Voice Synergy News

Does Accent Matter These Days?

US Election, accent, US accent, accent training, accent coaching, accent reduction, UK accent, RP, speech training, Voice Synergy, CNN, Voice Synergy accent coaching, speech coaching, good communication, speaking well, inspiring speechWe’ve been hearing plenty of accents through our various media channels these last few weeks especially via speeches made by US politicians, US reporters and UK media channels. During the nail-biting days, spanning the pre- and post- US election day where President Trump seems to have failed to win enough votes to hold off President-Elect Joe Biden, we have heard accents aplenty. Accents from Georgia to North Carolina, from Arizona to Alaska, from London to Liverpool have been carrying countless questions about the predicted outcome of the US election.

In the main, we have understood each speaker’s voice, accent does not hamper understanding of the message. Sometimes the rate of delivery seemed to be at warp speed when listening to commentators on US TV station CNN! But the message and commentary was clear.

The American accent varies from place to place but not so much as in the UK. Simply put, accent variation can mean something as simple as a pronunciation of ‘grass’ as though it has an extra ‘r’ in it (‘grarss’) for example. This change in the ‘a’ being a short or long sound is heard in both UK and US accents but does not distract from the sense or meaning of a speech.

Use your voice well

In the UK we can get quite sniffy about accent, but I suggest that more important than accent is good vocal communication. Good speech is about being clear and the impulse that carries the speech and drives the message home.

Good communication is about more than accent. Good communication is about articulating well, the tune of the voice and speaking at the right pace.

When we speak, it’s also important to identify the underlying emotion to what is being said. This can be conveyed through pitch and tone.

Delivering a speech on Zoom

For example, if you are listening to a presenter on Zoom who has just introduced their topic and is about to go into the ‘slides’ part of their presentation, it would be nice to think that their voice would step up to the occasion.

Speaking to a group of people is a bit like putting on a show. Your voice is different from your everyday conversational speaking.

Those who deliver a presentation, are fulfilling the role of a professional speaker. When speaking to a group, it’s important to speak more slowly than usual, to take a breath between sentences (to allow the listeners to process what is being said) and think about the ‘takeaways’ from what is being said.

What are the ‘takeaways’ from the speech? Quite simply ask yourself how do you want your listeners to react?

It’s useful to consider what you want to achieve, or put another way, why are you making that presentation?

What do you want to achieve as a result of your speech?
Are you speaking:

  1. To inspire
  2. To encourage
  3. To inform

What you want to get out of your speech will inform how you deliver it. In other words, use your voice to communicate with an impulse to influence your listener. For example, enthusiasm, encouragement or inspiration can be transmitted via your voice.

As well as being clear in your speech, the music, or cadence, of the voice is important. It’s easy to fall into poor speech habits where the voice becomes monotonous.

If you feel your voice is a bit flat and lacks interest, think about lifting one or two of your key words in a sentence to a higher pitch.

If you’ve always been in a rush to get information across, your words can be so ‘joined up’ that it’s difficult for the listener to untangle them and make sense of it. Your words can be like a series of train carriages that are linked so closely together, there’s no distinguishing between the end of one carriage and the beginning of the next! Imagine if your words sounded like this: Imagineifyourwordssoundedlikethis…!

It is helpful to think about what you want to say and how you want your listener to react or respond – and your voice should follow your thoughts and energy in a positive way.

In terms of clarity, adding in final ’t’s at the ends of words like ‘light, out, wrote’, pausing to allow a moment of reflection plus creating a bit of ‘lift’ to your normal voice patterns will pay dividends in terms of how your speech is received.

When you make changes to your voice patterns, it can feel very strange to begin with.

With practice and patience you can become a great speaker, whatever your accent.

Overall, my advice is to be yourself and be interesting!

For more information and for help with voice and accent coaching, please get in touch.

Has your voice changed?

How to look after your voice

The summer has turned to autumn and with the beautiful colour of the trees turning to shades of copper, gold and red, but this time of year can bring issues that affect our voice.

The voice box, or the Adam’s Apple, is situated in the larynx, at the top of the wind pipe. The sound of our voice is created as the delicate vocal cords are brought together and blown apart in a process known as phonation. This is the sound of the human voice. A free sounding, healthy voice can be likened to a clear water fountain.

When you have a cold, you are likely to cough as well, which can give the vocal cords a bit of a battering and if you cough a lot, then the vocal cords can become swollen and inflamed.

If you feel that it is becoming difficult to speak, then it is likely that the vocal cords are unable to vibrate freely as they do in normal speech. The vocal cords become stiff and less flexible, so the sound of your voice changes, often becoming rougher and deeper-pitched. If your vocal cords are very inflamed through coughing, then it can feel very uncomfortable and hard work to speak.

Here are some top tips from the British Voice Association to help protect your vocal chords and help them to heal, particularly if you have suffered from Covid 19:

  • Keep well hydrated. Drink 1½ – 2 litres (4 – 5 pints) of fluid that doesn’t contain caffeine or alcohol per day (unless advised otherwise by a doctor).
  • Try gentle steaming with hot water (nothing added to the water). Breathe in and out gently through your nose or mouth. The steam should not be so hot that it brings on coughing.
  • When the virus is at its peak, coughing is likely to be intense and unavoidable. However, once this stage of the illness passes, try to avoid persistent, deliberate throat clearing and, if you can’t prevent it, make it as gentle as possible. Taking small sips of cold water can help to supress the urge to cough.
  • Chewing gum or sucking sweets can help promote saliva flow, which lubricates the throat and can help to reduce throat clearing. Avoid medicated lozenges and gargles, as these can contain ingredients that irritate the mucosal lining of the throat.
  • You do not need to be on total voice rest, i.e. silent. Even in the early stages of the virus, when the voice is at its worst, using the vocal cords for a few short utterances every so often during the day keeps them mobilised, and this is a good thing.
  • Always aim to use your normal voice. Don’t worry if all that comes out is a whisper or a croak; just avoid straining to force the voice to sound louder.
  • Don’t deliberately choose to whisper; this does not “save” the voice; it puts the voice box under strain.
  • Avoid smoking or vaping.
  • Avoid attempting to talk over background noise such as music, television or car engine noise, as this causes you to try to raise the volume, which can be damaging.
  • If your voice is no more than a whisper do not attempt telephone, online chat, or video conversations. Once the voice starts to improve, avoid prolonged (more than 5 minutes) conversations by telephone, online chat, or video. Try to use text-based options instead.
  • You may notice that your voice fatigues more rapidly than normal. This is to be expected. Take a break from talking when you experience vocal fatigue; this gives the vocal cords time to recover.
  • In addition to irritation from COVID-19, reflux can also irritate the throat. To minimise any possible reflux, avoid greasy foods and highly acidic foods and drinks such as; citrus fruits and juices, vinegar and pickles, tomatoes and tomato sauces, fizzy, caffeinated and alcoholic drinks etc. It can also be beneficial to take a liquid alginate (e.g. Gaviscon Advance) following meals and before bed.
  • Until the voice has returned to normal it is best to avoid “athletic” vocal activities such as shouting and singing.

If you have concerns about your voice you should contact your GP surgery as you may require a referral to an ENT specialist Voice Clinic.

In normal circumstances (when you are not suffering or getting over an illness) gentle exercise of your voice, such as breathing in, then gently humming out on one note repeated about 5-10 times can help with warming up your voice. It is also really important to build a habit of drinking drink plenty of fresh water, at room temperature and have it to hand when you are in a video conference, for example.

Keep your voice healthy during the golden days of autumn and through the winter months by looking after it well.

For full information and advice about voice problems, particularly after suffering Covid-19, go to British Voice Association.

For information about how to develop a clear and well-articulated voice, please get in touch.

Masking your speech?

muffled speech, mask, speak clearly, speaking clearly, speaking with mask on, getting understood, speak slowly, Voice Synergy, wearing a mask, quiet speech, speaking through a barrier, subtle emotions, lip reading, interpreting speech, pronounce your words, behind the mask, muffled voice, voice coachingIs wearing a mask to protect yourself against Coronavirus also stopping people from understanding your speech?

We use our eyes to support our ears when we are listening to someone speak and wearing a mask takes away that extra help. People are finding they cannot understand what another person is saying if that person is wearing a mask.

There are two reasons for this, which are first – the mask absorbs sound, so the speech is quieter – the second is that the mask hides our expression, so the listener cannot pick up non-verbal signals.

5 Ways to Speak Clearly Wearing a Mask

  1. Speak more slowly
  2. Speak slightly louder than normal
  3. Use more range in your voice than normal (more ups and downs!)
  4. Speak more clearly – take time to pronounce your words
  5. Use your hands to support your expression.

Looking at the last point, this could imply we become more like Italians who are famous for using their hands, if not their whole arms, to express their emotions! But a simple thumbs-up and a nod of the head would show that you understand and agree with the other person. Going forward from the ‘Shall I sit over there?’ to the restaurant manager, you could turn and point to the table and hopefully you will be answered with a ‘yes’ a nod and a thumbs-up!

Let’s look at the issues around quieter speech to begin with. The mask absorbs sound and the wearer’s voice sounds muffled and that is because we are speaking through a barrier close to our mouth. The sounds in words that normally travel fast from our mouth, like T, P, K, S, TH, F and SH are immediately softened and can be lost. If our words contain these sounds, they can be lost and so can our meaning.

It is particularly important these days, when having a conversation where both people are wearing masks, to speak more slowly – and importantly, finish the ends of your words. In a café for example, words like ‘Shall I sit over there?’ said very quickly and muffled could come across as ‘shlie i-si-ova thair?’ Complete gobbledegook! It adds to the frustration and sense of unreality we all share during these times of barriers and social distancing due to Covid19.

The second reason for not being able to understand each other as well as usual is the absence of context. What does this mean? Well, when someone speaks to us, we listen with our ears, but our eyes are watching that person’s lips and facial expressions as well, to give context to what they are saying. With our eyes, we observe subtle emotions, and we get not only the sound of the speech, but the subtext of what that person is saying. This helps us understand the meaning of the speech, not just the words.

We also rely on seeing the other person’s mouth during a conversation for lip-reading. Many years ago I asked someone to wait while I put on my glasses so I could hear them better! Our eyes are picking up the shapes made by the speakers mouth as they talk and our ears are picking up the sounds. Together these two senses give us clarity around what the speaker is saying.

Some manufacturers have introduced a mask with a see-through patch larger than the mouth. This is to help with understanding each other and is so helpful, indeed vital, to those who rely on lip-reading.

Humans are very good indeed at interpreting speech and the clues around what the words actually mean, but put a great big piece of cloth over the face from below the eyes and there’s not much to work with. Most of the combined subtleties of the 42 muscles in the face are lost and we are left to guess the emotion and context of the word.

Our speech and language appears so cold at the moment, tucked away behind the mask. Be imaginative and do what you can to express warmth and add colour to your muffled voice to maintain positive social contact with others. Speaking from behind a mask is difficult for everyone – keep positive, take your time and hopefully things will get better!

 

Be confident with your voice

Voice coaching, voice and accent training, accent coaching, accent training, speak clearly, articulation, help with voice coaching, help with accent, help with speaking, speak clearly, speaking lessons, , working from home, personal growth, voice clarity, confidence, presentation skills, Voice Synergy, Voice Synergy training, Voice Synergy coaching, learning to speak well, how to speak better, lockdown, duvet, hiding under duvet, lack of confidence, breathing, accent anxiety, boring voice, quiet voice, conversations, laughterIt’s time to come out from under the duvet! Real conversations have started again, face to face, using words spoken directly to each other.

One of the unlooked-for benefits of being locked down, then socially distanced (when we were allowed to begin to mix with others outside the home again), has been the renewal of conversation.

One of the things I have noticed while I’ve been out for my daily walk, around 6.00 pm, is the sound of laughter spilling out from the local pub. It’s been ages since I’ve heard laughter from people and it really cheered me up.

People in pubs and restaurants, having a drink and something to eat, are sharing their time with each other again and their voices show that they are absolutely ready for it! Voices are telling stories and jokes are being shared again and I’m sure we’re all the better for it.

Many people are not quite so confident with their voice, though. There are many reasons why people lack confidence with speaking or with having a conversation. Here are three reasons that people dislike speaking in public: they feel their voice sounds too boring or too quiet or they aren’t comfortable with their accent.

Let’s look at these issues around vocal confidence and see if Voice Synergy can provide some solutions to help you speak with more self-assurance.

  1. Do you think your voice sounds boring?
    Has someone told you that your voice sounds boring or is it just what you think? To make your voice sound more interesting, begin by doing some humming. As simple as that! With your jaw relaxed and your lips gently together, take a nice breath in and hum out (which will also start helping your voice to warm up). When you’re humming, try going from a low to a high note, gliding through the scale so it’s nice and smooth. When you’ve reached a comfortably high note, just let your voice slide down to a low note again. Repeat, but this time, start with a slightly lower note and aim for a slightly higher note in the middle of your hum. The secret to sounding more interesting is to use more range of your voice and humming is a great way to begin to practise this.
  2. Do you think you sound too quiet?
    Are you fed up with people ignoring your voice, or not even seeming to hear you? Try this exercise to make your voice more powerful. Take a good breath in, allowing your breath to open up your ribs, so your tummy moves out a bit, then hum out on one note. Repeat this a few times to get your voice warmed up (in fact, practising the above exercise would be great). Next, halfway through your ‘hum’, drop your jaw, relax your tongue and throat and with an open mouth, change the ‘mmmm’ of the hum to an ‘ahhhhhh’. Let your voice carry forward through the air and aim for a place in the room for your voice to land. Send your ‘aaahhhhh’ sound to the lightbulb, to the door handle, or even to the tree or lamppost outside in the street. This way, you will be effortlessly projecting your voice which will make it sound louder.
  3. Does your accent worry you?
    Are you uncomfortable with your accent or do you think you don’t speak as well as those people around you? Many people suffer from anxiety about their accent, but it could be easier than you think to make small changes. Quite often a strong accent is mixed up with a lack of confidence about being understood, so the speaker tends to rush their words when they are speaking. Speaking quickly with a strong accent can make it difficult to be understood, so here is a tip for improving your clarity. Before you speak, think about what you want to say, take a breath in, so your voice is supported, then say your sentence. Take your time and ensure that you are finishing the ends of your words in the sentence. A lack of confidence can lead people to almost slur their words, as if they don’t want to be noticed and this contributes to the negative cycle. To be understood better, speak more slowly and make sure you finish the ends of your words, such as ‘walked, drove, thought’.

Make sure you enjoy speaking (and listening!) by practising these simple exercises to improve your speech and confidence.

For more information and help with your speech confidence, please get in touch.

The Power of Voice Coaching

Voice coaching, voice and accent training, accent coaching, accent training, speak clearly, articulation, help with voice coaching, help with accent, help with speaking, speak clearly, speaking lessons, support with learning, working from home, personal growth, well-being, voice clarity, confidence, presentation skills, you’re not alone, Voice Synergy, Voice Synergy training, Voice Synergy coaching, learning to speak well, how to speak better“I feel since we started these lessons it’s helping me a lot to relax… it’s so important… I’m getting so much out of it.”

These words were spoken by one of my clients – an academic – last week. This person has been home-schooling primary-aged school children, preparing for university students return in September to online learning, as well as running the home and all that entails, along with their partner, both of whom are working full time from home, online. In the middle of all this, my client recognised the need for some time to be devoted to their own well-being and personal growth and so has begun weekly voice and accent coaching with me.

When we started the course, we discussed ways to develop more fluency in her spoken style and one of the ways was to relax the body and especially, to relax the jaw. After a few weeks of exercises and practice using text and poetry, a change came over her.

“I started recognising how rigid I am, how heavy, rigid, almost paralysed, not only the mouth, it’s the whole body. This is helping me to relax. It’s difficult to believe, but I’m getting so much out of it.”

Using poetry as material to be spoken aloud at this time, during the lockdown and the weeks that have followed, has been a source of help for voice coaching. The rhythm and pattern of poetry helps with the pace and tune of the English language and many words offer the opportunity to exercise the articulators. Using your articulators (the tongue, the teeth, the soft palate and the lips) in the correct way makes your voice easier to understand and the words you speak become clearer.

We use poetry from the time of Shakespeare (including Shakespeare’s sonnets), right through to poetry from Sylvia Plath and stop on the way for Milton, Wordsworth, Frost, Lear, Carroll, Auden, Blake, Rossetti, Hardy, Noyes, Ayres, Dunbar and many others. Poems offer so much to voice coaching, including expanding vocabulary.

Voice coaching is a complex but subtle blend of strategies to help people to speak with confidence and to speak more clearly. At Voice Synergy, we provide a toolbox of skills to help people speak well and to stop mumbling. Not being understood by others is a very frustrating experience but this can be overcome by learning to slow down your speech and to learn how to articulate more accurately.

During the process of voice coaching, our clients learn to exercise muscles they never knew they had and to breathe in a new way to help their fluency with speech.

Our coaching courses are open ended, as your voice journey is for life. Some clients book regularly for up to a year, others take a five-week course and are happy with the progress they have made after that time. Some people like to have accent coaching to move their original accent to more of a BBC or Queen’s English accent. Whatever our clients’ goals, we are here to help you with relaxing your body, to help you to speak clearly and very importantly, to gain courage and confidence to ultimately enjoy making a speech or presentation.

This is a short story of someone who is currently on their voice journey to improve confidence, articulation and clarity and recently had a crucial career interview:

“Before I went into my interview, I thought of you and having my mentor by my side. It helped me to remember the exercises that we’d been through and it calmed my nerves and it made me think more clearly and prepare properly for my interview. What a big difference it made. The techniques you taught me were invaluable in helping me to make my presentation and ultimately to secure the job.”

This person has been having regular weekly voice and accent coaching with Voice Synergy for over five months now and with growing confidence and better speaking skills, is going from strength to strength in their new career.

If you’d like to know more about voice coaching and how it can help boost your career, get in touch.

 

This is a poem by Edward Lear, The Pobble Who Has No Toes. It is a fun poem to read aloud that helps with developing good articulation, rhythm and breath control.

The Pobble Who Has No Toes
By Edward Lear

The Pobble who has no toes
Had once as many as we;
When they said “Some day you may lose
them all;
He replied “Fish, fiddle-de-dee!”
And his Aunt Jobiska made him drink
Lavender water tinged with pink,
For she said “The World in general knows
There’s nothing so good for a Pobble’s toes!”

II
The Pobble who has no toes
Swam across the Bristol Channel;
But before he set out he wrapped his nose
In a piece of scarlet flannel.
For his Aunt Jobiska said “No harm
Can come to his toes if his nose is warm;
And it’s perfectly known that a Pobble’s toes
Are safe, – provided he minds his nose!”

III
The Pobble swam fast and well,
And when boats or ships came near him,
He tinkledy-blinkledy-winkled a bell,
So that all the world could hear him.
And all the Sailors and Admirals cried,
When they saw him nearing the further side –
“He has gone to fish for his Aunt Jobiska’s
Runcible Cat with crimson whiskers!”

IV
But before he touched the shore,
The shore of the Bristol Channel,
A sea-green porpoise carried away
His wrapper of scarlet flannel.
And when he came to observe his feet,
Formerly garnished with toes so neat,
His face at once became forlorn,
On perceiving that all his toes were gone!

V
And nobody ever knew,
From that dark day to the present,
Whoso had taken the Pobble’s toes,
In a manner so far from pleasant.
Whether the shrimps, or crawfish grey,
Or crafty Mermaids stole them away –
Nobody knew: and nobody knows
How the Pobble was robbed of his twice five
toes!

VI
The Pobble who has no toes
Was placed in a friendly Bark,
And they rowed him back, and carried him up
To his Aunt Jobiska’s Park.
And she made him a feast at his earnest wish
Of eggs and buttercups fried with fish, –
And she said “It’s a fact the whole world
knows,
That Pobbles are happier without their toes!”

 

Celebrating a year of voice coaching in Bath!

Voice Synergy, Voice Synergy voice coaching, Voice Synergy speech training, Voice Synergy accent coaching, Voice Synergy accent training, speak clearly, speaking with confidence, don’t mumble, vocal toolkit, voice training, speak properly, speaking in meetings, speaking online, voice for podcasting, speak clearly, Bath voice coach, speaking voice coach, Bath accent training, voice coach, professional voice coach Bath, accent training Bath, headphones, microphoneVoice and accent coaching is busier than ever here at Voice Synergy in Bath! A professionally trained, speaking voice coach in Bath. Many people who used to work in offices in London, Bristol and Bath now work from home and this has created an upsurge in demand for training to ‘speak better and more clearly’.

Lawyers, medics, professors, engineers, project managers and pod-casters have all benefited from Voice Synergy providing top quality voice coaching in Bath. Wonderful people have achieved great things, thanks to expert voice tuition giving them extra confidence and a better set of speaking skills.

In the ‘old days’ we offered a face-to-face voice coaching service, but this was replaced months ago by Skype or Zoom-enabled online coaching. And voice and accent coaching online is working really well for us and our clients! Voice coaching (some people refer to it as elocution lessons – but it’s much more than that) creates empowerment. Many of us can feel daunted in online meetings, as discussed in our last newsletter; trying to get your voice heard isn’t always easy, but help is at hand.

While we are waiting to resume face-to-face voice and accent coaching, here are some more hints and tips to help you to speak more effectively in your online meetings.

In the first instance, while it might seem obvious, it is important to know what the meeting is about and your role in the project under discussion. Make sure you have all your facts and figures to hand before the meeting starts and be punctual. There is no hiding place when you are on a Zoom call and you could be asked a direct question at any time in front of the rest of the team, so be prepared.

The next thing to be aware of, is your voice. Your voice can only work if you enable it and a strong and clear voice communicates confidence. One of the key things to remember when you are speaking to your meeting is BREATHE before you speak! I know we have mentioned this before, but breath is your power – breath allows your voice to work properly and having enough breath is vital to effective speaking. Remember: breathe, then speak your thoughts. When you have a new thing to say, when a new idea pops into your head, breathe in again before you speak this next thought or idea. Taking a breath will have the effect of punctuating your speech as well as giving your listeners the chance to process what you have just said.

Common speech problems in meetings include: speaking too quickly, speaking too quietly, speaking without articulating properly and finally speaking with absolutely no idea about what you actually want to say!

This last point about ‘speaking without a clear idea of what you want to say’, usually occurs because of nerves caused by lack of confidence or low self-esteem. A lack of confidence can result in your initial idea fading away and panic setting in, which means your brain is clutching at straws to keep the listeners’ attention. Basically, you begin to babble.

To remedy a speech problem such as talking too fast or losing track of what you are saying, remember to breathe. Take your time and relax, allow your breath to flow back into your lungs and feed your brain with oxygen (creating ideas) and then power your vocal folds to enable you to speak. Speaking more slowly helps you speak more clearly and that is good for you and your listeners. Take a sip of water, too. Being well-prepared for the meeting will help your confidence and with confidence comes a more confident and controlled voice.

We are loving it here in Bath. Thank you for your enquiries and to all the wonderful people who have been in touch, taken voice coaching courses and benefitted so eloquently from an enriched vocal toolbox.

Please do get in touch if you would like help with extending your ‘vocal toolkit’ and developing confidence to speak clearly and with impact.

Have you lost your voice in office meetings?

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We have had many weeks of living and working in a completely new way of life. It’s been a challenge to find a delivery slot for our online food shop, to find seeds to grow and nurture for our mental health and well-being, not forgetting finding and following a virtual fitness Geru to maintain our physical health. On top of that, we still need to get out for those important walks away from our homes. And just to add another bizarre element into the mix, the physical workplace has disappeared and every working contact is now connected to us via the computer screen.

Online meetings and conferences ask for a very different approach from face to face meetings. To begin with, there is often a time lag between you speaking and the sound of your voice reaching the others. Then there is the problem of people talking over each other. It can be difficult to get a word in edgeways, sometimes. When it’s finally your turn to speak in an online meeting, it’s vital to use your voice effectively and to speak clearly and with confidence.

Did you know that just exercising your voice and lips can help you with your conference calls?

One thing that might not have occurred to you is that your voice needs exercise to keep it fit and healthy, just like the rest of your body.

Voice exercises to do before you join an online meeting

1. Keep your voice active

If you are working from home your voice could be unused for hours. Suddenly, it’s time for the team meeting and you find your voice is a bit squeaky or gives up! It’s really important to warm up your voice before you speak and especially if you’ve been quiet all day.

If you can, hum or sing along to some of your favourite tunes to warm up your voice. Relax your jaw and let your lips gently touch, then breathe in and hum away as long as that breath lasts. Don’t push the breath out, instead, just relax and let the air drop deep down into your lungs again to take another breath and carry on humming.

Try humming up and down a scale to warm up your voice – the song ‘Doe a deer’ from the Sound of Music is an ideal voice warm up song to hum along to, but many others are fun to hum along with.

2. Keep your articulators strong

In the same way as your voice can ‘go to sleep’ and lose its power, the same can be said for your articulators. Our articulators are vitally important in shaping our words and strong muscles in our lips, tongue and soft palate help our words to be spoken clearly.

If you want to avoid mumbling, here is an exercise to help your lips stay flexible and strong to help with clear speech.

To develop muscles in your lips, stretch your lips out across your face, in a wide smile. Next, exercise the lip muscles in another direction; pull your lips in to the centre of your mouth, as though you were about to whistle. Alternate these two lip exercises about ten times to give the lip articulator muscles a good stretch.

3. Stretch your soft palate

The back of your soft palate is a vital muscle that helps shape sounds like sing, bring and along as well as the ‘G’ and ‘K’ sounds in words like ‘Goal, Create, Good and Quick’.

To give the soft palate some exercise and warm up those muscles, simply have a good yawn and stretch. Yes, that’s right! You can sit down or stand up and simply have a really loud, luxurious long noisy yawn! You will be stretching your soft palate and letting it move up and sideways at the back of your mouth. Letting your ‘yawn sound’ out too and trilling up and down a few scales will make this exercise even more effective in warming up your voice and speech muscles.

Just exercising your voice, lips and soft palate in this way can help your speech muscles to perform more effectively in your online meetings.

To develop a stronger, more confident voice on your conference calls and get help with expressing your ideas with clarity and at the right speed and volume, please get in touch.

Shakespeare helps virtual meetings!

Isolation, working from home, lockdown, Voice Synergy Bath, Voice Synergy voice training, voice coaching Bath,voice coaching, voice training, speech training, elocution Bath, elocution, accent coaching, accent training, video conferencing, poetry, improve your voice, lockdown, speaking in video, remote working, speaking clearly, articulation, speak better, speak clearly, Shakespeare, sonnets, shall I compare thee, intonation, English accent, better accent, Skype voice coaching, voice training Skype, online voice training, online voice coaching, distance voice training, distance voice coaching We hope that you and your loved ones are keeping well during this very challenging time. All around us, as we isolate, the most beautiful spring is bursting all around with delicate blossom, opal buds and garden birds singing their little hearts out.

Unlike the free birds, we are enjoying spring this year by going for a short walk, once a day, as we self-isolate and socially-distance ourselves from our friends and loved ones.

This month, to raise your spirits and following the really positive feedback received after we published and recorded poems in last month’s newsletter, we bring you another poem to inspire your voice! This month a sonnet heralds a touch of fragrant spring blossom and warm hope which will be followed in due course by summer’s “gold complexion”.

Here is ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ the most famous of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a line of which inspired the title of the wonderful TV series, ‘The Darling Buds of May’.

Have a go at reading this poem aloud – even if you haven’t tried reading a sonnet before – and immerse yourself for a short while in the wonderful language of Shakespeare (who, incidentally, would have been 456 years old on 1 April!)

SONNET XVIII

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
   So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Many of us are now working from home and using online technology to communicate. More time than ever is being dedicated to video conferencing, using Zoom, Skype, MS Teams, WhatsApp or even HouseParty. ‘So how might speaking poetry help my work-life’, you may ask?

Speaking poetry aloud can help to give your voice more range and interest, particularly if you’re attending online meetings. Remember to breathe before you speak and use a pause to allow your point to sink in and be understood by others in the online meetings.

Above all, remember to speak clearly. You can often achieve clarity in your voice by speaking more slowly than normal. Others in your conference call will not understand the points you are making if you speak too quickly.

Other techniques to make your voice more expressive include ‘stretching’ a word or short phrase which can add colour and interest to your speech.

Enjoy this wonderful sonnet, keep your voice warmed up and exercised and go to town on your expression!

With the birds building nests, sapphire bluebells glowing in the woods and soft, tender emerald canopies springing from the waking trees, now is the time to embrace the spring and look forward to the days when we will meet again.

For more information about how to use your voice effectively in online meetings, please get in touch.

 

How to cope when you’re feeling anxious at home

Guided relaxationI have recently made a relaxation recording for Bath Radio to help with feeling of anxiety as we are faced with isolation in lockdown. I though this might also be useful to you or any friends or family who are feelings anxious at this time. The relaxation exercise lasts for just over three minutes, so I hope you can relax and enjoy a bit of time to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hello, I’m Debbie Chatting and I’m here to help you if you have any feelings of anxiety at this time. As usual, I’m going to suggest you find somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit down and relax… and today, we’re going to focus on just breathing.

“Breathing recharges our whole system with oxygen and energy and it’s something we can often forget to do! When we’re anxious, those feelings can transfer to tension in our body, making it more of a challenge to allow all that wonderful oxygen to flow into our lungs.

“When you’re comfortable in your quiet place, let your eyes close… place your hands loosely in your lap… close your mouth, relax your jaw and let your next breath in… gently filling your lungs with air…

“You might notice your stomach moves gently out as you breathe in… that’s quite normal, it’s making room for your lungs to expand.

“Breathe out either through your mouth or nose, whichever feels more comfortable… and relax your shoulders.

“When your breath is out, close your mouth again and let the air flow back in through your nose and fill your chest and lungs again….

“The nose acts like an amazing cleaner to the air you breathe in… the air passing in through your nose is gently warmed, cleaned and even moisturised, ready for your lungs to enjoy and pass the oxygen around your whole body.

“It’s a wonderful relaxed rhythm… breathe into the bottom of your lungs if you can imagine it, and gently let the air flow out again in a relaxed, regular rhythm.

“Think about your shoulders and let them loosen, think about your eyes, closed and relaxed and feel your muscles in your face soften.

“As you breathe in your next breath, think about your legs and knees… and as you breathe out, let all your muscles in your lower body soften and relax.

“Move your thoughts to the muscles in your shoulders and arms… let them calmly unwind and let your shoulders drop….

“Now keep the flow of your breath calmly moving in and out of your lungs and gently tense your toes and relax them.

“On the next breath, tense your hands, then relax them, and finally… tense your shoulders then relax and soften the muscles in your shoulders and your neck.

“Now I’d like you to think of something to make you smile… And on the next outbreath, slowly open your eyes… Take a few moments to re-adjust, before quietly getting up out of your chair and calmly returning to your day.

“I hope this helps you feel more relaxed and comfortable and ready to cope with the things that come your way.

“This is Debbie Chatting, I’m thinking of your and I’ll speak to you again soon.”

Poetry for Reading Aloud

Voice Synergy, voice training, poetry, social distancing, self-isolating, learn poetry, John Masefield, voice coaching, speech training, accent training, accent coaching, distance, two metres apart, isolation, in touch, positive poetry, positive speech, motivation, speaking aloud, voice warm up, active voiceWhat unprecedented times we are living in. Wherever you are, social distancing or self-isolating, this is just to let you know that our thoughts go out to all of you who are affected by what’s going on.

What can we do to keep our mind and body together?

There are lots and lots of things to keep the body fit and moving and for those active souls, Mr Motivator is back on TV and so is the Green Goddess! But what about things to keep your mind fit and active?

This month, I thought it would be nice to have a poem or two to think about and to help keep your voice exercised. Perhaps a poem that could even be memorised by heart? I found it really tricky trying to identify a positive, happy poem. Most poets from the days of yore were quite a melancholy lot and I’m definitely steering away from anything downbeat!

I came across this modern poem and loved it for its potential relevance to every family that finds itself in social distancing and/or self-isolation at these bewildering times of loo roll shortages and absent packets of pasta.

This poem by Kim Moore imagines brawling in a family, a typical ‘domestic’ where even the doors go off in a huff and the bed only just survives collapse! The love of the family shines through in the last lines.

In Praise of Arguing
by Kim Moore

And the vacuum cleaner flew

down the stairs like a song
and the hiking boots
launched themselves

along the landing.

And one half of the house
hated the other half
and the blinds
wound themselves around
each other.

And the doors flung

themselves into the street
and flounced away
and the washing gathered
in corners and sulked.

And the bed collapsed
and was held up by books
and the walls developed
scars and it was a glorious,
glorious year.

A more traditional poem, Sea Fever, by John Masefield, describes the pull of the sea and the adventures he longs for once again. Like everyone today, confined in or close to our homes, this is to inspire using memories of fabulous former times and imagining a future full of promise once more.

Sea Fever
By John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

I hope you enjoy reading these poems aloud, even memorising them. Poetry is a wonderful way to use words full of sounds, emotions and tone to express yourself. You could even try your hand at a poem yourself. It would be lovely to hear from you with your works.

We are continuing to voice coach, but of course, remotely by Skype.

Wherever you are, stay well and keep your spirits up. Sing, speak and stay in touch with each other.