Reading out loud is surprisingly hard on my voice, help?
May 15, 2018 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I expect to read out loud a fair amount in the coming years. It's surprisingly hard on my voice. I assume we've developed technique for speaking continuously for 15-60 minutes at a time. How do I learn that?

I only need to produce a conversational volume, and at least for the moment I don't need to do different voices or sound effects.
posted by meaty shoe puppet to Education (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Private voice lessons that actors would traditionally take to prepare for theatrical performance could be helpful. I think a vocal coach could help you find out if there is a specific way you are straining your voice, and then coach you to improve/reduce strain. It will also help build your breath support, which might be helpful as well.

I'm personally a big fan of Fitzmaurice voice work. If nothing else that could be a good starting point to search around for resources. Best of luck!
posted by sweetjane at 12:35 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Vocal warm ups, and lubrication- a glass of water can help. Taking breaks to have a sip works- although reading between the lines I guess this might be a reading to small children situation? Staying hydrated also helps voice work.

Practice makes perfect.

My qualifications are that I am a teacher, and use my voice quite a bit!
posted by freethefeet at 1:02 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I assume we've developed technique for speaking continuously for 15-60 minutes at a time. How do I learn that?

Reading bedtime stories for the kids is what did it for me. There was just a natural progression from short picture books to longer chapter books over the years, and the discomfort at the end of a session was never too bad.
posted by flabdablet at 2:53 AM on May 16, 2018

Seconding hydration. Even if you're not able to pause for sips of water during, drink a glass before and a glass after your reading. If I'm lecturing for more than an hour at a stretch, I'll find myself dehydrated afterward, as if I'd gone for a run. Treat it like exercise: warm-ups and hydration! You might also consider running a humidifier, depending on your climate, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol-containing / harsh mouthwashes and gargles.

A singer friend of mine swore by Singer's Saving Grace throat spray for those occasions the voice does get overworked.
posted by halation at 5:20 AM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I felt a lot of strain every time I gave a presentation, so I went to see a voice coach and got some good advice and massage/vocal exercise techniques to warm up. To be honest, I don't do the exercises often, but just understanding what I could do differently was helpful.

I also found the book The Sound of Your Voice by Dr. Carol Fleming very helpful! I bought it as an Audible audiobook.
posted by beyond_pink at 6:41 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes to water, before, after, and during if you can manage it. Even if you don't have to "do the voices," vary your vocal pitch a bit. If you have vocal fry, train yourself out of it now.

I'm not sure if you are talking about reading to small children, as suggested, but 15-60 minutes strikes me as quite long for storytime, even for pre-reader elementary kids.
posted by basalganglia at 6:46 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

One of the biggest issues can be breath support. Make sure you're taking full, deep breaths that allow your voice to carry naturally, rather than 'squeezing out' sound on a half-empty tank, so to speak.
posted by Ausamor at 8:20 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

The best way to learn is to find a coach for public speaking. Efficient voice control involves learning proper posture, breath support, and decoupling the production of sound from the movement of air. A voice coach will do more to help you with this than anything else. If you can keep your neck and shoulders relaxed and breathe "from the diaphragm" then you will find that your voice resonates more without having to push. Singer's note: this breathing technique is misnamed: breath support when exhaling (to sing or speak) actually comes from the controlled contraction of abdominal muscles.

The obvious signal that you're not breathing well is that your shoulders rise up when you inhale and drop as you exhale. Your belly should expand and your rib cage will lift a bit, but your shoulders should stay relaxed and mostly motionless. There are some singer tricks about imagining the "placement" of the voice (if you've seen SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, think Phoebe Dinsmore's round tones), but after fifteen years of voice lessons I'm not really sure that language is particularly helpful. The biggest thing is to make sure your neck muscles are relaxed and that your breath support is coming from the right place. If you feel like you're forcing your voice out, you are.
posted by fedward at 8:30 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Singer here. Nthing hydration, and it's far better if the water is room temperature, not cold (think of athletes taking warm baths before a game; muscles work a lot better when they're warm than when they're cold). Also nthing breath support, but breathing properly isn't necessarily intuitive; you want to breath down low rather than filling up your chest with air. That's something you should probably consult a vocal coach for.

Also I love these throat lozenges. They're super double-plus not cheap, but there's nothing better for soothing the throat in my opinion.
posted by holborne at 8:31 AM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yep, vocal coach. In seminary, in my preaching class, they had a vocal coach work with each of us, and we were all examined by an ENT as well. I learned what I'm doing that makes me get hoarse when I talk too much, and how to produce many more words at much greater length without hurting myself. (We also worked with a drama and movement coach, you have to learn how to not look like a weirdo when blessing people and not sound like a prat when making dramatic pronouncements aloud.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:16 AM on May 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

For a lot of people when they read aloud they tend to drop their head down and forward. This puts the weight of your had on your neck muscles and tends to lead to strain on your voice. Hold the book up. To fix your posture imagine you are holding an invisible trumpet up to your mouth. Drop your arms and you have great posture for breathing and speaking.

Breathing is also a common problem, but much, much harder to fix.
posted by kadia_a at 11:37 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Different perspective --
Can you deligate? Can you pick others from your class or audience to read, discuss or demonstrate your discussion points?

Can you break up the discussion with audio or visual tools? You could prerecord some of the lecture and play it while doing other tasks.

Can you adjust the lecture format, or are you bound by a strict set of outcomes (20 minute lecture, Q&A, test, class review)?

Can you drop some of the content and literally talk slower? Can you take more breaks within the lecture?

Listening and absorbing information are also factors. Is your audience responsible for retaining the main details? Long lectures do not necessarily equal better fact retention.

And yes, a bottle of water is your new best friend. If you start getting hourse -- stop talking. Have a backup plan (volunteers, please?) Sometimes you just have to cut the lesson short.
Allergy season sucks in its own sweet way.
posted by TrishaU at 5:00 PM on May 16, 2018

Response by poster: My fiancee weirdly likes it when I read out loud to her. Hence the 15-60 minute time span, which I agree would be some pretty epic bedtime stories. But it will be children someday, so might as well get some practice in.

Anyone want to recommend a voice coach in NYC?
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:20 PM on May 16, 2018

Nicola Griffith just posted recently about her experience in narrating her latest novel as an audiobook. Lots of chamomile tea was consumed.
posted by happyturtle at 8:12 AM on May 17, 2018

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