- 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
Looking for some listening inspiration to practice your vowel sounds? Try this lot – my top 10!
- 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
- 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!
- 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.
- Judi Dench https://youtu.be/NI3MWLRsu2g such a mischievous character in this clip. Notice how light her voice sounds, because she is smiling throughout.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- David Attenborough. You can hear the passion and the knowledge in every word he says! https://youtu.be/paSTsGimYZg
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!
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
…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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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?
- Stretch up while breathing in, release the arms slowly while breathing out.
- Feel good? I do!
- 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!
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.
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:
- How many films have you appeared in?
- Why does everyone always ask me that?
- What’s the title of your next film?
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Try different programmes. Powerpoint is user-friendly and simple but Prezi is impressive and slick. Try new ways of moving between slides and themes.
- 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.
- Speak clearly and look people in the eye. Move from one row to the next, from one side of the room to the other.
- 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.
- Show that you have stated a fact or finished a point by allowing the intonation to fall at the end of the sentence.
- 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!