RENA COOK, MFA, MA, professor emerita and TEDx
speaker, is a voice, speech, and presentation coach.
Through her company, Vocal Authority,
she helps professional speakers,
politicians, and attorneys who want to
up their communication skills. She is
the author of Empower Your Voice: For
Women in Business, Politics and Life.
MORE TO SAY ABOUT VOICE
For more information and vocal exercises,
myvocalauthority.com and check out
the online training videos.
VOICE AND PITCH
It’s a myth that a woman’s voice has to be
low in pitch to be taken seriously. Women
often try to unnaturally lower their voices by
depressing the larynx. This causes tension
and fatigue, which can lead to lasting vocal
damage. A current popular trend among
young women is “vocal fry,” which is speaking
on the very bottom of the voice and trailing off
at the ends of sentences into a “fry” sound.
The harder a woman presses for a low pitch,
the less compelling and flexible she becomes.
It is literally a vocal trap. The lower you try to
force the voice, the more trapped the sound
becomes. As a result, the voice has less
volume, clarity, and variety and, ultimately,
less resonance. By making space, a woman
can maximize resonance, which will yield the
authoritative sound she seeks.
Read the full article “A Woman’s Voice and
What happens to the voice when the resonance space is tight and
small? It can sound strident, harsh, aggressive, and angry. Or it can
sound thin, high, weak, nasal, or breathy. Neither of those options
leads to a compelling and persuasive sound.
Open and free resonance can be developed through a series of
Align your head and neck. Think of the crown of the head
floating up as the face looks straight ahead and the chin is parallel
to the floor. This maximizes the space in the throat and the mouth.
Place your tongue. Feel the tongue move away from the roof
of the mouth, lying on the floor of the mouth like a rug. Feel space
between your upper and lower molars as your lips are gently closed.
Relax the jaw. Run the heel of your hand down the jaw hinge,
encouraging the big muscle to release. Repeat several times. Use
your fingertips to massage the jaw hinge in small circles. Let the
jaw hang loose.
Relax the tongue. Clean the inside of your mouth with your
tongue, letting the tip of the tongue touch each tooth—upper and
lower, inside and out.
Lift the soft palate. Gently open your mouth, imagining that
you are taking a big bite of an apple. This lifts the soft palate and opens
the throat. Try speaking or counting through that big open space.
Relax the lips. Blow gently through your lips. Then gently
pinch and pull your upper lip, and pinch and pull your lower lip.
Repeat five times.
Make more space. Cut a one-inch piece from a coffee stirrer.
Place it between your top and bottom front teeth as a spacer. British
voice trainers would use a cork or bone prop, as you may have seen in
the movie The King’s Speech. Speak a sentence or two, articulating as
clearly as you can around the spacer. Remove it and speak those same
sentences, remembering how the space felt. This opens space in the
front of the mouth and also helps your articulators work a bit harder.
When you make more space in the mouth, you amplify and clarify
your voice. You warm up the quality by enhancing its natural resonance. Plus, your vocal folds don’t work as hard, which gives them a
longer, healthier life. ■
Be sure to listen to Rena’s interview
with Chuck Gallagher on the January
Voices of Experience® (VOE).