It's all in your head


I think I have a wonderful singing voice. But my so-called friends tell me differently. I didn�t believe them until one day I tape-recorded myself and played it back. I couldn't believe that squeaky voice on the tape was really me. How can my voice sound so good when I hear myself sing live and sound like Minnie Mouse when I hear it on the tape?

Martha, San Diego

If I seem to be calling you a bonehead, Martha, don't take offense. But it's the bones in your head that create the auditory illusion that you're the second coming of Marlena Dietrich, while the only voice your friends can hear is Betty Boop's.

When you launch into, say, The Star Spangled Banner, your vocal cords vibrate a column of air at different frequencies to create the various notes, the higher the frequency, the higher the note. The vibrating air spews out of your mouth and strikes your so-called friends� eardrums, and they can hear the sound you've produced. At the same time, you're haring the vibrating air, you (and only you) are hearing your vibrating skull bones. (When you get to the "rockets' red glare" part, the bony plates in your head are expanding and contracting like accordions gone wild.) The vibrating bones act on your own ear much as the vibrating air acts on the audience's ear drums. And since the bone-conducted frequencies are lower than the air-conducted sound, your own voice sounds slightly deeper to you than to your audience. This illusion is enhanced because you hear the bone sound a split-second before you hear your own air-conducted voice, which adds a certain richness to the sound (as you perceive it). Unless you can figure some way to amplify and broadcast your skull vibrations, I'm afraid your friend will never know how wonderful you really are.

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