What if every word you spoke and sang at home, in the car, in rehearsal and in performance was recorded? Then, at the end of the day you would be given an evaluation of how you did in areas with your tone quality, appropriate volume, clarity of your words, use of breath and more. Would that change the way you use your voice?
For some, the very possibility of being recorded and evaluated would lead to paranoia, not to mention less speaking and singing. For most, however, it should give birth to a fun, challenging and very fulfilling game called, “I will prepare mentally and physically before I open my mouth.”
THINK ABOUT IT
Every time you make an audible sound you are reinforcing your physical process be it right or wrong. If you’re like most people you speak without ever thinking about the actual sound. Hopefully, that’s because you are focusing on the message.
The fact is, we have the mental capacity to think about content and voice at the same time, and that should be our goal. Even as we begin the process we can quadruple the power of our communications by matching content with appropriate tone, volume, diction and inflections. Any time we don’t have all these elements working in harmony we risk a partial disconnect between what we think we are saying and what actually gets heard.
MAKE A LIST
It begins with you actively listening to and defining your own voice. What does it sound like? Is it rough, smooth, pitched high or low or in between? Is it soothing or alarming, unnecessarily loud or too soft to be heard? Are the words clear and easy for others to understand, or are they mumbled, requiring repeats of what you’ve said? Write down these observations. If you have the courage, ask several others to give their feedback on the above list of possibilities. Keep this list handy as you begin the Exercise In Voice Awareness.
- Using your new list begin to make the changes you are capable of.
- If you are straining your throat while trying to speak at too low a pitch (you can put a hand there and feel it) stop it. Allow your speaking voice to be slightly higher.
- If you are always hyper and loud when you speak, relax. Get softer. It will be easier on the listener and your voice. It will also give you room to build and grow your sound when that is appropriate.
- If you mumble your words, slow down and use the lips, tongue and teeth. With a little listening and effort you can be clear.
- Adjust other obvious areas, then begin “hearing” your tone and voice quality before it comes out, then speak.
- Before you make a sung sound think about it. What should it feel like (posture, breathing, tone resonance, diction)? Then, consider what it should sound like. Mentally anticipate and “hear” the sound before it comes out. This is a skill that you can develop.
- Whenever possible, record yourself speaking or singing, and be objective as you listen back. Ask yourself what areas met your goals and what didn’t? What can you do about it? Even many smart phones can record with surprisingly accurate quality.
REMEMBER THE GOAL
As you mentally record and evaluate your voice, you will grow in your vocal awareness. Your goal is to be “hearing” your voice even before the sound is produced. This will help the different parts of the vocal process (posture, breathing, tone, diction, and volume) deliver exactly what you want rather than whatever default sound happens to come out.
WHEN WILL YOU SEE THE FRUIT?
You can start benefiting almost immediately but it will take a little time before it happens automatically. In my own experience I began just thinking about and enjoying the sound and physical sensations of the voice. Before long it was always in the back of my mind. Now, it just happens and things adjust in milliseconds before sound comes out. Because it is on autopilot, I can put all my thought into content and delivering the message whether speaking or singing.
DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS?
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