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I have always struggled from having a quiet voice, both singing and talking, but have no easy way to measure my singing volume objectively - I know when I was in a singing group for fun I had to be turned up a lot higher than everyone else.

It's only a very approximate test but today I used a decibel meter app on my phone, holding it at arm's reach in front of me and singing notes on a scale.

But then I have no idea how others would compare. Is there a good way I can measure myself and see how my volume compares to a typical singer, similar to how I can measure my vocal range?

  • There are techniques to improve your volume: music.stackexchange.com/questions/10992/…. I think there are indeed proper and improper techniques to be louder that can be learned. I think they missed some, but I am no expert there. They also give some alternative thoughts about amplification. – amalgamate Feb 5 '15 at 18:04
  • Interesting but without knowing how quiet I am to begin with... I mean I'm sure I'm quiet but not if I'm so quiet it's a problem. – Mr. Boy Feb 5 '15 at 18:06
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    Its hard to be your own judge on something like this, a vocal teacher should be able to point you in the right direction. But yeah, I know it is a tangent that I suggest. – amalgamate Feb 5 '15 at 18:06
  • Also A teacher will help prevent you from damaging up your voice, if you have a good one. – amalgamate Feb 5 '15 at 18:25
  • @amalgamate a tutor would probably be able to tell me subjectively if I really am that quiet. I was hoping for a more objective way to see how quiet I am compared to the average guy but it seems unless you lot all sing into a decibel meter, that doesn't exist :) – Mr. Boy Feb 5 '15 at 21:11
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While I feel amalgamate's post is the answer you are looking for, I can offer some suggestions to objectively improve/compare your singing volume.

Seek one-on-one vocal instruction. While singing in a group you learn to focus on blending your voice with others, this could definitely deter your ears from remembering what your voice sounds like and could definitely lead to volume issues. Every choir has people who do not sing loudly enough - rest assured your situation has a solution. In choir, the focus is pitch and blend. 40 other voices singing different pitches at once would wig anyone out.

Remember, our ears are on the sides of our faces - not directly in front of our mouths. People sometimes find the sound of their voice on recordings unpleasant because they are not used to hearing it that way before. Well...there is no way they possibly could. The nature of how your ears works changes the vary EQ of your voice! So too does their position!

By going to a vocal instructor you will be given the opportunity to hear your voice by itself. Singing in a choir or with instrumentation behind you is not the same! In this element you are forced to truly hear your voice. This gives an instructor an opportunity notices you naturally singing too softly (for anyone to hear), maybe then he/she can offer some suggestions to improving your tone. Most of the time this involves

  • Proper technique in singing/breathing from your diaphragm
  • Vocal exercises to warmup/cool down so that you can sing comfortably at full volume
  • Tongue twisters to properly form certain vowel/consonance sounds to ensure clarity and less mumbling (How now brown cow)

Is there a good way I can measure myself and see how my volume compares to a typical singer, similar to how I can measure my vocal range?

While I understand your intentions, a word of caution. By comparing one's technique or practice habits to someone else, one can derive great benefit. However, there are variables out of our control. I believe singing volume to be one of them. Is your case hopeless? Of course not! Might you need some help? Perhaps.

Other ideas. Keep the same microphone settings and

  • Record your voice without accompaniment
  • Record your voice with accompaniment
  • Record your voice in choir

Compare all of these to each other. Are you quieter solo than with a guitar? Perhaps you are just focusing on nailing your pitches. Can you pick out your voice in a choir? The same thing could be said for all these situations.

Lastly,

Pitch || blend || tone > volume (within reason)
  • I humbly submit that this is the correct response to the question. – amalgamate Feb 6 '15 at 14:31
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This site says that the average whisper is 30db and the Fortissimo (loud) singer is around 80 db. I found another site that suggested that Opera singers can reach past 100db (it was less specific so I take it with a grain of salt). This site and others say that average shouting voice is about 88db. So I would conclude that the range of useful singing loudness starts somewhere between 70db and is unlikely to go higher then 88db for the average singer. Also that 80db would be a very respectable unassisted volume level.

Note that distance has an intense effect on the measured volume level of sound for small distances. I would suspect that these average measurements stated on these sites are from a distance. This site accounts for distance. Based on it, I would say the other sites are basically taking it's measurements at arms length from the source (Although I am sure that changes for cases involving headphones).

Incidentally, levels above 90db are considered dangerous to your hearing at sustained intervals of time.

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I think we've established that your voice is at the quiet end of the range. Numbers don't matter.

It may be that you're 'singing out' well, but it's just a small voice. If you're going to be singing in an environment where individual microphones are used, and you make a sound useful to the group, this may not matter. Or you may have just never discovered how to 'turn the motor on' - and you're in the group for inclusion reasons (common in church groups) or because you look good (common in pop groups).

You need a session with a vocal teacher. Period.

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There's been a study about this in 2008 by the Royal Conservatory of The Hague / University Utrecht / Voice Quality Systems. The report shows that a female opera singer can reach a 90 dB in a traditional practice session and can reach a 130 dB in a performance setting, depending on years of experience/training and vocal range. The subject interests me as I am a singer looking for a decent vocal booth... most of them won't isolate more than a lousy 40dB. Not enough in my case. Deep sigh...

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Does it really matter? The loudest a voice would go often takes it from singing into shouting, so the distinction is blurred, anyway. The volume may well not be the same over a range of pitches. The sound, as in a word, or just 'lah' will muddy the waters,and a larger built person will probably have more projection, partly due to bigger lungs, and maybe mouth, than a smaller one. So there is too much subjection here.

When miced up with one band, the others used to ask why my mic had to have more gain than someone else's. Partly their mic was far better than mine, partly, I never want to swallow mine while singing. If you think you have a voice that's not too powerful, accept it, and turn up your mic! It's nothing shameful. A typical singer probably doesn't exist. One who uses a mic all the time, or an opera singer who can 'break glasses'? Could a soprano be as loud as a tenor? I'm afraid there's no concrete answer here.

  • Well if I want to sing in a choir it's an issue - even if we're group-miked (unlikely) I am quiet in comparison. And sometimes I am involved in unplugged music. I'm not interested in being super-loud, but in some approximate way to see how loud I am... I can't tell since I cannot hear what my audience hears! I don't know if my natural volume is enough or if I need to singing as loud as I (comfortably) can - I know people who are far too loud and that's as annoying as someone who is too quiet. – Mr. Boy Feb 5 '15 at 17:43
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    @Mr.Boy - no doubt your conductor is the best person to ask. Surely if he feels others are singing too loudly over you, and maybe others, he would try to rectify what should be seen (or heard) as a problem. In any case, ask the question, as here, and in a quiet moment (rehearsal) let him be the judge. He's bound to have heard loads of voices in his time - it's his job! – Tim Feb 5 '15 at 17:57
  • I will ask someone to listen out for me next time - "can you even hear me" but I still think it's a reasonable topic for a question. For instance if I play acoustic guitar and sing, singer-songwriter style, I get much more guitar bleed in my vocal mic since I (I think) have to turn my mic up so much. – Mr. Boy Feb 5 '15 at 18:04
  • Its hard to find someone that can give you an honest and educated appraisal. I was playing a regular gig last year where I knew my volume was off (electric guitar), and people came up saying how I was really great and that I really added something. You need someone you trust with some musical knowledge to be your ears. – amalgamate Feb 5 '15 at 18:21
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    @Mr.Boy I would suggest that one with a really quiet voice is just not going to stand out in a choir (that's okay) and if playing un amplified and without a mic, might need to play more softly and ask for the audience to please be quiet. Pushing your voice to sing louder than what is comfortable might put undue strain on voice and cause damage to vocal chords. Accept the limitations and learn to compensate. – Rockin Cowboy Feb 5 '15 at 22:28

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