What is Voice Work About?

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“There is no index of character so sure as the voice.” — Benjamin Disraeli

A lot of times when students approach us about wanting to work on their voices, it’s because they don’t like the sound of their voice. And that’s fair. We as a society have aesthetics surrounding what kind of voices we like to hear just as much as we do about body shape, facial features, hair style, etc.

Because of these aesthetics, many people think that our role as voice coaches, whether we work with actors or with professionals in other contexts, is to help people cultivate a beautiful voice. But that is actually no so much what I am interested in.

As a voice coach, I’m much more interested in exploring: is your voice connected to what you’re saying? Connected to your message? In the same way that you would want your body language to match your message. Whether that message is a pitch to client, or  you’re playing a character and speaking somebody else’s words, or whether you’re talking with friends at a pub. I find this to be a much more constructive way to work with people on their voices than by aiming to help them find a ‘beautiful’ voice. For one thing, if the voice is connected to the message, then it’s more likely that the sound is being produced in a healthy way. That connection is physical as well as vocal, because your voice is created by muscular actions that happen in your body. Vocal connection means that your breath support muscles are working efficiently, sending up just the right amount of air through your vocal folds. Healthier breathing means more of your body can resonate as you speak—- so when your voice is connected to your message, you are allowing your message to literally resonate within you.

There is good news for those of you who would like to improve the sound of your voice: aiming for a healthy, connected sound does objectively improve the sound of your voice to others. But that improvement will come from a more authentic place—- it will come from you simply expressing yourself, as opposed to you trying to sound a specific way.

Can you think of moments in your life where you’ve been truly physically and vocally connected to what you were saying? Where your body language and voice were unified with  your thoughts and intentions? How did that feel? When were those moments? We would love to hear about them– please feel free to send us an email or share in the comments below. Your stories could be great inspiration for others!

Take good care,

Christine

 

 

We’ll Make Your Jaw Drop… Articulator Release!

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Ever encountered the expression “bite your tongue”? How about “stiff upper lip”? Or maybe “glass jaw”?

All of these expressions speak to the articulators, that lovely group of muscles and joints that allow us to create clear speech. Our expressions about them are a bit different. We say, stretch your tongue! Loosen your lips! Find a jaw that rivals Gumby in its flexibility and resilience! Not only will your speech be clearer, but you might find your spritely articulators encourage you to hold on to less and speak your mind more. This warm-up to release and condition is your first step! Give it a try!

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Take Good Care,

Christine and Lindsay

Training the (Inner) Voice

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In our work as voice and communication skills coaches, Lindsay and I generally work with students on ‘delivery’. That is, how the message (whether that be a play, a story, or a presentation) is being delivered physically and vocally. Key questions we consider are: how can students find open body language? How can they find healthy, full voices that are connected to their message? We spend a lot of time looking at external communication as a means for expressing the internal life of the communicator clearly and engagingly.

So you may be asking yourself why we’ve spent so much time in the last few written blog posts talking less about external communication and more about the inner voice— specifically through the lens of exploring ‘mantras’, or affirmative statements— either through simply thinking them internally or speaking them out loud (and proud!). Well, here’s why: the more I work with students on elements of their external communication, like body language and voice, the more I realize how much the habits we develop around the way use our voices and bodies to communicate have to do with how we talk to ourselves— or the ‘inner’ voice. So while the body, voice and inner voice can be worked on separately, they are intricately connected and sometimes it is worth considering them more holistically.

We are not psychologists and we don’t claim to be. Our work on the inner voice is not about psychological catharsis or healing (although if that is a byproduct— great!). Rather, our work is about acknowledging that the inner voice is a powerful tool for communication. If we ignore our inner voice, it makes it difficult to connect physically and vocally to our message— because we don’t actually know what we think or feel about it! But as with anything else, the inner voice can get into unhealthy habits in terms of how it communicates with us, which can have an impact on our physical and vocal communication. It’s hard to have open body language and speak loud enough for people to hear you when your inner voice is telling you you aren’t worthy of being heard, or you don’t deserve to be in the room.

So we here at BeSpoke Communication humbly believe that if you’re really serious about working on your voice and body language in communication, part of that journey will at some point be benefitted by training your inner voice, or working on your self-talk. Personally, I have found adopting daily, weekly or monthly mantras an excellent way of beginning to train my own (quite unruly, rebellious, obsessive and sometimes rude) inner voice. I started really getting serious about this process back in January during the 30 Day Yoga Challenge we’ve mentioned several times. Similar to training the spoken voice, I’m finding that training the inner voice takes discipline and practice, but it’s worth the time in terms of the rewards it brings.  Here is a story about a discovery I made while  working actively to train my inner voice that has strengthened my confidence in my communication.

On Day 30 of the 30 Day Yoga Challenge, the task was to choose your own mantra. I picked ‘I choose to enjoy.’ I had struggled with getting into the mantras for the first 15 days, but half-way through, I really started to get into it. In fact, it was after the afore-mentioned breakthrough in our blog post about presence that I began to realize the powerful benefits that can come from taking some control over my self-talk. So by the time I got to Day 30 and I was asked to pick my own mantra, I was ready to go! I choose to enjoy!!

There was a big surprise about how the video was structured on Day 30, which I won’t ruin for those of you who want to do the challenge, but at the time I didn’t enjoy the surprise. At all. In fact, I found it deeply unsettling. I kept trying to keep up with the practice in the video, really not liking what was happening, with my inner voice slowly sinking into a negative diatribe about how ironic it was that I had chosen the mantra ‘I choose to enjoy’ on a day when I was so not enjoying myself. At some point, I moved into a Runner’s stretch. The opening in my hip allowed my breath to open and my inner voice suddenly said clearly: ‘This practice is difficult but I am enjoying this moment.’

That was my way into my mantra. I might not enjoy the surprise, or that day’s practice overall, but I could commit to finding moments within it that I did enjoy. Having the mantra helped me actively look for those moments, rather than totally shutting down or turning negative— which would have had a real impact on my ability to move, open up, and breathe. The experience I was having with the yoga practice, instead of turning negative, suddenly became a positive challenge: where could I look for moments of enjoyment, even in an experience I was finding difficult?

What if we all approached life this way, not just yoga? More specifically, what if we approached our communication in this way? So many of us find speaking in public (whether as ourselves or as a character) a difficult experience. I have found that training my inner-voice with mantras has helped me cultivate a habit of more positive self-talk in general, but also in communication contexts. This has benefited my external communication—- because my body is more willing to open up and I’m more willing to breathe deeply and send my voice to others when I’m speaking–directly because of the more positive way I’m talking and and relating to myself. Even if that moment of communication is difficult.

What do you think? Does this all sound too new-age-y to you? Or have you been doing this for years? Mantras are just one way into self-talk. Have you found another way that works for you? We would love to hear about it.

Christine

5 Minute Power-Up!

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Happy May Everyone!

It’s finally starting to feel a bit more like Spring in London, especially with the first Bank Holiday weekend, we hope yours was fantastic. The late start to the work week has Christine and I run off our feet a little, and we thought some of you might feel the same. Here’s a quick little power-up to energize the breath and find a little release.

Enjoy and let us know how you get on!

Lindsay and Christine