I don't know any singer who hasn't struggled with how they sound at one time or another. Indeed, insecurity and self-judgment seem to be a big part of the package for singers. It's so interesting, isn't it? That something that supplies so much joy can also be a source of so much inner turmoil? Alas, at least a part of my job as a singing teacher is helping clients to accurately analyze their singing, and to learn to do it in a way that is more objective and less judgmental. That's hard.
And it may sound overly simplistic, but one solution could be embracing making weird noises in the voice lesson. Hijleh and Pinto state in their excellent article on SOVTEs from 2021 that a benefit of using SOVTEs is the muted sound that a singer makes. Since the voice sounds weird, or at least very different from their normal sound, it can help a singer to focus less on the sound and more on the kinesthetic feedback.
Our experience of the sounds we make can change based on the acoustics of the spaces we are in, and so our ears are not the most reliable source of feedback. The sensations we experience, however, are more likely to be the same regardless of the environment we are in. And so helping singers to experience, analyze, and reproduce sensations has been a more reliable training strategy in my studio.
Some of the ways I do this is encouraging singers to purposefully make very strange noises. Sometimes I suggest those sound, like overly nasal vowels, duck calls, imitating cartoon characters, etc., and sometimes I ask the singers to decide on a sound they'd like to explore. Then we talk about how it feels. The more sensory descriptors they have in their lexicon, I find the bigger the toolbox they can pull from when they are exploring the kind of singing sound they want to make. If there is a particular sound we're after, we can think about what makes up that kind of sound, how it might feel, and try to reproduce that sensation. Then we analyze, try again, and analyze again. It's a continual process of experimentation until we find the right sensory fit. Then, after we've found the target sensation, we practice it lots of times to reinforce it.
It's not always an instantaneous process. In fact, it can take a long time. The long, slow kind of learning is almost always the kind that really sticks, though.
Additionally, this kind of exploration, and vulnerability to be weird in front of another person, can take more time for some folks than for others. The singer gets to set the pace. I also have found that by demonstrating how different sounds can lead to a desirable outcome can help them understand the process and be more willing to dive on in. I never ask my clients to do something that I am not willing to do first.
I also think it is important to remember that not everything we do in the singing lesson has to be a means to an end. Maybe the overly woofy sounds you are making are just for fun and exploration. They don't always have to be related directly to a vocal technique. It is enough to explore and embrace the wide vocal colors available to us, and to marvel at all the sounds we can make. It is quite something! Fun can be a worthwhile goal, and it is enough.
What kinds of sounds do you create in your own studio? What sounds would you introduce if fun were the only goal? Try some things, and let me know how it works out!
Hijleh, K. and Pinto, C. (2021). "Realizing the Benefits of SOVTEs: A Reflection on the Research." Journal of Singing, 77(3), 333-344.