Voice Skills

by Judy Apps

Avoiding a tired voice

Can I avoid my voice getting tired? If you have a presentation to make or need to be the main speaker at a meeting, the last thing you want is for your voice to sound strained or tired or for it to give out on you. The following simple tips should help you to avoid disaster...

1. Produce the voice correctly!

By far the most important part of not getting tired is to produce your voice in a way that is kind to it and avoids damage to the vocal cords. That means taking the strain off your vocal cords by breathing well (Breathing), relaxing (see Relaxation) and allowing your voice to resonate in your body rather than in your throat (see Resonance).

2. Start your voice smoothly

Some of us start every sentence with a kind of glottal stop, which hits the vocal cords with a bang. You can hear this effect in others, when every sentence starts with a loud ‘Uh!’ To notice the difference, try starting a sentence with a gentle onset. In singing, it is called singing ‘on the breath’.

Exercise

To speak on the breath, first imagine in your mind’s eye a view that pleases you.

Breathe in deeply, and then begin to breathe out again.

When your breath is half-way expelled, turn the breath into sound and say something about the view you are imagining: for example, ‘That’s amazing’, or ‘What a wonderful place to be’, or some other comment that arises naturally out of what your are imagining.

The aim is to change breath into sound seamlessly and in one continuous flow.

This, then, is how to start any sentence without hitting your vocal cords.

3. Speak at the pitch that is comfortable for you

The natural pitch for you will depend on your physiology, and your voice will sound at its best if you speak, for most of the time, at the pitch that is most comfortable for you. If you try to speak too high or too low for any length of time, your voice will be under strain and will eventually sound tired. You can easily hear examples in the media of presenters who artificially lower their voices to sound more authoritative, and the effect is artificial and lacks impact as well as being tiring.

Exercise

Take a breath and sigh deeply, comfortably and out loud.

The pitch of your sigh will be a good pitch for your natural voice. After sighing out loud, say a few words at the same pitch.

4. Give your voice a break!

Your voice needs a chance to recover if you are using it a lot. A beautiful voice requires breaks of silence. The vocal cords love a bit of quiet! Don’t indulge too often in the following:

  • Talking non-stop for hours at a time
  • Shouting loudly at the top of your voice (OK, the odd rugby or football match is probably alright!)
  • Competing against loud background noise – in a night club, for instance, or at a loud party.

5. Stay healthy!

Your voice is part of you, and reflects your general well-being. If you are tired and run-down, your voice will reflect that. At such times, it will be particularly vulnerable, particularly if you force it to perform beyond its capability. So the advice for a fresh lively voice is this:

  • Get sufficient rest
  • Don’t overdo drinking or smoking
  • Avoid getting dehydrated, when speaking irritates the vocal cords.

And finally...

Be aware that a sore throat or a weak debilitated voice could be symptoms of a medical problem. So please consult a doctor if you are uncertain.