When you hear yourself on your voicemail are you shocked? Disgusted? Embarrassed? Unfortunately, what you hear on your answering machine is the truth. It is the sound by which everyone recognizes you. It is your vocal image.
37% of the image we project is the sound of the speaking voice. 55% is our physical image and a mere 8% our content. Now, let me ask you. What does your vocal image say about you?
We have 5 cavities in the body in which the voice should vibrate or resonate when we speak: the voice box, the throat, the mouth, the nose, and the chest. Since the majority of the population does not breathe with the support of the diaphragm, so too, most people are not able to utilize that fantastic chest cavity. James Earl Jones is using it and so is Cher. Do they have something special? No. But because they breathe with support, their chest is their major amplifier, their major sounding board, which is why their voices sound so good.
Look at it this way. The power of your voice can only start at your breath placement. If you are a shallow breather, in which you are utilizing only the upper portion of the chest for respiration, then your voice is being powered from the throat up. If, on the other hand, you are breathing with the support of your diaphragm, then the power of the voice begins with that huge cavity known as the chest. Look at the size of the other 4 cavities and contrast them to the size of the chest cavity.
[By the way, if you don’t know where your diaphragm is, place your hands under your rib cage and cough. Did you feel that muscle ‘kick out’? That is your diaphragm. You may remember that muscle if you have ever attended a funny movie, laughed for 2 hours and felt sore afterwards or perhaps you’ve had a cold with a hacking cough and noticed that you were sore in that region.]
When I work with my clients, I show them how to find their optimum speaking voice. The pitch (highness or lowness of sound) of the voice will drop to some degree in most cases. It may be several steps – it may be a mere half step. But that change makes all the difference in how good the voice really is.
One of the most astounding voice changes I have ever encountered was Craig, a young man who wanted to become a policeman. After his second class, Craig’s father told him it was the best investment he had made. If you would like to see a ‘before’ & ‘after’ video clip of Craig, click on the link below and make sure your volume is on: http://www.voicedynamic.com/before.htm
When I was in graduate school, my music professor told me that the pitch of my speaking voice was too high. She played a note on the piano, telling me that that was where my habitual voice was. Then she went down about 4 steps and told me that that lower note was where my optimum voice was. Again, I’m talking about my speaking voice – not my singing voice! That day changed my life because I discovered a voice that sounded more mature; a voice that was richer, deeper, resonant. In a word, warm. Diane Sawyer has it; George Clooney has it. Melanie Griffith, on the other hand, doesn’t.
After graduate school, my voice got me my jobs in New York City because I sounded more mature than I was -- I sounded like I knew what I was talking about. And it can happen to you too. There are a lot of fantastic voices out there but you will never know how good your ‘real’ voice is until you learn to breathe with support, find your optimum pitch, and ‘let your chest do the talking.’ As Kathleen Turner told Barbara Walters in an interview in 1989, “the power of the voice is exciting as heck!”
Nancy Daniels is a voice specialist and president of Voice Dynamic as well as The Official SelfGrowth.com Guide to Public Speaking. Working privately and corporately, she launched Voicing It! in April of 2006, the first video training course on voice improvement. You can watch a clip from her DVD on her website, ‘before’ & ‘after’ takes of her clients, and a 16-minute video in which Nancy describes what voice training can do for you at www.voicedynamic.com/products.htm
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