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!
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)
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)