what makes a voice sound pleasant/unpleasant?


I was listening to kpop (don’t judge) and I was wondering what specifically made the singer’s voice sound so pleasant, even though they were singing in a language I don’t understand. Is it something you can practice or is it simply something that you are born with?

In: Biology

I think it’s personal preference of the listener. Some people are really into the high pitched type thing that k pop does, but others find really gravelly low metal singing awesome.

If you’re asking how you can sound like a kpop singer, it’s possible it just might take a lot of practice especially if you’re a dude because your voice will already be lower.

To the strict technical point of view: high pitched and nasal voices are annoying, low pitched voices are pleasant.

The singers are generally good in their own right, but anytime you listen to a studio recorded song you can guarantee that the voice has been enhanced in some way shape or form, and that its been cut together to get the absolute best takes possible.

What do I mean by enhanced? Well there’s many different ways to improve vocal quality from an audio engineers end. We use a technique called compression which basically smooths out the differences between the louder and softer singing to give a more consistent level through the whole track, or there are many sorts of effects that can be used to enhance vocals such as harmonizers and chorus effects as well the one that you would more commonly have heard of; ‘Auto-Tune’. Effects like reverb and delay are used to try and emulate a room such as a large hall or stadium.

The singers do multiple takes of the same songs and the audio engineer in consultation with the producer cuts the best takes together to give the best version of the song.

All in all, the music has been enhanced to provide the best aural experience possible, and the Koreans and Japanese seem to have the formula right for producing music that is pleasant to listen to, even if the listener can’t understand the song.

EDIT: So I noticed a few people pointing out that they’ve heard live performances that are just as good or better than any studio album, and I have experienced this to. This very much comes down to the style of music, the talent of the singer, and the creative decisions that wrap it together. Country music for example tends to sound very similar live and in the studio.

I can’t tell whether it’s true for music but generally, I enjoy very calm and rather deep voices as I find them soothing and they sound understanding.

There are 12 notes in the classical musical scale A-G with all having a sharp # (I.E A#) except B and E. Between every notes there are degrees of closeness called “cents”. Think one of those small plastic protractors we used to have for telling the degrees in an angle in maths class with the note A at 0 degrees and B at 180 degrees. The closer you are to the full note the better it sounds the farther away it is the worse it sounds. This is known as “timbre” pronounced tam-Ber. People who sing or sound flawless or pleaseny hit those notes exactly. Those who do not are a slight few degrees away from that note or if they really suck they are wildly off from those notes.

It seems like you’re confusing two different things here, so I’ll try to clarify each of them:

Singing is something you can learn and practice. Like playing an instrument. The whole idea that you’re just born with a good singing voice is a complete myth.

The “pleasantness” of a voice can’t be changed however. Regardless of whether you are speaking or singing. Some people just have voices that sound more pleasant to listen to, though this also depends on your taste and what kind of sounds you find pleasing. Some people like smoother voices, while others prefer more rough and raspy voices.
Some people can make their voices sound different. Voice actors, for example, often change their voice when playing a character. For example [Billy West](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1V-xKq64aRY), who played several characters on Futurama. But this still doesn’t affect their natural voice that they use when speaking normally.

Pleasant speaking voice, especially for females: a lower register, a parent tone, and not assuming I’m an idiot/there to lie to you/won’t do my job.

Bitches be tripping yo. That high, whiney, entitled, voice coupled with not listening to information given and instead asking repetitive off topic questions.

Same for a guy but aggression, demanding.

Had a guy the other day, who I could have helped him fix his issue in 5 minutes, demand to be transferred bc “why should I have to do that?” Um, bc it’s in your best interests and also the most efficient way to resolve the issue you are having?

He’ll be back lol

Asking this question is very similar to asking “what makes that person unattractive?” It could be a short torso, long arms, weird legs, skin blotches, asymmetrical face, etc. It can also be something they artificially enhanced like a bad botox job or a bad breast enhancement.

Similarly in music, things can range from natural characteristics such as an unusual larynx issue, bad teeth, weird mouth shape or size, nerve damage in the lips or jaw, etc. all these issues can cause bad resonance, lisps, or unusually nasal voices, amongst other unwanted characteristics. Equally, you can damage your voice by smoking or drinking (depending on the style it can make your voice more or less attractive).

Additionally, you can artificially enhance (or destroy) a voice with digital processing techniques. Over/under compression, EQ, reverb & delay are common processing applied to voice and instruments.

K pop tends to be overproduced, but very demanding in the talent department so I would put my money on the over-processing of the voice (digitally) is what puts you off.

Hearing your own voice.

That’s generally considered unpleasant unless your ego is particularly large.

People refer to that as “timbre” and can describe several different specific qualities of a voice. It can be smooth, rough, thin, full, etc. It is extremely subjective as to whether you like a singer’s tonal qualities.

For example I really can’t stand Carrie Underwood’s voice as I think it has a shrill quality that I can’t quite describe, but millions of other people absolutely love her voice which is totally fine. For a kpop example my favorite vocalist is probably Wendy from RV, she has an extremely smooth and slightly smoky, powerful voice but I would totally understand if someone else didn’t really like her so much.

Ok, I teach music at a high school for a living and one of the ensembles I teach is a choir. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this so let me clarify a couple of points. Everyone can be a pleasing singer. The first challenge is having a solid sense of pitch. [Musictheory.net](https://www.musictheory.net/exercises) has a bunch of really excellent explanations of music theory and then a great ear training segment that can help a person develop an idea of pitch. So anyone can learn this and be able to sing in their own voice if they are willing to experiment. THAT BEING SAID, some people have much more resonant voices than others and there is fuck all we can do about that. It’s really all about being as relaxed as possible when one sings. Some people happen to have a very relaxed neck setup and sound amazing with little effort. I used to think it had something to do with having a bigger build with a resonant chamber but I’ve seen small framed people have amazing sounds as well. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some singers who were had more notes then other people and there isn’t anything we can do about it. It’s like working out, you might not be able to have the exact body you want but if you exercise and lift some weights, you can still be attractive in your own way. Even the best of voices doesn’t function without a sense of pitch. The best singers I had weren’t the ones with the most notes, but the ones who could hear pitches, sing expressively, and remember their music.

Your natural physiology plays a lot into it. I will never sing like Freddy Mercury but I’ve been told I have a nice voice.

Singing, in particular, takes a lot of practice and you’re not going to have a “good voice” right away even if you have a naturally pleasant voice. When you sing, you’re making a musical instrument of your body, and it takes as much patience and practice as any other musical instrument.

It’s definitely something you can practice. As someone who has studied voice and taken a lot of voice lessons, I’ve been taught that a key to sounding good (both when speaking and singing) is *keeping it in the mask*. This is a pretty ambiguous phrase, but what it basically means is that when singing, the sound should be allowed to resonate around in your sinuses and the cavities in your face. This allows the voice to have rich overtones, regardless of whether or not you have a low or high voice, are male or female. Without it, the voice will sound dull. With it, there is a distinctive *ping* to the voice, a nice brassy quality that is somehow both warm and cutting at the same time.

A side effect of this that I’ve personally experienced is that my speaking voice has become louder and much more clear. I used to constantly have people asking me to speak up, but since learning how to allow my voice to resonate, I can speak without feeling as though I am shouting.

When they dont know what their saying. My brother comes in & just rambles, it really grates.

Out of curiosity, whose voice was it? I’ve always really liked Rose’s voice even though she doesn’t have the best technique. She just has a nice tone.

i’ve read that you can tell when you are using your voice to its fullest when you can feel slight vibrations in the facial bones as you speak/sing. not sure if it’s fsctual or not, but it was interesting

There’s different factors that go into the answer. For example, someone who can sing every note in the right key will probably be more pleasant sounding. This is something you can work on.

There’s also the timbre of a person’s voice. Some voices resonate very well in the person’s body, and that can make the singing sound very pleasant. Most people will have a particular range of notes where their voice sounds very good resonating in their own chest and head. This is genetic, but by learning the range where your voice resonates well with your own body, you can improve this.

Similarly, your voice will resonate differently in different places, and you can improve this by picking a good place to sing. You’ll notice a lot of singers record home demos in echoing places like bathrooms and kitchens.

Finally, everyone has their own unique voice, and some people will just subjectively like the sound of certain voices. Some people love Bob Dylan’s voice, for example. Others hate it. This is hard to change, although you can adjust your own voice to some extent, or sometimes to a great extent. It just depends on the person.

It can be learned. Anybody can sing well with enough dedication. I’m a voice teacher, and I couldn’t even sing Mary Had a little lamb until I was almost 18 years old. But I wanted to sing so I started taking lessons, now ten years later I am a professional singer and voice teacher.

The biggest difference between what makes a voice sound pleasant or unpleasant is “resonance”. When we sing parts of our bodies and skulls act as resonators for the sound being produced from our vocal folds. Specifically the pharynx and nasopharynx. Those are our “primary resonators” for singing. There are other factors involved in pleasant sounding singing vs unpleasant such as intonation, emotion, musicality etc. Classical Italian style singing is called “Bel Canto” singing which literally means “beautiful sound” and is completely based around the concept of beautiful resonance.

There’s a lot more that goes into it but that’s the closest I can get to explaining like your 5. (though I definitely failed at hitting that mark too lol)

To directly answer the question, what makes a voice sound pleasant is the range and number of different frequencies produced when singing. (If we only produced the exact pitch of a note, we’d sound like old-school synthesizers- harsh and robotic.) Every singer produces additional frequencies that blend together to produce the timbre or tone color of their voice. This is easy to demonstrate by singing into an oscilloscope, which visually displays the frequencies. Two different voices will have very different imprints, so to speak.

This is absolutely something that can be changed, to a degree. That is why we have voice teachers, who lead students through ranges of exercises over time to hone their sound.

In addition to the sound of the voice itself, the other things that matter are singing in tune, diction and vowel shaping, dynamics, expression, etc.

While it’s pretty unlikely that you could take any random person and turn them into an opera singer, every single person can improve their singing voice with proper training and practice!

The thing about studio recordings is that you are quite literally doing everything you can to make a tracked instrument sound as good as you can.

You asked about vocals so we’ll do vocals. In a studio you will track vocals in 1 of 2 places, either the live room or an isolation booth. Live rooms, as you’d imagine, are large rooms for tracking many people simultaneously but also for the *sound* of the room. It sounds “lively”. Usually A and B rooms have these.

Isolation booths are well…isolated. Theyre usually large enough for 1 or 2 people, and they’re treated to sound “dead”. Not much reverb or delay. So they’ll track in either of those rooms depending on the style of music, the sound they want and how they like to process the vocal next.

So now we have the room. Next we choose the microphone and preamp. These color the sound in a unique way that will match the style of performer and vocals etc. You’ll do a shootout with it and choose what you like best.

Sometimes in the vocal chain you’ll add a compressor or EQ, these also color the sound and you’ll set it to the style you’re tracking etc. If you’re starting out you’ll likely no have the budget for one, nor the knowledge on how to set it in a manner which you can’t undo.

So now that we have the room, vocal chain we need to push the signal (probably unless you are a real glutton for punishment) into the computer. Well you need some converters for that. Converters *also* color the sound in a particular way, however, what you’re really gunning for is accuracy.

Once you have all of this you can start tracking. You have many different kinds of producers and many different kinds of engineers that all take different approaches to tracking (recording) but in the end, it’s about getting the most out of the situation that sounds most pleasing. For the most part you want it to sound as good as possible before mixing – fixing it in post is not fun.

After the vocals are cut it’s time to mix. You may add reverb, delay, harmonizers, you may pitch correct if the vocal take is *really* awesome but they missed a note, you can EQ to change the tone of the vocal, you’ll compress to add color and/or texture. Anyway, it’s all to make it sound *awesome* and that’s how it’s done.