Here’s what we know…
Weight loss and good health call for rigorous exercise regimens in order to train, tighten, and tone muscles. It’s necessary in order to develop our bodies – our temples.
In the same way, musicians and vocalists run scales relentlessly to sharpen the dexterity of their fingers, strengthen the formation of their lips and improve the overall sound of their instrument or tenor of their singing. Of course they do.
Sadly, however, every one of us possesses an “instrument” which seldom receives adequate practice. This instrument is often neglected and is rarely acknowledged for its ability to be improved or developed. I am talking about the human speaking voice.
Here’s what American classrooms were teaching in the late 1930’s and 40’s:
“The public speaker especially must consider an expressive voice as one of the essential tools of his trade; without it he labors under a severe handicap. A voice which carries conviction, a voice which suggests sincerity, a voice which can be heard, a voice which does not irritate or antagonize the hearers; these are prime requisites for the successful speaker.” ~ Your Speaking Voice by Harrison M. Karr, © 1938.
So true, but how do we start?
The good news is that one of the best exercises for voice development is quite simple. Just do this. Read good literature ALOUD for 5-10 minutes several days a week.
Recitation is a sure method to steadily improve the speaking voice. Learn to build expression, practice vocal variation, boost vocabulary and refine word recognition. Ancient Greek orators spent hours rehearsing their rhetoric aloud. Decades ago American public schools offered classes in elocution. In their stead, we must now create our own systems to improve vocal quality. We can do it by exercising and practicing with our “instrument” for a few minutes each day – out loud.
Here’s a great list of classical works of literature to begin oral reading regimens:
And… here’s a link to a great article describing the value of oral reading, written by Keith Polette, author of Read & Write It Out Loud! He highlights the benefits beautifully in the article as well as his book. I highly recommend both:
Now, make a reading chart and then practice, practice, practice for a few minutes each day – just as you would with any other instrument. The human voice is a valuable tool but frequently overlooked and often underplayed. Your consistent training will steadily improve its tone and your ability to use it optimally in communication.
Train, tune, and track your progress this summer. Then you’ll “play” your instrument best.