Your voice is one of the most important part of your MAD Academy toolkit. It is therefore really important to protect it! Below are some tips and exercises you can use to make the most of your voice
You can speak only as well as you breathe. Control your breath, and you begin to control your speaking voice. Also, better breathing reduces tension in the neck and shoulders that can inhibit your best natural voice. The voice is a wind instrument. Try the following exercises to get yours in tune!
- Get ready. Stand with your feet not quite shoulder width apart, your weight forward, more on the balls of the feet than the heels. Relax your hands by your sides. Start to pay attention to your breathing. As you exhale, release your shoulders, relax your neck, unclench your teeth, and see if you can’t manage a yawn and maybe even a smile.
- Diaphragmatic breathing. This is breathing from your belly. It fuels your voice and releases tension from your upper body. It’s also called belly breathing because as you inhale, your belly expands (and your chest and shoulders don’t move). This is the opposite of what you might do on the beach where many people suck in their bellies and puff out their chests.
- Lie down and place one hand over your belly button. Slowly inhale one long breath through your mouth while silently counting “one… two… three… four.” Your stomach should expand, pushing your hand upward (your shoulders and chest should not move.) Feel your hand move out as you pull the breath deep into your lungs. Now, hold that breath and count silently, “one… two… three… four.” Next, exhale the breath through your mouth while counting silently, “one… two… three… four.” Do this for 5 minutes. It should become comfortable and natural. Now sit up in a chair with your back straight. Repeat the exercise with your hand on you belly. Do this for 3 minutes.m Now stand up and repeat the exercise. If you find it easy, in future just go straight to the standing version.
- Ha… You are going to make a gentle “Ha” sound, using up an entire breath on just that one sound. Take in a full belly breath, and as you exhale say a very gentle and quiet sustained Haaaaaa… until you run out of air. Do it again, being certain to really open your mouth as you softly sustain the Ha.
- Shoulder bounce. Once you’ve mastered the Ha, start to release tension from your neck and shoulders. First, lift your shoulders up toward your ears, hold them for a count of four, and then let them drop, completely releasing them. Now, do this rapidly. This is the shoulder bounce.
- Next, combine the shoulder bounce with the Ha. With your hands relaxed by your sides, take a full belly breath, and then exhale a gentle sustained Haaaa, running out of air as you did before. Only this time, while you are doing the Ha, simultaneously do the shoulder bounce for the entire time you are making sound. This will help release tension from your vocal chords and help you prepare your voice to speak.
Keep it up. Doing these exercises regularly will help prepare your breath to support your voice. Each time you do them you improve your breathing and release some of the tension that can easily accumulate throughout the day. They will help you prepare to speak, not just physically but also mentally, by reducing any anxiety you may be feeling.
Easy Ways to Improve the Quality of your Voice
One of the easiest ways to improve the quality of your voice os to regularly hum. To see how well it works, speak a sentence in your normal voice. Then hum for five minutes. Hum so your lips vibrate. Hum high, hum low. Then speak the same sentence again. You’ll notice a cleaner, more forward sound. That’s the natural sound and placement of your voice. Spend your time driving to your venue humming along to the radio.
Yawn with sound. Open your mouth and throat as if yawning and repeat the word ‘mood’ distinctly three times, pitched as low as you can without growling. Feel the ‘oo’ sound coming from your chest. This vowel opens your throat. Now, with your throat open in that position, say the word ‘nice’ three times; then ‘mood’ three times; and ‘nice’ three times. Repeat this ten times.
Now say ‘mood’ three times; with the throat in the ‘oo’ position say the words ‘early’, then ‘regular,’ ‘Mary,’ ‘pie,’ ‘fancy’ and ‘three.’ Always say ‘mood’ first and be sure to pronounce distinctly. This exercise takes the shrillness and nasal quality out of any voice and makes it mellow.
Follow it up with some facial stretching – smile hard, then relax. Open your face as if to scream, hold for a second, then relax. Finish up with some gentle head rolls. A relaxed face and neck is a necessary vessel for a relaxed, assertive voice.
Work your T’s
Enunciation is generally the weakest element in our speech. We assume that the way we pronounce words in regular conversation is sufficient for public speaking. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Singers have a simple exercise they use to improve enunciation. They sing the phrase, “the tip of the tongue, the teeth the lips.” Say that phrase repeatedly, at ever increasing speed. Focus on keeping each of the words clear and distinct. You don’t need much—small changes make a big difference.
A Great Vocal Warm-up for the Larynx
This vocal warm up exercise is called the “lip-roll”.
Place a hand either side of your mouth and use the tips of your fingers to hold up the weight of your cheeks. When you push your fingertips in, you should feel where your teeth meet. Now keep your lips very loose and floppy.
Now blow like you would at the end of a long day. This will make a sound similar to a horse!
Now, while holding this pose, make a very dopey BRRRRRRRRRRR sound. As you do this, just allow your lips to flap freely with the sound.
The reason you need to keep it dopey is because this sound will gently pull your larynx down, which will disengage the muscles that cause you vocal tension. With these muscles disengaged, it makes it far easier to sing through your bridges and into your upper vocal registers.
This sound is what will teach your voice how to discover your upper range. Get out a favourite song you love to sing and instead of actually singing the song with words, you are going to replace the words this the “BRRRRRRR” sound. If you do this vocal warm up exercise a few times (singing your favorite song with the “BRRRRR” sound) and then go back to singing the song with words, you will notice that everything feels easy. The higher notes are much easier to hit. Your tone is sweeter.