Poor voice types and how to fix them – part 2
In part two we will take a further look at some of the common types of poor voices and learn how to remedy them. Remember, your voice is a muscle, it can be trained, strengthened and your subconscious can have bad habits replaced with excellent technique through practice!
Oh sorry, I said-
These are the words of the especially weak-voiced speaker. Constantly repeating themselves, they spend half their speaking lives in a perpetual loop of reiterating something which if said clearly in the first place they would already be onto the next topic. Weak voices are nothing to be ashamed of however! Studies have found quieter people are often from households which experienced strict rules or punishment and your actions may be the result of past emotional distress, especially if as a child you were told to ‘be seen and not heard’. Therapy may help with this, but for now attempt the solution below.
A weak voice is hindered by a lack of support from both the diaphragm and the lungs not working to their full capacity. If you find people are often asking you to speak up and repeat what you are saying, consider investing some time in cardio exercise to strengthen your diaphragmatic control. Secondly, you need to ensure each sentence begins with a full diaphragmatic breath which will allow you to project your voice across a room. Also ensure when speaking you speak towards your listener’s ears, not towards their feet! It may make you feel uncomfortable to speak ‘loud’ at first, but by consistent practice your confidence will grow with every word, resulting in a stronger voice and more interest from your listeners. I’ve been using an Ultrabreathe for many years to improve my diaphragmatic core strength, it’s great for the elderly or asthmatic too!
There are some people whose lips are so tightly pursed when speaking we barely see the whites of their teeth. Others have a habit of speaking out of only one side of their mouth. Often, every sound which manages to escape this vocal prison is a mumbled mess. This can often be the result of social anxiety, a shy mood or simply a lack of muscular development across the face.
Observe yourself in a mirror; do you talk with an open mouth or are your lips brought tightly together? Do your words form with a lilt, your mouth being drawn towards the left or right side of your face? Do you talk with only your bottom lip, by forcing your top lip against your teeth?
If you do notice any of the above symptoms, pucker your lips as if you were to make an exaggerated kiss then attempt to talk. Although this does look rather silly, it will force the weaker muscles into action. Once you feel a fluidity of movement returning, slowly bring your lips back and ensure you form each word with an over enunciated movement. Repeat this every day for ten minutes.
One particularly fantastic investment is a Facial-Flex. Originally developed to help stroke and facial burns victims restore muscular control, it’s akin to lifting weights with your mouth and could potentially be beneficial for those who have experienced bells-palsy.
The ‘machine gun’ speaker
Have you ever heard a person who speaks so quickly every word they say begins to blend into one?
(If we were to write as they spoke it would look like this)
When speaking, a pause is often one of your most powerful tools. It is akin to a vocal comma or bold emphasis. Fast speech often leads to a lack of clarity and a weakness of the voice, it also can suggest to your listeners you are nervous or even worse, untrustworthy.
Adding pauses between your words both aids enunciation and enables you to bring about dramatic effect to what is being said. It also enables the listener to consider what is being said and to contemplate on the situation and form a useful opinion, rather than an off the cuff remark.
If you find people are asking you to slow down, or to repeat what you are speaking; record yourself for 60 seconds and count the total number of words you said. Research has shown emotions have an enormous impact on our speed of speech. Sad, serious or complex conversations are ideally between 60 to 110 words per minute (wpm). Descriptive, instructional and statements of fact should average 125 wpm. Daily conversation should average no more than 164 wpm. Of course, there are rule breakers, motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins often speak upwards of 200 wpm!
Taming the speed of your speech is easily and although it may seem worrying you are speaking too slowly, you will eventually find speaking at around 130 – 160 wpm leads to more engaging conversations and greater clarity of thought.
The drunk soundalike
We all know of one person who sounds as if they have drunk a little too much before preparing a speech. Unfortunately, slurred words are a common hindrance to clear speech, with words becoming an agglutination of sounds into one amorphous group.
“Ifyoutaykea ‘ook ove’rere, you’llbeableto seea’ talltawaa…”
(If you take a look over there, you’ll be able to see a tall tower…)
Care must be taken to identify which particular sounds, words of phrases are often joined together. Ask a friend to point out when you are slurring your words or record yourself and listen to any phrases which sound slurred. To improve, ensure you add a brief pause to emphasise the gaps between each word or check the speed of your speech. Practice the exercise on adding a staccato nature to your words, making the sounds crisp and clear. Also remember not all who slur are speaking too slowly. Some slur because they speak too quickly. If this is the case, focus on the exercise covering taming rapid speech previously mentioned. I personally use a fantastic speech aid, the Morrison Bone Prop to polish my enunciation before a recording session. If you ask me, they are worth their weight in gold!
There are many more of these lessons, along with a comprehensive diction improvement guide available in: Speak and Be Heard – 101 Vocal Exercises for Voice Actors, Public Speakers and Professionals. Richard Di Britannia also offers private online voice coaching and free consultations on building vocal strength and confidence via his contact form 🙂