Practice tips for better speaking voice

Many of my students have F.M. Alexander’s problem with their voice.

They prepare to speak by breathing in with a large gasping sound. The neck juts forward into a “turkey” position as the muscles of the throat and neck constrict. This habit squeezes the larynx and cuts off breath. It’s no surprise that the throat feels strained and the voice sounds weak, scratchy or even froggy. The message that’s being communicated may also be thwarted by physical tension. Listeners read body language, therefore they may “hear” tension more loudly than words.

Here are some tips to improve the sound and impact of your speech.

Practice speaking when you are in constructive rest. Observe yourself. Do you lift your chin when you prepare to speak? What happens to the muscles in your neck and throat?  It can be hard to stop these habits unless you employ F.M. Alexander’s brilliant discovery. Preparatory tension goes away when you decide not to speak!

Press pause on your decision to speak. You can tell yourself,  “No,” or, “I don’t need to speak.” Instead, focus on allowing your belly to be soft. Let your breath come and go.

Imagine the muscles in the back of the neck gathered together by a large bow tie. Imagine pulling the strings so the knot unravels and the muscles at the back of the neck lengthen.

Imagine your collarbones as the strings of a cape. The cape drapes across your back and shoulders, and includes your arms and shoulder blades. Chances are those cape strings are very tight. Imagine untying the cape strings at your collarbones. You might feel your shoulders widen, your chest expand, and your throat loosen.

Imagine a head floating above your own head. Let this head do the talking.

How does your voice sound now? How does your body feel? How is your breathing?

Be aware of your head and neck when you say, “and,” and “uh.” These are place saving words that communicate, “Don’t interrupt me. I have the floor now.” Often, these words are connected to strong tension habits. Does your voice sound better when you skip saying “uh”?

It’s fun to play around on your own, but for a more powerful improvement in your voice, book a lesson with a local Alexander Technique Teacher.

Body Project Blog: Where Thought is the Active Ingredient.