Supporting your Voice: cultivating awareness and healthy practices
This page contains the information that you may find helpful following the CPD workshop on supporting your voice.
- Increasing awareness
- Ask yourself some body check-in questions
- Rehearse healthy practices
- Further support
- Hone your awareness of your body, breathing, and voice. Pay attention to any areas of tension or any bad habits that you noticed today, recognizing when they occur and what effects they have
- Keep an eye out for tension when you start speaking, when you breathe, or anywhere in your body because it is probably not helping your voice
- Consider videotaping yourself or watching yourself in a mirror to get a different perspective on what you do with your body while you are speaking. Do you suddenly change your posture when you start speaking? Or move your head forward or up? Do you speak with the same relaxation with which you sigh?
- You might start a journal to record your observations of when you find yourself stressed, when your tension is worst, and what experiments work and don’t work to address these issues
Consider asking yourself some of these body check-in questions:
- Am I grounded and stable on my feet?
- Is my weight evenly distributed?
- Are my gross body muscles relaxed?
- Does my spine feel tall and flexible?
- Are my knees locked?
- Are my neck and jaw relaxed?
- Is my tongue relaxed?
- Is my mouth and throat moist?
- Is my body twisted or contorted in any way?
- Is my chin leading forward and causing my spine to break?
- Is my body free to be able to take deep, open breaths?
- Do I throw my head back when I speak?
- Am I breathing into my stomach and chest?
- Do I gasp when breathing?
- Am I pausing between my inhalation and exhalation?
- Is my breathing consistent? Shallow?
- Are my shoulders collapsing when I exhale?
- Does my rib cage pull down when I exhale?
Rehearse healthy practices
- Take a moment for relaxation – lie down on your back, feel yourself sink into ground; roll your head from one shoulder to the other; massage tension out of your jaw
- Take a moment to notice your breathing – take a series of deep, full, relaxed breaths
- Consider alternative ways to engage breathing, such as doing cardio or jumping jacks before a lecture
- Challenge yourself – try jogging and speaking the beginning of your presentation to get your breathing working and to energize your body
- Establish good posture – Bend over at the waist and let your head and arms hang down. Then, starting at the bottom of your spine, roll up one vertebra at a time to standing. Feel your chest being open, the inner bottom corners of your shoulder blades pulling together, your feet firmly connected with the ground, the ground giving you energy
- Perform a few vocal acrobatics – Siren exercise where you glide your voice up and down your range
- Try some tongue twisters or articulation exercises
- Be wary of what you eat – milk products, chocolate, bananas can make your mouth feel pasty and sticky, while coffee and tea can dry your mouth and throat. Citrus is a good option. Try to cough and clear your throat as little as possible, as this can cause damage to the vocal chords over time
- Keep your throat moist by drinking plenty of non-carbonated water and limiting coffee and tea
- Limit your exposure to smoke, dust, and rooms with low humidity
- If you’re trying to get rid of bad habits such as tensing your shoulders while you speak, practice speaking while moving. Try speaking while bending over and then standing up, while alternating between sitting and standing, while doing jumping jacks or while jumping up and down. This can also be good for encouraging deep breathing.
Set aside time to practice lectures, papers or presentations beforehand. Notice how you use your voice, and experiment to achieve the most relaxed and flexible use of your instrument. You can even try recording yourself.
Warm up before you have to speak:
ResourcesLearn More - Online
- Natural Healthcare (including Alexander Technique)
- Michael Hardwicke - Alexander Technique
- Conference presentation by Allison Hui on using your voice
- Voice Workshop - Beyond pain, strain and monotony A. Hui.pptx
- Berry, C. (1973). Voice and the actor. London: Harrap - This book is very focused on actors’ use of voice, but has some good exercises for relaxation and breathing.
- Hahner, J., Sokoloff, M.A., & Salisch, S. L. (1993). Speaking clearly: improving voice and diction (4th edn.). New York: McGraw-Hill. - Written by speech language pathologists, some of this book is concerned with very technical exercises on the production of different sounds and diction. Chapters 7 and 8 are particularly helpful, with exercises to address breathing, loudness, nasality, and improving vocal expressiveness. Appendices address nerves when speaking and common substitutions in diction for those who speak English as a second language.
- Linklater, K. (2006). Freeing the natural voice. London: Nick Hern. - This is a very detailed book that is formatted as a series of workouts for your body and voice. Linklater provides some excellent exercises to build your awareness and ability to release a free, natural sound.
- McCallion, M. (1988). The voice book. London: Faber and Faber. - Based on Alexander Technique, this book has plenty of exercises to address the body, breathing, tuning, and diction (including detailed notes related to accents and paragraphs that can be used for practicing various sounds).