There are many ways to positively change old habits and pastimes to improve one’s vocal ability, but today I’d like to address six things that can be avoided, as opposed to undertaken, that in doing so we can achieve more significant results from our most excellent instrument, the human voice.
Firstly, If you’re someone that’s into physical exercises, like going to the gym, yoga, swimming, sports, rock climbing or any other activity that work or grow the muscles; a certain amount of effort is required. This, in turn, puts physical strain on the body through fatigue and causes tension to occur. When muscles are tense, it’s terrible for the voice. If you are someone who wants to understand how you can better your vocal sound, one of the things you can do is pay more attention after your exercises to not only lengthening (aka stretching) but also relaxing.
Get on the rollers, use the spiky balls, maybe go for a massage, anything that relaxes the muscles, because when they are relaxed, the body can function properly, your instrument remains limber, and the vocal resonators allow vibrations to flow freely.
Tension = bad — Relaxation = good.
The second idea I’m going to suggest is more common amongst the men; however, it does happen across all genders, so is worth considering even if it’s something of which you aren’t aware.
Are you holding your belly in?
This is something I still catch myself doing and occasionally, and It’s terrible for you because you’re literally ‘holding things in’. You’re creating tension where it’s not wanted or needed. That and It’s not necessarily good for your spine either.
Pulling your belly in to look like you’re skinnier in the waist area is not suitable for your voice. It closes off space, limiting your capacity for more significant breath support and although it can occasionally be used as a method for specific breathing and physical exercises, is not necessarily something you want to walk around doing all day.
As previously mentioned relaxation is key to a healthy and dynamic vocal system, so if you’re holding your belly in, you’re creating tension and hindering your possibilities.
You need to let go!
My next point is more a mental game but has just as much impact (if not more) as that of the physical attributes which can inhibit our vocal ability.
Negative self talk.
Quite often people who have low self-esteem or are very conscious about speaking publicly (or even in general), have a story running in their subconscious mind that they can’t because they believe ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘it’s difficult’ or ‘I’m anxious’. Which, by the way, usually always comes down to the simple belief that people are going to judge us.
Probably the biggest fear that humans face is that of being judged, not fitting in and being ridiculed or ostracised. We by nature deeply yearn for others approval, because we are social creatures. It makes no sense to feel that fear, though, if it stops us from progressing and sharing ourselves with the world. But is it in our nature or our nurture?
The pressures to fit in and obey have most likely been learned from our parents, teachers and peers. And to preserve us from being outcast, we play along to feel safe and secure within our communities and society.
This transpires into not wanting to be judged (in all areas of life) and through the fear of not wanting to say anything stupid, the negative thinking begins. I promise to go deeper into this in another blog but to make my point, the only way not to tell yourself negative stories is to replace them with positive ones.
If you’ve ever heard of positive affirmations, this is a great way to start. Set yourself some spare time every day to tell yourself that you ‘can’ do it even if you currently believe you ‘can’t’.
Begin by saying to yourself, ‘nobody is judging me’, ‘I have a fantastic voice’, ‘public speaking is natural and makes me feel great’. And If you can tell yourself these stories consistently over some time, eventually you won’t have to keep telling yourself because your body will remember it and it will just happen. So stop thinking negative thoughts by replacing them with positive thoughts.
Tell yourself you can!
The fourth area, which by eliminating we can better improve our voice is to stop chewing gum. It’s awful for your articulation. Your jaw muscles do a lot of work when they eat every day and don’t often get a lot of time to relax. Stress in the jaw restricts its flexibility to move and articulate freely, so it becomes more of an effort to speak, which promotes poor diction and mumbling to occur.
I recommend stopping chewing gum because then you’re going to give your jaw a bit more of a break. If you’re someone that has trouble being understood, and you chew gum, maybe get rid of it to see what happens.
Fifth on my list today is so obvious but often overlooked; practice!
Okay, okay! I know this is a blog about things to avoid, but with this one, it’s most likely something that you have already been avoiding, so we need to reverse your thoughts on it.
If we’re to learn how to become better speakers, we need to practice. It’s like anything, If you’re scared of speaking and are someone who doesn’t talk very often, then part of the problem is you’re not putting in the hours to grow and progress.
If you are initially worried about speaking in front of others, then practice on your own. You can go public later once you’re more comfortable and better rehearsed.
Try doing something every day that will progress your skill in this area. Take a newspaper, a book or anything that you’d like to read and spend 10 to 20 minutes, each day, reading aloud. It’s that simple. Wherever you may be, in your bedroom, your bathroom, somewhere quiet, it doesn’t matter. Just read aloud. Get used to speaking by consistently doing this every day. Because without practice, you won’t see results. The more you do do it, the better you’ll get, and then you’ll feel more comfortable when it comes time to put it to good use.
One of the reasons my online course ‘Improve Your Voice’ takes eight weeks is because positive and lasting change only happens when we create the habit of consistent daily practice. And once you reach a certain level of body awareness from healthy regular dedicated areas of work, the results become far easier to achieve and re-gain again should you fall by the wayside or take time away.
Practice makes perfect!
Lastly and my sixth nugget of advice, for now, is this. Stop Procrastinating. Don’t think, act — Don’t plan, do.
Make it happen.
It occurs in all areas of life, but the voice, being part of our physical makeup, is usually the last thing people want to work on. It’s not academic, and it doesn’t yield instant dynamic results. It is a long journey, and the rewards can take time and patience to achieve.
So to help you not waste any more time, go get on with it and don’t come back until you have implemented all of the above suggestions. I’ll see you then.
Best of luck!