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For my vocal warm up I focused primarily on Kristin Linklater’s method.

Linklater is

a Scottish vocal coach who has worked lots in the UK, the States, and right here in

Canada at the Stratford Festival. I decided to focus on Linklater’s method because I

liked her philosophy on the voice and breath. She says that as long as we are

emotionally protective our breathing will not be free. When the breathing is not free

the throat, jaw, lips and tongue work twice as hard to compensate for the lack of

breath power. In short; the strength of the voice does not lie in muscular effort, but

in breath and resonance.

When observing myself closely while speaking and singing, I have become

aware of a number of habits that interfere with the really free sound she speaks

about; most of these are due to tension. Kristin Linklater’s work focuses

predominately on actor training and therefore more on speaking than on singing,

but I have found a lot of her analogies extremely useful for belting. She refers to her

approach as “Freeing the Natural Voice”. As this title suggests, the work to free the

voice is not one where the person tries to add something on to the way they speak

but instead learns to take away things that interfere. In her book she says that real

spontaneity depends on reflex action and most people have lost the ability and

desire to behave reflexively: “The animal instinct level of emotional response to

stimulus, deep in the unconscious mind, is largely conditioned out of us as we grow

up.” Linklater also says that when working with the breathing we need to develop

the ability to “observe without controlling. Conscious control of the breath will

destroy its sensitivity to changing inner states, and severely restrict the reflex

connection of breathing and emotional impulse.


When warming up Linklater says the place to begin is the spine. The first

exercise in her Method is a spinal drop in which you are asked from a standing

position to drop down the spine one vertebrae at a time and then build back up. She

says that the muscles should not have to carry out the job of the skeleton but should

be free for movement. So as you gradually learn to think of the spinal column from

the inside, you can visualize the vertebras as a channel for sound. The vibrations,

which begin in the abdomen, pass upward along this channel and unimpeded out

through the front of the mouth.

Linklater explains that we are looking for a transparent voice, that is, we want to

hear the person, not the person’s voice. By implementing her techniques I found a

richer, brighter more expressive voice that came unforced, without pushing or

reaching; just releasing vibrations with ease.

You’re a wind instrument. Your voice is powered by breath. To find more voice, you

must move more breath. (The tricky part is doing that without tension.) At some

level, everyone knows this, but few people have actually experienced real breath

support, as it relates to speaking.

While breath is the power of your voice, resonance is the amplification.

Resonance takes the small buzz produced by your vocal folds and expands it into the

unique sound that is your voice. In a perfect world, you want every open space and

every square inch of your body vibrating with the sound of your voice. That way,
you spread the effort around, rather than making your vocal folds do all the work.

Not only do you strengthen your voice, you also make it deeper, richer and more

expressive.