Updated: Jan 23
One of the ways in which you can begin to recognise your voices movements is in observing the speaking habits of those around you. The next time you're in a boring situation which involves some kind of dialect, make an exercise out of analysing the speakers speech. Why do they sound boring? Does their voice sound droopy, or raspy and croaky, overly breathy, like it's sitting on the floor? Or have you heard the Nervous Nelly give a speech and it's beyond uncomfortable and awkward to listen to: is their speech filled with awkward pauses, mumbling, breathlessness, umms, apologies? Begin to ask yourself if your own speaking voice can improve? If you find yourself being able to relate to these speakers perhaps it's time to focus on your speaking habits. After all, you don't want the people listening to you feeling uncomfortable, awkward, or worse, bored!
A bonus of learning clear, concise, and strong annunciation is that your speech will carry more authority.
Ever been in a lecture where the lecturer has droned on and on? Or on a date or at a family function where the party talking is impossibly monotone and boring? Chances are they are speaking lazily. Note here that I'm not equating them personally to being lazy, it's possibly just that their speaking habits developed in a lazy way!
We know that the majority of professions involve some kind of speech. How many of those professions contain individuals who want to excel at their career? Those who are looking for a job promotion, or those who want to start their own business, and be their own boss from now until eternity? Listen to a Tedtalk, think back to those lecturers who were engaging, or that friend who always seemed to win at life - did they speak lazily?
Of course, there are multiple aspects to success; commanding a room, and being confident are two of those, but one of those aspects is how we speak.
For those who are performers, singers, or singing teachers, attention must be paid to phonation, tongue movement and mouth space. It's not enough to be on pitch, or to pride yourself on your performance ability, it's important to pay attention to longevity and career sustainability. Ask yourself this: what do you do if you have a cold and that gig is paying your rent for the week? What if you need to sing emotions that are unfamiliar to you, or distort your voice to fit a character? If you don't have an answer to these questions, it might be time to start looking at understanding the physiology of your vocal anatomy.
The unfortunate reality is that we cannot physically see our instrument, however, we have a wonderful silver lining in sensation. Start observing what the sensations are in your mouth, 'neck' or 'throat' when you speak, cough, laugh, cry, scream, shout, sing, swallow, you could even make vomiting educational!
Regardless of your role in serving society, how you speak is important, and even though singing teachers, performers, and medical professionals have been offering advice and remedies for sore throats for centuries, we as lay people, are still mostly unaware of the practical ways in which we can understand our voice. While these precautions and facts offered by singing teachers, allied health and medical professionals are fascinating and amusing to read, and great applications for vocal care, what we need is lasting change.
Take it from someone who has experienced vocal damage, and recovered to a better place than she was before; developing an understanding of how your voice works will transform your singing and speaking career.