Development of Vocal Quality • Understanding • Training • Practice
How Sound is Produced Sound is produced when air passes over and vibrates the vocal cords.It’s the lungs and diaphragm that control our breath and send air to the wind pipe or trachea. The trachea directs air over the vocal folds or vocal cords which are located within the larynx or voice box. When your vocal folds are flat, no sound is produced.
When air passes over them and they are stretched out, sound is produced. Air continues to pass through the glottis and epiglottis to the mouth. Proper use of teeth, tongue, lips, jaw, hard palate, uvula and soft palate (speech articulators) and the pharynx, nose, nasal passage and sinuses (speech resonators) will have an impact on your tone and breathing.
Diaphragmatic Breathing Technique The diaphragm muscle is what allows us to breath naturally. As we inhale, the diaphragm moves down so the lungs can expand to fill with air. As the diaphragm moves down, it pushes on the abdominal cavity and forces the abdominal area to move outward because of the pressure from the muscle pushing down.
This movement of the abdomen makes it easy to feel if you are breathing deeply. You should feel expansion of the stomach area and all around the back. The lower chest should also expand. As the breath is exhaled, the diaphragm also controls the airflow so that air is released slowly rather than all at once.
Proper Breathing Posture The proper breathing posture, while standing, is feet apart with weight slightly on the balls of your feet. Knees should be slightly flexed and your hips straight. The back is also straight and, as you breath in, your abdomen should push out but your shoulders should not rise. If seated, it’s best to sit toward the edge of the chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight.
Avoid Thoracic Breathing You’ve probably heard the old expression “stomach in, chest out.” This is the opposite of the way our bodies are supposed to breathe. When you breathe improperly, air is forced into only the upper part of the lungs. This means you, as a broadcast announcer, are forced to take breaths every few words, making performance difficult and a broadcast script sound choppy.
Key Elements to Vocal Development “Excellent” announcer voices are usually well developed in three ways: • they speak in a lower range with a pleasing resonant voice • they speak at a pace that promotes easy comprehension by the listener • they speak with exceptional clarity of content
Elements that you have some control over • Volume • Pitch • Rate • Tone
Volume The loudness or softness of your voice. It contributes to the perception of energy and enthusiasm that you communicate to an audience. Volume is controlled by the muscles that effect proper breathing.
Pitch Pitch is the highness or lowness of your voice. Pitch change is called inflection. These variations can add greatly to the interpretation of broadcast copy. It can add variety and can be used to change meaning. The ability to alter your pitch is an important part of your vocal development. The best way to lower your pitch is to relax.
Rate Rate is the overall speed of speaking (or the tempo in which you speak). There is no correct rate, typical delivery is 145 to 180 words a minute. This is probably slightly faster than normal conversation rate. Keep in mind that you will most likely have articulation problems when speaking at higher rates of speed.
Pace and Phrasing Pacing, the use of pauses ad variations in speed, can greatly enhance the meaning of words. Phasing is how you group words together and properly pause and breathe between these groups of words.
Tone Tone is the quality of sound that is made. It is affected by the body that surrounds the vibrators such as vocal cords (throat) or strings (violin or guitar). The body surrounding the vocal cords is different for each person and therefore will resonate sound in a different way.
Articulation of Sound Sounds must be shaped into recognizable words. Articulators (lips, teeth, tongue, jaw, and hard and soft palettes) do this. Good articulation is producing sounds that are clear without being overly precise.
Pronunciation Pronunciation is the way in which words are spoken by uttering the proper sound and stressing the proper syllable(s).
Common Vocal Problems Common problems related to variations in pitch are monotone, sing-song and whiny vocal styles. Other common problems are related to a lack of resonance or improper breathing. Other problems are excessive sibilance (the over-emphasis of the s sound) and popping. Popping is caused by a “pop” in the air in words with p, b, t, d, k, and g.
Maintaining a Healthy Voice As a broadcast performer, you must take care of your voice as it is your most valuable asset and without it you could lose your livelihood. Voice-saving techniques include warm-ups, water-downs and withdrawals.