Having a squeaky, nasal or whiny voice can be a very difficult thing to live with. Regardless of how big, tough, successful or attractive you are – if you speak with a voice that sounds like a cartoon character it is going to undermine what you’re saying. A voice that lacks gravitas for a man can make him seem weak and unconfident, even if that isn’t the case and it can make it hard to be heard in a group. For a woman, the wrong voice can be highly embarrassing and potentially ruin the image you’re trying to portray.
Unfortunately, much of our voice is genetically determined. The pitch of our voices and the tone are largely things that can’t be changed, and if you try ‘forcing’ yourself to speak with a deeper or louder voice, then you will only risk damaging your vocal chords and actually ruining the voice you have.
The good news though, is that there are a number of ways we can improve our voices nevertheless. To do this, you simply need to make the maximal, best use of the voice you have naturally and learn how to really project it. Here we will look at how to do that.
Everybody has a ‘natural pitch’ that they speak most comfortably at. This is the pitch that your body is best designed to speak at, and which you feel most relaxed using. Over time we can pick up bad habits that prevent us from speaking at this pitch however, and this can then lead to us sounding strained or forced or not projecting our voice as well as we could.
Thus, many speaking coaches will teach their clients to use what is called the ‘hum test’. Here, they ask the speaker to hum naturally at the pitch that they normally would. If you try this, you should notice that it causes vibration in the front of your face if you are getting it right.
That pitch is your ‘natural pitch’, and if you use this tone then your voice will carry well, you’ll sound relaxed and you’ll sound ‘smooth’. If you are higher or lower than this pitch normally, then you’ll find that you sound strained and it may be that you’re speaking from your nose.
One of the very best ways to improve your speaking voice is to relax your body. When you do this, you’ll find that your voice instantly deepens and that you sound more confident and create more volume. The reason for this is that relaxing will lower your diaphragm allowing more air into your lungs, it will loosen your oesophagus allowing more air to travel through your throat and it will help you to naturally sound deeper and calmer at the same time.
Breathing correctly will help you to relax more as well as generally improving your speaking as you feel less nervous and up-tight (feeling nervous instantly increases the pitch of your voice by causing you to tense up).
Correct breathing means breathing with your diaphragm more than your chest. If your chest moves first when you inhale, followed by your stomach, then you have picked up bad habits with your breathing. Instead, your stomach should move first as you relax your transverse abdominis (the ab muscles that wrap around the mid-section) thus allowing your diaphragm to drop into your abdominal cavity. Only once you’ve done this should you use the intercostal muscles between your ribs in order to expand your chest outwards.
Practice breathing correctly in this manner, and over time you should find it begins to come naturally to you. At that point, you will have mastered correct breathing technique and you should notice your voice sounds lower, more confident and more relaxed naturally as a result.
Talking more slowly is also another way to improve the sound of your voice. Not only does speaking slower make you sound lower, but it also removes ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ as you have more time to think about what you’re going to say next. You’ll improve audibility too, because you’ll have more time to better enunciate and project your voice.
Overall, slowing down the rate of your speech makes you sound more intelligent and confident while simultaneously deepening the pitch of your voice and improving your pronunciation.
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