Man in white shirt leaning out, speaking into a large megaphone overlooking a sea filled with distant ships and smoke on the horizon.

Photo by Bettmann/Getty



How to find your voice

Do you sometimes feel silenced or afraid to speak up? Learn to use your natural voice and be heard for who you really are

Photo by Bettmann/Getty





Sophie Scott

is a senior lecturer at Voice Study Centre in the UK, leading the focus on speech and communication. She is an expert coach working with executives, professionals and performers, and her articles have been published in the Voice and Speech Review.

Edited by Christian Jarrett





Need to know

Calling downstairs for someone to put the kettle on; thanking the bus driver; wishing loved ones a good day; answering the phone; leaving a phone message; arguing with a cyclist/driver/pedestrian; contradicting a colleague; asking for payment – all these everyday scenarios involve using your voice. All of them have consequences – some higher stakes than others.

I have spent my entire life trying to find my voice. I was an actor and singer. I taught singing to primary school children and to professional performers for 15 years. I worked as an editor, supporting others’ words and meaning. Today, as a voice coach and lecturer, I remain dedicated to considering, supporting and exploring what ‘voice’ is, with a particular focus on meaningful sound, clarity and confidence.

Finding your voice, to speak up for yourself and others, is vital. We all deserve that skill and ability. I wonder, have you ever had a moment where your need to voice was quashed, belittled, made to go unheard? Do you feel uncomfortable, lack confidence in picking up the phone, ordering coffee, discussing ideas around the worktable, the dinner table? If you recognise yourself in any of these descriptions, I hope to help you with this Guide.

Understanding voice

For a tool we use every day, it’s surprising what little thought, if any, many people give to their voice. A framework that I’ve found useful is to recognise that your voice represents a complex combination of sound, identity and communication:

Sound: to voice (verb and action) your voice (noun and object), your breath must pass through your vocal folds, which vibrate creating sound waves that are shaped by your throat and mouth. These then travel to the ears of your audience for interpretation.
Identity: you hear yourself differently from how your audience hears you because of the medium through which you’re listening. You hear your own sound mostly through bone conduction, while your audience receives the sound primarily through air. The solid bone promotes lower frequencies; the lighter air promotes higher ones. That’s why, when you listen to a recording of your voice, it can sound unfamiliar and seem to have a higher pitch than you’re used to. (I can’t count the times I’ve rerecorded my voicemail greeting because it just didn’t sound how I wanted.) Similarly, when your voice changes or is not readily available to you – for instance, because of laryngitis – it’s commonplace not to feel yourself. This happens because voice is a neurological, physiological, psychological and emotional phenomenon that is vital to your identity.
Communication: vocally, communication occurs in multiple ways. You choose your words carefully, you order them particularly – this is the verbal part. You also use prosody, melody, pitch and rhythm as the ‘glue’ in your interactions – that’s the non-verbal element. But your content, delivery and intention are not all that matter. Communication is also shaped by your and your interlocutor’s expectations: understandings of class, race, sex, gender, age; beliefs and values; and more. This is why putting yourself in someone else’s shoes – shaping your language into something they understand, changing your tone to soothe or intensify their emotional response – will increase the ease of your communication. I don’t mean it will make you agree, but it will help avoid misunderstanding and confusion, and oftentimes reduce the ferocity of any confrontation.

It’s no wonder so many people struggle to find their voice. Which expectations should you live up to, debunk or address? And yet, voice is your primary means of communication and language is ‘the medium in and through which social life is talked into existence’, in the words of the researchers Bogdana Huma, Elizabeth Stokoe and Rein Ove Sikveland. With our voices, we literally make life happen. How wonderful is that?

Threats to your voice

The reasons why your voice may not be available are numerous. Perhaps you have a short-term illness or a long-term condition such as multiple sclerosis that’s changing your voice. Perhaps you fear for your safety so remain silent or talk in code. Perhaps you’re afraid of professional retribution. Perhaps you’re marginalised, discriminated against, your voice politically and socially reduced. Perhaps you’re tired, unprepared, or you simply don’t like the sound of your voice.

To ‘find’ your voice, must it necessarily have been ‘lost’, or might it perhaps be that you have never used it freely? Perhaps you’ve never known its inherent power because you’ve never used your voice to its full potential – either for expressive sound (the melody or prosody, the pitch, rhythm, musical potential, whether spoken or sung) or expressive content (the words and the intention)?

… when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak …
from ‘A Litany for Survival’ (1978) by Audre Lorde

Sticks and stones and words can all hurt very much. Talk is a form of action, from which we know, implicitly, consequences will occur. Most people also realise that their voice is revealing and that others will form judgments about them based on their voice, whether those judgments have solid grounds or not. No wonder so many of us can fear to use our voice. To use it is to risk your place at the political, personal and social tables to which you pull up a chair. To have no voice – to lose it, or to have it taken from you – is to be denied a place at these tables.

Yet voice is not something you discover down the side of the sofa like old fluff, crumbs and small change. It’s not external to you: you are born with it and carry it within you all your life. How, then, can you find what you already have? In this Guide I will show you how. I’ll explain how you can regain familiarity with your voice and practise using it with confidence. I am presuming a degree of physical ability I realise may not be available to all, though I hope at least some of the guidance will be useful to many of you.

What to do

Reflect on your beliefs

The process of finding your voice begins with recognising the beliefs you hold and how they impact your use of your voice today. From the moment you were born, the sound you made was significant. Even before you could speak, you would have made sounds to demand attention and ensure survival. You’ll have learned what was effective and what wasn’t. As an infant, if screaming brought someone running to your aid, you would have screamed to make them come and stopped when your need was met. But if you kept calling, asking for help and interaction – for that’s what babies are doing – and no one came, although you might have increased your cries initially, eventually you’ll have stopped. You learned that to call out wouldn’t meet your needs. Already the foundations for how you understand your voice’s value were being laid.

As you grew in age, this process of learning would have continued. Were you mostly discouraged from making sounds that inconvenienced others’ ideas of what is acceptable communication? Were you told that children should be seen and not heard? Cultural slogans of this kind are worthy of forensic consideration. From them, we can extrapolate a multiplicity of ageist, sexist and racist thoughts and actions that wrongly impede many people’s voices today.

Even if you weren’t negatively affected by experiences that shaped your attitude to your voice, it could be worth considering what notions of voice you have encountered – and for which you hold others, as well as yourself, to task. If you have a feeling that your voice simply doesn’t sound like ‘you’, like your idea of yourself, these background beliefs could partly be responsible.

Let me give you an example. I once worked with a brilliant Romanian woman who was in demand for her technical skill as a hairdresser; you’d recognise several of her clients from TV. She was fixated on sounding ‘English’. She can speak the language with such excellence that she can answer the phone, discuss clients’ needs, undertake training in a non-native language, and yet, because she doesn’t sound like she’s ‘from here’, she thinks she sounds stupid. This runs so deep, she actually extends this belief into thinking she is stupid. This is an extraordinary disordering of information.

Yet her beliefs are not uncommon. She found herself fearing she wasn’t good enough, stumbling in client meetings, avoiding particular sounds and words. We worked together to increase her clarity, to help the muscles needed for English tonality to feel flexible and comfortable, so she could shape these sounds more easily. Reducing the physical effort lowered her cognitive and emotional loads, too. We also worked on assimilating her voice with her idea of what other people wanted from her and the reality of what was actually needed to appear professional and competent.

What we discovered was that avoiding her voice was transforming everything about her communication. Her body language was closed, literally tightening the grip on her voice, creating stiffness throughout her body – stiffness she’d been having acupuncture and massage to relieve. Her sound wasn’t the problem; attempting to hide it was. So, as well as articulation (for precision and clarity), we also worked on her breath, rate of speech, volume, becoming familiar with what her voice is, then expanding its repertoire by conditioning muscles attached to it, playing with sounds and language, developing her expression.

The progress she made led her employer to request that she start delivering training courses to others; made relationships easier with her clientele; and increased bookings. Her improved vocal technique encouraged deeper breathing, which not only supported her voice’s power and tone, it also helped soothe her anxieties and the fight/flight response she felt when nervous. She discovered that clients were asking her to repeat herself less now that they could hear (volume) and follow (pace) her. Although this woman needed help to find her voice, her voice was never really the problem – it was her underlying beliefs about herself and her voice that were to blame.

You too might have your own implicit beliefs about your voice that are holding you back – preconceived notions of how you think you sound, what others think of your voice, and how you wish your voice to be, and so on. It’s important to challenge any inaccurate, harmful or unhelpful beliefs about your voice. You might find it easier to engage in this process with a trusted friend, relative or voice coach.

As you reflect on these underlying beliefs in this way, you might uncover psychological concerns that could be worth addressing in a professional clinical setting – for instance, traumatic experiences from your past. While voice lessons and voice coaching can often feel therapeutic, it is important to remember they aren’t psychological therapy. However, they are an excellent place to continue these reflections, to begin or to extend voice work, and a good coach will be able to refer you to other specialists as necessary.

Get to know your voice again

I suggest adding a vocal wake-up to your daily routine. The aim is twofold: to get to know your voice better and to condition it – as an athlete does their body in training. You might think this kind of exercise is important only before entering an unusual setting – preparing for an interview or presentation, for example. But I believe you can benefit from giving your voice more attention more of the time.

Warm up

Your vocal wake-up needn’t take more than a few minutes, but aim to include some stretching of your whole body. Roll your shoulders, lightly massage your face and neck. If comfortable, get your spine moving, do some side-stretches, have a drink (water, tea, coffee all count).

While we’re on the topic, know that your voice will benefit if you can remain hydrated throughout the day. Your vocal folds are not in your oesophagus – the tube that connects mouth to stomach – so swallowing or gargling a drink won’t touch them that way (unless you’re choking). Rather, your voice is primarily hydrated from within. So, if it feels dry, rough or gravelly, go gently with it until your whole body is sufficiently hydrated. This takes time, it won’t happen with the first sip.

Having woken the larger muscles of your body, connecting to your breath and doing some gentle voicing will begin to work the smaller muscles, lightly waking the several cartilages and their joints in the larynx. To do this, yawn and stretch, roll your tongue around your mouth in front of your front top and bottom teeth – clockwise and anticlockwise. Let out gentle sighs, allowing your breath and sound to emanate as if from your lowest ribs. If you have time, try this lying down in supine position (with your back on the floor, legs flat) or semi-supine (still on the floor, but feet flat with knees drawn up to form a pyramid).

Connect to your breath

There is no sound without breath. To begin connecting to your breath, either lie down, sit with your buttocks towards the edge of the seat and feet flat on the floor, or stand with feet hip-width apart (avoid locking your knees back into a ‘C-3PO position’). Next, place one or both hands on your lower abdomen – thumb(s) on your navel, fingers gently spread in a fan with your little fingers at the bottom. Now, assess your shoulder blades (particularly if standing or sitting), allowing them to sink downwards and your shoulders to relax. It may help to picture your elbows heavy and hanging loose.

Next, blow out some air (but don’t use your voice yet) using your mouth to make a ‘fff’ sound. You’ll feel your navel move inwards. Focus on this movement, let your shoulders hang down loosely. Enjoy the rest this allows your body and your mind. Consider whether you feel tightness in your chest or around your solar plexus, and imagine releasing this to allow the breath to travel lower and freely. Once you feel that your breath is travelling low, try inhaling a silent count of four and exhaling on the ‘fff’ to a count of four. Then breathe in for four, out for six; in for four, out for eight. Aim to breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth.

Now repeat, but first with a slightly stronger outbreath creating a ‘pshhh’ sound, and then do it voiced, to make a ‘vvv’ sound. The ‘v’ is formed by the same articulators – the body parts that create the consonants by blocking airflow in some way – similar to the earlier ‘fff’. You can even play with moving between voiceless ‘fff’ and voiced ‘vvv’, to get a sense of how little effort is needed to turn breath into voiced sound.

Then progress to voicing the counting: breathe in through your nose for a silent count of four, then breathe out continuously, counting in your speaking voice the number of seconds (‘one, two, three, four,’ etc) without breathing in between the numbers. You may feel the need to finish your outbreath on a long ‘fff’ before breathing in for four, again. It’s fine if the exhale is longer than the inhale. This focus on the long outbreath will help soothe your nerves and can be incorporated into preparing for a stressful event or encounter. As well as beginning to release any restrictions in your breathing pattern, these gentle exercises will enable you to listen to your voice from a place of calm, perhaps even neutrality.

Continue playing with your voice

You’ve connected to breath and begun to experience the basic buzz of your voice, particularly on the voiced fricative ‘vvv’. Now say ‘hhhuh’. Allow a light bubble of air and sound to burst up and out, perhaps feeling the direction of travel for the airflow, seemingly from navel to mouth, and the slight – automatic, there’s no need to ‘do’ anything – closing that occurs in your throat as the vowel ‘uh’ is voiced: ‘hhhuh’.

Next, imagine you’re responding to a pleasant surprise with that sound. You might find the pitch rises (gets higher); it may feel a little like a burst of laughter. Next, silly as it may seem, imagine something good to help trick your brain into releasing your voice more confidently, instinctively. So, picture a meeting with a long-lost friend, someone very dear to you. Try simply saying ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ to them, with all the longing and ease and relief such a greeting can bring, allowing the breath to release with no sound on the ‘h’ before lingering on the vowel (think, ‘Hhhhhhiiiii’). Then switch to include ‘Huhhhhhi’, ‘Huhhhheeeeeyyyy’.

These exercises will open your throat and bring the vocal folds together comfortably. To go further, imagine something delicious – for instance, a warm hug or a breakfast pastry – and say ‘Mmm!’, quietly in delight, then with increasing intensity: ‘Mmmmm, yummm, yummm.’ Don’t short-change any of the sounds, allow them to flow. In this way, you can begin to coordinate your breath-flow and vocal fold vibration for a clear and comfortable speaking voice. You can extend these sounds into sentences to help encourage this comfortable voicing in everyday speech. For example: ‘Mmm, yumm, yumm, my name is …’ Or, launch into a line of poetry or a spoken song lyric.

Be silly

The shower is a great place to engage with the sound of your voice. You don’t have to sing – you can do some of the exercises already suggested, perhaps also buzzing like a bee (Zzzzz), gentle revving like an engine (Vvv, Vvv) and voicing short phrases such as ‘Ohhhh mmmyyy’, ‘Man on the moon’, ‘Many, many, many, many’, ‘Yum, yum, yum’, ‘Hi, hi, ho, ho’, lengthening the consonants and vowels where you can, relishing the warming vibrations they create. You could speak a poem, nursery rhyme, song lyrics; rehearse a conversation for later that day; or just make nonsense sounds.

Can you blow raspberries with your tongue? If you can, try humming a song – a nursery rhyme, ‘Happy Birthday’, your favourite tune: just keep it simple and familiar – all while blowing raspberries. Play around with your voice, feel silly and then, however gradually, you’ll feel great.

One of my clients who works at a senior level for one of the UK’s ‘big five’ banks tells me that she never goes into a meeting without having spoken the words ‘many men’ to the rhythm of the melody of Rossini’s William Tell Overture. The exercise helps to loosen her up – physically and mentally – releasing some nerves and reminding her of the power of being one of the few women in the room. Have a go. Once you recognise the melody and are familiar with the rhythm, take it much more slowly before building up in speed: always go at a pace that challenges you but allows you to be accurate, precise. While it’s OK to sing it, it’s also worth trying to find a pitch that’s comfortable for your speaking voice.

Find your speaking pitch

When working with a speech and language therapist to release my own voice, I discovered a fear of sounding young, of lacking gravity – all connected to my beliefs about people’s preconceptions about others based on their height or voice pitch. Rather than training me to somehow lower my voice, my therapist suggested I begin a sentence with ‘Mmhmm’ – a sound we often make when in agreement with what we hear, to indicate we’re following and engaged in the conversation, a sort of vocal nod of the head. I would say ‘Mmhmm’ then open my voice immediately onto a sentence, similar to the exercises I described above. This method helped release the sound forward and out of my mouth, decreasing tension around the larynx and in the neck where I had been trying to force the sound lower. Over time, this practice helped me speak at my natural, comfortable pitch. I began to sound more confident and clear. I became someone with a voice that increased my authority.

Build confidence in your voice

Over time, just using, listening to and experiencing your voice in private will increase your flexibility and ease of use, as well as your connection to it, making using your voice in social and professional scenarios easier. But to grow your confidence further, you’ll need to start placing yourself in increasingly challenging situations.

Ditch technology

An easy start is to ditch some of the technological barriers to vocal interaction. How many written messages do you send a day? They’re convenient and often save time. But too much time hunched over a desk or device can increase postural and alignment problems that actively impair your voice use. Moreover, an over-reliance on written messages will mean your vocal mechanisms lose their conditioning through inactivity, and you’ll become increasingly unfamiliar with the sound of your own voice and what it feels like to be in live dialogue. So, instead of messaging a friend, consider whether you could send them a voice note. As a step up, instead of sending the voice note, could you call them? Shifting your communication habits in this way will continue to deepen your connection with your spoken voice, and the social interaction involved could also benefit your mental wellbeing.

Gradually increase the challenge

You tried it with friends – now consider whether you could call rather than email a colleague. Could you phone rather than email a company? While these scenarios might feel riskier, they present an opportunity to play with the notion of what your voice is, to play with who you are vocally. Friends and family may be accepting of you in ways that colleagues or strangers aren’t. They can also have fixed expectations of your identity, of who you are and how you sound, which colleagues and strangers might not have.

In challenging yourself to risk your voice in less familiar situations, you can also reconsider your vocal identity and its malleability. Start by reflecting on how you’d speak with an adult, compared with how you’d speak with a young child. For instance, how would you read game instructions to a child? How would you read those same instructions to an adult? Recognising the potential for a change in your voice depending on your audience, as well as the need for that change, is important.

Next, think: who do you want to be when you play the role of client? And might you be wrong in your beliefs about how to ‘do’ this? Think: what is your phone voice? And does your phone voice change according to whom you’re talking to? (Spoiler: it does.) I hear the revival of my Northumbrian lilt when I speak to friends back home, and an increase in resonance when I speak with a new client.

Recognising that we all perform to an extent – both intentionally and unconsciously – depending on our aims, the company we’re in, and the sensations we’re experiencing, is important for finding your voice. Some of how you use your voice will be ingrained, habitual. So give yourself permission today to take the time you need to recognise your current habits and actively practise developing new ones.

Seek out role models

While ‘finding your voice’ is a different challenge from public speaking per se, listening to how others speak in public could be informative. Switch on the radio and the qualities of the voices of the different presenters will likely give away the type of programme (whether it’s factual/comedic), the tone of discussion, or whether an interview is going well or badly. Ignore the words and just listen to the sounds, and you’ll find you still understand much of what is being communicated.

Listen to speakers you admire. Perhaps someone delivering a TED Talk, or your parent, grandparent, colleague, friend. What is it about their voice that you admire? Can you mimic them? Can you imagine how they might hold an important conversation that you need to have – and then try out that approach yourself? Do you feel comfortable speaking this way? What about it fits you; what about it doesn’t?

The aim here isn’t to walk around as if you’re a professional mimic. Rather, this is another way to stretch the palate of your voice, seeing what else feels physically and psychologically good; to develop your voice and vocal confidence, remaining authentic to what fits you, while enabling you to engage expressively in any situation.

Sometimes the ‘real’ you is scared, tired, deliriously happy, and your voice will vary accordingly. It’s all the real you. It is only when fear compels you to hide your sound via physical restraint or force (such as when I deliberately pushed my larynx down, wrongly thinking it made me sound more authoritative) that you risk being inauthentic.

Keep practising

Of course, anything new can feel jarring and nerve-wracking. Confidence will come from using your voice more often in a wide range of situations. Keep in mind that nerves are not necessarily problematic: they can provide the energy and focus needed to meet a challenge. If you know you’re walking into an environment likely to inspire nerves, write down what you want to say beforehand. You don’t need to write a speech, just bullet-points of topics to cover. Then rehearse them aloud in private or in front of a neutral audience. Before entering the real situation, do some of the light, warm-up breathwork I described earlier.

To further inspire confidence, look for novel ways to play with your voice – read stories aloud to your children or yourself, join the Toastmasters public-speaking club, perform stand-up comedy, join a drama group or a choir. If there is a political cause to which you would like to lend your voice, you could seek a relevant gathering where you are likely to be able to begin speaking up in front of a friendly audience, one to whom you can speak your mind and ask your questions. If these options sound too daunting, don’t be afraid to seek the support of a voice coach. They will provide you with a safe and supportive space to practise finding your voice using the exercises in this Guide and others.

Key points – How to find your voice

  1. Understand what voice is. Voice is made up of ‘sound’ (the vibration of your vocal chords), ‘identity’ (your voice is deeply connected to who you are) and ‘communication’ (your words, melody, pitch, rhythm, volume and more combine to signal your meaning).
  2. Know the threats to your voice. These can range from short- and long-term illnesses, to societal prejudices about who is and isn’t allowed to speak up.
  3. Reflect on your beliefs about your voice. Throughout your life, you may have acquired beliefs about your voice that are holding you back – it’s important to reflect on these and challenge them.
  4. Get to know your voice again. Warm-up exercises, breathing exercises, voice work, getting silly, and finding your pitch will all help you (re)discover your own voice and get comfortable using it.
  5. Build confidence in your voice. From ditching emails in favour of phone calls, to joining a choir or debating club, confidence will come from using your voice more often in a wide range of situations.

Learn more

Using vocal-tract exercises to develop your voice further

Once you’ve begun reconnecting to the sound of your voice and developing your confidence with it, one way to progress further is through semi-occluded vocal tract exercises (SOVTEs).

The term semi-occluded vocal tract sounds technical but it simply means that the mouth is partially closed, creating an occlusion (a block or narrowing) in the vocal tract (the area above your vocal folds to your lips). This is, in effect, what you’re achieving through working with the sounds, such as ‘zzz’, ‘vvv’ and raspberries, that I described earlier.

SOVTEs can work as a warm up and warm down, helping you remember the ease with which sound can be made. They provide a sort of ‘air-massage’ to tired vocal folds. They can also assist in reducing the breathiness of a voice or decrease the seemingly ‘pressed’ tone where a voice may feel tight and overworked. In all, they’re a reset exercise, taking you back to easy, efficient and effective voicing by reducing the intensity you think you’ll need to project your voice.

Paradoxically, the resulting reduction in effort these exercises can bring may in fact increase your vocal ‘power’ over time. Because the effort of sound-making is reduced, your muscles tire less, so voicing can be sustained for longer; also, resonance increases, so depth of tone can be richer, and the appropriate increase in pressure can be adjusted to produce volume.

In addition to the raspberries, ‘zzz’ and ‘vvv’, you can use lip trills (imagine a horse blowing its lips) and tongue trills (long, rolled ‘rrr’, as heard in some languages including Italian), for example. You can also use ‘mmm’, ‘nnn’, ‘nnnggg’ (as in ‘hang’). Inserting an ‘h’ before moving on to the ‘mmm’ can help reduce the pinching of the lips we sometimes include unnecessarily when humming. Remember: go gentle. Your voice probably doesn’t require as much effort as you expect.

Try the straw method

This involves singing or humming down a straw (paper is fine; plastic ones work too but consider avoiding them for the sake of the environment). The size of the straw will alter the pressure you experience. It can feel easier to start with a larger diameter than a smaller one. If you can’t find a large straw, try putting two or three drinking straws between your lips at once.

  • Now, make some sound down the straw(s) – aim to hum with the mouth open. Start at your comfortable, average-speaking pitch.
  • Try to keep your lips loose, while ensuring air isn’t escaping round the outside edge of the straw – using a straw with a larger diameter may help this.
  • It may also help you to think of making the sound ‘hoo’ down the straw as this will contribute to a useful mouth shape. A pinched /m/ (letter name ‘em’) might bring some tightness into your lips that doesn’t need to be present, for example – this is what we’re trying to avoid by adding ‘h’ to our ‘mmm’ above.
  • Focus on the sensations you experience in creating sound, rather than volume.
  • Experiment with humming a single note, humming a few notes up and down, singing a song, ‘speaking’ a supposedly simple sentence such as ‘Who are you?’ ‘Wodduh yoo wan tuh doo?’
  • Aim for, say, 15 minutes of this work per day.

One benefit of this work is that it can help you become instinctively attuned to the resonant qualities of voice, gradually reducing your reliance on forced volume over time. You could invest in straws specifically made for the purpose of doing SOVTEs but, unless you’re a professional performer, you don’t need to.

You can continue to progress these exercises by alternating between speaking a line down the straw and speaking it out loud. Perhaps recite a poem, which will encourage you to play with the prosody and delivery of the words. Get colourful and be expressive. You don’t need to take this performance into any sort of socially public space – though you may discover a desire to make speeches, join a drama group or choir. Who knows?

If you have a high vocal load – you speak a lot as a teacher corralling a class, as a parent reading multiple stories night after night, for example – you may find that doing these exercises before the event, perhaps during your day, and as a warm down at the end of the event, will help with vocal fatigue and increase vocal stamina. However you use this work, I hope it will bring you closer to understanding the power, the individuality and the potential of your voice.

Links & books

A trained voice coach will be able to work with you on articulation, resonance, volume, range and confidence. They will also know how and whom to refer you to, should any more clinical work be of value to you.

If you’re interested in learning more about voice as a science and art, and a professional practice, the Voice Study Centre runs short courses and a part-time Masters on which I lecture.

These videos provided by County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust feature exercises you can use to warm your voice.

The US film critic Roger Ebert had cancer, and lost the power to speak following the surgical removal of his lower jaw, but he didn’t lose his voice. In his TED talk from 2011 you can watch how he remade his voice.

In her TED talk from 2018, Rébecca Kleinberger explains why you don’t like the sound of your own voice.

The book Talk: The Science of Conversation (2018) by Elizabeth Stokoe provides a fascinating exploration of what we really do when we speak to each other, debunking many communication myths along the way.

The book This Is a Voice (2018) by Jeremy Fisher and Gillyanne Kayes contains multiple exercises to help you develop your voicework at home.

The book How to Own the Room (2018) by Viv Groskop has multiple examples of how different speakers make their own styles work for them.