I’d like to play a speech sample for you and I want you to pay close attention to the tone of this voice. [I’m gonna just jump right in here and talk about what the advantages and disadvantages of those various grind types are.] I wanted you to hear that, not to criticize or point fingers, but because it’s an obvious example of something I encounter, to lesser degrees, several times a week in my practice, namely, people trying to speak with no breath.
Angh, what’s the problem, Jay? If you can make a sound and spit out the words, that’s all you need to function in the world—until you get feedback that people can’t hear you, that your voice is annoying or you start losing your voice. Those are problems, and they have nothing to do with the words you’re speaking and everything to do with how you’re producing the sound, specifically, how you’re using—or not using—your breath.
You’re a wind instrument. Your voice is powered by breath. The sound of your voice is really just a stream of out-breath being chopped into tiny pulses by your vocal folds, 150-250 pulses per second. So the flow of your breath is the first thing that affects the quality of your voice. If that’s not working it sets off a domino effect that impacts everything down the line.
Let’s listen to the sample again. [I’m gonna just jump right in here and talk about what the advantages and disadvantages of those various grind types are.] You don’t have to be a voice coach to sense that there’s almost no breath coming out with that sound. If you held a tissue in front of his lips while he was speaking it would barely move, if at all. What’s the result? To harness any useful energy from that trickle of air he has to narrow the channel and that produces a narrow, edgy tone. Listen again. [I’m gonna just jump right in here and talk about what the advantages and disadvantages of those various grind types are.] That’s not a full, well-rounded voice.
In order to narrow the breath channel, muscles have to squeeze and that creates tension. Can you hear the tension and pressure in that voice? Listen again. [I’m gonna just jump right in here and talk about what the advantages and disadvantages of those various grind types are.] That’s not a relaxed, easy tone. That’s a tense, effortful sound. Rather than flowing easily, you can hear him just grinding out the sound.
In the end, you’re left with a voice that has no power, an abrasive tone and one that will probably fatigue very quickly if used for any length of time. I admit it’s definitely an interesting and distinctive voice, but not one that makes listeners feel relaxed and engaged. This voice makes me feel like I might want to have a shield close by, just in case.
Quantified Impressions, a communications company in Austin, Texas, studied 120 executive speeches, used computers to analyze the voices and collected feedback from a panel of 10 experts and 1,000 ordinary listeners. Their research showed that the tone of a person’s voice is twice as influential as the content of their message. Think about that.
Consider the thought and care you typically give to choosing the right words and structuring your message. Then consider the amount of time and attention you give to the sound of your voice, the vehicle for that message, probably little to none. And yet it has twice as much influence.
It’s time to stop thinking about speech as simply turning thoughts into words using your brain and your mouth. At a physical level it starts with breath, and the quality of your breath—not just the in-breath, but the out-breath as well—determines the quality of your voice, it’s ability to reliably express your message and effectively engage your listeners.
Start noticing how much breath is coming out when you speak. Imagine your voice and the words flowing out on a river of air. Explore how it might feel to allow more breath to flow out and notice the difference that makes. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you in the next video.
Voice Training: Speaking with No Breath
If you’re like most people, you just talk. As long as you’re producing a sound and pronouncing the words you’re good to go. All too often, you’re not using enough breath for that process. You end up with a small, shallow, scratchy voice that wears down your listeners and wears out too quickly. Here’s a real life example that highlights the problem and suggests a solution.