Using your voice properly and effectively while speaking and recording is important in order to convey an air of authority. It’s also important so that you can make it to the end of the speech – heck, sometimes just to the end of the sentence! – without running out of breath support for your words.
Breathing the right way is the same for recording as it is for playing a reed or brass musical instrument, or for singing. If your shoulders lift when you inhale, you’re breathing the wrong way. Diaphragmatic breathing is essential to maintain breath support for your words. Your stomach should move out, your ribs should expand, but your shoulders should not lift. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, the breathing exercise you do before beginning the moves is exactly the breathing you need to do for speaking and recording. An interesting exercise is to imagine that a piece of tape is stuck to your shoulder and to the opposite hip bone across your back. Breathe so you don’t feel that imaginary piece of tape tighten.
In order to facilitate proper breathing, your posture must be good. Head up, shoulders back, feet a comfortable distance apart. If you stand while you record, as I do, be conscious of your posture. Proper breath support is only possible if you’re not slouching. Also, in order to sound authoritative, you need great posture.
Foods to avoid before recording include milk and all milk products – cheese, yogurt, butter and the like. Milk products promote phlegm development, making it difficult to control your vocal folds. Don’t substitute soy milk, as it’s bad for you, despite its really good PR campaign. It promotes the development of belly fat, as well as being a carrier of toxins and heavy metals. Substitute rice or almond milk if you want something to pour on your breakfast cereal or into your coffee.
In addition, caffeine and smoking make it difficult to have good breath support and vocal control. The more you can eliminate these items from your life, the better you’ll feel and sound. If you don’t smoke but are surrounded by those who do, try to stay away from them when they are smoking. Avoid citrus on the days you’re recording or speaking – not even a squeeze of lemon in your tea. It promotes excess salivation, which produces mucus in your throat.
Foods to add to your diet include at least 64 ounces of room-temperature water a day, tomatoes and onions. The water keeps you hydrated, obviously, fighting off the thick phlegm in your throat. The tomatoes and onions are fabulous phlegm fighters, so if you can have them several times a week, you’ll keep a clearer throat and will sound better.
Always warm your voice up before you record. Many people use tongue twisters, which are fine for loosening up your cheeks, lips and tongue. Collect the ones that make you laugh and trip you up and use those for 10 minutes or so. My favorite vocal warm-up is to sing the National Anthem. It’s a tough song and gets into your entire vocal range. Sing it a few times before recording and your vocal chords will be ready to go. No, you don’t have to be a good singer – I’m certainly not! If you’re self-conscious, do this warm-up where others can’t hear you. Really belt it out at least one time through.
If you’d like further reading on the proper care and use of your voice to enhance your recording and speaking skills, please read “Love Your Voice” by Roger Love. He’s coached speakers, stars and executives, and the information in this post is a summary of some of what I’ve learned from him.
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Sandy Weaver Carman
CEO, Voicework on Demand, Inc.