Happy blimmin’ new year!
I’m crawling out of under a pile of Ferrero Roche wrappers to bring you 6 voice tips to start your year with a voice that is expressive, authentic and, of course, hydrated.
Tip 1: Watch that chin!
We all love to give our energy and attention to the listener or the audience, right? But it needs to come from the whole body and the whole breath, whereas it often tends to come from the chin – just watch next time you’re speaking to see if your chin juts out forward. That puts a lot of strain on your larynx. Next time you’re on the mic presenting, notice what’s going on with your chin! Is it reaching forward? Can you ask it not to? Can you think back into your neck spine. Imagine there’s a little string on the inside of your nose and someone’s just tugging it back towards your spine. Almost like you’re about to give yourself double chins (but we don’t want that either). Try popping your finger lightly on your chin as if you’re deep in thought… and just notice if that chin tries to sneak forward. Practice talking with your chin normally and then sticking. Notice the difference in how it sounds and feels.
Tip 2: Forget about your fecking diaphragm
There, I said it! Don’t worry about speaking with your diaphragm, it’s all nonsense! Your diaphragm will do what it’s designed to do anatomically, it’s the primary muscle of inspiration – the ‘in’ breath. In terms of talking, it’s the rest of the stuff around it you need to think about. Soften those abs on the in-breath, and really embrace that voice belly. Release your pelvic floor on the in-breath, think about that gentle release down. Allow the back to move on the in-breath, can you get a little bit of movement in the ribs? And let the words flow, from the lower abdominal area when you’re talking. Don’t try to control your diaphragm or use your diaphragm because you can’t, there are no proprioceptive nerves there and we can’t feel it. If you can’t feel it, you can’t consciously use it – so forget about it.
Tip 3: Release, release, release!
Remember when you’re warming up that the first step should always be to ‘release’ whether it’s a whole body warm-up with spine rolls and shoulder release and neck stretches, or it’s a quick reset of the vocal tract or the articulators after lunch. You need to get rid of any resting tension that you may be holding from whatever speaking you’ve done already, from how wonky you’ve slept or from any tension or anxiety you’ve been holding. Get rid of that excess, unnecessary tension, centre your vocal prep around releasing and then energise. Let stuff go, and then get to work!
Tip 4: Keep it playful
Keep perspective and keep it playful and fun. Whether it’s your voice warm-up or you’re actual speaking, your warm-up needs to be fun and playful otherwise you won’t want to do it. And your presenting or recording needs to be playful otherwise your listener will get bored. Even if it’s a podcast on a serious topic, your mindset needs an element of freedom, exploration and play to keep that vocal energy going. The next time you warm up try doing it with some dancing around to a fun song, and then the next time you speak or record – see what it feels like to have a little internal giggle on the go! How does that affect your voice?
Tip 5: Be responsive to yourself
Some days we’re more hungry than others, some days we’re more tired than others, and sometimes our voice needs different things on different days. The first few minutes of your warm-up should be spent noticing how your body, your breath and your voice feel today – then you can pick the exercises your voice needs for your warm-up so that you’re keeping it fresh and relevant. Just close your eyes now and notice your vocal tract, the area from your larynx up to where the sound leaves the body – what might your voice need from you today? How does your breath feel? What’s tense? Respond to how you and your voice feel.
Tip 6: Find a pal!
Find a friend… this is my best tip ever. Accountability is so powerful when it comes to forming good vocal routines. Understanding your voice and getting feedback you trust needs input. You might want to pay someone to be your ‘voice friend’ (aka get some professional coaching) or you might just want to team up with someone whose input you respect or whose company you enjoy and meet each day online for a ten-minute warm-up or meet once a week for a 30-minute breath session. Find a mate and help each other stay accountable to work on your voice. That’s the most powerful thing for any development. Accountability, aka someone who’s going to kick you up the arse if you don’t do it.
Is 2024 the year you launch your podcast? Will you be spending the next twelve months nailing the conversational voiceover read? Or maybe you’re here to really perfect your voice warm-up technique?
Whatever your reason for reading, do let me know.