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.

December’s Quickie– got phlegm??

We all get it – that bit of goo in the throat.  Here’s a little trick:  Exhale softly, making a “kaaah’ sound.  Now inhale, making the same “kaaah.”  What’s happening here? You are moving the back of your tongue up to meet your soft palate  Repeat this in-out action five or six times, and the issue should be resolved.   You might yawn in response to the soft palate actions, and yawning is always good.  Keep your throat warm in the cold weather, and happy holidays to all!

November Quickie

This seems like an easy one —  breathe.  But are you breathing properly, fully?  Take a deep breath, right now.  Does your whole chest expand?  You need breath to make sound.  Explore your rib cage, from the lowest right by your waist, to the top, not quite to your collarbone.  Where there are ribs, there are lungs.Image result for ribcage

Our torso muscles get tight, through nerves, holding our stomachs in, fatigue.   Finding your natural breath is fun and easy: When you wake up tomorrow morning, don’t move right away.  Notice your breathing.  You haven’t had a chance to get tense about anything, so this is the easiest, freest breathing you have.  Feel what’s moving, how your stomach responds to a breath coming in.  Now sit up, stand up, try to keep that easy breath going.
Babies do it all the time!  We can re-reach ourselves, and create a strong foundation for a powerful voice.

Quickie #4 Singin’ in the Rain

Well, singing in the shower…  To expand your vocal range — find higher and lower pitches than you usually use — sing in the shower!   Several advantages: 1) NO ONE IS LISTENING! You can play all you like, try new things;  2) the warm water lubricates your vocal folds, making higher pitches more easily available.  Sing songs you know–but sing them differently.  Try out characters with different vocalizations.  Safely and warmly, in the rain.

And it’s the THIRD Quickie!

Happy September to all, especially to those who are back in school.  So, tension is the enemy of the strong, effective voice. Lots of us carry tension in the back of the neck down across the shoulders. A simple way to ease this tightness?  With the tip of your nose,  slowly ‘draw’ an infinity sign, a side-ways figure eight, in the air.  Doesn’t have to be big. Do this a few times, and feel the relaxation spread down your neck.  Can we compare that to honey?  Yes, it surely is sweet.

Second Voice Quickie!

Another fast warm-up tip:  HUM.   You can’t damage your voice humming, and it gets the resonances going.   Concentrate on getting the vibration ‘tickle’ going on your lips and the tip of your nose.   Hum a favorite song — do pick one with fun lyrics to sing along in your head!  Humming can also help expand your vocal range.  Slide up and down, higher in pitch, and lower.  Experiment with the extremes–that’s how to discover new abilities.

Comments?  Questions?  Write me back!