Our voice is a beautiful instrument, but many of us forget to take full advantage of it. Director Emeritus Penelope Reed spent years training her voice and teaching the fundamentals of proper use. If you want an in-depth discussion on the topic just ask her and she can take you down an amazing rabbit hole!
In Zenda, the voice is put to the test with accents and a range of pitches. In the modern world, this aspect of acting is often overlooked, giving way to more mental methods, but in classical training nothing is more important than the human voice. If you want to nail your next presentation, or simply work at perfecting your pitch, try out these simple methods for speaking with distinction.
Got some more tips? Leave us a comment!
1. Breathe right.
People who don’t speak from the diaphragm also don’t breathe from the diaphragm. To breathe correctly, simply inhale and let your belly rise, and exhale and let your belly fall. Breathing is the most fundamental activity we engage in to sustain life. Proper breathing can relax us physically, sharpen us mentally, calm us emotionally, and solidify us psychologically. If we breathe right, everything else about us will begin to fall into place. It is lifeforce.
“To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh
2. Slow down
Speaking too quickly is a bad habit and it can be difficult for people to keep up with you or even understand what you’re saying. This makes it easy for them to tune out and stop listening.
- Therefore, it’s important to slow down your speech by saying your words more slowly and pausing between sentences – this helps to add emphasis to what you’re saying and gives you a chance to take a breath!
- On the other hand, it’s a good idea not to speak too slowly. Speaking too slowly can be monotonous for your listeners, so they may become impatient and just tune out.
- The ideal speaking rate is somewhere between 120 and 160 words per minute. However, if you’re giving a speech, it’s a good idea to alter the speed at which you speak – speaking slowly can help to emphasize a point, while speaking more quickly can give the impression of passion and enthusiasm.
3. Make sounds based on diaphragmatic breathing.
Whether you’re singing, speaking, chanting, laughing, or even yawning, develop the habit of projecting from your diaphragm.
- Your breath should come from your diaphragm, not from your chest. To figure out if you’re breathing correctly, place your fist on your abdomen, just below your last rib – you should feel your stomach expand and see your shoulders rise and fall as you breathe.
- Practice your breathing by inhaling deeply, allowing the air to fill your belly. Breathe in for a count of 5 seconds, then exhale for another 5. Get used to this method of breathing, then try to work it into your everyday speech.
- Remember that sitting or standing up straight, with your chin up and your shoulders back, will help you to breathe deeper and project your voice more easily. It will also give you an air of confidence as you speak.
- Try to breathe at the end of every sentence – if you use the deep breathing method, you should have enough air to get through the next sentence without having to pause for breath. This will also give your listeners a chance to absorb what you’re saying.
4. Take a singing or acting class.
Many of these courses begin with vocal warm ups from the diaphragm. These classes can be a lot of fun!
5. Work with a private voice coach.
In my voice coaching sessions, most clients are able to access their best (most powerful and attractive) voice in about one hour. The rest is simply practicing vocal exercises until the “new” voice is progressively internalized. (Psst we offer these too)
Speaking clearly is possibly the most important aspect of developing a good speaking voice. You need to pay close attention to each and every word you say – pronouncing it fully and correctly.
Make sure to open your mouth, loosen your lips and keep your tongue and teeth in the correct position as you speak. This may also help eliminate or disguise a lisp, if you have one. It might feel odd at first, but if you consistently make the effort to pronounce your words correctly, it will soon come naturally to you.
The pitch of your voice can have a real impact on the quality of your speech and the impact it makes on your listeners. In general, speaking in a shaky or unsteady pitch gives the impression of nervousness, while an even voice is more calming and persuasive.
Although you shouldn’t try to change the natural pitch of your voice (no Darth Vader impressions, please), you should make an effort to control it. Don’t let your nerves get the better of you and aim to achieve a fuller, smoother pitch.
You can practice controlling your pitch by humming a tune, or simply by reading a piece of text aloud to yourself. Keep in mind that it’s not necessary to maintain a steady pitch at all times – some words should be voiced in a higher pitch in order to add emphasis.