Use Your Natural Voice
Speaking and singing are natural and should reflect your authentic persona. What I mean by this is that you should be using your natural voice, not a voice that has been habitually altered through years of manipulation. So many times clients will come to me with very soft, airy voices, or voices that sound thin and squeaky. Many women have a hard time letting go of their 'little girl' voices and must be taught to release their naturally pitched voices. Your natural voice is always in a comfortable range, free of pinching and straining. Speaking with a relaxed throat and natural pitch gives the voice a warm, silky, youthful tone.
Learning to sing is easy with a few simple skills!
Conscious breathing leads to a youthful voice
The basis for proper speaking and singing is conscious breathing. This means becoming aware of relaxing the belly, breathing low and slow, allowing the diaphragm to lower while the lungs fill with air. Think of filling up like a balloon: on the inhale the abdominal area 'fills' up; on the exhale the abdominal area 'deflates' or goes slightly flat. Most people breath very high in the chest and keep their bellies tight, which doesn't allow you to take in a full, deep breath. You can also imagine your ribs as a bellows expanding as you inhale and going back to the normal position as you exhale. Breathing is natural and is essential for supporting the voice so that the throat is not forcing the volume. A youthful voice is a well-supported voice!
Learning to sing is easy to do with just a few simple skills.
Keep a youthful voice
In general, the first step to change is awareness. You've got to become mindful of how you're using, or abusing our voice. As you speak, start listening to yourself! Do you talk loudly in order to be heard over talking or over background noise? In your job, do you attempt to push your voice for maximum volume? Do you use your voice constantly without occasional rest? Begin now to monitor your volume, pitch, and breath control and be willing to learn new ways of using your voice to maintain vocal health.
Learning to sing is easy to do with just a few simple skills.
Boy with A Soft Belly!
Most vocal challenges are directly related to an inability to correctly support the voice while singing or speaking.
It's crucial that you are using 'active breathing' so that you can let go of 'holding' or tensions that are keeping you from releasing your voice with a relaxed, open sound.
Here’s a good exercise from my book From Shower To Stage…7 Easy Steps for Singing Like A Pro! I call the ‘Resting Pose Exercise’: lay on the floor, placing a book in the diaphragm area (in the center, just above and between the bottom of the ribcage). As you breathe in, 'fill up' with air so that the book rises. As you exhale, the book will lower as the diaphragm area flattens. Keep doing this exercise until this type of breathing becomes natural and habitual, and you can breathe this way standing up. As you sing or speak, 'fill up' with air and try to keep 'filled up' even as you're using your voice, although, naturally, with the exhalation of air, your diaphragm area will flatten somewhat.
Remember, your breath is your engine; never your throat. If you want power and volume, simply fill up with more air and use the 'cushion of air' as your vocal support mechanism.
And P.S. - breathe with a soft belly!
This is a wonderful article I came across that shows how effective 'singing therapy' can be for stroke, Parkinson's disease, and stuttering. What a brave and plucky young man! Good for him!
If you would like information on my Lawrence Vocal System Exercises that can help you, too, find the exercises here!
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Some of the most talented young voices in the area are filling the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas on Tuesday night at the Christmas Celebration concert. It is not only a popular tradition, but it is also a powerful platform for almost-13-year-old Jack VanGordon, who uses this opportunity to help overcome a major obstacle in his life.
For as long as VanGordon can remember, he has loved to sing. The golden-voiced boy said that, of the four kids in his family, he is the only artistic one. “They’re all athletic and I’m the only one who is artistic,” he said. And he is also the only one of his siblings who does something else.
“Ever since I was little, I stuttered,” VanGordon said. “It’s when I get really excited about stuff. But I don’t let it hold me back from what I want to do.”
Identified as a stutterer before preschool, the Plano seventh-grader started speech therapy in elementary school, learning strategies to deal with the struggle. “It’s embarrassing,” VanGordon said. “I’m not going to deny that. But I am who I am, and nobody can change me.”
Singing seems to have served as VanGordon’s greatest source of relief. “I love singing the most because I never stutter when I sing,” the boy said. “If one day I’m stuttering a lot, I can go up in my room and not have any disfluency.”
According to speech therapist Tricia Krauss-Lehrman, that is common for stutterers. “Speech is handled on the left side of the brain; music is on the right hand. So, when an individual is singing, the actual pathways being used are different,” she said.
But Krauss-Lehrman admits that there is little else common about VanGordon. “He’s just one of those kids. I feel like I’ll keep up with him forever,” she said. “Wanting to watch and follow his career, whatever it may be.”
So, as VanGordon performs in his fourth year with the Dallas Symphony Children’s Chorus, and his second year as a soloist, his parents continue to marvel at their youngest child’s very grown-up decision. “He had a choice,” said mother Jill VanGordon. “He could not say anything, to recluse or not be social, certainly not sing a solo at the Meyerson. But, he’s made a different decision. This is who he is, part of who he is, and it makes me so proud!”
Child in Wonderment!
My latest Voicegram talks about getting back that childlike sense of wonderment. Read it here, and join my Voicegram monthly newsletter!
I've recently been asked about the effects of aging on the voice. As the population of Baby Boomers increases, there's more concern about changes that occur with the voice as we age.
The voice tells a lot about a person - state of health, state of mind, and relative age. The aging voice is sometimes breathy, scratchy, weak, trembling or rough. As you read the article by Sue Ellen Linville, you'll notice that there's a lot of medical and anatomical jargon that may get a bit deep for you. In a nutshell, just know that as we age, our parts wear out!! And when the parts wear out, vocal challenges may set it. Ain't aging grand???
There are certain elements of our respiratory system as well as elements of the vocal mechanism that begin to show the wear and tear of age, and you can hear it in the voice.
BUT HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS! Overall good health, a nutritious diet, low levels of stress, exercise, and a good mental attitude will help you keep your voice in youthful, top-shape long into your senior years!
This is why exercising your voice is extremely important! In order to keep all the parts of your vocal mechanism working well, you've got to use them correctly and often. My uncle, Dick Palmer, is over 80 years old, and just began singing when he was 80. He loves it and it proves that a voice doesn't have to disintegrate with age. Yes, there may be some changes in the voice, but with good vocal health habits, you can maintain that voice into old age.
If you want to keep your voice healthy and youthful, I suggest that you begin doing daily vocal and breathing exercises. This will help TREMENDOUSLY and you'll see a big difference in the tone, clarity, and power of your voice.
If you have a question, or want to learn more about how to maintain your voice, please contact me at email@example.com. I will personally answer any question you may have.
Also, try my Viva La Voice Tonic Recipe for a healthy way to maintain your physical and vocal health! All natural and good for you!
Here are some exerpts from an article in the American Speech-Language Hearing Association Journal.
The Aging Voice by Sue Ellen Linville
Linville, S. E. (2004, Oct. 19). The Aging Voice. The ASHA Leader, pp. 12, 21
As the 21st century advances, senior citizens will make up an increasingly large segment of the population. In recognition of that demographic shift, researchers are developing a database of voice features that are characteristic of normal speakers from young adulthood through old age. Such a database would be invaluable to clinicians struggling to differentiate normal vocal changes with aging from pathologic vocal conditions affecting elderly patients.
Changes in Speech Production Mechanism
The respiratory system changes from young adulthood to old age. In lung tissue, loss of elasticity is considered the most significant change. Other respiratory system changes include stiffening of the thorax and weakening of respiratory muscles. These changes alter lung volumes and respira-tory mechanics. While total lung volume remains unchanged in the elderly, vital capacity decreases and residual volume increases. Maximum expiratory flow rate is decreased and lung pressure is decreased. Thus, elderly speakers experience a decline in the amount of air they can move in and out of the lungs and in the efficiency with which they move air.
The larynx also undergoes age-related anatomic changes during adulthood. Glandular changes may cause drying of epithelium, which may increase stiffness of VC cover. Increased cover stiffness could increase instability of vocal fold vibration and raise fundamental frequency (F0) in elderly men.
Some investigators report progressive thickening of the epithelium with aging in both sexes. In males, thickening reportedly is progressive up to age 70, with declines thereafter. In females, thickening is described as progressive, particu-larly after age 70. Thickening of the laryngeal epithelium may contribute to lowering of fundamental frequency or to increased harshness of voice.
Degenerative changes in the temporomandibular joint are described, along with thinning/loss of elasticity of oral mucosa, declining salivary function, loss of tongue strength, and tooth loss.
Age-Related Voice Changes
Perhaps the voice change that has been investigated most is pitch level. Speaking changes from young adulthood to old age, but the pattern differs according to gender. In women, F0 remains fairly constant until menopause, when a drop occurs (approximately 10 Hz -15 Hz). This drop presumably results from hormonal changes that cause thickening and edema of the laryngeal mucosa. In men, F0 lowers approximately 10 Hz from young adulthood to middle age. The reason for this drop is unclear. After middle age, F0 in men rises substantially (approximately 35 Hz) into advanced old age, reaching the highest level of adulthood.
Tremor and increased hoarseness have been associated with the aged voice. Stability of F0 reportedly declines from young adulthood to old age in both men and women. In men, levels of fundamental frequency standard deviation (F0 SD) more than double between young adulthood and old age. In women, levels jump 71% over a similar period. F0 SD ranges for young and elderly speakers demonstrate little overlap, regardless of gender. In contrast, measures of jitter-the cycle-to-cycle fluctuations in the fundamental period of vocal fold vibration-overlap extensively in young and elderly speakers, especially women.
Amplitude stability also declines with aging, at least in men. Indeed, shimmer, which reflects cycle-to-cycle variation in waveform amplitude, may be a better measure than jitter of chronological aging in men's voices because shimmer levels increase independently of health and fitness variables. Age-related jitter differences disappear if health and fitness are considered.
Another voice quality linked with the aged voice is increased breathiness. While elderly men demonstrate a higher incidence of glottal gap than young men, spectral noise levels do not differ in the two groups. However, spectral noise levels increase in men in poor physiological condition, regardless of age. In contrast to men, both young and elderly women demonstrate a high incidence of glottal gap. However, young women tend to demonstrate posterior chink, while elderly women demonstrate gaps anteriorly in the glottis.
There is acoustic evidence of age-related changes in vocal resonance patterns in both men and women. Lowering of formant frequencies (more pronounced in women) suggests lengthening of the vocal tract. Altered vowel formant fre-quency patterns (more pronounced in men) suggests centralization of tongue position during vowel production. Altered resonance patterns in elderly speakers may result from growth of the craniofacial skeleton, lowering of the larynx in the neck and/or degenerative changes in oral structures that reduce articulatory precision.
In summary, structural and functional changes occur in the respiratory, phonatory, and supralaryngeal systems with aging. Those changes alter the voice produced by the aged mechanism. Gender differences exist both in the nature and extent of age-related changes.
Sue Ellen Linville is associate professor of speech pathology at
Marquette University and the author of Vocal Aging (San Diego: Singular
Publishing, 2001). She is an affiliate of Special Interest Division 3, Voice and
Voice Disorders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you're physically tired, your voice may feel tired too. All of our physical systems are interrelated, so it makes sense that low energy will produce a low energy voice.
If you use your voice for your profession; i.e. you're a teacher, salesperson, work on the phone etc., pay particular attention to how you feel physically.
When you're fatigued, make sure that you are breathing consciously and filling up with enough air to support your voice.
You'll also find that attention to your breath, and using low, slow and full breaths
will not only powerfully support your voice, but will energize you in the process!
I have been teaching students to open and release their voices for over two decades. Deep emotional levels have a direct correlation with how we produce our voices and maintain their health. If you are getting no results from traditional Western medicine with your thyroid problem, maybe it's time to consider some more holistic modalities.
If you are having thyroid issues, you might try working on an ENERGETIC level to balance that gland. I have learned through the years, that when the 5th Chakra is blocked, thyroid and throat problems result. We are totally connected to our mind, body, spirit and energy field - we are a WHOLE organism and must look at all aspects of the individual when attempting to bring health issues into balance.
The throat, or 5th Chakra, can become chronically blocked if one has had trauma early in life; is unable, or unwilling to 'say' what has to be said; or is fearful of reprisal when 'speaking our truth.'
Just a suggestion: You might want to look beyond the physical, and go deeper into the emotional causes that may be contributing to your thyroid issues. When I have a client who is particularly constricted or unable to release the voice, I use techniques that aid in opening the throat chakra and releasing the blocked energy that is stuck there.
If you need any more info on this, please feel free to contact me directly through http://www.vivalavoice.com or email@example.com.
I have learned that each individual carries a lot of 'stuff' into adulthood, and that in working with voice, all aspects of the individual must be examined and considered.
Music and singing have so many intrinsic benefits! In my article "10 Ways Singing Can Change Your Life", I talk about how singing promotes deep breathing; oxygenates the blood; stimulates brain activity, and boosts a sense of well-being, among other incredible benefits. The article below by Dr. Jay Adlersberg is so exciting because it talks about helping young asthma sufferers with music therapy!
I've been working with clients with asthma for some time and because singing therapy involves re-training the breathing mechanism, while also becoming conscious of how one is breathing, the effect is dramatic!
Here's the article:
Music therapy for young asthma sufferers
WABC By Dr. Jay Adlersberg
(New York-WABC, February 8, 2007) - Using music class to help treat asthmatics.
Asthma strikes children particularly hard in some areas of the Bronx and Brooklyn. Sometimes medications are the only things that keep kids happy in their daily activities. But now, thanks to a financial gift from one of the Fathers of Jazz, music may be helping some young asthma sufferers.
It's an outreach program of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center. Melrose is one of three schools in the city which are part of research to see if tension release using woodwind instruments to teach breathing control and relaxation, with the help of the seashore wave drum and Native American flute, can help in controlling asthma.
"It helps them identify when they having difficulties to use these breathing techniques," said Brian Harris, of Beth Israel Medical Center.
These four young men have been taking these classes once a week for the past six months to a year. Their asthma?
"It has improved, because before I couldn't breathe that good," student Alex Calo said. "But now I have more breath to hold when I'm running and stuff."
"Now I can play more, because I have more breath," 11-year-old student Alex Acosta said. "It's better."
"I could breathe more and it makes me relax," 13-year-old student Frank Maxwell said. "So I can play a lot more than I used to do."
And giving kids back their playtime is news in this city.
The Bronx is a hotbed of asthma. The illness causes more missed days from school and more hospitalizations than any other illness in kids under 14.
The music goes beyond just illness control. As with all music, it's about feelings.
"The music, the relaxation, the tension release and the drums," 13-year-old Carlos Vega said. "You could express your feelings when you're playing it."
Coincidentally, because of an aggressive band program at the school, each of these boys already plays a wind instrument. One plays flute, the others clarinet, trombone and saxophone. No problems learning breathing control for them.
From Beth Lawrence
If you're serious about singing then you've got to take care of your voice. Here are some healthy ways to do that!
Beth Lawrence, Award-winning singer, songwriter and author of "From Shower To Stage...7 Easy Steps for Singing Like A Pro!"