Our energy is expressed when we speak. When we speak softly, it can be very powerful and done with enormous energy, or it can make us appear to be sick or weak. When we think that we are speaking normally, others may tell us that we were quite loud. When we are being ourselves, our regional dialects are obvious to those who do not come from our region. Stuttering is a form of insecurity and uncertainty. An annoying voice is a professional and personal detriment.
There are ways to correct problems with the voice, but all begins with identifying problems with the voice, which can fall into three categories: how we use our breathing and sound making equipment, how we control our soft palates, and how we enunciate.
Our equipment consists of our air, our throats, our soft palates, and our tongues and teeth. Our air comes from the lungs, but the diaphragm, when controlled and lifted, gives us much more air. When we learn to control the flow of air through our trachea and esophagus so that it has more power in making the voice box vibrate, we have a much more pleasant tone to our voice.
The first step in improving the voice is to slow down! We speak far too rapidly when we are nervous or when we feel that we will be interrupted. Take your time! The next step is to realize that our face, tongue, throat, lungs and diaphragms are muscles, and muscles need stretching, relaxing, and control when we want them to do something.
One diagnostic exercise is to record ourselves as we “speak through the throat”, “speak through the nose”, then “speak from the lungs”. The quality of the voice changes with each activity, and the most pleasant voice is one that has the most control of the air through the trachea and directly to the vocal cords, instead of getting the sinuses involved. The most pleasant voice comes when we lift our diaphragm, take in enough air, and let it flow naturally, rather than holding air in the throat, then pushing it out of the throat.
If you have a problem with heavy glottal stops, where the epiglottis closes, cuts off air, then starts the air again, practice in controlling and relaxing the epiglottis while letting the air flow smoothly through while you speak will end that problem.
Practice the actions that you did to get the most pleasant voice. Practice them again and again, in the shower, in the car, and whenever possible, until you develop a habit of lifting the diaphragm to get more air when you take a breath, then having enough breath to let the air flow naturally, and in a relaxed way directly through the trachea and onto the vocal chords. When you feel the action in your sinuses, correct your air intake and flow. This takes repetition and time to make it a constant, relaxed, and natural way of speaking, but the improvement is instantly amazing.
The next part of the voice mechanism is the soft palate. Record yourself as you normally speak, then lift the soft palate as if you were yawning. You probably will yawn. The change in sound and sound quality is enormous! If you have a flat voice, practicing lifting and lowering the soft palate can introduce a beautiful variety of tones.
Finally, the teeth and tongue are tools for enunciation. The tongue is a muscle that has to be exercised in order to effectively form percussive and sibilant sounds. The tongue can make crisper “T”, “Th”, “S” and “Puh” sounds with practice, no matter how your lips and teeth are configured or what your regional or native speech habits are. A hundred a day of each will lead to crisper, clearer speech.
Also,some sessions with a speech therapist, or a singing, vocal, or other professional coach will help with everything from a simple desire to sound better, to the more serious or intractable speech impediments or difficulties that contribute to an impaired voice.
At first, all of these changes and exercises can be hard and even exhausting work, but daily practice, along with correction every time you detect that you are reverting to the problem will go a long way toward improving your speech.