Simply Authentic: Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part 3

Simply Authentic: Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part 3

The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking

Part Three of Three: How to Create Vocal Resonance

©Laura Handke, 2017

You’ve worked up the courage to give a speech. You’ve written, edited, and re-edited. You’ve rehearsed until you don’t want to listen to your own speech one more time. You’re at the podium, breathing deeply, which calms your nerves and lessens the shaking of your hands. You open your mouth, and…wonder where your voice went.

What you hoped would be a roar is more like a squeak. You can see people leaning in, straining to hear you, at the back of the room. You would like to be hauled out of there with a hook, like in an old vaudeville act.

What happened? You didn’t notice this pitiful, stuck-behind-the-podium, voice while rehearsing in the privacy of your living room with Betty the Boxer dog. Betty heard you just fine, and, in fact, barked her approval. Not one growl did Betty give.

The culprit here may just be a lack of resonance in your voice.

One of the most naturally resonant voices I’ve ever heard belongs to James Earl Jones. (Oh, how the memories are flooding in from 1980’s Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. “No, I am your father.” Now you know my age bracket! Fun fact: it really is “No,” instead of “Luke.”)

We may not all have been born with voices as resonant as James Earl Jones. Yet regardless of our body structure and voice type, we can all create resonance in our voices.

Resonance is that deep, full, reverberating characteristic which allows your voice to carry and be heard at the back of the room, even without a microphone.

Picture, as best you can, the inside of your skull and nasal cavities. They provide a space for sound to bounce around in. Train yourself to aim your voice into that “mask” or “buzzy spot.”

Close your mouth tightly, and say, “Mmmm,” like a cow would. You should feel vibrations inside your mouth and nasal cavities. You want this, as a speaker or performer. Open your mouth now, say, “My,” and exaggerate the vibrating tone; be overly nasal, like a Brooklynite, like Fran Drescher in The Nanny.

You get that feeling, right? Perfect.

Now, I don’t want you to stand up in front of your audience and try and fake a Brooklyn accent. (Unless you are, of course, from Brooklyn, in which case you should milk it for all it’s worth.)

What I do want you to do is get used to the feeling of projecting your voice into that buzzy spot so your voice will carry, and you’ll be heard at the back of the room. Say “back of the room” with a nasal tone right now. Doesn’t that feel good? Yes, it does! And resonance also helps singers stay on pitch.

Warm up before you go on stage by using M (Money is always good) and N (Naaa) words, while projecting into the buzzy spot.

People need to hear what you have to say…otherwise you wouldn’t be drawn on stage, even if it’s behind the podium, in the first place.

Avoid glottal onsets. Breathe starting with your nose and belly, not the upper chest. Aim your voice into the buzzy spot so you can be heard. Speak with resonance and passion, with healthy vocal technique! Your throat will thank you, and so will your audience.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part 2

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part 2

The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking

Part Two of Three: Breath-Based Vocalization

©Laura Handke, 2017

Stop what you’re doing right now (including reading this article), close your eyes, and take three deep breaths.

Upon opening your eyes, you will likely feel more calm, relaxed and present. That’s what conscious, deep breathing does; it’s one of the best ways to combat performance anxiety, otherwise known as “stage fright”, a regular companion of many speakers. I’ve been known to start a speech in my home Toastmasters club by saying, “Please join me in taking three deep breaths.” I received feedback like, “I have no idea what that had to do with your speech, but it sure relaxed me!”

Please humor me and, again, close your eyes, and take three deep breaths – this time being consciously aware of what’s happening within your body as you breathe. If you’re in a physical environment where you can lay down on your back (grab a yoga mat if you have one handy) before you begin to breathe.

Did your shoulders move up while you inhaled? They shouldn’t, at least not too much. Tense, upward shoulder movement is an indicator of what I’ll call “chest breathing”, trying to breathe engaging mainly the upper part of your chest, which substantially limits lung capacity.

Your stomach should expand when you inhale, while your rib cage is stretched and expanded, and your shoulders straight and relaxed. (You can see a video demonstration at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjUERjaRIv8&t=489s; or just Google “YouTube Laura Handke Mini Voice Lesson”.) It’s easiest to experience this while lying down…your stomach should rise towards the ceiling or sky as you inhale, and then come down as you exhale while vocalizing. Once you get the hang of it on the floor, you can incorporate the same breathing process while up standing and speaking.

If you’re not accustomed to breathing this way, it may take a while before it’s solidified in muscle memory and becomes second nature…but the practice is worth it for anyone who gets up in front of a room full of people and speaks.

It’s also worth it for everyone who doesn’t, now that I think about it! Deep belly breathing has many benefits, including:

  • The relaxing, calming effect I mentioned earlier, and a relaxed speaker rubs off on the audience
  • A more fully oxygenated body, releasing endorphins in the brain
  • Improved air flow through the vocal folds, which reduces vocal fatigue, and improves the sound quality of your voice
  • Lowers the heart rate, and you’re less likely to feel dizzy

Deep breathing is recommended for everything from quitting smoking, to reducing physical pain, to increasing mental clarity. I venture to say deep breathing supports literally everything in our physical bodies, and emotional and mental states as well.

Avoid glottal onsets. Breathe starting with your nose and belly, not the upper chest. Speak with passion, with healthy vocal technique! Your throat will thank you, and so will your audience.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part I

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking, Part I

The Top Three Common Vocal Pitfalls to Avoid While Speaking 

Part One of Three: The Glottal Onset

©Laura Handke, 2017

Do you know who Adele is?

Of course, you do. (Unless you’ve been living on an uncharted south Pacific island with iguanas, parrots, and not a single electronic device to keep you company for the last decade. In which case, if you Google, you’ll find a lovely, 29-year old English singer-songwriter who has won 15 Grammy awards and sold over 150 million albums.)

Did you know Adele needed vocal cord surgery in 2011?

In a 2012 interview on 60 Minutes, Adele said it was “’Like someone put a curtain over my throat…and I could feel it. It felt like something popped in my throat.’ She found out she had a polyp on her vocal cord that had hemorrhaged. She said, ‘I had laser surgery. [They] put lasers down your throat, cut off the polyp, and kind of laser your hemorrhage back together and fix it.’”

By all media accounts, the surgery was a great success.

But perhaps the real question is, why did Adele need surgery in the first place?

Which leads to my next question. Do you know what a “glottal onset” is?

Probably not. I wonder if Adele does. I’ll ask her if I meet her. Her home base is in England when she’s not on tour, and mine is in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and I’ve never been on tour, so I’m not sure how likely our paths are to cross.

All the same, I was first on stage in an operetta in fifth grade, at the age of 10, so I’ve been vocalizing and performing virtually my entire life. However, I didn’t meet my voice teacher and founder of the Transformational Voice® system, Linda Brice, until I was in my 40’s. It was from Linda I learned about the three kinds of onsets: Glottal, aspirated and coordinated. A glottal onset is the one you don’t want. Avoiding those could have helped Adele avoid vocal cord surgery.

Google Adele’s live performance of her wonderful song, Someone Like You, from the 2011 Brit Awards. The lyrics are “I heard that you settled down, that you found a girl, that you’re married now. I heard that your dreams came true…”

Before you listen, let me explain the mechanics of a glottal onset.

Our voices start with the breath. We inhale before we speak. (Have you ever noticed you can’t talk while you’re inhaling?) We always exhale as we’re vocalizing.

Ideally, our vocal folds or cords (interchangeable terms) are open and relaxed before we start to speak or sing. If the vocal folds are together and vibrating too early (because of stress, improper breathing, abdominal clenching) and we start to speak, the air forces them apart…and you get the gravelly kind of sound you’ll hear in this Adele video. It also causes mucus on the vocal folds, and clearing your throat leads to more of that. You really don’t want that.

One last thing to keep in mind: You’re prone to glottal onsets when you open a phrase with a vowel sound as opposed to a consonant.

Now you’re ready. Listen to the Adele video from the 2011 Brit Awards. Listen particularly to I heard that you settled down, that you found a girl, that you’re married now. I heard that your dreams came true…”

The first onset is aspirated. The second is glottal. Can you hear the gravelly sound?

That gravelly sound is very popular in radio music these days. But it’s not healthy for your voice.

You don’t want vocal polyps or vocal surgery.

And, readers, since I wrote this article several weeks ago, I heard Adele is having the same issue again right now.

Avoid the glottal onset – breathe deeply as you speak. Speak with passion, with healthy vocal technique! Your throat will thank you, and so will your audience.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. A Week of Eclipse

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. A Week of Eclipse

A Week of Eclipse

Did you experience the solar eclipse? Through special glasses or through the media? Some people told me it was awesome. Others said it was disappointing. The darkest point, dusk-like, where we are in Lake Oswego, happened while I was in the shower, actually, with my schedule that day.

I like the word eclipse, as it’s also a verb. My shower with hand-made soap by Wandering Goods http://www.wanderinggoods.com/ eclipsed the eclipse, for example.

Yet my week of eclipse has more to do with something else. What’s happening next will eclipse my previous skill as a vocal teacher. (All right, enough with the eclipse theme already.)

My voice teacher, Linda Brice, has asked me to be the assistant teacher for the next Transformational Voice® apprenticeship class, beginning mid-September.

Here’s the back story, my friends. I used to be terrified of driving in Portland. Oregon has been my home now for longer than the state I was born in, South Dakota, yet I lived with an inability to drive in the city of Portland for – oh, a dozen years or so.

I tried a few times, got horribly lost, and going over all those quick interchanges, especially in four lanes of heavy traffic, over bridges (I’ve had dreams of almost dying because of bridges!) gave me the closest I have come to anxiety attacks. My hands were clenched on the steering wheel, palms sweaty, heart palpitating, brow growing moist, and my mental process went like: Please just let me make it off this bridge alive, don’t let me hit a car, don’t let a car hit me, please tell me where I need to go to get off this *&@#’g road, please let me park, please let me get out of this car and never ever have to *#%$’g drive again!!! Please!!

Yep, that’s pretty much how it went. Every time. Until I gave up. I wasn’t going to do that to myself anymore.

Looking back, it’s a miracle I kept any friends during this time period, because every friend who asked me to do something outside of Lake Oswego (“my” Portland suburb) had to drive. They had to pick me up, meet me in my neighborhood, or we simply didn’t meet. There were a few cab rides thrown in, but I imagine my friendships survived in large part because I invited people for dinner, cooked them a tasty meal, and plied them with wine.

And then…I became involved with the Transformational Voice® Institute…first as a student, and then as an apprentice teacher.

This changed the game. My voice teacher, Linda Brice, had been recommended by someone I implicitly trust, and I longed to start singing again so badly that I vowed to myself I would do whatever it took to find my way to that first class, without relying on anyone else.

I started with practice driving to the location of the first class ahead of time, when I knew the traffic would be light and it wasn’t raining. I managed to find someone to carpool with to the first class term (because I asked) and Margaret and I became great friends during those drives.

Slowly, I drove to more classes on my own, while I was learning the Transformational Voice® breathing technique and was eventually asked to join the very first apprentice teacher training class. The more I learned the breathing technique, the better I was able to relax and drive. The more I drove, the more comfortable I became with the driving process, and the more my voice relaxed in the voice classes and lessons.

Now, especially since we all have GPS devices readily available on our phones, I can navigate all over Portland comfortably. Driving is still not my favorite thing to do, but I’ve relaxed into it, in large part because of the breathing techniques I learned as a Transformational Voice® teacher: Expand your rib cage. Relax your belly. Breathe like a new born baby, deep belly breaths, and allow your voice to come out and forward on the breath.

Deep belly breathing brings you back to center and is the best way I know to practice being fully and authentically present, something everyone around you will thank you for. But most importantly, your authentic self will thank you.

So…current and future voice students…I wanted you to know that going through the apprenticeship program again, this time as an assistant teacher, will way up my skill level and presence with you.

I’m super excited to…won’t say that word again.

It’s doubtful that the other creatures waste the present in thoughts of past and future. A beaver only does beaver, and he does it right in the moment. He doesn’t spend his days wishing he were a young beaver again, or ruminating over the fact that his beaver siblings received more attention, or his father beaver ran off with a younger beaver when he was growing up. He’s always in the now. We can learn much from God’s creatures about enjoying the present moment rather than using it consumed up with guilt over the past or worry about the future. Practice living in the moment, and refuse to allow any thoughts based on your past to define you. –Dr. Wayne Dyer, 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. Raymond, SD, Population 50: Where My Voice Began

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. Raymond, SD, Population 50: Where My Voice Began

Raymond, SD, Population 50: Where My Voice Began

Writing last week about my four-day trip to New York City, when I was 21 years old, prompted me to write about my home town this week. Click below for an at least somewhat funny eight-minute speech I gave about Raymond at a Toastmasters meeting last year on my birthday.

What’s rolling around in my brain right now is not what’s in the speech, but how my voice was first formulated, as I was growing up on a farm, 11 miles from Raymond, SD, population 50.

Consider your formative years regarding your voice, too. Were you encouraged to use your voice when you were young, or to squelch it? In what ways did you use your voice, and what happened when you did?

Even as a certified Transformational Voice® teacher and speaker coach, I’ve never really reflected on all the factors which impacted my voice as I was growing up. What I’ve excavated here is just the tip of the iceberg. Let me know what you uncover about yours on the blog, so we can support each other.

Kids on the school bus gave me the nickname “motor mouth,” which of course meant I talked too much. I was told I had a bad habit of interrupting people, which was true. We were supposed to be quiet in church. I didn’t find a church with electric guitar type music and people singing and dancing until I’d graduated from college and moved out of state.

I don’t remember ever hearing either of my parents swear when I was a child. (My younger brother told me years later that’s because I’d never been around Dad when he was working on farm equipment!) As a result, I didn’t swear either.

Being too loud and boisterous was not a good thing, as I learned after spending the night with my best friend, Julie, at her house. We played outside, made little cakes in her Easy-Bake oven, and jumped up and down on her bed while singing – for all the world to hear – along with her record player. Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, and Dark Lady. Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat by the adorable, totally crush-worthy, Tony DeFranco and the DeFranco Family.

I didn’t have an Easy-Bake oven and would never have been allowed to jump on the bed. After I got home from Julie’s, Mom said I was completely out of control; I think I got a rare spanking. And I never spent the night with Julie again.

Dad read to me when I was very young, helping me understand the written word before I could read myself. I began singing probably as soon as I could talk. My parents invested in piano lessons with Mrs. Hamre in Clark (23 miles from the farm) from the time I was seven years old through my senior year in high school. Singing while playing piano absorbed a huge amount of my creative time, along with being on stage in declam, plays, musicals, and more musical groups than I can count all throughout school, including playing piano and singing in church. My parents found a way to get me to and from all those rehearsals, recitals and concerts.

One memory sticks out so much I went through my office closet to find an old scrapbook, with two letters and one newspaper clipping near and dear to my heart.

In my 30’s, after watching a television show about teachers, I was prompted to track down my high school music teacher, Janel, and wrote this (excerpt) to her:

What I don’t think you know, is what a profound, positive influence you had on me in my teen years. I wasn’t a “kid in trouble,” like some of those on this television show. And I’ve been blessed with a loving and supportive family. But I was extremely insecure, naïve, and shy. You saw something in me, something I’d subconsciously yearned for but had no idea I possessed, when you put me in Swing Choir my freshman year. I didn’t even know what Swing Choir was…and was petrified that first rehearsal, scared silly half of the first year…But there you were, guiding me every step of the way. The more singing and dancing I did, the more confident I became. You gave to, and taught, me SO much. Not just about music, but about self-esteem. I learned to believe in myself, to use my gifts, interests and skills.

Janel didn’t write back until months later. Here’s a portion of her response, typed on beautiful pansy-embellished stationery:

Your letter was a pleasant shock. And then came the tears. This was like something you read and dream about happening to you as a teacher – not something that really does. Right after the first of the year, I had one of the worst days possible. Nothing was right or good – questioning administration, unhappy parents, disrespectful, belligerent encounters with 2-3 kids and the rest of the kids were terrible! By the time I had driven 8 miles home, I had decided to pay the penalty ($) and resign. It just wasn’t worth it, much too much stress and much too hard on this tender heart. So, when my husband got home, we talked it over, and decided that we could work it out somehow with my quitting teaching. Then my husband said – “Here’s the mail.” And your letter. I came so close. Were you an angel? My deepest “Thanks” and My Love, Janel.

Yes, I am now a voice teacher, after being certified in the Transformational Voice® system.

But so are you, even without the certification.

We can all encourage each other to let our voices ring out, clear, true and strong. To say what’s really on our minds. To fall in love with our own voices.

The world needs your authentic truth spoken in your authentic voice. Don’t hold back.

Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

HONE Your Message is coming to Toastmasters for Speaking Professionals October 17th. Stay tuned for details.

If peaceful conflict resolution is in your wheelhouse, come to the Oregon Mediation Associations’ 31st Annual Conference November 3rd & 4th in Portland, where I will be presenting HONE Your Message.

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Dude in New York City – Help Me Find Him

Simply Authentic…Your Soul Voice is Calling. The Dude in New York City – Help Me Find Him

The Dude in New York City – Help Me Find Him

In October of 1985, at the age of 21, I went to New York City for four days.

For a South Dakota farm girl, this was a very big deal.

My boyfriend at the time was stationed at an Army base in Maryland. Jeff made all the arrangements. I was so excited. New York City!

His car broke down right on the Jersey/NY border, as we saw the lights of the big city from the turnpike. We had to get the vehicle to a garage for repairs…but that didn’t stop our adventure. Looking back, I’m amazed how calm Jeff was through all of this. Well…he was Army-trained…

We stayed in an old and beautiful hotel in downtown Manhattan. I had my first baklava at a real Greek bakery, and my first escargots (which was like eating pencil erasers with lots of garlic and butter, but the rest of the meal was great!) at a real French restaurant.

We walked up and down 5th Avenue and Broadway for hours. Sadly, the ticket line was too long for an off-Broadway show.  I was mesmerized by the women in long, white designer dresses, one of them playing a harp, upstairs in Bloomingdales. I fell in love with Giorgio Beverly Hills perfume then and there, bought a bottle, and donned my body in only that fragrance – then it’s successor, Red – for over a decade.

Perhaps I was already doused in the orange blossom, bergamot, jasmine, sandalwood and vanilla notes of Giorgio when we saw “The Dude,” as I’m calling him now.

The Dude sported leather, chains, a mohawk, sunglasses and a strut as serious as his cockiness. He should have been scary to me. He kind of was. He looked scary, but he didn’t feel scary. There’s a difference, you know.

I was dying to take his picture. I surreptitiously wrangled the camera so he wouldn’t see it…but he did all the same.

He snapped his head my direction and asked, with a whole lot of voice and a whole lot of attitude, “You wanna take my picture?!”

I, humbly and meekly, nodded and said, “Yes, please, if you don’t mind.”

The Dude turned to the plate glass window to his left, looked at his reflection, flipped his head down over his waist, fluffed his mohawk, flipped back up, put his hands on his hips, and turned to me with a smile. “I’m ready now!”

I clicked.

And I got it.

The Dude had his voice, even if it was just his voice right then during the punk rock era.

I’d love to connect with him again, and let him know how many times I’ve told this story, and what an impact those five minutes had on my life. I wonder if he remembers, too. Pass along this video and join the search for The Dude, will you?

 

Authentic Performance Voice Lab Sunday August 13th, 2:00- 4:00 at Sacred Money Studios & Prosperity Pie Shoppe! Speak with power and confidence; be remembered and be inspirational. 

If you found this post helpful, please spread the love and pass it along to a friend!

Authentically Yours, Laura