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Keeping Your Voice Strong

Ron Sukenick

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What suggestions would you make to help the voice remain strong when you're speaking and or training a lot during the week? Are there any exercises or liquids that should be used?

— Randye Kaye

I do vocal warm-ups in the morning, after a physical workout of some kind, and this helps keep the pipes running smoothly. A CD with simple singing warm-ups are available with many books these days. For example, Singing for Dummies includes a CD with vocal warm-ups.

Remember to BREATHE — sound needs air support. Practice holding a good breath in your lungs (expand the stomach and back, NOT the chest — shoulders should remain relaxed) while saying the alphabet, etc. Strengthens the whole breath system.

Water, water, water. Some swear by Gatorade. Airborne has kept many a tickly throat from becoming a full-blown cold. Go figure.

— Margaret Marcuson

I warm up my voice before I speak just as I do for singing. I also try to be aware of breath support when I'm speaking.

— Michael Schatzki

I have found that the key for me is to warm up my vocal cords before each session. I was having voice problems and went to an opera coach. She taught me a simple exercise that really works for me.

  1. Say "oh" as low as you can.
  2. Say "oh" as high as you can.
  3. Hum the top and bottom notes of a fifth starting as high as you can.
  4. Repeat.
  5. Hum all the notes in the fifth starting from the top.
  6. Repeat the above 4 steps but move the fifth down a half note. Keep going until you can't go any lower.

Since this sounds a bit strange to an observer (especially the high and low "oh") I usually find a deserted place to do it shortly before my program begins.

— Debbie Elicksen

When I unknowingly auditioned for a broadcasting school way back when, the instructor wanted to test my levels by getting me to read a story five times. Once in a normal voice, once whispering the text, once chanting the text, once reading the text with a pencil placed horizontally in the mouth, then normal again — all while trying to make the meter levels stay up. The pencil in the mouth thing helps with enunciation, but all of it does wonders to strengthen the voice because the last normal reading was much better than the first.

— Tom Russell

The Alexander Technique helps us discover postural patterns that create unseen tension. There's much gold here for professional speakers. It also helps your sense of poise before an audience. A great Web site is www.alexandertechnique.com. You can locate a certified instructor in your area. Those with the AmSat designation are the most highly trained.

— Rosanne D'Ausilio

What works for me is to drink hot water and lemon when I'm speaking or doing trainings. I also stay away from cold drinks and drink water at room temperature during these times.

— Bob McEntee

Roger Love has a good Vocal Power program available through Nightingale Conant. Covers warm ups, exercises, diet/drinks, do's and dont's, what to do when you have a cold or lost your voice, etc.

— Graham Jones

Two things — your voice is produced by muscular activity and by the passage of air. So, to make your voice strong you need good muscle tone and good production of air. That means exercise for the muscles and proper breathing. Most vocal coaches I know emphasize the value of breathing properly to keep the voice strong and in shape. Here's what to do: take deep breaths and try to keep your shoulders level - do this by pushing out your tummy. Get someone to hold your shoulders down. Do this until you get used to the abdominal breathing used by singers/musicians. Once you have mastered that, every day, lay down on a flat surface, place a book (not too heavy!) on your abdomen and make it go up and down by breathing alone. If all this fails to get you breathing deeply without raising your shoulders, get singing lessons or take up playing the trumpet...! You cannot do either unless you breathe properly.

Having got the breathing right, you need to strengthen the vocal chord muscles. That means plenty of water — even when you are not speaking, regular drinking of water will help muscle tone throughout your body. Eight glasses every day, minimum. It will have a real effect on your voice. Then, make sure you speak every day — speakers often spend lonely lives when not on the platform. We are in our offices, writing, reading, researching etc. But your muscles need to be used to keep them in shape — and that's the same for your speaking muscles. So keep them in trim by using them constantly — sing or speak to yourself every day.

A couple of other voice tips — don't over use your voice; athletes need to rest to ensure their leg muscles, for instance, don't accumulate problems. Your vocal muscles will react the same way to over use. One of the main ways speakers over use their voice is to try and speak without amplification. Microphones are essential if you are a regular speaker — even to small groups of 15 plus.

Finally, there is some evidence that herbal supplements can help. Robbie Williams it is rumoured has taken herbal supplements called VocalZones available here.

I use them from time to time and they certainly do help me keep my voice in shape.

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