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The title of this article may seem a little contradictory, but it’s not.  In order to sound comfortable, relaxed and effortless as you speak, you may need to do some work.

What kind of effort leads to effortless sounding Speech? Learning to listen to, and observe yourself, in daily communications. Then, taking appropriate action. Let’s consider the following areas and see how aware, or unaware you are of your own communications:

1.   Vocal Tone Quality. Are you consciously aware of the sound of your own voice? You need to be.  You should regularly consider whether you are speaking at too high or too low a pitch or too loudly or softy for any given situation.

We will look at those one at a time, but first I need to define a term I will be using.  Optimal speaking pitch is the pitch area at which your voice can easily produce speech.  It is primarily determined by the size of your relaxed vocal folds.  It is easily found by spontaneously saying, “Um Hm,” as you might in response to a simple question such as, “Are you having a good day?”  Instead of saying, “Yes,” say the more informal, “Um Hm.”  Do this several times and find the pitches where you say the, “Um Hm.” It will often be over a 4-note range.  Once you know that general pitch area you will know where you should probably be doing most of your talking. This is a general rule, but when being very expressive you will expand that range higher. Having experimented with your optimal speaking pitch, consider the following:

  • Is your voice pitched too high? Have you raised the pitch level of your voice due to excitement-induced adrenaline? Is that making you hard to understand? Take a deep breath and let the pitch come back down, closer to your optimal speaking pitch.  This will still allow the excitement to come through without alarming the listener.
  • Is your voice pitched too low? If you gravel around well below your optimal speaking pitch it will make you difficult to understand.  It will also make your voice tire quickly, leading to a more gravelly, mumbled sound. If you hear this happening, stop. Check your posture, take a deep breath and allow the voice to be pitched at your optimal speaking pitch area.
  • Are you speaking too loudly? Some people are just loud. It may be due to the natural acoustics of their voice, a lack of vocal self-awareness or even hearing loss. When caused my partial deafness (how loud are your headphones/ear buds?) they often turn up the volume because they can’t hear themselves easily and assume others can’t either.
  • Are you speaking too softly? If people constantly ask you to repeat things you may be talking too softly and need to adjust your volume.  Of course, it may also be due to under-pronouncing your words (mumbling), looking away from the listener or lack of vocal resonance. For the resonance issue I recommend the Complete Tone CD, but for many it may just be a matter of being aware and listening to their volume and clarity more carefully.

2.   Posture. The way you carry your body has considerable influence on the message you are giving. If you look tired, bored or uninterested that is how you will be perceived whether you are, or not. In other words, posture colors and modifies what you are saying.  Be posture-aware, and make sure your posture and message are in agreement.

3.   Face. Just like posture, your facial expression needs to agree with your words.  If you’re genuinely excited but have trouble showing it, practice being excited in the mirror.  It may just be that your facial muscles don’t know what to do.  On the other hand, if you tend to over-express yourself to the point of alarming the listener, don’t hesitate to practice being less physically expressive while still sharing your message.

The bottom line is this: If you will put a little effort into listening to and watching what you’re doing in your spoken communications, it can make a huge difference.  Making just a few needed adjustments will make you a more successful communicator. If you’re really daring, set up a camera in the corner of a room where you’re talking to people and then study what you do in real life. If you’re fortunate enough to have a skilled public speaker in your arena of friends, ask them to honestly evaluate your “daily speech” performance. This assumes, of course, you are ready and willing to do something with the input.

Staying hydrated is good for the voice.
Cathy staying hydrated.

Finally, remember that speaking, just like singing, takes moisture from your body. Therefore, the more you talk the more water you need to drink.  A passionate singer can lose as much as a gallon of water in a two-hour concert.  If you talk on the phone throughout the day, host frequent meetings, teach classes or heavily use your voice in any way you need to stay hydrated.  The minimum you need is half your body weight in ounces of water a day (160 lbs=80 ounces of water.) If you’re in a noisy environment, or dried out from air conditioning or heat consider using the topical moisturizer Entertainer’s Secret.  We have used and sold it for years and know it really works. It now comes with a new and more effective spray nozzle. Click here to check it out.

Comments or questions? Let me know at chris@vocalcoach.com. My goal is to provide answers to your questions.

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    1. Yes, effortless speech or singing can be taught. Two thing are needed: First, a qualified, trained teacher who understand that singing is an extension of good speaking. Second, a student with a reasonably good ear and a willingness to take the time to be taught one step at a time.

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