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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

The Demographic Dividend – Presentation Skills Tips

I learned something yesterday. In fact, I learned a huge amount yesterday, in one lesson with a student. She was presenting a powerpoint about the Demogrpahic Dividend, discussing the youth bulge, the Arab Spring, the potential in a growing population of young people in developing countries.

I was fascinated.

Why don’t I read about this stuff? Why do I, on repeat, read photos-with-words-on, thinly-veiled racism and constant adverts on facebook? Why do I scroll through hundreds of tweets that mean nothing to me? Why do I do it to myself?

So I stopped.

I deleted the apps from my phone and now I only look at FB and Twitter in my working hours, on the computer. It’s been like giving up coffee – I haven’t found it easy. I have been clearly over-checking these sites as now they have left a gap in my day. But working with that student yesterday has inspired me to relearn how to use the internet! I don’t want to surface surf any more, I want to read. Obviously I still read books and I never take a screen to bed, always a book, but when I’m reading online I want it to be worthwhile.

I would love your recommendations! Tell me the INTERESTING sites, where I can LEARN, in-depth, not news as that’s often filled with lies, but content-filled sites.

Now that we’ve discussed the content, which has given me opportunity for a rant, I’d like to give some tips based on what we discussed during her presentation.

  1. Make the visuals appealing. If it is very text-heavy, which it sometimes has to be, draw out the main points using bold, underline or italic. Use different fonts and sizes to separate points.
  2. Now use that visual separation to guide your delivery of that slide. Only read out the main points, paraphrase inbetween. DO NOT READ OUT THE ENTIRE SLIDE. Most people can speed-read between the points anyway.
  3. Use graphs if they illustrate your point, then don’t paraphrase the content of the graph, but instead say what this graph means. Does it change the way we think or understand something? Does it confirm something you are delivering about? Graphs are a great way to instantly understand something.
  4. If using clipart or photos, make them metaphorical rather than allegorical. Use piles of money instead of £ signs, keep the pictures simple and on a plain background to keep it stylish. Use a cake when dividing responsibilities, a sunrise when describing a new way of thinking of doing, a rubber duck when discussing throwing out old ways. Be creative and don’t explain your choices. Leave the audience curious.
  5. Try different programmes. Powerpoint is user-friendly and simple but Prezi is impressive and slick. Try new ways of moving between slides and themes.
  6. Take a breath. Change the slide and breathe. Let people absorb the slide then move their eyes back to you, then smile and start speaking.
  7. Speak clearly and look people in the eye. Move from one row to the next, from one side of the room to the other.
  8. Collect everyone in using expansive gestures. Gently throw an arm out to encompass everyone on one side, then the other. Close the arms together to complete the gesture.
  9. Show that you have stated a fact or finished a point by allowing the intonation to fall at the end of the sentence.
  10. When listing points make your pitch go up, up, down. For example: John will be working with the European Office (up), the Asian Office (up) and the Australian Office (down).

Try and enjoy the delivery of your presentation! The audience will enjoy it more if you do!

Oh. Me. Oh. My. To Blog or not to Blog. Can you tell I’m listening to Hamlet?

The #15secondShakespeare spurt on Twitter last week was utterly fascinating. First of all, Karen Gillan.

Her eye contact and breathless voice made it convincing enough, but the du-dum-dum-dum at the end finished it off. We simply never know, with Shakespeare, whether or not he is using real words or words he made up. The internet is full of pages of ‘How To Speak Like Shakespeare‘ and English / Drama teachers up and down the land thrust pages of Shakespearean insults into their students’ hands with glee, year in, year out.

Last weekend I took my family to Norwich to watch Bill, the new film offering from the team behind Horrible Histories. If you have kids and you haven’t watched HH yet, please do, then pop back to say thank you. You’re welcome. The team write pithy, sarcastic and topical jokes into historical stories, match them with some fantastic cover version-style songs and frankly teach us all something new every time they’re on the screen. The film was great fun. A true family film with enough ‘adult’ jokes to keep us giggling while the kids loved the action and plot. One of the great observations was how Shakespeare’s comedies are basically ‘a series of funny misunderstandings’, which provided a fantastic musical number. This is so true. Look through the fluffy language and bizarre characters and you’ll find some very similar plot threads. Boy meets girl in wrong place / time / outfit / state of health / under spell / married to someone else / in wrong family type thing. This reminded me of a stupendous book I read whilst at college, Seven Basic Plots. I thoroughly recommend this, although its a huge book its worth trawling through it.

Nest let’s look at Nadia Wadia‘s video. That stillness of face and body but still projecting the voice is often seen as very Shakespearean, although truthfully the actions in his day might have been much bigger and bolder, with no amplification save the shape of the theatre, an audience filled with prostitutes and pie-sellers to bellow over, people weeing in the corner to avoid paying their penny twice (so spending a penny in the theatre – ha! ha!), with the royal family potentially in the audience ready to cut off your head if they don’t like the play! Nowadays we have microphones and better insulation and generally people sit quietly in the audience. On comfy seats.

Can we apply these ‘Shakespearean’ thoughts to our every day speaking? If we want to be dramatic, keeping a stillness about ourselves can help. Try keeping your eyes on one point, your face quite still, leave longer between sentences and phrases to build tension. Save your smiles. Push the sounds forward and project them out with passion.

Gosh, it must be lunchtime – I’m Hank Marvin!

Have a lovely day and week everyone – see you soon!

Just like riding a horse… or a bicycle…

I may well be mixing my metaphors, but I feel nervous blogging again.

I have had a truly lovely summer with my family, filled with festivals, trips in the camper van and long days in the sun. The garden is developing nicely and we had a great crop of runner beans, tomatoes, chillies and strawberries.

Now the autumn closes in around us and we draw our curtains earlier. I have been enjoying listening to No Such Thing As A Fish podcast as I run or as I carry out my household tasks. It made me think about some phrases we use without thinking about it, some terribly English things to say.

  1. Above Board. This hails from card playing. If your hands are ‘above the board’ or above the table, you cannot be playing tricks or concealing cards. In a contemporary sense we might say ‘everything this company does is above board and will remain so’, meaning that the company’s dealings are legitimate. The first ‘a’ is pronounced as the schwa sound, so sounds like uhbuhv-bawrd.
  2. Bee’s knees. I love this phrase. Today it means something utterly brilliant, although if we think about it, bee’s knees must be incredibly tiny, if indeed they even have them! Apparently these phrases were all the rage in the 1920s, especially in America and this one has hung around longer. Other, slightly more bizarre examples include flea’s eyebrows and canary’s tusks! Think abut the deliciously long ‘ee’ sound in both of these words and lean on it, following the ‘ee’ with the buzzing ‘s’ sound, as opposed to the hissing ‘s’.
  3. Beat about the bush. This is all about avoiding the issue. This time of year beaters are everywhere in rural areas. They beat the undergrowth with sticks and make all the wildfowl fly into the air. Then the people with the guns can shoot them in the air. So the beaters never get the satisfaction of shooting, hence the term, they don’t complete the task. Synonyms include prevaricate, quibble, hedge, stall and shilly-shally.

How many more do you know?

Buzzfeed list on this topic

Use this site for reference too

A similar list on Grammarly