new work! Starting work on a different kind of story program! Since my health is requiring me to leave summer reading programs behind, I’m looking at the cultural history of Livingston County and the stories those folks might have brought with them. French, Scottish, English, German – lots of fun.


In the last Quickie, you learned a small exercise to improve breath support.  Taking support another idea further, now that you have breath enough, FINISH YOUR SENTENCES!  You’ve heard speakers who leave off the final ‘d’ on the end of ended, the ‘z’ on the end of crazes.  The solution is multi-faceted:   1) Keep the intentional energy of the sentence going, along with 2) the energy of breath that provides the actual physical form and sound of the letters.  Like baseball players who run not just to but past first base, keep the energy going to truly complete all the words in the sentence.

Imagine throwing a ball. It needs to get all the way to the catcher, and not slide in the dust, as it were.  As an exercise, pick up a book, any book will do.  Begin reading out loud.  Notice how you end the words—do you really make all the sounds of the letters?  It is the letters that give us the meaning*, we don’t hear just a mass of noises!

Now pick up a story to read out loud.  Again, notice how you end the words and sentences.  Invest energy and breath in the sounds, consonants in particular.  The next activity is harder-  do this sound-awareness with a story you tell.  You’ve already formed a performance pattern with this set of words, so it’s more demanding to listen to your speech habits.

Keep your sound awareness going, both in rehearsal and performance. You will be rewarded with clearer expression of the meaning and content of words, sentences—and story.


*Many voice teachers (including me) are of the idea that consonants carry the meaning or sense of a word, while vowels express the emotional content.  You can hum a love song, yet you need consonants to tell your loved one exactly what is admired…for example!

Steady as she goes– power breathing

I’ve posted several times about breath, and how it is the foundation for speech.  Here’s a little exercise to support your breath support:

  1.  Begin by taking large breaths.  Slowly in, slowly out.
  2.  Now do this through your mouth.
  3.  Now add a little pressure, make a sssss noise or a zzzzz noise.  Keep the breaths long and even.
  4.  Do this sitting down!   Lots of oxygen can make you quite dizzy!

This is a ground-work kind of exercise.  It’s not something you think of consciously while performing, but the practice will bolster other voice work.  As you do this one, be aware of your rib cage and the lungs inside that bony protection.

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.