Sunday, February 4, 2007

What to do for your Speaking Voice

I had a comment on my last post that was a question about the speaking voice. Because I figure most of you may not click on the comments to see what is said, I thought I'd put the info in this new post, with a bit of elaboration.

I remember when I was on the road as an artist, I used to dread interviews before shows. It actually affected my singing voice to do a lot of talking before I sang, so I tried to have them scheduled after the show. Now I can talk all day long, 8- 10 hours a day and my voice never gets tired! (The rest of me does, but not my voice.)

Vocal sound quality and volume - whether speaking or singing- comes from resonation; your vocal cords just create the initial buzz when air moves through them. That buzz needs to reach reverberating zones in your head, throat & chest (some teachers even add your back and tailbone). That's how your speaking (and singing) voice can become much richer, more melodic, and yes, louder. Without adequate resonation, you end up pushing too much air through your cords trying to work up enough volume. Here are some tips for you:
  • This advice alone will make immediate improvements: USE YOUR EYES WHEN YOU SPEAK!!! even on the phone!

To convince you, try this little exercise: keep your eyes very still and count to 5 moderately loud. Now count again, but move your eyes very animatedly while you speak, (check the mirror because sometimes your brain really doesn't know what your eyes are doing- your eyebrows should be active).

Your eyepads and eyebrows are very connected to what's going on inside your throat. You'll notice your voice is more melodic and can reach more pitches, and it's richer. It feels like you're pulling your voice out of your head by the word, with no forward "push" pressure. For practical application, just know it's important to communicate with your eyes while you are speaking- imagine your audience is deaf and needs to read your face for the message. Or imagine talking to a child. Use animation. ESPECIALLY on the phone, we tend to speak without expression on our faces.


Don't be a talking head...Speak from your pelvic floor! Keep your ribs open by your posture, and you'll have compression power for your voice. This is another thing we do when we're on the phone... slouch. Then the voice feels like it's disconnected from the body. When standing, your voice needs your legs (which your voice considers butt extentions). Another power point: Whether sitting or standing, even on the phone, talk with your hands. It helps your ribs stay weightless and gives your diaphragm room to control the airflow to your cords. Keep your back flexible and keep your head from going forward of your shoulders. All tension can and should be relegated to butt and legs.

  • WARM UP your speaking voice, too!

As many voice-over artists and actors know, it is very helpful to warm up the voice for speaking as well as singing. The tissues and muscles involved in your vocal apparatus need to get blood flow and flexibility increased.

  • Get a list of tongue tanglers and say them a few times till your tongue and jaw get loosened and flexible, your face starts working, articulation gets animated and fluid... and you don't get your tongue tied behind your eye teeth when you practice (OK, it's a southern phrase, but you get the pic). I have pages of them for my clients...Try these three:
  1. red leather yellow leather
  2. you know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York
  3. eleven benevolent elephants
  • A great way to warm up is to make noises like a siren or ghost. You have to become somewhat fearless as to what people may think if they hear you.
  • Humming, bubbling and tongue trills are great voice starters, too.


  1. Warm up your voice
  2. Talk with body language- especially eyes and hands
  3. Keep your chest open, head back, chin level and your back flexible.
  4. Loosen your jaw and form words distinctly.
  5. And one more time... talk with your eyes!

If you'd like to check out the exercises in my training method Power, Path & Performance, go to my website where you'll learn how to order my 6-cd package or my single cd condensed course.

Happy talking!