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Using recordings?

People say “I don’t like my voice, it sounds horrible on a recording!” I am often asked if listening to recordings helps you work on your voice.  Well, yes and no.  Mostly no.

  1.  Be careful of the quality of the recording you are listening to.  It may not sound like the Real You in the first place.
  2. The voice you hear on the recording is one you will never experience — when you work/rehearse or perform.  You hear your voice in a way that no one else will ever — from the inside of your body.  Therefore, to take that recording as some where to start from, as a voice professional you will never really be starting from there.  You will never hear your voice like that.  So to a degree, that recording is false information.
  3. We all have the resident critic who tells us we’re no good.  It’s not helpful to give it more fodder for criticism.  I’m wary of listening or watching tapes for fear that my ability to respond to a story will hit a wall of self-consciousness.  ‘You can’t to that, that looks/sounds ______________  (fill in words of deprecation).’
  4. What recordings can do is provide a record of a specific telling so that you can remember how you told the story that time.  They can give you feedback on how a particular vocal experiment is working, as long as you can keep a level head about how you perceive quality of your voice.
  5. The best feedback on your voice comes from listeners you trust and, most importantly, from your own physical experiences.

I would love to hear comments on this!

Congratulate yourself

Voice requires continuous practice and adventuring to new places.  The more exercises you do, the more frequently you work your voice out, the fuller and more responsive your voice gets.  Good for you!

Here’s a fun game for the car (or during chores- a time when your body might be busy):  sing along with the radio or CD or Pandora, however you get your music.  Now, add intention to your interpretation.  You can chose the positive side: sing to attract a lover, sing to invite someone in, sing to thank someone (even Mother Nature).  Then there’s the opposite:  sing to kick someone out, to refuse a gift, to bring down a plague of scorpions-  you get the picture. Go to extremes with these.

Try not to imagine how you will sound as you are choosing your intention.  Let your voice surprise you.

A variation on this:  choose a character to sing.  it might be a stereotype (a witch, a handsome prince, the eldest son), or one from a story you are working on, or maybe someone you just met.  These are explorations in voice response to input, and allow you to find new expressions.

Like always, have fun!

Happy New Year!

We have more daylight than a month ago– seven minutes more than at the solstice!  More happiness for 2018: I was given my 12th summer reading series grant.  This year is FUN, the theme is music.  I’m trying out the dulcimer my husband gave me many years ago.  You may smile, the goal is to play the Green Grass Grows All Around. My fingers are a wee bit sore…to a great end. Check out the new Voice Quickies post- coming up next.

Fill the Space with Sound

So we tell tales in various places and spaces.  Sometimes with microphones, many times without.  So you need to fill a big space with your voice, your characters.  Yell?  Please don’t!  First, remind yourself to talk to the back row.  Voice, the production of words and sounds, comes from the desire to communicate Just keeping those people back there in your mind will improve your vocal carrying power.

Try this:  Find a biggish space to work in (even your living room or basement will do). Breathe deeply for several breaths.  Then add sound, just ahh.  Now add your hand in a throwing motion toward the farthest wall. Throw, literally throw your hand and with it your voice.  Keep your breath going! Try not to make short sounds, but keep the breath — and therefore the sound — going

Another game for this exercise:  Imagine that your breath and voice can paint.  Using deep breaths, paint the opposite wall full of color.  Let your sound flow out and fill the space.  Use your hands, your body to create “shapes”.  This practice will show you the connection between voice and body.  Repeat in your practicing, and the effects of the work will remain in your performing.

We’re of two voices

The human voice seems to have two parts — high and low.  You have resonators: in the head, and in the chest.  Your sound changes depending on how much resonance is focused on which part of your body.  You’ve tried sirens up and down, yes?  And there’s the clunk when you move between the two. Well, here’s some quick exercises to make each stronger, and merge the two.

When doing sirens, make sure your breath continues strong to support your sound.  While sirening, use your hands to pantomime pulling the sound out of your mouth.  This increases the energy you’re investing in the siren, and enables your  voice to make the bridge between registers more fluidly.  You can also make circling motions, as though your breath were a mill wheel.

Use different registers as you speak, just every day. This might perhaps be by yourself to start with (we all talk to ourselves, yes we do).  Use the register you are the least comfortable with!  For me, I use my lower register much more.  So my challenge to myself is to focus UP.

The exercises will have two effects:  1) your everyday speaking voice will be fuller, and  2) your search for character voices will be easier and you’ll find more possibilities.  Enjoy the process, and practice often!


Here’s a few interesting websites:  Long but interesting conversation.  This has videos, is more for singers but is a detailed explanation.



More air!

Voice needs air!  Air takes up room!  You need room for your lungs to expand, so there will be plenty of air to support your sound.  Here’s how to expand your ribcage volume:  spine curls.  These can be done standing or seated.

  1. Let your head fall forward onto your chest (I promise it won’t fall off altogether).
  2. Allow the weight of your head, about 2 pounds, to pull your head over toward the ground. Keep your neck loose, like the clapper of a bell.
  3. When you’ve ‘unrolled’ as far as you can, let the weight of your head stretch the torso out, lengthening the spine.
  4. Now roll back up your spine, little at a time, like stacking blocks in order. LEAVE YOUR SHOULDERS ALONE UNTIL YOU GET TO THEM!  And your head is the very last to be added to the top of your spine- cherry on top.  Imagine your head is a helium balloon, easily floating at the top.

This exercise will add space between the vertebrae—you might even get taller.

Remember:  the spine goes up your back. To stand taller/longer/straighter, to float that balloon, think about being taller with your neck, the back of your head.

If you’re sitting down with the exercise, spread your legs apart and let your body curl down between them.

Standing taller allows the lungs to fill more fully with less effort.



July Quickie– Tense- who, me?

So this year I was honored to tell a story at one of the showcases at the National Storytelling Conference.  Grand! Telling a story I’ve told before, to the best audience in the world! What could go wrong? Who me, nervous? Well. yeah.  And with that, tense.  SO! Here’s a tension quickie.

We carry lots tension in our jaws.  To relieve that:  With the soft part of your palm (that bit at the base of your thumb), find the joint of your jaw.  It’s in front of your ear.  Press gently on that joint.  This pressure will cause your mouth to drop open slightly.  Now smooth softly along your jaw line toward your chin, allowing your jaw to open further.  Softly!  Repeat several times.  The more you do this, the more aware you will recognize tightness in that area.  And also the more you do this, you can suggest relaxation to your jaw without the motion.

(Hint:  this is the same trick we play on pets to get them to open up and take a pill.  Our jaws work the same way!)

PS  The showcase went beautifully!  DO come to the conference next year!

June Quickie Better breath

Breath control, support your sound.  We’ve heard these phrases–but how to practice this?   I play the tenor saxophone, and my tone was uneven.  Hmmm–support your sound…  Horn players do ‘long tones’,  one note played loud-soft-loud for the entire length of a breath.  SO! For speakers like us, try these:  Pretend you are a fire hose with air.  Expel the breath as completely as you can, let the lungs fill, repeat.  Notice the muscles you’re using: the diaphragm, and  those little ones between the ribs, called  intercostals.  Now don’t so this too many times in a row! You’ll hyperventilate and get dizzy.  With sound: hum on a pitch for as long as you can.  You can add volume, but go gently.  Another one is to count for a long as you breath lasts–and see if you can add numbers.  Keep your tone even.  As you practice this, your voice will become more supported with stronger intercostals and bigger lung capacity.

For the visual learners-

Image result for muscles between ribs used for breathing

Quickie!! What’s to drink?

There’s all sorts of advice about what to drink for your voice, and when to drink it.  Here’s a little run-down:

Water:  The vocal folds are mucus membranes, which love to be hydrated.  Do consider the temperature of the water you drink during a performance.  I find room-temperature to be more helpful in keeping my voice comfortable.

Tea:  Brewed black-type teas are high in antioxidants  that reduce inflammation, so that helps with a sore throat.  Warm liquid is also soothing to irritated tissues.

Honey: Honey is full of nutrients, and combines well with the antioxidants in tea.  Find honey made in your home area to help with allergies.

Lemon: It’s acidic, and therefore cuts phlegm.  Not too much, though-remember these are mucus membranes. I put a little bit in a bottle of water for use during concerts.

Some folk are tea connoisseurs and insists on full-leaf tea for brewing.  That’s great for a terrific cuppa, but grocery store packages teas are all right.

While there are lozenge-type products on the shelf with lemon and honey in them, I would recommend using actual fruit juice, and honey from a jar (organic, from local farmers is best).

AND the milk thing:  drinking milk and eating dairy products  produces thicker (not more) phlegm.  However, phlegm is not a bad thing for vocal folds.  The lower fat the product, the less phlegm produced.  So unless you are sensitive to dairy products, milk before a show is fine.

And here’s some sites with good information:

And some other myths


January Quickie — Trippingly on the Tongue

We tellers seek to be understood, both in tale and the telling of it.  Pronunciation is a premium skill! To speak clearly, practice the most difficult:  tongue twisters.  Peter Piper is reasonably easy.  Toy Boat or Unique New York, not so much–  at least for my particular mouth.  We each have easy and challenging sets of sounds.  Find your hardest, and practice slowly.  These thousand tricky tongue twisters trip thrillingly off the tongue!

Here are  few websites to giggle through:

English Twisters  There are 590 here!

Fun With Words  Some links to yet other twister sites here.

School Jokes  Oh my, there are so so many here, you’ll be twisting the night away.

And check the App Store, there even is an App for these.