Newsletter – May 2017
Hello and welcome to the May 2017 edition of the Voice-MS newsletter. This is always an exciting time of the year for me. There seems to be so many birthdays and special events going on in May, it’s always a lot of fun. However with those party nights and concerts one does need to be mindful of straining the voice as you speak or sing in noisy environments. In fact this is one area of my work that comes up time and time again. Competing with a band or loud music in a bar or shouting at a football match can be very dangerous to the voice as it could lead to strain. We often realise the next morning when the voice is hoarse. If this creakiness or huskiness clears up after a few hours then that’s not a huge issue but if the hoarseness lasts for a few weeks then it is something that requires investigation.
I often get asked, “How do I speak for long periods of time without losing the energy in my voice?” or “How can I make my voice stronger?” For the teachers amongst us this may be a familiar subject. There is not one size that fits all but there are a few common areas of focus: posture and muscle tension, breath management, pace, pause and vocal hygiene.
Initially we would check for any physical issues such as muscle tension and postural alignment that may be impeding the flow of the voice. This is vital in assessing whether the head, neck and back posture is putting pressure on the larynx/voice box. Also how your overall body weight distribution is placed. Tension in the knees and hips may also cause an issue to your voice.
Consider the breath; is it being trapped/held in the upper chest? Are you holding the breath? Is the breath connected to the thought or phrases? A lot of the time when we are stuck in our thoughts the breath becomes disconnected from the natural rhythms of the body. It becomes shallow and rapid. This is an unproductive state of breathing for the voice as it essentially starves the voice from the adequate breath flow it needs to support the words spoken. You may have heard people saying use your diaphragm or breathe from the diaphragm but do you really know how to access a diaphragmatic breath? Trained singers and actors learn in detail through years of practical exercises and kinaesthetic awareness to feel the muscles of the abdomen engage. We can’t ‘feel’ the diaphragm as it is buried deep below the lungs but we can feel the rib swing and we can send the breath deep into the bottom of our lungs which allows the diaphragm to make its full movement. It’s not just about the diaphragm, that’s only one of many muscles involved in supporting the voice. The pelvic floor and the transverse abdomini are essential too. Strengthening the voice comes from getting the right balance of muscle activity and breath pressure.
Managing the breath in line with the thoughts and properly pacing your speech can help in energising the delivery. Usually when we speak we connect our thoughts to our breath. Each new breath is a new thought. This natural phrasing helps the voice and the message to be clearly enunciated, often this goes wrong and we run out of breath or push our voice too long on empty. Pausing or taking a break can be an important tool for allowing the voice to recover. Using pauses effectively in your speech can add immense value and impact.
Lastly vocal hygiene is an important area to consider. This is nothing to do with ‘cleaning’ the voice. We use this term to denote care and maintenance. There are many lifestyle factors that can irritate the voice; dust, pollen, alcohol, dairy, spicy foods and fizzy drinks to name a few common offenders. That’s not to say we should eliminate them all from our diet but to be aware that some of these may be an issue to some. The vocal mechanism needs hydration as the mucosal membranes that line the vocal tract need moisture. Notice the effect of air quality on the voice. Air conditioning and heating can add to the drying out of the throat and mouth. Keeping up the water intake and steaming can help tremendously with the energy and efficiency of your voice.
I provided accent coaching for a production of Pronoun at Derby Theatre last week. My student did a wonderful James Dean performance and nailed the accent.
In the run up to the September marathon I will be running in the 10K Race for Life for Cancer Research on 4th June in Nottingham.
Last month saw some exciting developments in my voice training as I resumed my corporate training on Communicating Effectively for a big blue chip company.
Things in the Pipeline!
The Summer Sale is starting soon. Get 5 hours of 121 training in any aspect of voice for only £199.
The Belly Dancing workshop is happening on Tuesday 4th July at Bramcote Memorial Hall – main hall- 7.45pm-9.15pm.
Tip of the month…
The Diamond of Support – This exercise comes from Barbara Houseman but was inspired by Janice Chapman. You can find more about this in Houseman’s book : Finding Your Voice: A Complete Voice Training Manual for Actors (Nick Hern Books) Paperback – 25 Jul 2002
Explore the different points of the diamond with ‘psh
breath’: say ‘psh’ short and sharp a few times.
Connect sounds and phrases to the muscle movement: ‘hoo hoo, hoh hoh, hor hor, hah hah’
Connect to text by double bouncing off the first sound: ‘Sh sh shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’…