Tag Archives: speaking voice

BAM!! POW!! HI!! : The Singing/Speech Connection- Part 1

We all know that balance is the name of the game when it comes to good vocal production. We are aware that yelling is not optimal to the health of the instrument. Neither is an anemic, unenergized way of singing. Both can lead to undue tensions in the throat and be evidenced by a high larynx. I find that clients can achieve a good sense of vocal equilibrium by becoming more aware of how they use their voices when they speak or call out (not yelling) and how healthy chest voice is important for the voice as a whole. Let’s face it- when people think about singing, they often screw things up by trying too hard to make it sound one way or another. Approaching vocalizing from a place of just making sound can keep the student from overthinking and, perhaps, let their production become more reflexive.

Here are some exercises that I am using more often to help students make the mental and physical connections between speech and singing functions. I find them helpful for pullers and timid singers alike.

1) ‘POW’- It’s very natural for a student to make a very energized, physically engaged sound with this one. I have the singer to speak the word several times as if they were mimicking the sound of an explosion or a punch (think the old “Batman” TV series). I find it helpful to have the client place their fists in their sides or two fingers at the solar plexus to get an awareness of how the body supports itself naturally when making an energetic declamatory sound. After saying the word a few times, we move on to singing it in a comfortable pitch range. I tell them not to actually think singing at this point, however, because it tends to take them out of a strong but unforced sound. I want them to focus on ‘sounding’ and not ‘singing’ yet. Depending on the singer’s tendencies, I either take them up in range by half steps on single notes with a short sustain, or go with either a 1-3-5-3-1 pattern or a five note scale. They are not allowed to increase volume as they ascend. I remind them that the sound will thin a bit as they travel from chest into middle voice. For the hard core pullers, I have them to monitor the movement of the larynx and the base of the tongue with their thumbs.

2) ‘BAM’- The approach with this one is largely the same as the previous word. I will sometimes start the singer in middle or head voice, with a child-like pharyngeal production (think Bam Bam Rubble from “The Flintstones”). We then work downwards towards chest voice then ascend again. When I ask students to rate the difficulty of this sound ( On the ‘Dial of Difficulty, 1 is super easy and 5 is ‘call an ambulance- I think I tore something), they seem surprised that they don’t have to go past a ‘3’ for a very solid but free sound.

3) ‘HI’- I user single tones almost exclusively with this sound. I have the client to speak ‘HI!’ then immediately sing it on an assigned pitch. Again, I like for them to think that even the sung tone is really just elongated speech. I take them up by whole or half steps from near the top of their speaking range through their middle voice, at least. They are reminded to let the pitch of the spoken ‘HI!’ start to rise as if they are increasingly excited. For some, it helps to have them think child-like if they feel like effort is increasing. Some of my strongest chest pullers are noticing less strain getting through the first bridge.

I will be posting a video soon to share demonstrations of these exercises.


Watch How You Talk!!!

Let’s clear up a few things, why don’t we. The speaking and singing voices are not two separate instruments!! We do not possess two sets of true vocal folds with one controlling talking and the other singing. The vocal folds, or cords, function to form speech AND sung sounds. They are one!! Singing differs from speech in that pitches are created over a wider range of notes and tones are held out for a longer duration.

Because speaking and singing come from the same source, it is important to know how much influence they have on one another. Particularly, the way we speak can have a huge impact on the quality of our singing. It is quite common to find that a singer’s issues with the a run-down voice come from their speech habits. We generally will do more talking than singing on a given day, so we must be careful to monitor how we handle speaking chores.

Here are some helpful hints for healthy daily vocal use:

– Don’t speak on pitches too low for your voice. Men tend to be big offenders here, but women have the issue as well. This habit tires the voice out quickly. If you were to say “mm-hmm”, you should get a sense for where you average spoken pitch should be.

– Breathe!!! Too many people actually hold their breath as they speak. This will fatigue the voice and cause excess tension in the larynx. Remember, it takes a steady stream of air to the vocal folds to create a healthy sound!

– Don’t scream!! As a school teacher, I know first hand the tiring effects of this habit!! The cords will get slammed together and will likely swell as a result.

– Stay hydrated. The vocal fold shave to be well lubricated to function at their best. Dry cords can become irritated easily and are more susceptible to injury. Drink plenty of water during the course of the day.

If you are a professional speaker, you may find that vocal training will reap the great benefits for your voice even if you’re not a singer. The techniques taught at Harville Vocal Studio serve to develop healthy vocal function, for singing or speaking.