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According to this BBC article, we hear ourselves bassy compared to how we sound to others.

What makes a recording of our voice sound so different... and awful? It’s because when you speak you hear your own voice in two different ways. Greg Foot explains all.

The first is through vibrating sound waves hitting your ear drum, the way other people hear your voice. The second way is through vibrations inside your skull set off by your vocal chords. Those vibrations travel up through your bony skull and again set the ear drum vibrating. However as they travel through the bone they spread out and lower in pitch, giving you a false sense of bass. Then when you hear a recording of your voice, it sounds distinctly higher.

How do we then sing in tune to a song? We must be doing a constant pitch correction while trying to reproduce a previously heard sound. How does this pitch correction actually work?


EDIT 2016.02.09: Added link to, and a quote from the BBC article which I've read before asking this question, and which reconfirmed a wrong assumption on which my question was based.

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    "we hear ourselves bassy compared to how we sound to others" Do we? Just for my curiosity, can you back that up with one or more references? – user18490 Feb 9 '16 at 0:52
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    I think you're getting pitch and tone or timbre mixed up. The timbre can have a low character even at high pitches. What we hear in our heads has a different timbre from what others hear but it has the same pitch. – Todd Wilcox Feb 9 '16 at 2:15
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    Before asking, I've read at BBC we hear us in 2 ways "The first is through vibrating sound waves hitting your ear drum, the way other people hear your voice. The second way is through vibrations inside your skull set off by your vocal chords. Those vibrations travel up through your bony skull and again set the ear drum vibrating. However as they travel through the bone they spread out and lower in pitch, giving you a false sense of bass. Then when you hear a recording of your voice, it sounds distinctly higher." – V-R Feb 9 '16 at 8:43
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The BBC article is confusing pitch with frequency response.

When one says your voice sounds lower to you than it does to other people, this is referring NOT to the pitch of your voice (the dominant vibrations-per-second frequency), but to the overall timbre and tone.

Any sound made by acoustic means consists of an entire spectrum of pitches, where certain frequencies on this spectrum stand out more than others. The relative strength of these frequencies causes the phenomena of timbre, for example, how Bob and Jack both singing a C4 can still sound like Bob and Jack to the listener. This is also why if you have a multi-band equalizer, a change in any one of the EQ bands will have an effect on your voice, even if you are singing the same pitch each time.

So to specifically address your question, when you are listening to your own voice, what you are hearing includes physical vibrations being transmitted inside your own body from your vocal cords and oral cavity to your cochlea. Lower frequencies are conducted much more efficiently this way than they are through the air to the eardrums of all of your listeners.

So, you are getting more response from the bass frequencies of your own voice than an outside listener would, but the pitch isn't changing. It's like being inside your own head activates the "bass boost" button just like on an old tape deck.

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    Yes. The phenomenon that is referred to in the question is like an EQ with bass frequencies boosted, not Auto-Tune modifying the pitch. – Simon White Feb 9 '16 at 15:21
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    I haven't voted up or down on this question (yet) since on the one hand it addresses what seems to be a misconception about the difference between timbre and pitch, and on the other hand doesn't address the material added to the question from the BBC site which correctly points out that bone conduction does lower the frequencies of sounds that are transmitted inside our heads. – Todd Wilcox Feb 9 '16 at 15:36
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    @ToddWilcox I just watched the video referenced, and I would argue that it is incorrect. Materials can't shift pitch, they can only filter it. If you inhale helium, your voice still sounds higher to a listener even though the entire room is not filled with helium. – NReilingh Feb 9 '16 at 15:38
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    So the BBC quote is actually incorrect? After doing some web searches it does seem to be true that sounds do not change in frequency in different media, only wavelength. And our pitch perception seems to be based more on frequency. And yes I meant I haven't voted on the answer yet. – Todd Wilcox Feb 9 '16 at 16:20
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    @ToddWilcox I don't remember a lot of high school physics, but I remember this being pretty important--materials change wavelength because they ALSO change the speed at which the wave is moving. The frequency stays constant because all three factors are related. Think of the border between two different materials (two different slinkies tied together is a good visualization): the waves are reaching and crossing that border at a regular time interval, but then the waves propagate through the material with a different speed and wavelength. – NReilingh Feb 9 '16 at 16:27

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