Speech Counts

Weekly Teaching Tip
by Anna Siciliano

The vocal folds are a highly used muscle group. Their primary purpose is to help us breathe (they are open like a wide V) and to help us Swallow (closed V). We swallow about 2000 times per day so even when we are not speaking; the vocal folds are being used throughout the day. If we add on heavy speaking and then singing too. …..the vocal folds can get over used. Most people speak more than they sing. Even professional singers often speak more during the day than they sing so……….speech counts!
Also the way you speak affects how well you can sing. Most of our singing patients sing with better technique than they sing. When we get ready to sing we are hopefully using good breath support, good posture, relaxed musculature and good technique. But when we speak we may be lying down, cradling the phone, driving the car, in a crowded restaurant, teaching a large group, yelling at the dog etc. Remember we have ONE VOCAL INSTRUMENT. Everything we do with the vocal folds affects how we sing.
Most of us know that we need good sleep, excellent hydration and a good diet to help us sing better but…..are we thinking about the way we talk?
Here are some general guidelines for a healthy speaking voice.

•Speak with medium volume
* Don’t whisper ….this uses the laryngeal muscles and strap muscles
* Don’t yell
o If you have to get kids attention across the room or the yard, use a megaphone (available at Red Balloon Toy Store), a bell or noise maker.
o If you live with someone who is hard of hearing, make sure they wear their hearing aids and don’t talk across the house. Face the person and over use your lips just a bit.
* avoid noisy restaurants
* don’t talk in the car
* if you use your cell phone in a noisy environment, use a microphone that sits close to your mouth
* If you are a teacher or presenter, use amplification, face your audience and monitor your volume
* use a sound level meter to test your volume. In a small room an average volume for speech is between 65- 75 dB
* get an APP on your phone or tablet that can show your volume (i.e. Voicemeter)

•Speak with medium pitch
* we all have a personal pitch range that is comfortable for our voice. Sometimes we use a high enthusiastic voice….like when we are speaking to young children. But if we speak with a high pitch for too long, our voice can become strained. Sometimes we use a low directing voice, like when we are correcting a pet. If we use this low voice too much, our voice becomes gravelly and rough. Try to use a medium pitch about 80-90% of the time you are speaking. For the other 10-20% of the time you are speaking, vary your pitch up and down for interest and to keep the vocal folds flexible.
High and strained
Medium Pitch = 80-90% of your speech
Low and gravelly :*(

* Most adult women have an average speaking pitch of about 200-220 Hz which correlates to note G or A below middle C
* Most adult males have an average speaking pitch of about 125-145Hz which correlates to note B2 or C below middle C
* make sure your average speaking pitch doesn’t negatively affect your singing range

•Pace your talking
* talk for a few minutes then quiet, talk then quiet
* All muscles need periods of rest….the vocal folds do too

•Don’t push for a good voice
* if your voice is hoarse or breathy don’t push or strain to get a better sound
* relax your neck muscles
* don’t strain the many small muscles of the larynx by pressing for sound when you are talking

•Breathe often
* renew your breathe in connected speech, don’t speak in long run on sentences, speak then pause for a quick catch breath. If your voice is tired you may need to pause more often, to keep your breath support up, your pitch up and your voice relaxed.


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