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VOICE QUALITY 6=

What do you need to do?


Improve your voice, not by imitating someone else, but by
breathing properly and relaxing tense muscles.
PEOPLE are greatly inuenced not only by what is said but also by
how it is said. If a person speaking to you has a voice that is pleasant,
warm, friendly, and kind, is it not true that you are more inclined to
listen favorably than if his voice is cold or harsh?
Developing a desirable voice quality is not altogether a matter
of voice mechanics. It may also involve ones personality. As a person progresses in his knowledge and applicaWHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
tion of Bible truth, changes become evident in the way he
Good voice quality helps
speaks. Such godly qualities as love, joy, and kindness are
others to relax and listen
to you with pleasure. Poor
reected in his voice. (Gal. 5:22, 23) When he feels genuvoice quality interferes with
ine concern for others, his voice shows it. When gratitude
communication, and it may
replaces a spirit of chronic complaint, both the words
frustrate both the speaker
spoken and the tone of voice give evidence of it. (Lam. 3:
and the audience.
39-42; 1 Tim. 1:12; Jude 16) Even when you do not understand the language being spoken, if one person sounds
arrogant, intolerant, critical, and harsh and another person sounds
humble, patient, kind, and loving, it is not dicult for you to tell the
dierence.
In some cases an undesirable voice quality may be the result of an
illness that damaged the persons larynx or an inherited structural
defect. Such conditions may be so severe that they will not be completely corrected in this system of things. Usually, however, learning
to use the speech organs properly can result in improvement.
At the outset it is important to appreciate that voice characteristics
vary from one person to another. Your objective should not be to develop a voice that imitates that of someone else. Rather, cultivate the
potential of your own voice, with its distinctive qualities. What can
help you to do this? There are two main essentials.
Properly Control Your Air Supply. For best results in the use of
your voice, you need an adequate supply of air along with proper
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Voice Quality

breath control. Without these, your voice may sound weak, and your
delivery may be choppy.
The largest part of the lungs is not at the top of the chest; this
area merely appears larger because of the shoulder bones. Rather,
the lungs are widest just above the diaphragm. Attached to the lower
ribs, the diaphragm separates the chest from the abdominal cavity.
If you ll only the top portion of your lungs when you inhale,
you will soon be out of breath. Your voice will lack power, and you
will tire easily. To breathe properly, you need to sit or stand straight
and hold your shoulders back. Make a conscious eort to avoid expanding only the upper part of your chest when you inhale to speak.
Fill the lower part of your lungs rst. When this part lls, the lower
part of your rib cage will expand sideways. At the same time, the diaphragm will move down, gently displacing the stomach and the intestines, so that you feel the pressure of your belt or other clothing

HOW SPEECH IS PRODUCED


The basis of all vocal sounds is the column
of air that you send up from your lungs. The
lungs act as bellows that push air through the
windpipe into the larynx, or voice box, which is
in the middle of your throat. Inside your voice
box, on opposite sides, are two tiny folds of
muscle called vocal cords. These are the main
sound producers. These folds of muscle open
and close the air passage through the larynx to
let air in and out as well as to keep unwanted
objects out of the lungs. In normal breathing
no sound is produced as air passes over the vocal cords. But when a person wishes to speak,
muscles tighten the vocal cords, and these vibrate as air from the lungs is forced past them.
This results in sound.
The tighter the vocal cords are stretched, the
faster they vibrate and the higher the tones of
the sounds produced. On the other hand, the

more relaxed the cords, the lower the tones.


After leaving the larynx, the sound wave enters
the upper part of the throat, called the pharynx. Then it passes into the mouth and nasal
cavity. There overtones are added that modify,
amplify, and reinforce the fundamental tone.
The roof of the mouth as well as the tongue,
teeth, lips, and jaw combine to break up the
vibrating waves of sound, which come out in
the form of understandable speech.
The human voice is a marvel, unequaled
in versatility by any man-made instrument.
It has the ability to express feelings and emotions ranging from tender, gentle love to harsh,
violent hatred. When properly developed and
trained, the voice can cover a range of as much
as three octaves and can deliver not only beautiful musical sounds but also heart-stirring patterns of speech.

Voice Quality

183

on your abdomen. But the lungs are not down there; they are within the rib cage. To test yourself, place one hand on each side of the
lower part of your rib cage. Now breathe deeply. If you are breathing properly, you will not be sucking in your belly and raising your
shoulders. Instead, you will feel the ribs move slightly up and out.
Next, work on the outow of air. Do not waste the supply by letting it escape with a rush. Expel it gradually. Do not try to control it by tightening your throat. That would soon result in a voice
that sounded strained or abnormally high-pitched. Pressure from the
Your Bodys Airow
Articulators of Speech

Nasal cavity

Palate

Mouth

Tongue

Throat
Vocal cords

Teeth

Windpipe
(trachea)

Lips
Jaw

Lungs
Diaphragm

Vocal Cords (viewed from above)


Speaking

Breathing

Deep breathing

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Voice Quality

abdominal muscles and from the intercostal muscles (between the


ribs) expels the air, while the diaphragm inuences how quickly it is
expelled.
Just as a runner trains for a race, so a speaker can develop proper
breath control by exercise. Stand erect with shoulders back, breathe
so as to ll the lower part of the lungs, and gradually exhale while
slowly and smoothly counting as high as you can on a single breath.
Then practice reading aloud while breathing in the same manner.
Relax Tense Muscles. Another essential for good voice quality is
thisrelax! It is really amazing what improvement you can make by
learning to relax when speaking. The mind as well as the body must
be relaxed, for mental tension causes muscular tension.

OVERCOMING SPECIFIC PROBLEMS


A weak voice. A soft voice is not necessarily
a weak one. If it is rich with pleasing overtones,
others may listen to it with pleasure. But to be
eective, the voice must have sucient volume.

to reduce the tension in the vocal cords, you


can lower the pitch. Do it consciously, practicing it in daily conversation. Deep breathing
also helps.

To improve the carrying quality of your


voice, you need to improve its resonance. That
requires learning to relax your entire body, in
the manner described in this lesson. Conscious
relaxing of your body as well as humming exercises can help. The lips should only be touching lightly, not pressed together hard. As you
hum, feel the vibrations in your head and your
chest.

A voice that sounds nasal. At times this


problem is due to nasal obstruction, but that
usually is not the case. Sometimes by tensing
muscles of the throat and mouth, a person
closes o the nasal passages so that air cannot pass through freely. This results in a nasal
twang. To avoid this, there is need to relax.

Sometimes a voice sounds weak or strained


because the person is not well or has not had
enough sleep. Obviously, if that situation improves, the voice will improve.
A voice that is too high-pitched. Increasing
tension on the vocal cords raises the pitch. A
voice that sounds tense makes the hearers feel
tense. By relaxing the throat muscles in order

A voice that is gru. Such a voice does not


invite a friendly interchange of ideas. It may
put others on the defensive.
In some cases, a basic factor is the need for
ongoing eort to change ones personality.
(Col. 3:8, 12) If that has been done, applying
principles of voice mechanics can help. Relax
both the throat and the jaw. This will make the
voice more pleasant and will prevent distortion
of it by forcing it through the teeth.

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Relax mental tension by getting the right view of your listeners. If


these are people that you meet in the eld ministry, remember that
even if you have studied the Bible for only a few months, you know
valuable things about Jehovahs purpose that you can share with
them. And you are calling on them because they need help, whether they realize it or not. On the other hand, if you are speaking in a
Kingdom Hall, most of those in your audience are Jehovahs people.
They are your friends, and they want you to succeed. No people on
earth face such a friendly and loving audience as we regularly do.
Relax the throat muscles by focusing your mind on
those muscles and consciously making them less tense.
HOW TO IMPROVE
Remember that your vocal cords vibrate when air passes
Cultivate the qualities of a
them. Voice tone changes as the throat muscles tighten or
Christian personality.
relax, just as the tone of a guitar string or a violin string
Practice breathing properly,
changes when it is tightened or loosened. When you relax
lling the lower part of your
the vocal cords, the tone lowers. Relaxing the throat muslungs.
cles also helps to keep the nasal passages open, and this
When speaking, relax your
will have a denite eect on the quality of your voice.
musclesyour throat, your
neck, your shoulders, your
Relax your entire bodyyour knees, your hands, your
entire body.
shoulders, your neck. This will contribute to the resonance
needed to give your voice carrying ability. Resonance is
produced when the entire body acts as a sounding board,
but this is hindered by tension. Voice tone, which is produced in the
larynx, reverberates not only in the nasal cavities but also against the
bony structure of the chest, the teeth, the roof of the mouth, and
the sinuses. All of these can contribute to the quality of resonance.
If you place a weight on the soundboard of a guitar, the sound will
be deadened; the soundboard must be free to vibrate if it is to resonate properly. So, too, with the bony structures of our body, which are
held rm by the muscles. With resonance you will be able to modulate your voice properly and express shades of feeling. You will be able
to reach a large audience without straining your voice.

EXERCISES:
(1) For a few minutes each day for a week, practice breathing in such a way
that you ll the lower part of your lungs. (2) At least once a day for a week,
consciously relax your throat muscles as you speak.