization, they started doing weird inflections of their voice on the camera-- both eager to hear what it sounded like. It will be interesting to see if they notice when their voices change as the years go by. My bet is, the more you hear yourself, the more you are going to be comfortable with it. As for enjoying it... maybe-- if there is some narcism equivalent of the love of one's voice.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:01 PM on February 20, 2008

I can't speak for famous people, but I finally got used to the sound of my voice. For most of my life, I remember thinking I sounded whiny and smart-assy. Recently, while watching a videotape of myself teaching, I realized that I don't sound whiny to myself anymore (while teaching, there's a lot less ass in my smarts too, but that only seems to be true when I'm with students (and thus talking out of the proper orifice)). I only hear my voice outside of my own head every now and then, but it was enough that I was eventually able to develop a mental filter that makes the voice I hear while I'm talking sound more like the voice I hear in recordings. There was a period when this made me wince at myself constantly, but I got used to the imaginary version of the sound of myself talking, and now it doesn't bother me at all to hear what I actually sound like on recordings.

I guess what I'm saying is that if I can do it, then I'm sure many celebrities have as well.
posted by ErWenn at 8:42 PM on February 20, 2008

As a radio host, I can say that for a year or two it sounded weird, and now it doesn't, really.
posted by YoungAmerican at 9:14 PM on February 20, 2008

I've only just recently realized that "snapshot" recording equipment or a lack of a well-tuned (a rarity) subwoofer is not a very good reproduction of my voice, as heard by other people.

I sound awful from tiny mics or tinny speakers but I think that I can finally stand my recorded voice when it's recorded by a quality mic and replayed by a well-tuned system.
posted by porpoise at 9:19 PM on February 20, 2008

As a radio host, I can say that for a year or two it sounded weird, and now it doesn't, really.
posted by YoungAmerican

I've been listening to your voice for hours a day at work lately. (Catching up the backlog of podcasts.) I think you have a great radio voice. Natural, nice tonal range, relaxing...

So, if it took you a year or two to get over sounding weird to yourself... I think that cements the answer.
posted by The Deej at 9:51 PM on February 20, 2008

I did a radio show for years, and I got over the 'my voice sounds odd' thing in a week or two. What I found most uncomfortable, even after years, was sounding exactly like my mother.
posted by goo at 1:39 AM on February 21, 2008

Yep, I spent a year on the radio, hearing myself every day. The first few times were dreadful, then it became part of the wallpaper and sounded fine. That was mostly just because I got used to it, but also partly because my delivery improved so I sounded less like an out of breath squirrel on helium.
posted by penguin pie at 3:48 AM on February 21, 2008

I used to sound like my mother too, goo. This is very frustrating for a male 15-19 year old. People would mistake me for her on the phone all the time. Now that it wouldn't bother me as much, my voice seems to have gotten more masculine. I've been told that this is common for teenage boys. I wonder how much we grow out of that biologically, and how much of the change is culturally induced. There's definitely at least some component of cultural influence (ask anyone in a heterosexual relationship who's learned Japanese from their significant other how often they get laughed at when they talk to native speakers (and it's not just word-choice)), but I don't know what cultural influences there are post-puberty.

To bring this back to almost-on-topic: Wayne Newton also had the problem of sounding like a woman in his early recordings (I only recently discovered that he was already 21 years old when he recorded "Danke Schoen"), so he consciously made an effort to change that.
posted by ErWenn at 6:37 AM on February 21, 2008

As a kid/teenager/etc, I used to hate hearing myself on tape.

When I got to do postgrad work in music college, I started recording my singing lessons (more for the sake of the techer's words than my own voice.) These days I record most of my performances.

I still feel a bit nervous before I hit "play", especially since I'm listening to figure out what I can do better. But I make a point of also finding positive things to say to myself about it. ("Hey, cool! I sound like a real actual singer who knows what she's doing! WTF?")

I heard that an interviewer once asked Leontyne Price how she felt about hearing her own voice on her many recordings. She answered: "I love it." "Really?" "Well, if I don't love it I can't expect anyone else to, can I?"
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:58 AM on February 21, 2008

Thanks for the interesting responses.
posted by madh at 6:18 PM on February 21, 2008

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