Five Simple Practices to Improve Your Voice Right Now

Many of my voice clients enter coaching with me with some big goals in mind:
“I want to more fully express who I am in the world – starting with my voice.”
“Please help me get over this life-long stage fright!”
“I want to learn how to speak with more power and authority, especially when I’m nervous.”

These worthy aims take time and practice to achieve. Clients often get impatient for signs of progress. I offer them these simple practices to awaken more power and expression in their voices right away.

Voice Your Yawns
Many vocal challenges stem from tension in the jaw, throat, and the back of the tongue. Sending a warm, rich sound through your yawns can help build the habit and sensation of making sound with a relaxed and open throat. You can also do this exercise by mimicking a yawn and adding sound.

Add a Handful of Singing
Singing is just slow speech with more structure and sound variation. You can add more life to your everyday speech by bringing a sensation of singing into it. Try singing the phrase, “Delighted to meet you!” and then speaking it normally. Now try several variations between the singing and speaking versions until you find one that feels natural. This practice will add more continuity, variety, and energy to the way you talk.

Hum Your Body
Many vocal issues stem from a lack of physical energy and connection. We rely too much on the vocal mechanisms in our throat without the support of our physical energy. You can reconnect to a sense of grounding and embodiment by making a soft, open “oh” sound in the lowest part of your voice. It’s especially effective to do this practice while standing. Feel your feet on the ground; surrender your body to gravity.

Get the Air Moving
Most of us starve our vocal cords for the airflow they need to function well. We become accustomed to shallow breathing and spending very little air to speak. One simple way to create the sensation of a steady flow of air through the voice is by making sound while making a lip bubble or raspberry. Slide from low to high and back again while keeping your bubble or raspberry consistent. If the sound stops short, it means that your airflow has stopped or your mouth has tightened up – or both.

Wake Up Your Face
Many of us have “dead faces.” The eyes are dull; the mouth barely moves; the jaw and neck are rigid. Effective communication relies on a powerful, expressive voice AND facial expressions that support what you are saying. To awaken and open your whole face, say the word “WOW!” slowly and loudly. Be sure to open your eyes and mouth wide…and bring a sense of wonder and joy to your expression. Watch yourself in a mirror. See if you can retain the aliveness of the “WOW” in your normal expression.

I hope these practices give you a taste of how good it feels to speak with more of your full voice.

About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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