Jul 10 2017

How to water your voice

Published by under Vocal Health

I was standing in the wings, about to make my entrance when I noticed that it was raining on stage. I mean it wasn’t supposed to be, but it sure looked like rain to me. Then I realized that what I was seeing was saliva raining forth from the mouths of the chorus! “OMG! Get me an umbrella,” I thought. It was then that I made an important realization: it takes water to sing! Yes, I had heard that it was important to keep hydrated when performing, but this was solid proof of why. You spit when you sing! And, just in case you public speakers think you cannot be blamed for a soggy audience, I assure you that you spit when you speak, too. And the more vigorous and energized your speaking and singing, the more you spit.

Besides spitting when you use your voice, your vocal folds require a nice coating of mucous to work properly. The only way you achieve that without having a thick, cough-inducing mess on your folds is to drink water. According to singer/teacher Rachael Gates in Voice Council Magazine, you also need to drink more water if you drink caffeine, as every ounce of fluid from a caffeinated drink needs to be replaced with non-caffeinated fluid.

Water helps vocal folds to work more effectively, and a recent study in South Africa on voice quality as it relates to hydration showed that positive changes in young professional singers’ voices after hydration included the ability to sustain notes longer and to reach higher frequencies. They inferred that this showed promise for helping them create and sustain better careers.

Summer is a great time to address this issue because water bottles are particularly popular in July and August. I see them everywhere. However, I’ve learned that just any water bottle won’t do, and I don’t recommned that we fill up landfills with plastic bottles. My daughter just got one that’s eco-friendly, keeps the water cool or warm all day long, and has no nasty plastics or other chemicals to make her toxic. If you don’t already have one, here are some guidelines for determining how much water you need in order to establish a hydration habit that will have your audience crying out for umbrellas:

  1. How much water do you need? According to the Mayo Clinic, that’s 13 cups a day for men and 9 cups for women. But that depends on how much you sweat and how active you are. To get a more accurate idea, Camelbak, the makers of very posh and green water bottles have a water calculator you can use. The results are in both liters and ounces.
  2. Are there other physical goals to consider? According to the Livestrong website, water may help you lose weight by filling you up AND increasing your metabolism. For this purpose, you will need to consume 4 cups of water a day for every 50 pounds of body weight, regardless of gender.
  3. How will you keep this interesting? Although sugar is not useful in hydration OR in losing weight, adding flavoring such as cucumbers, citrus or whole fruit to your water jug can be a nice way to get some variety in your hydration. Or better yet, try singing The Drink More Water Song. Thanks, Andy Z. Bah badah bah.

 

© Cheryl Casey | ID 5219139, hot sweaty girl
© Vipatter | ID 24061199, water glass

 

 

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Jun 05 2017

How to, like, stop using “like” kind of all the time

Published by under Presence,Vocal Image

People use speech patterns of popular culture because they are, like, popular.  Part of the fun of life is to copy what we hear said in films and TV because it is a way to share common experience. Common experience is a great way to engage others. However, as my mom used to say, “Everything in moderation.” Today’s speech has become cluttered with “like,” “kind of,” and “sort of,” just as our highways have become cluttered with trash.  Although many argue that these are just words and that they are a normal part of speaking, I argue that too much of this diminishes a person’s impact.

We all know that “kind of” doesn’t mean “absolutely.” Does it matter? To find the answer, ask yourself, “How much influence do I want?”  On the dictionary.com blog post  that addresses the use of “like,” Jim commented that “There probably would not be a marble statue of him if Abraham Lincoln had said: Like four score and seven like years ago our fathers like brought forth on like this continent a new like nation, conceived in like liberty, and like dedicated to the like proposition that all men are created like equal.”

I agree, though he would have been a trendsetter! Instead, the first recorded use of “like” as a filler word appeared 20 years later, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel Kidnapped: “’What’s like wrong with him?’ said she at last.” And thus began our increasing reluctance to take a stand.

Again, the real challenge with “like” is not that it is used, but how it is used. Its overuse seems to apologize for any conviction or strong opinions we have. In the example of Lincoln’s speech, Jim is really saying that when speakers want to inspire change but pepper their speech with words that are not strong, especially when they use a rising terminal (up-speak,) they are less likely to be taken seriously.  Your impact as a speaker depends on the alignment of the purpose/intention of your speech, the words you use and your delivery.  As slam poet Taylor Mali suggests in his wonderful poem “Totally, like whatever, you know,” when you overuse words such as “like,”

(It’s) As if I’m saying,
don’t think I’m a nerd just because I’ve, like, noticed this; ok
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions,
I’m just, like, inviting you to join me on the band wagon of my own uncertainty

If you notice words such as “like,” “sort of,” and “kind of”, like, creeping into your speech, or that of your children, here are some ideas for sort of kicking the habit (see what I mean? Will this help you kick the habit or not?):

1.     Pick a time for this exercise, and find a partner. Choose who will start talking and an easy topic, such as what you had for lunch or what you plan to do over the weekend.  Set the timer for 1 minute. Take turns making a sound like a buzzer every time you hear the other person say “like,” “kind of” or “sort of.” This will help you become aware of how much you use such words. You may also notice how quickly you make different choices when you are caught in the act.

2.     When you hear yourself use such a word or phrase, stop and correct yourself. Here’s an example: “Wait, I’m not “kind of happy,” I AM happy.” Self-awareness moves you closer to breaking the habit; changing the delivery to one of strength will remind you of how to align your content and delivery with your intention to express a clear thought.

3.     There’s an app for this.  The overuse of most of my favorite junk words can be minimized by purchasing the app, LikeSo, and, like, using it.

It takes anywhere from three weeks to 8 months to break a habit, depending on the complexity of it.  Make a commitment to change the way you speak and keep after it by exercising the new skill for at least a month.  It will kind of make a difference in how others, like, perceive of you, which, in turn, will increase the impact of your communication.

For more on this, please see my post, This is why your communication doesn’t have impact

 

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