I love vocal coaching.
However, vocal coaching in certain professions has been a challenge!
Everyone wants their voice to sound great.
Everyone wants to make an impact. People are very sure that they want voices that are relaxed, confident, authoritative, trustworthy, engaging etc etc etc…insert more positive adjectives.
“I want to use pitch and tone to engage my audiences.”
“I want a deeper voice so that I can command more authority.”
“I want to sound like…..” insert name of public figure with good voice.
Fantastic. So much enthusiasm for voice. Discovering the full potential of your voice is an incredible experience, can deliver so much confidence and make a huge impact. It’s absolutely central to how you connect with people, every day. We’re giving you a tool to make you more compelling to clients and colleagues, more able to build trust and influence and get you feeling great in the process.
Yet, when we get onto the practical voice work, the reticence and scepticism build. It’s rarely what people expect.
“I just want some quick tips and tricks to make my voice louder or deeper or less monotone.”
But, it’s rather more complicated and there often isn’t a quick fix.
We were all born with voices that work perfectly. As babies, we screamed all day without getting hoarse. It’s the stress of life that causes us to tense up. This tension stops us using our voices at their full capacity. That’s why so much of vocal coaching is about tension release.
We’re re-discovering how to use our voices as we did as children. After years of being serious grown-ups, re-connecting with a childish sense of freedom can be disconcerting. People feel silly.
Breaking unhelpful “grown-up” vocal habits can take a lot of work. Bucking the trend to “grow back down” isn’t easy. You don’t sound like Beyonce overnight just like you don’t get a six-pack overnight. We don’t call it The Speakers’ Gym™ for nothing! It takes work, discipline, skill and control.
Yet, some clients fall at the first hurdle because the exercises just make them feel too uncomfortable. Or, to their mind, the exercises just seem too left field, silly or childish.
Yes, the exercises are playful, and can seem a little unusual, but the reasons that we use them are deadly serious and very “grown up.”
The exercises are intended at releasing tension and re-connecting with your most relaxed, confident and engaged self. Yet, it so often feels like we’re inflicting something incredibly painful on our clients. The intention is the exact opposite. I promise you!
What has happened for spending a little time relaxing to have become such an ordeal? Surely this is a worrying state of affairs!
If you want the rewards, then you may have to go to unchartered waters and places that initially seem uncomfortable or tangential to the goal.
However, it’s 100% our job to make the work palatable, manageable and realistically applicable to our varied audiences- you.
The challenge is that whilst people understand and see the link between warm up exercises and sport, the same anatomical understanding is not there for the voice.
A hamstring stretch is just as tangential to playing football as a spine roll or any other breathing exercise is to delivering a speech or presentation. But people “get” stretching. It’s accepted.
Here’s a basic anatomical understanding of our instrument- The Voice. With this, I hope to build a simple, logical connection between the vocal exercises that we use and the end result- how we sound:
- Breath powers the voice: When we speak, air from the lungs flows through the “vocal folds” which close over the larynx (in the throat) in preparation to make sound. The vocal folds vibrate to create sound.
- Resonance: The initial sound sets the air in the throat and the mouth into sympathetic vibration- resonance. The rest of the body also resonates to amplify the sound. You can see your whole body as your stereo speaker.
- Support: The support muscles (back, abs, intercostals, obliques) gently engage to extend the exhalation process and ensure a smooth flow of air over the vocal folds- lengthening and strengthening the sound.
- Articulation: The muscles in the face and mouth engage to shape our sound/articulate, and make sense.
Why is releasing tension so important?
The more tension that we can release all over the body, the deeper the breath can drop into the lungs, the more resonant our voices will be, and the easier we’ll find it to articulate.
I hope that this whistle-stop understanding of your voice goes some way to explaining the nature vocal work. Our “Vocal Conditioning Course” delves into this in greater depth, equips you with simple, practical exercises to hone your instrument and connect with clients at your very best.
We live in a world that demands quick results. But any great skill requires consistent application and is not acquired overnight. Once it is acquired, it still needs maintenance and work.
If you’re looking to communicate as effectively as possible, your voice is an absolutely essential tool to expressing yourself. We continue to develop our techniques. We continue to innovate. If it doesn’t sing for you, then we haven’t done our job. We’ll make it sing.
By Chris Wickenden, 18th June, 2019.