Every Fall I get emails from teachers complaining of voice fatigue, and sometimes even voice loss. In these next few minutes I’ll share some ideas and exercises that are good for teachers, salesmen, pastors and anyone who uses their voice consistently throughout the day.
To begin with, remember that what we call “the voice,” is really a physical, mechanical and acoustical instrument. It is designed to work in a specific way and involves a number of different organs and systems of the body. Posture, breathing, articulation, projection and more are involved every time you speak. Here are some thoughts and exercises to help you prepare and maintain your speaking instrument:
- The voice is a complex, physical instrument.
- Physical systems need to be warmed up and cooled down.
- Understanding how your voice projects, takes the pressure off.
A Physical Instrument
Since your voice has always just “been there,” it’s easy to mistreat. The fact is, the voice is a series of physical systems that need to be maintained and cared for. Posture, breathing and articulatory muscles are all involved.
Warm It Up and Cool It Down
Because we are dealing with muscles, tendons, cartilage, membrane and more, you should warm up your instrument before you hit the classroom or office. Just how does a teacher or speaker warm up the voice? Here is a checklist that will help:
1. Hands Up! Prepare the instrument, which is you, by lifting your hands straight up over your head to align the body. It will feel good, while at the same time, prevent tension in the neck and larynx that can tire the voice. Muscle memory will help you maintain this posture throughout the day.
2. Check the Power Source. With hands still up, take in four sipping breaths and feel the entire waist area expand. Now, expel the breath on four hissing sounds. Sip, sip, sip, sip, hiss, hiss, hiss, hiss etc. You will quickly realize where you should be feeling the breathing. Muscle memory will help you use these same muscles throughout the day, rather than leaving the chest up and down.
3. Hummmmmm. Relax the arms and start humming anything you want – a song, or just sounds. Go high and low, reaching into all parts of your range.
4. Cool it Down. At the end of your teaching or work day, do some more Humming on a simple melody. The goal is to allow this physical instrument to gradually return to normal resting size and temperature. The obvious parallel is sports. Those who cool the muscles are more protected from injury.
Use the “You” Sound System
You are the sound system. While you were humming you could dramatically feel vibrations in the face, head, neck and chest. These are the acoustical chambers of your body amplifying and projecting the sound. The great part is that it doesn’t take a lot of air. Instead, it naturally amplifies the sound if you don’t over-push it.
As you respect your voice, warming it up and allowing it to naturally project, speaking becomes much less stressful on the voice. To learn more about ways to preserve and maintain your voice check out the FREE RESOURCES page of our site. If you have questions you would like to have answered just email firstname.lastname@example.org . Need some training tools? The Complete Breathing, Warm-Up and Diction and Daily Workout CD’s are perfect for teachers and speakers. The are fun and easy to use. Check them out by clicking here.