Sore throat, tired, hoarse, wintery voice? Here’s how to fix it.

  • Get some sleep. Now. Go to bed earlier than you intended. Put that smartphone down, and that tablet, and that laptop. Pick up a BOOK (how about this one?) and read until you fall asleep. Less bluescreen = less stress on the brain = better sleep = better health.
  • Wake up and drink oodles of water. Keep a bottle with you all day and keep refilling it. Hydrate that body and throat and keep it hydrated. There are more stringent rules for healthy tap water than bottled water, so just use the tap to save pennies!
  • Spend five minutes breathing deeply, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Do it in the shower, on the way to the train, in the car, anywhere. No one will know you’re doing it and your lungs will thank you.
  • Eat honey on toast, if it rocks your boat. Honey is so great for the throat. Local honey is best, so do your best to find your local honey seller.
  • If you have five minutes where no one can hear you, hum a tune or two, then lalalala a few times to get your voice practised. Practice some consonant sounds and tongue twisters. A stronger voice is less likely to suffer.
  • Speak softly and carefully when you can, save your big voice for necessary times, like that AMAZING presentation you’re doing later on, or that Christmas Do when everyone will be chatting and you’ll need to be loud to be heard.
  • Buy some Vocalzones. They’re the best for a healthy voice. Honestly.
  • Wash your hands as often as humanly possible. Colds and lurgy spread more quickly through poor hygiene, so avoid it by washing your hands when you can.
  • If your voice hurts, rest it.
  • Rest it some more.
  • And some more.
  • Go back to point one and start again J

The Top 10 British Voices

Looking for some listening inspiration to practice your vowel sounds? Try this lot – my top 10!

 

  1. Rosamund Pike – check out this interview to hear her beautiful tone of voice. So rounded and easy to listen to. https://youtu.be/CiWhU_MoblM
  1. Colin Firth here on Radio 1 https://youtu.be/QLficDnyvlg you can watch how his mouth moves in quite a limited way, but he still manages to round the vowel sounds – watch his top lip – it’s quite still!
  1. Elizabeth Bennett, sorry, Jennifer Ehle. https://youtu.be/fMt1Fu7-Pp4 such a jewel in this production, controlled and clipped sounds made the character so watchable and believable.
  2. Judi Dench https://youtu.be/NI3MWLRsu2g such a mischievous character in this clip. Notice how light her voice sounds, because she is smiling throughout.
  3. Emma Thompson, here in Much Ado, https://youtu.be/zl0lBHti99A projects her voice over the party without shouting or straining, by opening her mouth a little wider. I adore hearing her speak!
  4. Kenneth Brannagh – couldn’t miss out Kenneth! Here he talks about Hamlet https://youtu.be/sGX_qtZFtGc and just listen to his inflection- just chatting away but he manages to put so much energy into it.
  5. Alan Rickman – https://youtu.be/GorPPLfJ7s0 this is the only voice on the list that I’d outwardly call ‘sexy’. That restrain and control are just divine.
  6. David Attenborough. You can hear the passion and the knowledge in every word he says! https://youtu.be/paSTsGimYZg
  7. https://youtu.be/MCx6MYd_qLk is Moira Stuart, with those velvety sounds, I could listen to her all day! Would I Lie To You – one of my favourite panel shows.
  8. Joseph Fiennes, https://youtu.be/7GmtvQSBH8w here talking about a recent film, award-winning, beautifully spoken, lovely long vowel sounds, quiet tone. Such a pleasure.

Listening For Pleasure

I stole this title from a wonderful series of albums made in the 60s/70s where pop music would be re-recorded by orchestras. I have the Mancini on vinyl and it is divine. I also have Burt Bacharach, for those evenings when strings and cheese are all you need.

My post today is all about listening to audio recordings for pleasure. What do you like to listen to? Are you an audiobook fan? Do you like factual podcasts or discussions? Do you like to catch up on comedy? I’ve found some of the most popular things to listen to and have collated them here.

Let’s start with audiobooks. I tried Audible once, but found listening to a story too relaxing. In bed I fell asleep so missed chunks of the story, sat in the front room I dozed off – I didn’t dare try it whilst driving! So audiobooks and I don’t really get on. My 5 year-old son loves his Ivor The Engine cassette, or anything involving Thomas The Tank Engine. He falls asleep too! The soothing sounds of voices reading stories can be very, very relaxing. Perhaps I ought to try a horror story next – something to keep me stimulated.

If we look at Audible’s Top 10, 3 places are taken by Harry Potter. The hypnotic and addictive stories must make for great listening. The great thing is, the narrators are not world-class actors! These are professional audiobook artists, people who read into a microphone hour after hour, day after day, I would absolutely love to have a go!

Tell me – what are your favourite vocal things to listen to?

My absolute favourite are podcasts. I listen to Mysterious Universe, The Archers, The Moth, Serial, Untold, Woman’s Hour, A History of the World in 100 Objects, Dumteedum, The History Hour and my children and I listen to The Fun Kids Weekly too. People work so hard on their podcasts and I appreciate the work and the content. How about you?

Listening for pleasure can also help our voices. Listen to the way people read sentences, words, phrases. Try keeping the book they’re reading in front of you, pause and repeat their pronunciation, their inflection, repeat and repeat until it sounds the same. Find people’s voices that you enjoy listening to and try to emulate them.

 

Tongue Twisters

Tongue Twisters!

I love tongue twisters. I mean, I absolutely love them. I do them with and for my children, until we dissolve in a puddle of giggles on the floor. I do them with all of my students, from the oldest to the youngest. I love them.

The great thing is that you’re learning while you’re doing them. You’re twisting and turning that mouth around, thinking about how the words feel in your mouth, thinking inadvertently about the spelling and how it relates to the movements, thinking about speed, delivery, pace, and laughing laughing laughing the whole time.

If we laugh while we’re learning, we learn better. I think. I remember CDT with Mr Taylor, who was funny. Really funny. I remember him teaching me about tools and wood and him fixing my violin and being funny.

Try some tongue twisters today!

 

 

New Year – New Start – New Voice

I’m going right back to the beginning. With my YouTube videos, with my podcast, with my blogs. I’m going to teach the world to sing.

No, not really.

I got excited today to see this

2

…on my YouTube channel page. 100 people are interested enough in what I have to say that they have clicked SUBSCRIBE!!! Fantastic news!

So, lets start at the very beginning, a very fine place to start.

Breathing.

  1. Posture – sit up straight, keep those vertebrae aligned. Don’t feel like a primary school child in assembly – keep it soft but upright. Relax those shoulders if you can. Keep the head level – not always easy when facing a computer screen! Relax the jaw – if you can. You might need a open the mouth a little, stop pressing the teeth together, stop pressing the tongue against the roof of your mouth. Good, now you’re ready.
  2. In…and out…. In through the nose. The nose has lovely hairs to trap the impurities – use them! Out through the mouth so we can use the voice in a short while. Primitive man breathed in through the nose when at rest – fool your body that you’re relaxed by breathing in through the nose. Keep that jaw relaxed, don’t slouch!
  3. Now, give yourself a hug. A big one. Hold your own shoulders and squeeeeeeze! Breathe in while hugging and fill the back of your lungs with air. Feel that tummy inflate as you hold the chest still. Two or three of those should do, then release the arms. How good does that feel?
  4. Stretch up while breathing in, release the arms slowly while breathing out.
  5. Feel good? I do!
  6. Now breathe in through the nose and as you breathe out, count out loud slowly. Use the second hand on a clock or a metronome to keep steady. Write down the highest number. Try and beat it by breathing in more deeply. Do this two or three more times. Try again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that. Watch that number increase!

With these simple breathing exercises you’re saying “I’m in charge” of your breathing and you ARE taking control. You’re taking in enough air to relax and empower your lungs.

Try these exercises just before bed and see how relaxing they are!

For more information or to book an Elocution lesson, go to www.midwintertuition.co.uk

I look forward to hearing from you!

NB. If you feel faint or light-headed after doing my exercises – STOP!

 

Go With The Flow

Intonation is a topic that many of my students love to cover. Once we’ve drilled some consonants and straightened out some vowel sounds, they love to try out the different inflections and sounds in my intonation books.

One of them, written by Thomson in the 1960s, is fabulous for it’s archetypal characters and relationships. There’s a stereotypical male boss who often speaks to his stereotypical female secretary throughout the book. Miss Rokes and Mr Watson are a great couple to work with as they always raise a smile.

Have a look at this excerpt. Poor old Mr W can’t retain a single piece of information his efficient secretary gives him. Perhaps he had too much brandy last night, or was a little late at the golf course before work, but he is struggling. The blue line ABOVE the word indicates a higher pitch of voice. The blue line THROUGH the word indicates a neutral pitch. The blue line swooping DOWN means the pitch sinks down lower as you talk. At first it is strange but with practice, you can analyse the ups and downs of the English language with ease.

mr w and miss r

Poor old Mr W. Miss Rokes is your standard tea-making, note-taking, advice-giving secretary. Mr W is hapless, gruff and ever-so-slightly disorganised. They’re a charming, old-fashioned pair.

That section is about asking and answering questions. Mr W’s questions end on an upward inflection, which most people associate with the questioning style, but actually the reverse is normally always true.

Check out these questions and try reading them with a rise in inflection at the end, then with a sinking inflection:

  1. How many films have you appeared in?
  2. Why does everyone always ask me that?
  3. What’s the title of your next film?
  4. Who’s asking the questions?

Which sounded better? Upwards or downwards inflection at the end? You should find that the downward inflection makes more sense in this case.

q

The strong ‘fall’ in inflection occurs at the strongest content word of the question. We, generally, do this naturally, but it’s worth having a discrete practice.

 

 

 

Right. Cheerful head back on!

Today I am channelling Worzel Gummidge. I am taking off my Grumpy Head and putting back on my Cheerful Head. Last night’s post started out beautifully then dissolved into misery! Gah!

I’m not going to write about how my daughter sobbed because her team lost at SkittleBall (no, I don’t know what it is either) or about the fact that I stayed in ALL DAY for a delivery from Viking that apparently tried to deliver to us and apparently found us ‘closed’. NO! I am going to write about a delicate balance – teacher talk vs student talk.

It is a constant worry to me that I do too much teacher talk in my lessons. I worry about my students copying me rather than learning from me. I worry about filling up too much time with telling them what to do vs listening to them experimenting. So here are my tips:

1. Practice CONCISE introductions. Always ask for a brief verbal progress report at the start of the lesson from the student in case you can incorporate any areas they are struggling with immediately. Then watch the clock as you introduce the topic for the lesson. No more than 5 minutes per hour for an intro, maximum. It will take practice but it is worth it! Sometimes I only speak for 2 minutes at the start of a lesson now!
2. Set a task immediately after the introduction that is teacher led but student demonstrated. For example, I ask for breathing and warm up exercises – I give the instruction but they do the work. This is between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the student’s needs.

3. Then do a task where you both demonstrate the skill and compliment your student when they get it right. Gently guide them where they need to develop the work and praise them when they get it right. In my lessons this is usually focussed vowel and consonant work. It sometimes takes up to 15 minutes for this section, even longer with some students.

4. Then move into an editing role. Give the task, listen to their version and edit. Show which bits need cropping / changing / lengthening and get them to try again. I usually spend about 10 minutes on this.

5. Then take a step back. Set a task and just listen. I use poetry and  short passages (both fiction and non-fiction) and highlight as they read. Afterwards go through why you highlighted certain passages / words. 5 minutes-ish.

6. My penultimate task is to let the students speak freely on a given topic, for a fixed period of time. Afterwards I give feedback on pronunciation and intonation, as well as speed and volume. 5 minutes-ish.

7. Finally they read an extended piece, either from a novel or a newspaper. Again, I highlight while they are reading and go through the highlights afterwards. By this point they almost certainly recognise why I highlighted before I say the reason. About 5 minutes.

So, one way I avoid too much teacher talk is that PRECISE introduction. This inspires me for the rest of the lesson to try to avoid chatting / waffle if I can. I make the tasks achievable and enjoyable, I ditch resources that don’t work straightaway. Remember although we are there to impart knowledge, we won’t know what level their understanding is if we just blah blah blah at them. It’s a two way thing, tutoring. I learn from them what they need to know next, they learn those skills from me, hopefully!

So – a MUCH more positive blog! HURRAH! And it’s the weekend! Hubby will arrive home with chips soon and we will all be able to relax.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend too 🙂