A to Z Voice: C is for Clarity

A lot of clients come through the door chasing clarity, feeling like they are mumbling or loosing their thread when they are talking.

Earlier in this A-Z Voice series, I talked about Articulation. This work concentrated on the relationship between the soft palette and the tongue. This time I would like to concentrate on the Jaw.

The jaw is one of the most powerful muscles in the body. Think what we put our jaws through! How we might clench our jaws or grind our teeth. These things put unnessary strain and energy into a part of our body that we need to be loose and soft. Not sure? Try speaking throigh clenched teeth and you can hear our locked your voice is.

It may seem that your voice is fixed just because of a locked jaw but if you try and move you tongue up and down with a fixed jaw, it’s fairly immobile compared to when the jaw is soft and flexible.

Our tongue is one of our main articulators. If this is restricted in any way that our diction is not so hot. The root of the tongue is also anchored into a piece of cartilage called the Hyoid bone. Also suspended from the Hyoid bone is our vocal chords. We need our vocal chords to move up and down. So if we have a locked jaw and a fixed tongue we have restricted vocal chords, this all contributes to a flat, dull voice that sounds like it’s uninterested in the ideas it shares or the audience it speaks for.

The good news is that this is something that can be worked on. One simple way to combat Jaw tension is to have a really good yawn. Something that I am sure we can all do!

In my dream society….

In my dream society, all members have a voice. Everyone has a space to share their opinions, thoughts and feelings. Freedom of speech is the essence of the place I’d like to inhabit. In most ways, this is in place in the world I inhabit. However, the difference between my dream world and reality is that everyone has the ability to understand the power of their voice. Not just in the content, but in the vocal mechanism itself.

Through teaching for the last ten years, it has become apparent to me, that most people think that individuals are gifted with a beautiful speaking voice. A voice that eases into their listener’s ears and transports us with their stories, awakens us with their ideas and moves us with their view. Maybe some people are lucky to have been born with this skill. However I believe that everyone can unleash this marvellous power and use their voice to their full potential, if they are shown how.

In my dream society this is something we would teach to children as part of mainstream schooling, so as adults they contribute to society confidently and freely. In the world we inhabit, children may access this through extra curricular activities. Those who practice the creative and expressive arts are more likely to have confidence in their voice.

As adults in the society we live in, we can feel the divide between those who have accessed this and those who have not. However we perceive it as raw, unlearnable talent. This is it not the case, a clear, confident, authentic voice is available to us all, if we choose to engage with training that explores and deepens our understanding.

In learning these things, we free our voice. In freeing our voice, we share our ideas. In sharing our ideas, we evolve and grow our communities.

My dream society isn’t as unattainable as perhaps it first seems. Maybe yours isn’t either.

Once upon a time lasts forever

0562333a751cc59a1b96f3fb8d282114-reading-quotes-reading-books

 

I stumbled across the above quote, and it resonates incredibly powerfully. Early on this summer I completed a course called The Performer’s Playground with ClownLab. It was a 12 week exploration of playfulness. We had a lot of conversation about finding the joy or the fun in something and enjoying being beautiful even if we were playing something ugly. How do we create fun or channel playfulness?

On reflection, I think the things that inhibit me are the parameters that I  have either set myself or the the ones that I have allowed others to set for me – ‘the table of do’s and don’ts‘ as Pullman calls it. There are a list of things I can do and a list of things I can’t do. I wrote a while back about Growth Mindset, the idea that through a shift in personal attitude can alter our potential. How do we know that our personal attitude needs to shift? How do we believe that our potential is unlimited?

Neil Gaiman wrote in Coraline “Fairy tales are more then true; Not because they tell us the Dragons exist, but because they tell us that Dragons can be beaten”.

 

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illustrations by F. D. Bedford  J.M. Barrie’s Peter & Wendy

Stories allow us to see that we can do, or be anything. Some of our favourite characters in our most loved tales and stories have the hardest start; they are orphans. Harry Potter to Cinderella; Superman to Peter Pan; Mowgli to Sophie in the BFG. Their world has been disrupted in a way that no one would want for a child.  Yet, these characters go on amazing adventures, and overcome huge obstacles and show a resourcefulness and resilience to find their way through. Peter Pan has no ‘list of right or wrongs’ just a love of play and make believe. His game playing allows him survive and outwit his enemies.

 

The art of oral storytelling transcends age, ethnicity, education, borders and gender whilst also recording and reflecting our difference in those things. This kind of storytelling is a shared act between teller and listener. Jane B. Wilson tells us in her book The Story Experience, “Those who tell tales are both speakers and listeners. They have heard and remember”.

We are all storytellers and we are all listeners, if we allow ourselves the possibility to listen. We can all believe that we can do more, be more then we think we are. If we see others have defeated the bad guys, maybe we can too.

“The listener is caught and whirled into a talk, living for a single moment in the good, the great, the naughty, the lost. The tellers voice awakes dreams and spins stuff for thought; incites to contemplation.”

The Story Experience, Jane B. Wilson

 

 

 

A to Z Voice: M is for Mindset.

I was thinking I would be logical and deliver this series of blogs alphabetically but it actually turns out that my creative brain won’t beat to the drum of alphabetical order!

Here I am, jumping in at the letter M! In one to one coaching I am always finding that people’s opinion of their own voices is actually a bit of a barrier when it comes to working on their voice.

Your voice is a deeply personal vessel, that centres you and connects you to the world around you. Maybe someone has made comment on you voice previously or you feel you struggle to be heard? Maybe you really don’t like the sound of your own voice? Maybe some people’s voices are better then others.

This last idea is a common thought. A good speaking voice is a natural talent. Some people are just talented. It makes me think of the Iceberg analogy of only seeing what’s above the surface….

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I don’t believe that a strong speaking voice is a birth right belonging to a lucky and articulate few. Like anybody can sing, anybody can find authenticity, connectivity and confidence in their voice.

However the first step on the journey to finding your voice is most likely a case of changing how you view your voice. Dr Carol Dweck, psychologist, coined the terms ‘growth’ mindset and ‘fixed’ mindset. It looks like this:

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This principle is obviously applicable to more then just your relationship to your voice, it’s to do with your outlook on yourself and the world. Growth Mindset is simple, accessible and possible for all. We just have to put it in to practice.

A to Z Voice: B is for Breath

Breath is the driving force four body. We take 17,000-30,000 breaths in a day. That’s 7,363,289 breaths per year. However, how often does our breath end up taking for granted?

flowerduet-babysbreath-closeup

Babies take 30 or more breaths per minute.

Your breath is a magical force. It gets your heart going, provides a platform for speech, it can work you up or it can calm you down.

I would like to invite you to take some time to get to know your breath.

Sit down comfortably somewhere where you feel warm and safe and close your eyes. Now breath in through your nose and as you breath in take the time to follow the journey of that breath, where you feel it is traveling to in the body. Keeping you jaw soft, let the breath out again. Repeat this for a few cycles.

On the next in breath imagine that the breath is travelling all the way through your body as you breath in. It comes in through the nose and travels all the way down to your feet. It travels through the head and the face. The arms and the shoulders. The chest, the spine, the stomach. In and across the hips and down through the thighs, the knees, the lower legs until it reaches the feet. Repeat this a few times.

Now on the next out breath imagine that the breath is travelling up from the feet and out of the body. Take your time to enjoy the feeling of air passing all the way through each and every part of the body. Repeat this a few times.

Now take the  time to observe what happens between the in breath and the out breath. Does it stop and start or does it flow continuously. Try not to force yourself to do anything, just allow your breath cycle to come to your natural rhythm.

Now bring the awareness back to the way your body feels, any sound you can here in and out of the room. and write down three words that describe how you feel.

Try this exercise for 5 days and let me know what your words were? Did they change. How did you feel?

 

 

AtoZ -Voice: A is for Articulation

This is the first of a series of short blogs that will introduce folk to new ideas/ exercises about their voice. places-of-articulation-2-638

Good articulation needs strength, flexibility and calm! The fluffing of words or tripping over our sentences when we nervous are a good sign to your articulation needing improvement.

The Soft palette is like the unseen articulator as it is right at the back of your mouth. The palette is the roof of your mouth. Its in divided into two areas. The hard palette which has almost no give and the soft palette which is a fleshy bit of tissue. Improving flexibility in the soft palette will not only improve articulations but it will also help with colour and cadence in the voice. Opera Singers have incredibly flexible soft palettes and Beat boxers can achieve amazing sounds through clicks and tongue placement using their soft palette

If you make a ‘k’ sound you can feel the back of your tongue raising to meet the roof of you mouth, but what you may not feel is that your soft palette is also coming down to form this closure the ‘k’ sound is made when this join comes apart like a tiny explosion. In fact ‘k’ is a sound belonging to a group on consonants called plosives.

So if you repeat a ‘k’ sound your are working the two articulators -your tongue and your soft palette.  ‘g’ is made in exactly the same way but this time in stead of the sound being carried out solely on air. The vocal folds come engaged and their is now sound with it.

Try this repeating the following:

k-k

k-k-k

k-k-k-k-k

velar

Velar: A sound produced with the back of the tongue near the soft palette

k-k-k-k-k-k

g-g-g-g-g-g

g-g-g-g-g

g-g-g

g-g

 

Play around with strength of closure

tempo, volume and rhythm.

k-k-g-g-k-k-g-g-k-k-g-g-k-k-g-g

k-g-k-g-k-g-k-g-k-g-k

k-g-g  g-k-k  k-g-g  g-k-k

g-k-k   g-k-k  g-k-k  g-k-k

So there you have it A is for Articulation!

 

New Beginnings

The new year came, and the new year went and all the reflections and plans you made fizzle out as you realise you’re cash strapped, cold and cranky. You’re past the shortest day of the year but daylight is still a fairly elusive time. The quantity of cheese you have consumed over the christmas period is now turning on you and making you realise that having a baked brie every other day was probably not your best decision. As for this new year’s resolutions they are gone, gone, gone as you motivation slips away from you.

I keep it simple this year: Don’t get down because it’s January. The 11,033 days that I have had treading on this earth, have been filled with words of how awful January is. Whether its January, June, Hot, Cold… So this year, i opted to not be to hard on January. It’s not January’s fault, it comes when it comes. But here I am, not even half way through the month, having a serious chat with January.

Me: Now, you listen to me  January. I was really willing to give it a go this year. Make it a really special month.

January: Oh, how lovely.

Me: It should be, shouldn’t it? But no. Its cold and dark and windy and wet.

January: Well yes. But thats not my fault. There are plenty of places in the world, where it is January but its actually hot.

Me: Yes, but everyone is so grumpy.

January: Again not my fault. You all had a great time in December living it large, life of Reilly, but now you have to get on with normality and its a comedown. I didn’t tell you to live ostentatiously at christmas. Did I?

Me: Well –

January: No. I didn’t. I am just a month at the beginning of the year. You’d think that would be great, but no one wants to know. Unless your Kiwi. Do you know how exhausting it was last year when everyone was blaming me for taking David Bowie and Alan Rickman? No, you never stopped to think did you? It was all about how awful January has been to you. Well maybe its time you start thinking about how awful you’ve been to January.

Following on from this enlightening conversation, I think that maybe we all suffer from feeling out of control at this time of year, this is then heightened by failing at new years resolutions. I wonder if we reviewed our perspectives on new beginnings we could find that we are more the capable of making changes at any point. It doesn’t always have to be the big stuff. Its also fascinating the amount of resolutions that come out of not doing something. Dry January, not eating certain things, not flobbing out as much and not looking like we do. This is hard. Are we actually making it hard on ourselves. What if instead of saying ‘I’m NOT going to hate January’, I said ‘I’m going to write down three positive things that I have done everyday in January’. What if I let go of predetermine cycles of change that were not picked by me, I talk back some power and said I;m going to change today. I know January would like that. How about you?

 

Three Positives for today:

  1. Teaching my first Home Education Class.
  2. Watching a brilliant film, Song of the Sea, with my eldest and seeing her moved by beautiful story telling.
  3. Realising that change can occur at any time, in any place in any one. We just have to be open to that idea.

 

Felicity Goodman is a Voice Teacher, Playologist and Story Teller in South Manchester, UK. Have a flick through the site to learn more or get in touch