What Makes Some Voices More Pleasing Than Others?

When you hear certain voices, the sound may be pleasing or bothersome to your ears. It's hard to know what makes a voice sound pleasant to one set of ears and irritating to another, but a researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is working to figure it out. Learn more about what you can do to improve your voice's sound and make it more appealing to a mass audience when you're recording during your next audio session.


Analyzing Acoustic Characteristics

The researcher, Grant McGuire, asked participants in his audiology research study to listen to 60 audio recordings of people talking. After listening to each person's voice, the volunteers rated their attractiveness. Although McGuire didn't establish what made a person's voice attractive, both the male and female participants agreed that certain voices sounded more appealing than others.

The key differentiators among study participants included voices that sounded creaky, which ranked lower on the attractiveness scale, and the vocal tract size of males. Raspy or rattly voices weren't heard as attractive, while breathier voices were more appealing. The second differentiator referred to the distance between the mouth and vocal folds of a male. Longer vocal tracts result in unique resonances that listeners find attractive. Additionally, study participants tended to favor people who spoke similar dialects.

Vocal Cord Elasticity

A more recent study included the recordings of 16 male radio broadcasters, announcers, voiceover artists, and newsreaders. A speech pathologist from the University of Sydney analyzed the findings, noting that the speakers had more elastic vocal cords than others. Study participants indicated that the sound resulting from vocal cords that close more quickly is emotive, warm, powerful, authoritative, and resonant. Researchers placed cameras into the mouth to record the vibrations of the radio personalities' vocal cords and found that the closing phase moved faster than the opening phase.

Improving Your Own Voice

Although some elements of your voice are beyond your control, you can make a few changes to improve the overall sound quality when you speak. If you smoke or drink, you may find that your voice sounds creaky or raspy, so avoid these activities when you want your voice to sound better. Maintaining good posture can also improve the strength and clarity of your voice, so stand or sit up straight when recording.

The recording space also plays a role in the final product. Proper microphone placement is essential, as having it too far away can make your voice sound weak, while having it too close to your mouth might cause muffling. Keep your microphone 10 to 12 inches from your mouth, and consider using a pop filter, especially if you're a voice actor or creating an important audio recording.

When you think about some of the most famous voices in the world, you might consider what makes them stand out. James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” trilogy and other well-known characters, has an authoritative and deep voice. Mel Blanc voiced Bugs Bunny and many other characters on “Looney Tunes” for nearly four decades. These voices all stand out, and you can also make your voice stand out. You can create professional and appealing audio recordings with the right recording space and equipment.

Are you considering recording an audiobook, becoming a voiceover actor, or hosting a podcast or radio show?  Don't take another step without talking with our team of experts.  We'll make you look -- and SOUND -- your very best.

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