I'm keeping this blog live because it has several relevant articles for my clients posted, but I'm moving all new blogging efforts over to my online coaching forum,
www.bespoke-communication.com. So if you are looking for new posts, please seek them out there.
Image from www.drumhellerchamber.com
(This post is republished from my blog post on wwww.bespoke-communication.com.)
If you already know how to talk, then why would it be important to spend time working on your voice? Isn’t the sound that comes out just the sound you were born with?
Well, no. Not necessarily. Do you feel like you could talk all day and not lose or strain your voice? Do you feel like you are always using the appropriate volume, or are people often telling you your voice is too loud or asking you to speak up? Do you feel like your voice is helping you say what you’re trying to say, or does it get in the way? Do your nerves change the sound of your voice? Do you mumble?
We were all born with a powerful voice. Babies, whether we like it or not, have the ability to scream and cry for hours and hours and hours (and hours…)— without losing their voices. Without even going hoarse. It’s an important survival skill. Babies need to be able to cry and scream until someone who can care for them takes notice. You used to be able to do that.
For a multitude of reasons, many of us over time become disconnected from that powerful voice and adopt other habits that can prevent us from communicating fully. Now, I’m not saying that to communicate fully you have to scream like a baby. While that might certainly have an impact, it might not be the impact you wanted.
However, the way you use your voice at any age can affect the perceptions of the people who listen to you, as well as your perceptions of yourself. Albert Mehrabian’s research revealed that, when you’re discussing your thoughts and feelings in ambiguous situations, 55% of effective communication has to do with body language. 38% has to do with tone of voice. Only 7% has to do with the actual words that you’re saying. When taking that into consideration, it seems that it’s just as important to think about how you’re saying what you’re saying as it is to think about what you’re saying. You get what I’m saying?
Working on the voice can therefore provide a powerful way of working on your communication. Learning how to use the voice efficiently (so that you can talk with appropriate volume and a variety of color for as long as you need to without strain), and learning how to connect your voice to your message can help you find authenticity, gravitas, and impact.
So just how do you work on the voice? If you would like to try working on your voice at home, you can start by browsing through BeSpoke Communication's Voice Coaching Audio Lab, which offers free audio coaching sessions. If you would rather take a class, contact me or stay tuned to this blog for upcoming course announcements. And you can always contact me about private sessions!
Hello! Here's another class announcement. I'll be teaching a six-week 'Voice Training for Business' class for City Academy starting next Monday evening. (There will be no class on May 2nd due to the bank holiday.)
This course is designed for business professionals who are looking to increase their vocal confidence. If you would like to read more about it or sign up, click here.
I will be teaching a 'Quick Vocal Improvement' course at City Lit starting on April 15th. This 12 week course is is aimed at adult professionals who are looking to gain vocal authority, presence and impact in professional and personal communication. If you would like more information or would like to book your place, please visit City Lit's website here. If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below.
Hope to see you there!
I am very excited to announce here that, with my dear friend and co-creator Lindsay Walker, I am starting a new voice and communication skills coaching venture: BeSpoke Communication. Lindsay and I got our MFA's in Voice Studies together from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. During our time there, we bonded over many things, from a shared love of red wine to a mutual interest in developing a holistic vocal practice that addresses mind, body and voice. We are both fascinated by the theme of presence in communication. At the heart of BeSpoke's mission is that presence is as much physical and vocal as it is mental. We offer coaching that is a combination of body work, voice work, and mindfulness to promote practices encouraging your whole self to be present in the act of communication.
What is unique about BeSpoke is that it's not just in-person coaching. We also offer (free!) online audio content that is intended to help guide you through setting up a sustainable home practice of working on your voice and communication. This audio content is an excellent supplement to any classes you are taking or have taken, as well as to in-person private coaching. It's a way of keeping your voice work specific as well as a way of offering you a guide when you don't feel like guiding yourself. Voice work on your own can sometimes get lonely, so BeSpoke's online services are a way of creating an online community dedicated to working on their communication skills. To help bolster the community, we'll have a blog that regularly addresses communication issues.
Lindsay and I are really excited about this new venture, as well as about continuing to grow our own private coaching businesses (which you can still contact me about through this website, and which I will still be writing about on this blog!). If I have gotten you curious about BeSpoke, head over to our website at www.bespoke-communication.com. On the site, you can sign up to follow our blog so that you'll be the first to receive updates about new content. We are also on Twitter @BeSpokeSpeaks and on Instagram as BeSpokeSpeaks. We'll be using those platforms to update you about content and to encourage you on your communication journey!
I wanted to let you know that, starting this Tuesday evening, I will be teaching a 6-week 'Voice for Business' course through City Academy. The course runs from March 8th- April 12th, 7-9 PM. This is a class for business professionals who are looking to develop more vocal confidence and presence in their professional communication. For more information or to book, click here. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.
Hope to see you there!
Ugh. Winter. I don't know about you, but I find winter can be a very difficult season-- physically, psychologically, and even vocally! Winter can be a tricky time for the voice for many reasons. Being cold means we tend to brace more physically, and since voice is created muscularly, tensions in the body can have an impact on how easy it is to make sound. Certain types of heating can dry out the vocal folds. If you're suffering from 'winter doldrums,' the lack of energy that comes with that can even impact the voice-- as when the body loses energy, so does the voice. And of course, there's always illness, which can lead to hoarseness and temporary voice loss.
So if you are a 'professional voice user'-- someone who has to speak frequently throughout the day-- here are some tips for taking care of your voice during winter time.
These are some general tips, and future blog posts will explore other vocal health care issues more in-depth. Do you have other ideas or questions about how to take care of your voice in winter?
In the mean time, I'm noticing the days are starting to get a little longer. Spring is not too far away...
(image from www.inchoir.co.uk)
We seem to live in a world where a low, deep voice is prized as authoritative, grounded, imbued with gravitas--- however you want to say it, people tend to take it more seriously. Results from recent American psychological studies demonstrate that when listening audiences only have vocal cues, they would most likely hire, vote for and trust public speakers of both sexes who have low, deep voices, while they equate higher voices in public speakers with a lack of leadership ability.
Most likely because of this phenomenon, I have several clients at the moment who are working with me because they would like to sound more authoritative in professional contexts. Some of these clients are men but the majority of them are women because-- it must be said-- this 'low, deep' voice that connotes authority is likely based on a masculine sound. (If you're interested in that, Mary Beard gave a fascinating lecture about it in 2014 which you can read here. ) Some of my clients come not out of their own volition, but because their bosses have told them their voices are too high to sound authoritative, and they need to lower them in order to get ahead professionally.
Here's the thing-- many people hear that they need to 'lower their voices' to sound authoritative, so they go around trying to talk at a lower pitch. This road is neither comfortable nor authentic, and if you do it for too long, you could do some damage to your vocal folds. Your voice pitch refers to the frequency at which your vocal folds vibrate. We all have a 'fundamental frequency', which is your typical conversational pitch, and when we use pitch variation in our voices, you can think of that as variation upon the theme.
Where this lower 'authoritative' sound comes from is really the resonance of the voice. Resonance has to do with where you are feeling the vibration of your voice. There are three general areas where this vibration is easy to feel: in your chest, in your mouth and in your nose. If you start humming right now, you may even feel that buzz in all three areas. The 'low, deep sound' that is considered authoritative comes from having a combination of that mouth and chest resonance in the voice, meaning your voice includes a healthy buzz from both of those places.
Nasal/head resonance gives your voice a brighter, lighter quality. If you tend to have more vibration in your nose/head/face than in the mouth or chest, your voice will sound higher and younger to other people. While it's important to have all 3 areas of resonance in the mix, if you are a person who is frequently told that you need to sound more authoritative, here are some tips:
All this being said, I do think it is worth us examining-- what is an authoritative voice? It seems to be based on a masculine model, and I do think we should begin to question that. Can there be room for more than one type of authoritative sound? I hope so. I would love to hear your thoughts.
(image from http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1871919,00.html)
Hi Everyone! I'll be teaching a 5-week course called 'The Actor's Voice' on Tuesday evenings starting February 15th. It's at Morley College. To sign up or to find out more information, go to this link: https://www.morleycollege.ac.uk/courses/110-the-actors-voice/193. This is a course for professional actors looking to brush up on their skills as well as actors-in-training.
Feel free to contact me if you have more questions!
Happy New Year! Yesterday was my first day back with my university BA acting students after the holidays. They are all in their first year, so thus far, we’ve been working on the foundations; including beginning to build a vocal warm up that they can use in and out of class.
Before we went on holiday, which was a four-week break, I told them it was important to do a vocal warm up on a regular basis during this hiatus, so that they could continue strengthening their voices and keeping them healthy. Like with physical exercise, taking a full four weeks off from doing any voice work can really set you back if you’re used to a routine of working on your voice consistently.
At the time, they diligently nodded their heads and said they would absolutely commit to working regularly during their breaks. And they are hard workers, so I know they meant it. But since it was the Christmas holidays, I went into the first class of the new year assuming that, even with the best of intentions, those warm ups were likely few and far between. I therefore took them through a long warm up to reconnect them with their bodies and voices after what was probably a several-week hiatus.
Afterwards, many of them mentioned how good it felt to make sound in a space where it felt safe, where they were given permission to do so by a guide. As part of the vocal warm up, we make a variety of sounds—including voiced sighs, chanting and intoning, sliding up and down the pitch range, counting, and various gobbledygook sounds that don’t mean anything but that help students practice coordinating their breath support with vocal onset. It can get, well, quite noisy. And none of it is effective if you’re trying to do it ‘quietly’, without really committing to the sounds you’re making.
Many of them went on to say that while they had been at home, they felt awkward and uncomfortable trying to warm up, because it felt strange to make so much noise that might be potentially overheard— no matter how close of a relationship they had with the people they feared might do the overhearing. It was even strange for them to hear themselves so intimately— as they are used to warming up in a group of people. That intimacy with themselves made it easier to hear, and therefore judge, the sounds they were making.
I was grateful that they brought this up to me, as, for one thing, it means they were at least thinking about their voice work over break, even if they weren’t actually doing it. But these comments also got me thinking about what kind of sounds we are ‘allowed’ to make on a regular basis— what kind of sounds are considered ‘normal’ in western society. The sounds we do in the warm up are not that extreme, but even in my position as a voice teacher, I could totally understand why my students felt embarrassed at the idea of being overheard making them— particularly by someone who didn’t have any context for what they were doing. It made me realize in a deeper way how— based on what I know about the capabilities of the human voice— we as a society use such a narrow range of our voices on a regular basis. Exploring anything outside of that range can therefore feel extremely vulnerable.
With that in mind, it’s important for both actors and business professionals who want to warm up their voices to find a way to create a safe space in which to warm up— a space where you can give yourself permission to make noise. Because, as I said to my students yesterday, drama school is a wonderful safe space, but it won’t last forever. Learning how to build your own safe space is essential to keeping up the craft of your communication. Now, if you have no problem making noise in the presence of other people, then rock on. But if this resonates with you, here are some tips:
TIPS FOR CREATING A SAFE SPACE TO WARM UP IN
So with that in mind, set yourself some goals around your vocal warm up routine in 2016. And if you have other ideas or questions about creating a safe space, please leave a comment below!
(image from http://kimmysmusicaltheatre.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/vocal-warm-up-exercises.html)