Every once in a while someone will ask, “Is it really possible to change my voice? Isn’t this just the voice I was born with?” Those are actually two different questions, and the answers are, “Yes,” to the first, and “No,” to the second.
It’s true that the character of your voice is, to some extent, determined by the physical structures of your body. One obvious example would be the length and thickness of your vocal folds. The size and shape of your mouth would be another determining factor, and there would be hundreds or even thousands of other physical variants.
Those physical traits do shape the sound of your voice and, short of having surgery, they’re not going to change. That’s the part of your voice you were born with. You’re never going to sound exactly like Morgan Freeman because you don’t have the same physical parts that he has. So you do start with what nature gave you.
But—big but—there’s a substantial element of your voice that’s learned and reinforced by the family into which you were born, the culture in which you grew up, the friends you hung out with in school or the working environment of your job. All these factors affect how your voice has developed over time and where it’s ended up today.
Many of those habits prevent your voice from being as good as it could be. For example, poor posture creates tension that affects the quality of your voice. Small, shallow breaths diminish the strength and stamina of your voice. A collapsed soft palate affects the tone and resonance of your voice—and those are just three examples.
There are dozens or even hundreds of other possibilities that could be mentioned, and changing these behaviours will make a noticeable difference in your voice.
A skilled musician can pick up a cheap instrument and make it sound amazing. That’s called technique, and you can develop technique to optimize your vocal instrument. It takes time and practice, just like it does to master a musical instrument, but progress and improvement are possible for anyone who puts forth the effort.
You might not have the same talent or raw material as Meryl Streep, but you can still sound remarkably good with the voice you’ve got.
I believe everyone can have a good voice, and by good voice I mean a voice that is strong, clear, resonant and expressive. You never know what potential is waiting to emerge until you learn some basic skills and cultivate them for a reasonable period of time. If you do that, I guarantee you will find a voice that sounds good, feels good and engages other people.
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