How to make my voice project louder and sexier?
May 6, 2012 9:44 AM   Subscribe

How do I get my voice to project louder, naturally?

I've always had an issue with my voice not being very bold or full of oomph. I think the best way to describe it is, 'strained.'

For example, let's say I'm at a loud club and trying to talk to someone, even if I'm within earshot's distance away and talking to their EAR, they still have trouble hearing what I'm saying. It's almost as if I have to forcefully SHOUT to get them to hear what I'm saying. Of course, that comes with the tonal inflections and sounds that make you sound angry.. cause you're shouting.

Anyway, how do I naturally get a voice that projects deeper and farther?

I have a boss who has a really loud voice that's full of bass and warmth. You can hear him on a conference call when his door is shut. I'm not quite sure if he just naturally talks louder than most people, but he has a very charismatic voice and it really demands a lot of executive presence. This is what I'm aiming for.

To give you some context, he is around 6'5" and probably north of 225 pounds. I, on the other hand, am a slim 6'1" and 150 pounds. I'm sure this has something to do with it as well.

Do I need to take voice lessons (do those even exist)? Singing lessons? I also feel like I don't have a very attractive voice, so if there's something I can do about that, that'd be great as well.

posted by 6spd to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
When I was auditioning for plays in high school at first I couldn't be heard from the stage in most of the theatre and had to learn how to do something like this, by going out in the woods where I could just shout to my heart's content without bothering anyone - to experiment until I could just speak normally at a much louder volume.
posted by XMLicious at 9:51 AM on May 6, 2012

Response by poster: Might I add, I also have a very strong tendency to make my voice deeper than it really is, naturally. I do this to make it sound louder and project more. Whether this actually works or not, I'm not sure.
posted by 6spd at 9:51 AM on May 6, 2012


There are a lot of good voice books out there that you may find helpful. I like "The Second Circle," and ones by "Morton Cooper."

And just to throw this out there, the feeling of having a "strained" voice could possibly be a symptom of spasmodic dysphonia. (You could research that and see if it fits your experience.)

And yes, there are voice coaches aplenty. If you get a diagnosis of spasmodic dysphonia, I think most health plans will cover 6 or so visits to a speech therapist, which I personally found helpful.

Good luck, Jon
posted by Jon44 at 9:53 AM on May 6, 2012

The deeper voice works. I'm 5'3" and a small female and I can speak LOUDLY after 10 years teaching in NYC and some theater stuff before that.

You just have to practice. Speak lower and 'fuller' than you would ordinarily. Practice practice practice.
posted by bquarters at 10:00 AM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I took acting lessons in junior high and high school, and they taught us to speak from the diaphragm, which increases volume without losing tonality. There are exercises to teach you to do this. A speech therapist might know them, but you also might look into an acting class of some sort to help you.
posted by immlass at 10:02 AM on May 6, 2012

It definitely helps to go down rather than up in pitch when you're trying to talk louder. Ever notice how Madonna and James Earl Jones sound like they're trying less hard than Cyndi Lauper and Pee-Wee Herman, to get the same volume? That's an extreme illustration of this principle. Also, yes, talk from your stomach/chest, not your nose/throat.

Singing lessons definitely help, but be aware that you are working against your entire lifespan of habit here. I was projecting startlingly well in 5th grade (they made me take on bigger roles in plays just because you could hear me at the back of the auditorium without a microphone.) Don't expect improvement right away.

And make sure to work out and stuff - part of this is breath control and physical health and things that you wouldn't ordinarily think are part of talking. There are some vocal exercises that you can learn in advance of singing lessons/voice coaching that may be helpful (I picked a random set - there are MANY to choose from.)

(And lay off the caffeine, alcohol, and cold drinks for a few hours before you start needing to talk loud.)
posted by SMPA at 10:05 AM on May 6, 2012

Singing or voice lessons would help. The 'power' you're talking about it generated from the air moving over the vocal cords. This is controlled by your breathing, and good breath control will give you more of it. When you sound 'strained,' you are probably trying to generate power in your throat - this is not ideal, and will cause weird vocal inflections.

If you can, you want to try lifting your soft palate. I can't really describe how to do it, I just notice that I can do it and I make a rounder, richer sound. Don't be afraid to breathe with your belly - your navel should move in and out, not your shoulders going up and down.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:24 AM on May 6, 2012

Might I add, I also have a very strong tendency to make my voice deeper than it really is, naturally. I do this to make it sound louder and project more. Whether this actually works or not, I'm not sure.

I think this does work. I read a book on public speaking that said that most or many people speak "too high" (can't remember the term ... pitch?) and that they sound better and project more if they lower the pitch, octave, tone, whatever the term is.
posted by jayder at 10:35 AM on May 6, 2012

Best answer: Start doing theatrical vocal warmups!

One that I really like is aimed at developing what the guy who taught it to me called "masque voice." Think of your voice as the product of three big sources - your belly, your throat and your nose - and begin by warming each one up individually. It's about opening your mouth wide and spend a few big breaths on making a sound that focuses you on vibrating one of the three specific areas. I like to start from the belly and work my way up, then back down. It's a little tricky expressing the sounds that work best in text, but here's an attempt:

For the belly (your bass) - an "aaaaaah" sound. Open your mouth wide and try to push that vibration down as far into your thorax as you can. Picture the vibration rolling outward, making the world around you buzz along with your belly.

For the throat (your equalizer) - an "eeeeeeeeeeh" sound works best for me when moving the vibration up from my belly and into my throat. Working this area is about getting the vocal cords good and limber. Try and keep the vibration as focused in your throat as you can, feel it in your jaw and across your collarbone.

For the nose (your treble) - narrow up your sinuses and try to sound as nasal as possible. I like going "Neeeee! Noooo! Neeeeeu!" for this one. Focus the vibration as much into your skull and sinuses as you can - the trick is to try and picture your voice shooting up through the top of your head. It should sound sharp - it should hurt just a little bit to hear it.

Now, once you've run through this sequence a couple times (up, then down, up, then down, however many it takes you to feel like you've got all three areas nice and warm and limber) then last thing to do is put it all together - to combine all three areas into a rich, full masque voice. Open up all the baffles and feel the vibration in all three areas. It takes some practice but anyone can get there. Once you've got your masque vibrating right, finish it off by doing what my teacher called "painting the room" with your voice - switch between areas, picturing your bass rolling through the floor and your nose splashing it on the ceiling and your masque pushing it into every single empty space before you.

This works because, yes, deepening your voice makes it seem louder but it's not so much about being loud but being heard. A voice that's naught but deep can be rather muddy and hard to understand. For the results you're after, the shortest route is to get all three of your vocal production centers working in concert. Warm up your masque and you'll be reaching for a voice that's deep and clear and sharp. That is to say, a voice that people will have no choice but to heed.

(BONUS: In a setting where you need to boost your vocal power but there's no way to do the masque w/o sounding like a weirdo? Call an audible and do what we called "painting your mouth" - you'll definitely look like a weirdo doing this one, but it works - quickly and discreetly I might add. First, get a nice, deep hum going in your chest and throat. I like to picture it making my rib and neckbones buzz, as well as picturing my vocal chords vibrating any gunk off of them. Next, start running your tongue over every surface inside your mouth - your teeth, your palate, your inner lips, your tongue itself if you can roll it back. The idea is to get your tongue good and flexed while also opening up the throat)

Clearly, I like to dork out about this stuff. If none of the above works for you, holler at me and I'll overdescribe more warmups that might work.
posted by EatTheWeek at 11:00 AM on May 6, 2012 [14 favorites]

(did I say "thorax" in the belly one? Damn. I meant abdomen. Diaphragm. Belly. I shoulda stuck with "belly")
posted by EatTheWeek at 11:05 AM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Imagine you are talking to a person on the other side of the room, but without shouting. You're just going to talk to this person who's on the other side of the room. Most people will naturally project much better just by using this simple mental trick. (Hint: it also works well for woodwind musicians. Pretend you're playing to the person at the back of the auditorium. You don't want to play "louder" so much as you want to project the sound further.) It's sort of magical... but it actually does work for many people.
posted by rhartong at 11:32 AM on May 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

*"nooooo" should read "naaaaaay" above. Will now stop adding neurotic footnotes.
posted by EatTheWeek at 1:37 PM on May 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: EatTheWeek's advice is good -- your breath is the most important thing here. A few other thoughts...

When trying to project, it can help to think about moving your voice more to the front of your mouth (or, in other words, keeping the air moving all the way from your diaphragm to your lips). Some exercises that can help with this:
- Lip trills
- An old-hand Shakespearean actor showed me this one: run your tongue clockwise between your teeth and your lips until it's tired -- 5-8 times. Then do it counterclockwise. Then hold your tongue still with your thumb and forefinger and say a tongue-twister ("Peter Piper" works). Then shake it out.

A couple of other specific volume exercises that I was taught when I was having trouble projecting:
- Point while projecting. Use whatever warmup noise you like (I was told to use "You, You, You"), and spot a point all the way across the room. Move your whole hand and arm out as you vocalize, pointing at the spot. You can also try starting quiet, getting loud, and then getting quiet again, moving your pointing finger in sync with your voice -- so your hand starts close to you, then stretches all the way out when you're loudest, then comes back in close to you. Sounds weird but it works.
- Count in volume. Start at one (as quiet as you can) and go to ten (as loud as you can) and then back to one (as quiet as you can). Imagine that the numbers are a dial and you're turning the volume up and down on your voice as you count. For this one, make sure to spot a point all the way on the other side of the room.

I'm just going to also note that trying to deepen your voice may be the totally, totally, totally wrong thing to do for you. TOTALLY. Depending on your individual vocal range and your vocal technique, trying to deepen can actually make the volume problem worse. Because a deeper voice is often associated with authority, people with naturally lighter voices can often strain and strangle themselves in an attempt to reach a range that is just not right for them. I can't tell you where your voice should naturally fall (a voice teacher can help you with this), but I will say that if you feel like your voice is at all strained or caught in your throat while you're trying to sound deeper, then deeper is probably not right for you. You can also try paying attention to what happens to your voice after you've been doing vocal warmups for ten or twenty minutes. Does your voice sound a little lighter than usual after warming up? If so, it's probably sitting more appropriately in your natural range.

I encourage you to find a voice teacher -- just a couple of lessons can really, really help with something like this. If you let them know what you're looking for, they can give you exercises customized for you that you can then do at home. Good luck!
posted by ourobouros at 6:25 AM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I exercise, breathe deeply, and remember why I am happy to be alive. (These help!) Two other things I do are:

1. Take a deep breathe from my diaphragm (that means expand my belly and back to breathe). When I speak, get rid of all of the air in one or two sentences. Then I have to breathe again.

2. Looking at the person I'm talking to, but actually focus my voice as though I'm talking to someone at the other end of the room--or, if we are alone, talk to the wall behind the other person. That gets me closer to the right amount of projection.
posted by ramenopres at 6:06 PM on May 9, 2012

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