USING YOUR VOICE

Use your breath flow to support your voice

Breathe properly, with the assistance of the entire trunk of your body.

– Beware of your posture: don’t slouch when sitting/standing so that your air passages are aligned/not compressed and allow for free passage of breath.

– Keep your upper chest, shoulders, neck and throat relaxed when breathing in or when exhaling and letting sound out.

– Speak slowly; pause at natural phrase boundaries to breathe. Speaking within a natural breath cycle will enable you to finish the end of your thoughts without running out of breath before then.

  1. Project your voice properly.

– Projecting is not the same as shouting/yelling. Shouting/yelling/straining to speak loudly will put unnecessary pressure on the voice box and should be avoided.

Breathe properly. Keep your throat and neck relaxed.

– Instead of focusing on your throat, imagine that the sound originates from your abdomen/lower back and let your breath carry the sound out of your body in one continuous stream.

– Practise humming regularly. When humming, hum such that your lips and mouth area feel like they are buzzing. This humming exercise will help you to project the channel of sound through the front of your face and forwards towards the listener.

– Relax your jaw and tongue and unclench your teeth. A tight jaw/mouth will prevent you from articulating your words and your voice from coming out.

  1. Be aware of how you speak.

– Stay within your comfortable vocal range. Don’t force yourself to speak with too high or too low a voice for a prolonged period.

– Vary the tone/pitch of your voice. If you continually speak in a monotone, you may strain the part of the vocal apparatus that you keep using to maintain that monotone. Varying your tone/pitch will also help you sound more interesting to your listener.

– Use your breath to power your speech, not to create a breathy, seductive tone. A breathy tone may cause the vocal cords in your voice box to rub together, thereby promoting injury.

– Speak smoothly and avoid hard attacks on vowels.

– When giving a public speech, avoid vocally-harmful habits (e.g. clearing your throat, holding your breath, speaking quickly, speaking with insufficient breath, speaking in monotones, uttering harsh/low fillers like ‘um’, ‘ahh’). Reduce such distracting habits. Learn effective public speaking techniques. Be well prepared for your presentation so that you can simply focus on good vocal production.

  • Project your voice properly. Imagine that your voice has a volume knob with five settings

 

  1. Whisper
  2. Soft
  3. Conversational
  4.  Loud
  5. Yell

For normal and healthy conversational speech do not use volume levels 1 or 5.  Both can strain the voice.  Yell only in an emergency and save your whispers for the library, theatre or bedroom.

Strive to speak most of the time at volume level 3.  Use levels 2 and 4 for colour, emphasis and variety.  A conversational level will differ with each situation.  To be heard it must be adjusted so that we are speaking at a level that is slightly louder than the background noise around us.

Volume level should not be confused with projection.  To project the voice, don’t try to yell or force it out of your body.  This causes strain. To have a voice that carries well, you must use your body’s natural resonators.

 Your body has three resonating cavities:  the voice box, the mouth and the nose.  The voice is produced at the vocal chords and then amplified in the facial mask around the lips and nose.  To have a beautiful voice and project it without strain, focus your voice in the facial mask, blending the oral and nasal resonators.

Speech therapist Dr. Morton Cooper says the simplest way to find your facial mask is to hum.  Try it now.  HMMMMMMM.  Good.  Now practice alternating humming and speaking. HHMMMMMMMMMMy name is Fran.  HMMMMMMMMMy favourite colour is blue. HMMMMMMMMMany people say I’m a great dancer.

 

Have fun with it.  Practice humming and speaking throughout the day.  Once you get the hang of what a resonant voice feels like you can drop the hum and feel the vibration of your words in your facial mask.

By Fran Watson

Involved in public speaking since 2000. Joined Toastmasters in 2002 and have served in all Executive roles including serving one year as the District Public Relations Officer. Achieved my DTM in 2014. Develop and facilitate workshops in the area of employment and career development.

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