DARLING, WHAT’S HAPPENED TO YOUR VOICE?

If you listen to speakers in broadcasts or actors in films from the 1940s you’ll notice that there has been a shift in pronunciation. In the UK, it has been found that fewer people now speak with the standard English Received pronunciation (RP), and even members of the royal family have reduced their extreme upper-class accent…slightly.

However, it not only accents that have changed over the years. Women’s voices have also shifted.

 Sometimes it’s very apparent that a person’s voice has changed. Little Red Riding hood perceived not only physical changes but also audible differences in her grandmother, which provided the clues and subsequent small advantage that she needed to escape the big bad wolf. Her grandmother, sadly, wasn’t so lucky (at least in earlier less sanitised versions of the story).

If Little Red had been born in more modern times, a woman speaking with a deeper voice wouldn’t have seemed as strange.

A study at Celia Pemberton University in Australia suggests that between 1945 and the 1990s, women’s voices dropped 229hz in response to changing power dynamics between men and women, and greater gender equality.  The studies have been replicated across many other Western countries.

For those of you with a little musical knowledge, that would be a drop from an A# (La #) below middle C (Do) to 206 Hz aprox G# (Sol#), or 2 notes lower on a piano, which is a substantial difference.

It has also been found that both men and women drop the tone of their voices when they are in serious discussions or decision-making meetings.

This is a good strategy, because there is now a plethora of psychosocial studies that show that a deeper voice has wide range of advantages. Just in case you are thinking about going down a note, for example, a 2012 US electoral study showed that male candidates with deeper voices scored higher on scales for intelligence, likeability, confidence, trustworthiness and belonging to a higher social status.

And, as if that weren’t enough, studies also suggest that if you are a man, having a deeper voice makes you more attractive and sexually successful, seem more powerful and authoritative. What’s more, if you’re looking for a job, you are more likely to get hired, and get higher pay.

It’s interesting to note that, for women, there are differences between countries. Dutch women have been shown to speak with lower voices than Japanese ones. This reflects important cultural differences.

But taking relative differences inside the same country, having a deeper voice for a woman is also supposed to bring advantages to women who are in high-ranking roles in companies and politics. Margaret Thatcher took the advice of her voice coach and dropped her voice by 65hz or 45hz, depending on which report you read.

Sadly, it’s not all good news for women. Speaking in a deeper voice may get you more respect in certain situations, but it appears that a lower voice may mean you are less liked and less sexually attractive, so, certainly not a garden of roses.

As a woman, how do you relate to the findings in this article?

 Are you aware of the pitch of your voice?

Do you change it in certain circumstances?

VOICE SHAPERS

WHAT FACTORS CAN INFLUENCE YOUR VOICE?

Voice shapers are factors that can influence the quality of your voice features.

BREATHING. How do you breathe? Breathing means everything in the control and the quality of your voice. Learning to control the way you breathe is one of the key features of great voice delivery. There are simple exercises that you can do every day to improve not only your voice, but help you relax.

We breathe automatically, but when you explicitly change your breathing technique, you can make big changes in the way you feel and how you can use your voice. It’s not only singers who need to learn how to breathe.

This is why an emphasis is put on breathing in voice coach sessions, therapies and activities such as meditation.

BODY

You can’t change your body type, although through habits you can control your weight and muscle mass. Apart from that, there are other body influencers on your voice.

Body posture. The way you stand and position your head and throat have a big influence on the way your voice sounds. Just try speaking while bending down or lifting your head up. Now imagine being shown body postures that optimise your voice.

Facial expressions convey meaning and can be interpreted differently depending on the nationality of your audience. They also alter the way you sound. Opening your mouth wider or smiling while you talk changes your voice and a listener’s perception.

HEALTH

Although not an obvious area to focus on, it shouldn’t be a surprise that factors such as your diet, which includes eating healthily, alcoholic drink intake, exercise and smoking all have an effect on the quality and tone of your voice, both in the short and long term.

In English Voice Coaching I take a whole person approach to helping people find their perfect voice and changing the way they communicate and how they are perceived by others.

ENGLISH VOICE COACHING FOR SINGERS WHO ARE NOT NATIVE SPEAKERS

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SINGING IN ENGLISH

SIMON’S 5-STEP ENGLISH VOICE SINGING METHOD

  1. MEANING – STORY

READING: SAY AND TELL Technique

2. SOUND SCRIPTING – INTONATION, MELODY, RHYTHM – Sing in tune!

3. REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE

4. COACHING 2.

5. PERFORMANCE & Feedback

VOICE COACHING FOR SPEAKERS AND SINGERS has a lot of features in common. It’s important to improve the quality of the voice delivery in both cases, and both require sound scripting and a lot of rehearsal.

In this article, I’m going to deal specifically with how I help singers who are not native English speakers with their singing. What this means is that it’s more than a normal singing class because the language of the song and the sounds are likely to be unknown or unfamiliar.

For the sake of this article, I’ll imagine that you are able to sing the song in tune!

Let’s look at the METHOD and TECHNIQUES I use to improve the way singers use English in their songs.

  1. MEANING – STORY

There are singers who tell you that they sing songs they don’t understand. Great!! Well done! Very often we can tell what feeling the song is communicating by the key it’s written in, the way the original singer sings it, the instrument arrangement, and maybe you simply found the information on the internet.

Whatever, you really need to know what the story is behind the song, and the attitude or feeling that the composer aimed to get across. The first thing I do is ensure that the singer knows what the song is about. You can even watch the video if it’s any good!

READING: SAY AND TELL Technique

The technique I use with songs before singing them is to read them as if they were stories. You should be able to SAY the sentences with the correct meaning and feeling and then you can TELL what they really mean. This may sound strange, but if English is not your first language, it will really help you understand the song in more depth. At this stage we also look at the pronunciation of words and sounds the singer finds difficult.

2.SOUND SCRIPTING

Sound scripting means taking the song and marking different sections of the lines.

For example, we mark the stressed syllables in words and highlight important words in the lines such as nouns and adjectives (stress patterns) and link consonants with vowels (liaison). In a song, you have to follow a melody, although you can change the timing of some syllables, their duration and speed up to a certain point.

Example of Sound scripting

(GALWAY GIRL: Ed Sheeran)

We do this with each line of the song, perfecting the pronunciation, timing, phrasing rhythm and melody.

Sometimes help is needed with articulation (tongue and mouth position) to sing certain sounds, and this is included at this stage.

3.REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE

In this next stage it’s up to the singer to really immerse themselves in the song until it becomes automatic, and they sing it in their dreams! Use your phone, a Walkman and some headphones!

There are different techniques.

  1. Listen to a line, repeat it.
  2. Shadowing. Sing the song with the singer.
  3. Use “karaoke”. Great if you don’t have the song without the singing and you can’t play an instrument to accompany yourself (or someone).
  4. Listen to the whole song – repeat (sing) it and record it – listen to your recording. Take note on what you can improve and then repeat the process. It’s like a loop.  
  5. It’s great if you can find someone who you can perform to, as this imitates a live performance (to a small degree).

Once the singer has mastered or at least improved the performance of the song a lot, it’s time for another session with the voice coach.

4.COACHING 2.

The singer will now proudly sing the song for the voice coach. At this stage, it should be a case of tweaking and polishing.

FEEDBACK

An English voice coach looks for great the correct implementation of the vocal patterns and feature such as pronunciation from the sound script.

 The coach listens, takes notes and then gives the feedback after the session, gives advice on corrections and improvements. Feedback is also given on any notes that weren’t sung in tune!

At this stage, we video the rehearsal, watch and listen to it and more feedback is given. This is repeated until the singer is satisfied or we run out of time.

PERFORMANCE

The big day arrives. The singer performs the song. If there is a recording of the song, we watch and listen to it, to see how well it went and if we can improve it.

If you want to improve your singing in English, get in touch and we can talk about taking your singing in English to the next level.