Keep Your Voice Fighting Fit and Healthy for
Public Speaking Success!
Let’s face it: your voice is your calling card and your main instrument as an actor, performer, and public speaking. There’s no getting around the fact that if you want your instrument to play well for you, you have to look after it.
The best violinist in the world takes explicit care of their Stradivarius, and Michael Shumacher’s Mercedes was in mint condition every time he set out on the race track.
Your voice is exactly the same. In order for it to serve you well, you’ve got to take care of it and keep it in the best shape possible.
Here are 4 simple tools you can put into practice right away to keep your voice fighting fit and protected so you can perform at your best when you need it.
#1 Breathe, Breathe, Breathe
Breathing is a tool that gives you great bang for your buck when it comes to protecting and keeping your voice healthy. Breath is fuel for your voice and is your best defence against straining, pushing, or injury.
But not all breath is created equal. It’s important to have good breathing technique under your belt to support your voice and give you the highest octane fuel possible for the sounds you need to make.
The fancy name for good, grounded, deep, belly breathing is ‘Diaphragmatic Breathing’. Breathing into your lower belly and lower back gives you a higher quality of breath to not only fuel and support your vocal sound but clear thinking, longevity, and vocal flexibility.
#2 Warm Up Like a Pro
Okay, this seems like an obvious one, but you would be surprised at the number of actors and singers who don’t warm up before a show and end up croaking at the end of a run.
Warming up not only gets your vocal muscles & breath ready but wakes up your brain as well. Remember: you are a vocal athlete. Every Olympian warms up before their event and gets in the zone, and so must you.
Lawrence Olivier famously said, “Every actor that works with me must have the body of a God and the voice of an orchestra.” Every performer worth their salt has their own personal warm up ritual that wakes up their body and gets their voice ready for action.
Also, think about warming up on stage or in the performance space you are performing in. This gives you the chance to test the acoustic and feel how your voice is going to react in the space.
Vocally testing out your performance space also helps you avoid ‘pushing’ your voice, which is not only physically exhausting for you but exhausting for the audience to listen to.
#3 Use it or Lose it, But Don’t Push it
As I said above, you are a vocal athlete and as such, regular, purposeful vocal use keeps your vocal muscles fit and firing.
During your rehearsal period you will strengthen your vocal muscles simply by repetition and use. Rehearsals, voice overs, learning new pieces, auditions – all these will help keep your voice flexible and fit, so when you go to use it for bigger sounds, it’s ready to go.
If you have a character that asks you to use your voice in a scream, growl, harsh tones, anything that could be potentially rough on your vocal chords, make sure you get good vocal techniques in place so you don’t injure your voice.
There is no sound that you cannot prepare for and you need to make sure your breath is supporting that sound so you don’t push. Start off small and work your way up to the full performance level.
#4 R-&-R is Your Best Friend
You have to give your voice time off every now and then to repair itself and recuperate. Take time during the day to rest your voice, especially when you’re in the run of a show or on tour.
If you injure your voice from overuse, inappropriate use, or illness, your first port of call is REST. I know, no performer wants to hear this but there is no substitute for resting and just not speaking.
This is important is because your vocal folds or ‘cords’ are easily damaged. These are delicate but resilient folds of thin skin in the larynx or voice box that create vibration. If you continue to damage your vocal cords with misuse, you could do permanent damage to them or develop nodules or lesions.
This is why actors avoid doing lots of interviews during the run of a show. If you’re speaking all day, your poor voice is going to be exhausted when show time rolls around. Rest when you can. The body is incredibly smart and resilient on its own, so give it time to do its thing.
Serve and Protect Your Most Precious Asset
With your voice being your currency as an actor, you can’t afford to lose it. It’s also both the most elegant and most susceptible instrument you have as a performer.
There will always be situations where you have no control over what happens to your voice, such as illness or accidents but for the most part an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
With these simple tools you’ll keep your voice fighting fit and ready so you can prepare, protect, and perform at your best when you need it most.
Just don’t forget to breathe!