Are you a chatter box???
SINGERS: Why it is important to care of your speaking voice
Even if you are a pro who sings for hours everyday, 80% of the time you will use your voice primarily for speaking. As this is the case, care of the speaking voice is a top priority for anyone who sings. When you talk, you focus on the skill of communication and not on how you are producing your voice, this is one of the reasons why your voice may not always function efficiently and it can also mean a less vibrant singing voice too - So I am here to bring you awareness to the benefits of tuning in to how you speak.
Talking has been habitual to us from a very early age and many people have years of tension wired directly into their voices just from inefficiency in their speech mode, this is why I do not treat singing and speaking as two completely separate functions in my studio - I tend to work on both modes of voice production interchangeably with every student, one reason being that these voice qualities are created using exactly the same instrument, another reason is that they both require training in order for the singer to have consistent vocal quality and longevity.
Why you need to focus more on relaxation and stress reduction...
Your voice is linked to your emotional motor system and the fight or flight response, this means that it has an automated reaction to many situations in your life. One example is when you stub your toe by accident, you scream or cry out as a result and the response is usually involuntarily... In this scenario, you don't think about HOW you are going to scream or the volume or pitch of the scream, it just happens because of the neural pathways in your brain - Stressful situations can also affect your voice in the same way.. The point I am trying to make is that our voices are wired to behave in a primal manner and this can be productive from a training perspective, however many of the responses to everything we think, feel and experience throughout our lives do not always serve for the greater good and end up exhausting us vocally. Physical activities like weight lifting also trigger unintentional constrictions inside the larynx which will affect your voice too, so as singers we must be aware and take extra care of our emotional and physical health in very much the same way that other athletes do - Singing is athletic, there is not doubt about that. From now on think of yourself as a 'singing athlete' - That could be your new mantra!
By reducing your stress levels through specific activities and producing a less effortful voice, you will help minimise any extra unintentional muscular activity building up in your larynx (voice box) which occurs from the stresses and strains of everyday life, preventing your vocal folds from vibrating freely. By becoming more economical and reducing the demand on your speaking voice, your singing voice will gradually improve over time. It is also important to know how to bring your vocal folds together in a healthy way and learn to manage your breathing and support for efficient singing AND speaking, but I will be covering these topics in more depth another time - Stay tuned!
"But surely it is more beneficial to practice singing exercises, not exercises for speaking? I can already speak... This is silly".
Building and bridging a relationship between the speaking and singing voice is crucial across all styles of music and this will also give you more power and vocal identity as a singer. Singing vocal quality, range and flexibility can be compromised if your speaking voice is inefficiently produced. Over the years, I have also found that vocal fatigue tends to set in much quicker for singers who neglect speech exercises as part of their ongoing training. A good speaking voice nearly ALWAYS leads to a much freer singing voice. If you work on some daily vocal exercises to help fine tune your speaking voice, this offers a good basic foundation for training and consistency in every vocal activity.
FREE Speech training exercises for Singers:
Step 1: Releasing the larynx
- Find your thyroid cartilage, (nicknamed the Adams apple for men, women also have one too but it is not as prominent). If you gradually run your finger tips up the centre of your neck you will be able to find the bit of cartilage which slightly protrudes. Place your finger tips here for the exercise.
- For the next part of the exercise, don't try to take take in lots of air - On the voiceless 'sh' sound, EXHALE until you feel empty of air, you should feel you abdominal muscles engage as you do this. Afterwards, IMMEDIATELY sniff in a puff of air thorough your nose - With this action you, you will feel the area underneath your finger tips moving away or dropping. Hold your vocal folds open in this position for 4 seconds gently without squeezing (TIP: think about laughing silently as you do this). Repeat several times until you are familiar with creating this laryngeal posture - No grunting or squeezing, if it feels wrong then please STOP.
Step 2: Finding airflow
Carry out step 1 and immediately intone a very gentle 'V' sound (as in the start of the the word very) for 8 seconds on a low pitch in your range - D3-F#3 for males / Bb3-C#4 for females - Feel the airflow moving onto the back of your hand by slightly contracting your lower abdominal muscles (TIP: your belly button moves in as you make the sound). Repeat this several times slowly: AUDIO EXAMPLE
Step 3: Repeat steps 1 & 2 now merging into counting with no gaps in the sound. Use a confident, rather boring speaking voice: 'VvVvV - 123454321', VvVvVv 5432123454321: AUDIO EXAMPLE
Step 4: Using the 'VvVvVv' as a springboard, sustain each number in turn for 5 seconds, making sure that you elongate all vowels. Don't forget the sniff breath after each number. AUDIO EXAMPLE
VvVvVvV - OOOOOOONE
VvVvVvV - TWOOOOOO
Step 5: Finding resonance (First repeat Steps 1 & 2 before you carry out the exercise)
This time: Sustain HMMMMMM (hum) at a low easy effort level with loosely touching lip for about 8 seconds whilst chewing vigorously and moving your tongue around your mouth. This will most likely make your lips and under your nose tingle (don't worry if you can't feel anything here, that's normal too!) Aim for a constant vibration of sound with no wavering or vibrato. (TIP: If your voice feels tight or difficult to control, chew a bit faster and move your jaw from side to side and rest your tongue between your lips (yes poke it out a little bit!), exhaling a little more air through your nose as your hum). When your voice feels freer and easier inside, chant the sequence below from that exact humming spot, allowing your tongue position to change slowly and gradually for each vowel: AUDIO EXAMPLE
HMMMMMM (& chew) - NEEEEEEEEE
HMMMMMM - NEEEE - AY - EE
HMMMMMM - NEEEE - AY - AI
HMMMMMM - NEEEE - AY - OH
HMMMMMM - NEEEE - AY -OO
HMMMMMM - NEEEE - OO - OY
HMMMMMM - NEEEE - OY - OO
HMMMMMM - NEEEE - AI - AY
Step 6: Slightly hold your breath without squeezing inside your larynx, you aren't sitting on the toilet..! you want this 'hold' to be very light. Say 'uh - oh' as if you were in trouble, the tone will be fairly loud and clear - If done correctly, you will be initiating your voice with a glottal onset but this can be hard on the voice if there is any extra tension involved, so it is important that you do it right. If you find this exercise fatiguing, stop immediately: AUDIO EXAMPLE
Try the following sequence, again elongating the vowel of each number, add more abdominal support for the vowel sounds but do not squeeze your abs on the 'uh-oh'.
Uh - oh - ONE (O)
Uh - oh - TWO (OO)
Uh - oh - THREE (EE)
Uh - oh - FOUR (AW)
Uh - oh - FIVE (AH - EE)
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this post or the exercises I have included. Furthermore, if you'd like to book a FREE online1-1 consultation with me via zoom , please click below.