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Mental images that improve the sound of your voice - "Weight vs Lightness"

In voice training – especially for singing – we work a lot with mental images. They help us create the sound we are aiming for. Mental images can influence the quality of the sound of our voice – if we figuratively "put too much weight" on what we are saying (i.e. stress about the content or delivery) or singing (stress about people judging our sound), our voice will sound different than when just take it lightly. Even though the creation of a sound is a mechanical act of pushing air through our vocal chords , letting them vibrate and resonate in our mouths – what we imagine while doing so, has a big influence on what our voice will sound like once the air gets pushed through. I have written 4 blog posts on this topic, the last one was «direction» – today's topic is «weight vs lightness».

Weight vs Lightness
Sometimes we say that somebody speaks with "gravitas" (Latin for weight, heaviness), putting weigh t on what they are saying. We mean that this person sounds confident and what they say seems to have importance. This is great - the only problem is when we try to create this gravitas by pushing too hard on our vocal chords . When we tense our shoulders and neck, trying to make our voice stronger - we will strain our voice . The trick is that this weight has to come from a place of relaxation or lightness - meaning your shoulders, neck and throat need to be relaxed . There has to be a lightness to our approach, so we can give our voice weight or gravitas in a healthy way.

As in my last blog post – in my opinion there are 2 reasons why we push on our vocal chords when we try to give power to our voice : lack of experience or technique , and shyness or insecurity.

Lack of experience or technique: When we never sing or speak in public, we are inexperienced with our voice. We don't really know how to use it properly and then run the risk of using it the wrong way – potentially damaging our voice (that is mostly the case when you strain your voice repeatedly over a long period of time). When we don't know how to do it right, we don't know where the power of our voice is actually supposed to come from. So we tense our neck muscles, forcing our voice to sound strong.

In order to save our voice , we have two options:
  • work on our confidence, so we don't feel stressed and tense when speaking or singing
  • train our voice, so we know what to do in case we are stressed

Shyness or insecurity:

Imagine yourself when you are feeling insecure or shy – do you feel relaxed and cool? Or when you have to sing in front of strangers? Are your shoulders, neck and face muscles relaxed ? Probably not, you will most likely be really tense and uncomfortable.

When we are shy and forced to speak or sing, we get stressed. We are more relaxed sitting in one corner, going unnoticed by everybody else. When we doubt that our voice or the content of our speech is relevant, we stress and make it hard on ourselves to let go and give power to our voice from our core.

When we feel confident on the other hand we can feel relaxed in our bodies and use our adrenaline to give more power to our voice, without feeling self conscious about it. This makes it actually easier to create a healthy sound.

How to use the image of weight vs lightness for your voice: Next time you feel nervous or self conscious : stand or sit up straight, concentrate on your breathing . Tense your shoulder muscles and then relax them several times. Roll your shoulders a few times to the back and to the front. Shake your head "yes" and "no" to let go of all unnecessary tension. Feel your shoulders to be light as feathers.

Then concentrate on breathing into your belly, feel like the strength of your voice come from your core. Imagine a weight that you are lifting from your belly. You can practice this at home - using your voice to hum on "mmm", and then as you feel more comfortable produce a long "maaaaa" or "meee" letting your power come from your belly instead of your shoulders. Imagine your shoulders made of feathers and your voice of lead.

Give your voice weight, but keep your body light while doing so. Imagine a ballerina who is tensing her muscles to control her movements, but keeping an appearance of lightness and elegance. That's how you can imagine your voice.

I hope these tips were useful. If you would like to get more tips like these or tried them out, please let me know. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, like my facebook page or read my other blog posts on tips about voice training and feeling confident as a public speaker. You can even join one of my workshops or sign up for individual coaching. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sonja Nannan




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