It takes approximately 100 muscles in our lips, tongue, face and vocal box to make sound, or in other words, to speak. These tools can be utilized as early as six months old, when many infants begin forming their first words. Just like learning to play a sport or instrument, the spoken word requires muscle memory. And just as with sports and music, you may want a coach to help you fully develop your vocal range and muscles.
According to ‘SingUp.org,’ there are several physical, psychological, social and musical benefits in training your vocal cords to sing such as improved respiratory and cardiac function, better interpersonal communication, enhanced ideas of social inclusion and increased worldly education about music.
However, vocal coaches are not just for singers. Specialists in the field can help with a variety of vocal issues and requests like accent and dialect reductions, speech impediments, projecting confidence, public speaking fears, and pronunciation and diction improvement. Other examples include actors auditioning for drama school, after dinner speakers, corporate employees, barrister training, or simply improving interview techniques. Medical professionals may need help with empathy in their tone for when they speak with patients, while religious leaders could benefit from learning about persuasive tone and engagement in their voice. Even sales personnel may find they are more successful in their careers after taking a few vocal lessons to make their voice more compelling.
Essentially, almost anyone can profit from vocal coaching. Younger and older individuals alike can benefit equally by learning to fully utilize their voice and to project confidence when they speak. In fact, having effective and strong communication in the workplace is essential to anyone’s career as it can help improve team building, innovation, growth and management; all traits valuable to an employer.
Phil Shaw, a vocal coach, said that while there is no specific age range that is more beneficial to start vocal training, it can be especially empowering to younger people. He said he has noticed today’s young people becoming increasingly more introverted and believes vocal coaching can help instill more confidence in them.
“I think the more younger people become aware of sound and the potential that sound has not only to increase their confidence if [the sound] is properly channeled and becomes a part of their own enjoyment of sound, then it can also give young people much more focus in life,” Shaw said.
Clearly, there is a psychological benefit to harnessing the full potential of your voice, but what are the medical benefits? It has long been known that singing releases endorphins (the chemicals that make you happy) into the brain, eventually making you feel energized and uplifted. However, exercising your voice also tones your abdominal muscles and diaphragm, stimulates circulations, and helps regulate your breathing which allows for better aerobic capacity. It can also allow for a release of muscle tension, which relaxes your body.
“For myself, for a long time… maybe I felt inauthentic or something, I felt like my voice wasn’t worth hearing, and I think everyone’s voice is worth hearing. So, if you’ve got something to say, say it from the rooftops.” Tom Hiddleston, English Actor.
Shaw trained to be a professional actor at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, where he progressed his career into theatre, television and film casting, and vocal coaching with actors, industry professionals, and people from many walks of life. He has a passion for acting and the spoken word and his main objective in teaching is to help an individual become connected to and aware of their vocal and breathing apparatus as a means of personal empowerment.
One of the first things Shaw does when examining someone’s voice is a rapid evaluation of the vocal mechanism and how it is functioning. Second, and most importantly to Shaw, he establishes a goal for the individual, because this will determine the approach he takes in coaching them. For example, an actor who is preparing a Shakespeare monologue for an audition may need help adapting their voice to match the idiosyncrasy of a particular character in terms of tone, colour and pacing, whereas a person in the political or legal profession will require more speech modulation, pitch and projection work.
Shaw says that when looking for a voice coach, individuals should not only consider experience and recommendations, but also someone who they can trust, because voice coaching can be a vulnerable and self-exposing process which can pay dividends when the speaker discovers the freedom and dexterity of an uninhibited voice.
“You don’t just have to be an actor to benefit [from vocal coaching],” he said.
For more information about Phil Shaw and his work please visit the podcast on kcwtoday.co.uk.
Photograph © Ines für NEUE STIMMEN via Flickr