Freeing the Voice: Doing less to get more

When people come to see me for help with their voice, I both listen to their concerns and experiences of speaking and also observe how they use their voices across different speaking tasks. The two most common complaints are difficulty with projecting the voice, and/or vocal fatigue, i.e. the voice not lasting for the job it’s being asked to do. In looking at how people speak, a key feature for many is the amount of effort being spent on pushing out a sound, for very little results at best, and voice strain or hoarseness at worst. Why is this? Well clearly it is not from a lack of effort and drive on their part. The crux of the matter lies with the idea of pushing out the sound. We were born with an ability to speak, laugh, cry, and yell without putting any strain on our vocal folds. So what went wrong? Well, unlike Peter Pan, we grew up, and as a result we started to constrain that natural voice…and that is essentially the root of many voice problems.

So, what do we do that gets in the way of a natural voice? Clients are often surprised and amused when they discover how they have, over time, developed ways of speaking which are counterproductive. Such movements include, sticking out the neck like a duck, raising the shoulders, or setting the jaw tightly. It is ironic that in the attempt to have an effective voice and to be heard, we can directly hinder the process by our actions. So, clearly the solution is to do less…but this is definitely easier said than done.

Before you attempt to return to Never Never Land, I’d like to suggest a very useful approach which I usually recommend to clients, which is to get some Alexander Technique lessons, and in particular the Interactive Teaching Method (ITM), which is a specific branch of the Alexander Technique. Click here for more information about ITM and to find out about forthcoming workshops.

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