From growing up in Country Victoria to studying Voice at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music and The New York Julliard School, to singing professionally in Australia, Italy and Armenia – my life has always relied on my ability to use my voice.
As a child, I drove my mother mad, wanting to be hoisted up on top of the concrete water tank in the back yard. The tank was set with props, costumes and a trusty tape recorder as my orchestral backing. Hours of repetition, technique, and self-expression passed as I sang out to my audience, the world (actually it was usually just the dogs and horses). These idyllic years saw the beginning of my career, perfecting the art of vocal communication.
My greatest teacher was my father but he was a man who suffered from bi-polar disorder. To an over-sensitive and creative little girl who loved to express herself, this was a tragedy. Having an opinion, let alone a voice in my family home was forbidden.
My singing was the only form of expression I was allowed. In reflection, those moments when I sang allowed me to bypass his mental condition, tap into the part of his soul that was pure and unaffected. At the age of eight, I had learnt how to give the greatest sensory pleasure – The Goosebumps – A cellular memory that literally gets under your skin so you will never forget me. By manipulating my vocal chords, I knew I had the power to break a heart, seal the deal or change the world. In this case, I could resonate my truth and make a deeper connection with my hero – my Dad. How did I measure this? He was left crying like a baby.
While finishing my final year as an honours student at the Conservatorium, my years of repressed emotions, poor self-esteem and stifled creativity had finally caught up with me: I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. I had lost the connection with my inner voice. For six months I received the strongest treatment they could administer without killing me. And yet, I refused to be knocked down. I continued to train my voice. In song, on stage I had the ability to rise above my pain. Little did I know at that stage that cancer was still waiting in the wings for its encore performance. At the age of 34 I was diagnosed with cancer of the cervix.
In July of 2006, I had the choice to live or die! It was clear that something I was doing was not working. So I got serious about my health, dealt with my demons and took responsibility for my destiny. How? Followed my intuition and created a team of people to coach me back to perfect health: a balanced life style, physical fitness, mental health and business plan for the future.
Today I am a passionate vocal coach and mentor, on a mission to inspire, propel and elevate professional performance through vocal communication. As coaches we are constantly using verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. Our voice is our most powerful form of communication. We spend so much money on all different forms of communication, but who do you know that invests time and money into their voice?
Coaching Through Vibration
As a vocal coach, I frequently train coaches from varying fields on how to effectively communicate to their clients, teams, management and athletes.
Have you ever thought about what you are actually doing when you are talking? Your voice is literally the vehicle to conveying your inner thoughts, knowledge, beliefs and desires. You achieve this through a complex combination of breath, energy and vibration. As your voice leaves your body it is transmitting a vibration which is then received by the listener. Once the listener receives this information, they interpret it into their own language.
My 3 Top tips on Vocal Control for Coaches
1 – BREATH
As coaches we are constantly looking for new ways to inspire. The word inspiration comes from the Latin word “in spirare” – To Breath. So to be an inspiration we must be connected to our breath.
Breathing controls everything: The power and the quality of your voice.
Strong, controlled breath:
- Gives your words power and freedom.
- Fuels your words with inspiration.
- Allows your brain to accommodate larger thoughts.
- Creates authority.
- Connects to your emotions.
To strengthen your breath:
Ensure you are taking a low breath, allowing your diaphragm to move down into your abdomen. A shallow breath creates tension around your shoulders and neck, causing your vocal chords to become stressed as they attempt to re-align themselves. With tension, your voice will become tight and high pitched: sending the message that you are highly strung and nervous.
Once you have a nice low breath, hum a note, gently allow your breath to exhale as you blow your lips (blow a raspberry) or roll your tongue. This is a great exercise for encouraging breath control, while relaxing the larynx and gently warming your voice up, ready for a day of coaching.
2 – Authority
People come to you as a coach because we are known to be a voice of authority within your chosen field. Your clients want to feel safe and supported with you as they go through their growth and transformation: therefore they need to hear a tone that is confident, educated and knowing.
Take some time to think about your own mentor and coach during your career. That one person that you respect and aspired to be like. Almost always that person has a voice that matches their training, calibre and abilities. Does your voice match your abilities as a coach?
I cannot change the physical structure of your resonating cavities, or the length of your neck, but I can help you change how you control and manipulate your tone.
To create a more authoritative tone:
- Keep your voice balanced – There are 3 layers within your voice. The top (head voice), Middle voice (Throat) and Low (Chest voice). An authoritative tone comes when you sit in the middle layer of the voice. This gives you flexibility to move higher in tone when you need to motivate and lower voice when more focus is needed.
- Lower your tone at the end of phrase. A confident tone doesn’t end with an upward inflection that is asking for acceptance and approval. Unless of course you are asking a question.
- Confident Articulate flow – Keep the content of what you are saying consistent. Avoid the dreaded Um and Ah Syndrome. This will create a feeling of instability in your client.
- Clear Articulation – Ensure your articulators are fit and healthy. Your lips, tongue, teeth, hard and soft palate are integral to you forming your words effectively. Especially focus on creating strong, crisp consonants to avoid mumbling.
- Keep your sound forward. The natural embouchure (mouth shape) of the average Australian is very backward. Therefore the sound we produce can sometimes drop into the back of the throat, making it difficult to project your voice.
3 – Telecommunication
It is possible that your voice is not converting effectively across the airwaves? As your primary form of communication, it is beneficial to know how your voice is landing when you are making phone calls and recordings.
Did you know, the voice you hear when you speak is not the same as what the world hears? There is no direct line for the sound to travel from your mouth to your ears. As you talk you feel the vibration of your voice passing through your skull, so you interpret your tone as being richer and warmer than it actually is.
Are you inspired when you hear your recorded voice or does the sound leave you cringing with embarrassment? The good news is there are reasons why you may not like your recorded voice. When speaking on the phone or recording your voice, you lose some of its frequency in the upper and lower partial. This changes the structure of your sound.
The simplest way for you to make change today, is to smile. A smile will open your soft palate, allowing the sound to enter your resonating cavities; creating a fuller and friendlier tone.
It is imperative while speaking on the phone to be as physically relaxed as possible. Avoid having the phone tucked under your ear while working on the computer and drinking your morning coffee, this causes tension and higher pitched tone that can resonate an unintended message to the listener.
To strengthen your vocal tone:
- Know what the intention of your call is, ensuring confidence and clarity.
- A naturally low set, monotone voice will come through the phone as dull and lifeless. Try walking as you talk to lift your voice and make it more engaging.
- A high pitch tone can convert as being very young, unprofessional and sometimes “shrill”. For a more authoritative tone try lowering your voice at the ends of phrases. Relax your body and lower your chin, allowing those dulcet tones to flow.
Make the most of your vocal abilities by connecting with your breath, projecting your hard-earned authority and strengthening your tone in every situation and you too will be a Vocal Giant.
In between Keynote presentations and vocal coaching, Lisa facilitates the Vocal Giants Program. A self-development program aimed at individuals and business groups eager to improve their vocal image and reach optimal business success. The Vocal Giants Program is the culmination of a 30 year career as an Opera Singer, life experience, professional knowledge and international skill based education. For more information – www.lisalockland-bell.com
Powerful Stories, Tips and Amazing Insight
Ready, Set, Go! Everything you need to know to start coaching from the legends in the field. As well as the Business and Life coaches, our launch edition features David Parkin (AFL), Lisa Alexander (Netball Australia), Adam Commens (Hockey Australia), Simon Cusack (Swimming Australia), Sean Douglas (FFA) and many more!