Have you ever thought of your voice as your instrument? Just like a violin or cello, it needs fine-tuning. You must take care of it and learn how it works best to coax the perfect sound from it. Your voice is your instrument, and with it, you can resonate trust, confidence, power, presence, and charisma just by opening your mouth to talk. You’ve heard the cliche, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” well, that is true in both your business life and social life. And it could even become your professional life.
By fine tuning your voice, you can use it as an instrument with complete control. You’ll command genuine, respectful attention, and you can take your social interactions to the next level. In our Bunny Studio, we have a whole database of voiceover experts who we can learn from. And while some have that innate fabulous voice, for others it takes years of practice to go from that ho-hum-okay voice to the read-me-the-phone-book voice.
By applying some of these tips, you can take your voice to new heights. Whether you want to use it to feel more confident in your social life, enhance your professional life, or even take it to the professional voice over level, these tips will help you learn just how to refine your voice.
Much of voice work is control. And just like everything in our body is connected, our voices don’t stand alone. Breath has a huge impact on voice sound, so does posture, projection, enunciation, and so many other things.
Breathe From Your Belly
Let’s start by looking at the breath and how it plays into the sound of your voice.
Take a deep breath and exhale.
Now, do it again.
Did your shoulders rise? If so, it’s time to work on your breathing.
In this modern age, most people are chest breathers, which means they shrug their shoulders and neck muscles to inhale. Unfortunately, that leads to very shallow breaths (as well as a whole host of postural problems) and impedes the depth of your voice. On the other hand, correct breathing can enhance your voice. According to schooltheatre.org, Breathing is the source of life in the body. Our breath is also the foundation of the voice, the fuel that powers our sound, because our voice is made by outgoing breath.
So, yes, breath has a huge impact on the voice. Our voices just don’t come from our mouths. Lungs, diaphragm, even muscles around the ribs and abdomen are involved in breathing and good voice work. But how do you breathe from the belly, without those shoulders rising? How do you do it to help you control your voice? Let’s take a look…here’s a quick, easy way to enhance your breathing to help control your voice.
Lie flat on the floor on your stomach and put your face in your hands. Relax your chest. Now, inhale. The key is, if you inhale correctly, you should feel your belly push against the ground. That’s good. That means you’re breathing from your diaphragm. Not only is it better for your voice, but it’s better for your overall health.
Do this with slow, even breaths for one minute in the morning after you wake up and one minute at night before you go to bed. In just a few weeks, you will completely reset your breathing pattern to diaphragmatic breathing. Breathwork is key to so many things, not just voice control but overall well being and maintaining stress. And who can’t use that right now!
Speak From Your Gut
Now that you have a deeper breath from the diaphragm, it’s time to start projecting from that source.
Inhale deeply and speak from your diaphragm. You’ll feel as if your whole body starts to vibrate when you do, just like a musical instrument. This also prevents you from speaking too nasally. Your voice should come from your gut, not through your nose.
Speaking from your gut can prevent vocal fry. Vocal fry is that low, creaky, breathy sound we hear in the Kardashians’ voices or from teenage girls. Sure, it sounds relaxed and chill, but is it the image you always want to project? Instead, take pauses while you talk to inhale from the diaphragm, create a solid foundation, and project powerfully. This makes for such a better, powerful, and captivating voice.
HopkinsMedicine shares information to speak from your gut and use a strong, rich voice.
“With voice therapy, people learn to coordinate their airflow, vocal fold (cord) vibration and resonance to produce a better sound. We work together to make that better sound a habit.” Similar to singing lessons, treatment involves exercises, including vocal warmups, to get patients used to using their muscles in a different way to produce the sound.
This article from our own Bunny expert offers more advice on vocal warm-ups and maintaining your voice.
Maintain Good Posture
If you play an instrument, you know how important it is to keep it clean, tune it, replace worn or broken parts, and store it in a safe, temperature-controlled place. You also know how important form is when you play it – how you sit, how you hold it, and how you interact with it.
When it comes to speaking, however, your body is your instrument. Keep it in tip-top shape by making sure everything is positioned correctly, meaning your self and your posture. This is one of the most common speaking tips, even if it sounds overused sometimes.
If your shoulders are rounded, your head is forward or your back is hunched, you could unknowingly be obstructed your airways. This, in turn, can prevent you from breathing properly, which as we’ve learned, can prevent you from speaking properly. It’s kind of like stepping on a running hose; the water can only trickle out of the end instead of using its full potential. However, if you can create a better position with your posture and form, you’ll automatically speak and feel better.
Here’s a little test for yourself. Stand against a wall and try to have your back, your buttocks, your heels, and the back of your head all touch the wall. It’s probably uncomfortable and awkward, right? But if you can hold this position for a minute and then step straight ahead while maintaining this stance, you’re on your way to a new, stronger posture.
Add Vocal Variety to Your Voice
So you’ve been working on projection and posture, adding resonance, power, and smoothness to your voice. Now it’s time to make your voice something people want to hear. One great speaking tip for doing this is to speak clearly with variety.
A good tip for learning how to do this is to record yourself speaking. No one likes the sound of their voice, it’s true. You’ve probably heard actors say they never watch their own movies. But it’s important to hear yourself as others hear you. So it’s time to record.
When you listen to your own voice and hear yourself speaking, you’ll know if you’re talking too fast, too slow, or too monotone. You’ll notice when you should have used a different inflection or if you added an unnecessary pause. You’ll also hear when you sound great and what you did. Did you incorporate inflection or change your pitch or use a well-placed pause for emphasis? You’ll see what works and what doesn’t, and you can use that to your benefit.
Hearing yourself is necessary because though you may believe that your voice sounds fine to your own ears in person, when you play it back it may sound monotone or flat. You need that inflection and brightness. If you are trying to better your voice for voice work, you’ll be able to hear what you need to work on to boost your chances of getting that work.
Remember when you were playing the violin in middle school? Your mom always told you to practice, and whether you did or not, you knew practicing would make you better. Well, your mom and you were right. Practice is important for any skill, including voice work. Again, whether it’s to wow your clients or get a job as a voice artist, practice is essential for fine-tuning your voice.
There are lots of great ways to practice voice work. This article also shares some great tips. Here are some things you can do:
- Start small by speaking aloud in your car and mimic the voices on the radio. No one will hear you, and it’s a fun way to pass the time.
- Hum in the shower. This can work on that power and endurance that voice artists need.
- Take a deep breath from your diaphragm when you want to relax for a few seconds in the office. Not only will this help relax you, but you’ll work on those breathing techniques we talked about.
- Read aloud. If you have kids, what better way to practice voices than reading out loud and giving each character a voice. Even if you don’t have kids, read to yourself or your partner out loud. It’s a fun way to enjoy reading and making the characters come alive. Plus it’s a great way to improve your own voice.
- Practice saying tongue twisters and go for speed. Endurance of the voice is important in voice work, and this is a great way to increase it. Plus you can work on clarity at the same time. Don’t slur your tongue twister; keep it clear and refined.
- Use different voices. You can do this with tongue twisters or reading out loud. Who says the little bear in your son’s bedtime story can’t have a British accent?
Once you get comfortable, practice with store clerks, baristas, phone reps, anyone. People will never notice that you’re trying out a new voice. Over time, it will become second nature to you.
To Sum It Up
If you think you want to improve your voice for whatever reason, go for it! It’s no different than wanting to tone up your arms or play the piano, and there’s no reason you can’t do it. Start out with some of these speaking tips and go from there. You may surprise yourself how quickly this comes to you, and who knows what could be in your future. Maybe you’ll be the next great voice over actor, or maybe you’ll just have fun ordering your next decaf mocha americano with an espresso shot in a new voice.