“What’s Tin is Gold”


My teacher in college, Janice McVeigh, used to say this to me every once in a while. You may ask what on earth does this have to do with singing? The answer is actually a lot! This single concept can transform your voice and mind!

What she means is that you have to be careful not to listen to yourself too much while you are singing! As singers, we want to know if everything is sounding good while we are performing, and so we naturally start to evaluate our singing as it is happening. In excess, this tendency not only takes away from the overall genuine nature of the performance, but it is also actually bad for the quality of your sound.

Bone Resonance Vs. Air Resonance

The sound you hear inside your head is different from what people hear outside of your head. Ever listened to yourself talk in a recording and got tripped out because your voice doesn’t sound like how you thought it should sound? There is a scientific reason for this, and it is “just in your head,” but not in the way you may think!

When we listen to ourselves speak on a day-to-day basis, we are mostly hearing the resonance produced by the bones in our skull. Other people, however, are hearing your voice from resonance produced by the air around them. This is simply because our ears are so close to our skull that the vibration internally reaches our ears from within way before we hear any external feedback.

Try a simple experiment and place the tips of your fingers close to the outside of your ear. Then angle your palms down to your mouth and say “hello”. In this way, you are creating a place for the air resonance to reflect back into your ear more quickly. This will take some adjusting to get right, but you will know when you have got it, because your voice will sound amplified and perhaps more alive! Try taking your hands away and saying “hello” again, and note the difference.

So how does this relate to the concept “What’s tin is gold”? The answer is this; if you listen too much to bone resonance, the sound will fall flat in air resonance. Essentially the sound will get trapped inside you, and while it may sound like gold in your head, it sounds lack luster and flat in pitch to everybody else listening. This is part of the reason why some people think they are great singers, but get confused when everybody tells them they don’t sound good. They often say “Fool, I know I sound good,” and we all know they don’t and sometimes wonder if they are delusional. Maybe we shouldn’t make fun of them, but actually help them get out of their own heads!

In contrast, if you sing more by feeling then your sound will improve and come back to life. Since you can’t mute the vibration of bone resonance in your skull and ear, good resonant singing will have a tin-like buzzing sound in your head. This means that the powerful bone resonance you are creating in your skull will hit the air resonance and blossom into a full lively sound. That good, natural feeling is what is transmitted to others through sound and I find it important to remind yourself that singing, if you are doing it for an audience, is for others, not yourself. Nevertheless, it’s amazing how anxiety, fear, and self-absorbedness can creep into your voice if you are not careful to root it out.


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