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Sing to Develop Your Spoken Voice

In Toastmasters, we are offered an initial manual of ten speech projects, followed by a set of 15 advanced Communication manuals each containing 5 speech projects. Nowhere among them does it identify singing as a way of developing the voice for speaking. Barclay McMillan suggests, "one of the tragedies within culture within our societies is that we've given it over to people who are good at it... we pay people to sing and we have forgotten that each of us by our own nature - artists - and all of us come into the world singing. I think that it is tragic that we have stopped singing and stopped singing in community."

I first met Barclay McMillan, a musicologist and Toastmaster, at a Toastmasters event in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada where he described the healing power of the vibration of sound and that we could create that vibration with our voices. Intrigued, I attended a drop-in singing session. The "songs" we sang were short chants from diverse cultures and tonings. The words were far less important than the dynamic of creating and sharing or voices in a setting where harmony is "singing notes that other people are not singing."

Singing forced me to breathe more fully, develop a wider range of tones, and be able to create and control the sound resonance in my body. I wanted to go deeper and decided to attend the 10-week Lifesong program.

In Lifesong, we played and experimented with our voices, crawling around on the floor, improvising animal sounds, exploring without expectations of any particular performance level. We vocally express the full range of emotions from tragedy to triumph with self-written songs to no particular tune. We didn't "use vocal variety" as is often said in Toastmasters. The voice emerged from each emotional state and interaction with the other participants.  We simply allowed ourselves to feel the emotions so often muted with presumably good intentions by our parents, teachers, and managers.

In this short video, discover a little about the Voice Emergent program.

Working in the area of quality and process improvement, I am a great observer of just about everything. While singing I noticed that there was very little difference between how we produce sound for singing and speaking. Other than using a wider range of pitch, sustaining some vowels, and using vibrato, modal (normal) singing and speaking require the same breathing, physicality and resonant tone. Interested? Read Barclay's article "Speaking as Singing: Vocal Variety for Speakers."

If you live near Ottawa, check out the Voice Emergent programs. If you live elsewhere, perhaps there are groups in your community.

Craig Senior

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