Great pianists spend years learning exactly how to position their hands over the keyboard. Guitar players practice placing their fingers on the frets. A violinist develops the ability to hold the bow just so to produce the perfect tone.
You may or may not be musically inclined, but you definitely want to be heard when you speak. And how you’re heard depends in large part on the quality of your voice. The pitch, the volume, the tone you use … they all influence how people perceive you.
Are you dismissed as a lightweight? Are your directions followed without question? Do people seem to doubt your sincerity?
If you’re not getting the response you want, there are a lot of approaches to changing that.
Sometimes physical therapy is the right path to a clearer, stronger voice.
People come to The Manual Touch Physical Therapy for sore backs and running injuries and strained necks and all the rest. Denise Schwartz also uses less traditional techniques like Myofascial Release to help with voice fatigue and weakness, or trouble projecting and being heard.
Denise treated a patient with a weak voice with manual therapy to release the muscles and fascia around her neck and throat, back, abdomen, and diaphragm. Then she suggested exercises to increase the patient’s core strength. And yes, that core strength has everything to do with how a person sounds.
Do you ever find yourself having difficulty breathing or speaking? Here are some tips you can draw on when you need to use your voice to your best advantage.
1 – Engage your Abs
It may sound unlikely that your abs influence your voice, but Denise says engaging your lower abdominals helps support the back – which in turn supports a strong, clear voice.
Possibly even less likely, engaged abs start with your tongue! I know, it surprised me too. Here’s the drill: Place your tongue on the back of your top teeth and make a “thhhh” sound. Hold that for five seconds, then rest for five seconds.
Denise suggests you repeat this ten times in the morning and ten times at night. You might want to check her video to see exactly how to do the ab-strengthener.
2 – Find your Center of Balance
Stand with your feet close together and rock forward onto the balls of your feet…then back towards your heels. Make sure you move from your ankles and not from your hips. Repeat this several times daily.
3 – Be Mindful of Your Sitting and Standing Posture
Whenever you’re in a seated position, you’ll want to follow these tips.
- Your knees should be lower than your hips; sitting on a wedge pillow can help.
- Use a lumbar support pad behind the small of your back to support the normal curvature of the spine and promote proper posture.
- Choose a firm chair over something squishy that will compromise the position of your back.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor. Yes, both of them. That means you won’t cross your legs.
- Sitting most of your day will set you up for a boatload of issues. What’s in that boat, exactly? Tight hips and soft glutes. A higher risk for heart disease and colon cancer. Back pain, neck strain and brain fog.
- When it comes to speaking, standing is always better. But what if you’re on a panel or at a conference table? Keep Denise’s guidance in mind along with these suggestions.
How much time do you spend standing in line at the grocery store, at a social event, at the train or bus stop? Then you come home, and you’re on your feet at the stove or washing dishes.
Denise says maintaining good standing alignment prevents problems and keeps your voice strong. Here’s how:
- Stand evenly with your feet shoulder width apart, your weight evenly balanced. Don’t lean more on one hip than the other.
- Relax your shoulders by lowering your chest and don’t pull your shoulder blades too far back.
- Engage your abs—you already know how to do that with your tongue.
- Find your center of balance over your whole feet.
4 – Breathe from your Diaphragm
Breathing – sounds simple, right? You’re doing it all the time; that unconscious activity keeps us alive. But when you’re in motion, say, talking or exercising, your breathing has to coordinate with your core stability and movement. That could take some practice.
Here’s an exercise Denise recommends:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Engage your abs, pulling your belly button down towards your spine.
- Place your hand on your upper belly, and breathe through your nose, expanding your belly first and then your chest.
- Exhale through your mouth, still keeping your abs engaged.
- Repeat the sequence 5 times.
- When you are successful at doing this while lying down, do it in a seated and a standing position as well.
I’m going to try it.
You know, I tell my clients often that a strong voice starts with their feet. When your feet are flat on the floor and you’re grounded and centered, you can make an impact with your voice. Denise’s work shows people how to build on that solid base to create a more powerful sound.
Maybe you’ve experienced the connection between your posture and your voice. Or maybe you’re committed to “holding your instrument” any which way. You can speak out in the comments below.