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Thursday, April 14, 2011

That's Not My Voice! . . .

When you hear yourself on a recorder, the first reaction is: "That's not my voice," or "Do I sound like that?" The reason is, you think your voice is richer than it actually is. When you hear your voice from a recorder, you are hearing it as it travels through the air. It sounds thin-not so rich. In conversations, when you are speaking, you hear your own voice transmitted through your bones. That is why it sounds richer. Also, you hear your own voice through the air-and that gives you a slight echo effect (like singing in the bathroom) because the sound through air reaches your ear slightly slower than transmitted through the bones.

Now that we know why your voice might sound thin, let us get on with the the task of improving it-no matter how good your voice is, there is always room for improvement. The first thing to understand is that the voice box makes the sound, the air from the lungs makes it vibrate and the empty parts of your body gives it the resonance (that is why the sound from a big guitar is richer than the shrill sounds of a smaller violin).

A loud enough voice is important. Notice how we pay attention to loud people. We stop listening only when we find that they are speaking nonsense. But initially, a loud voice draws attention. We can train for this power, and then we learn to moderate this power. Being too loud is not a good idea.

Start with the lungs because there is not much you can do with the voice box-it cannot be changed though it can be trained. The power of air pushing through the vice box makes the sounds we use in speech. If there is no power, then the sound will be weak. To increase the amount of air in your lungs, learn to breathe properly. Many people raise their chest when they breathe in-probably to make their chest look bigger. But if you look at diagrams of lungs, you will find that the apex or smallest part is the top part. So, learn to breathe by bringing out the lower part of your chest.

The above can be done by first bringing out your stomach when you breathe (using the stomach to breathe is not good but it is the first step in learning to breathe using the lower chest, which is also known as diaphragmatic breathing). As you bring your stomach out, be aware of what is happening to your lower chest. Then after some practise (it is not achieved in one day) you don't have to bring out the stomach anymore. You can use your lower chest to breathe.

Now that you have enough air, it is time to working on training your voice box. Stand in front of a mirror and look at your next. First take a deep breath by filling your upper chest-this is not good breathing and I will tell you why. When you raise your shoulders and upper chest to breathe, notice the muscles straining in your next area. Like a guitar string that is strung too tight, the sound will be high-pitched.
To make your voice sound more pleasant and lower, relax the next area. This will relax the voice box and lower your voice a bit. Be aware of your actions, whether you are straining your neck muscles or relaxing them as you speak. This awareness leads to control in the beginning and then when it becomes a habit, you will naturally speak better.

The last part in using your speech apparatus is a bit more difficult to do without someone there to guide you but try it anyway. First, learn to vibrate your bones to help make your voice richer. Hum. Say, "mmmmmmmmmmmm" and push the sound to the front of your face until you can feel your face bones vibrating. Remember to relax your neck area.

Then, open your mouth and say, "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh". Make the mouth cavity as large as you can. If you feel the strain, that's because you have been speaking without opening your mouth sufficiently wide.

This should be enough to start you on the road to having a better voice. Practise, practise and practise. There is no other secret. Feel pride for your efforts when you next hear someone say to you, "It;s so nice listening to you."