February 7, 2017

Voice workshop 05th Feb 2017, Bengaluru

Voice workshop was conducted for Bengaluru SHG members on 5th of Feb 2017. Thanks to all the members who came forward. It was a great session with a lot of exercises and practicals.

The workshop was more on awareness of your voice and several exercises that free you and open up the voice.


My session was organized with teachings and exercises acquired from two main sources:
1) Mr. Anmol Vellani: Anmol is an ex-president of IFA(India Foundation of Arts), one of the very renowned artists in Bengaluru. He conducts voice workshop almost twice in a year in Bengaluru. Next time it happens I shall inform all SHG members.
2) "Voice And The Actor" - Cicely Berry Obe. She is the Voice Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and world-famous voice teacher. You can find this book in Amazon and I have downloaded it in Kindle which i referred to in the session.

The texts below are not my own and i am just reproducing whatever i have read or learned and found it to be useful after my own practice.

Little theory

"Tensions and limitations always come from a lack of trust in yourself, either you communicate over-anxiously, or you want to convince an audience."

"All unnecessary tension is wasted energy. If you do not use enough energy you fail to reach your audience, but if you use too much you disperse it using too much breath, bursting out on consonants"

"The basic feeling of fear puts all the defence mechanism into action, and the result is tension, particularly in the upper part of the body, the neck and the shoulders"

"When pushing out from the throat, you cut out all the interesting undertones of your voice. Throat is one place, you should feel no effort"

Analogy of the voice and the violin
Violin - has a bow, quality of string and their tautness, and how well the box is made determines its sound
Human voice: breath hits the vocal chords, resonating areas in the body amplifies the sound. How well the resonating areas open up, the voice is much rooted and effortless.

Remember the key is "Unnecessary tension is wasted energy"

The warming up exercises here are:
1) for relaxation, breathing - Macro environment
2) for the increased muscularity of the lip and tongue - Micro environment

These exercises:
1) Free up your voice
2) Find more power(or more volume) with less effort
3) More flexibility and freedom in your voice

The thumb rule : Breathing in with the diaphragm expanding. Breathing out with the Diaphragm contracting. Diaphragm is an area below the rib cage and just above the stomach. You shall know a great deal below in some exercises. 

The vocal exercises you learn from this blog is of no use if you don't practice this way of diaphragm breathing.

Warming up Macro environment exercises:
1) Torso Turn - Turn your torso(upper part of body) right and left with the free movement of hands when turning

2) Full body stretch - do some body stretch exercises. A few of it we did the other day. Can't mention exact detail of it.

3) Body wrap and shoulder roll - wrap your body with the hands and roll the shoulders front clockwise and then anti-clockwise.

4) Elbow pointing - point the elbow in the front, breath in and then release the elbow by breathing out

5) Wings - Just make wings out of the elbow and rotate your body

6) Drop down: We got introduced to drop down a little later, but i mention it here as part of warm -up. To do the drop down, you need to drop yourself completely down while continuing breathing with the diaphragm expanding. Feel the breath reaching to your lower back, behind the rib cage.

7) Swinging your arms from one side to another. Standing up, put your arms as high as you can to one side and swing right down, letting your head and neck go completely, and swing up to the other side. The important thing is to feel as much weight as possible when you swing down, which impels the movement up to the other side, and to let your head and neck go completely lose. Next time breathe in as you take your hands up, and as you swing down let the breath out. If possible, add the vowels to come out when breathing out.

8) Relaxation on the floor with hissing sound.
Lie on the floor on your back with your buttocks flat. Feel the back as spread as possible. Pull up your knees up a little apart, aware of them pointing to the ceiling. The should help to get your back flat. Do not push it down by tensing, however, just get it as flat as you can. Try to be aware of your back spreading over the floor. Let the shoulders too spread, the shoulder joints easing out, and not cramped in.
Wrists free
Elbows free
Neck free, and lengthening out of the back

Now put the hands on the bottom of your rib cage, where the ribs bulge most, in fact, because that is where you will find most movement.

Breathe in through the nose, feeling, feeling the ribs opening out along the floor at the back. Sigh out through an open mouth and throat, pushing all the air out of the lungs, down to the last bit. Repeat this a few times (5 times lets say).
Now do these along with this exercise:
  • When taking out the breath, make a hissing sound. Hissssssss. Its like air leak. This ensures that you feel the breath is coming out and diaphragm contracting. Do this for 5 times.
  • When taking out the breath, read a poem and again experience the belly breathing technique.
(This is also present in chapter 6 of the book "Apna Hath Jagannath")

9) Finding firm, unforced tone by throwing vowels. Make a circle with the people. Now have a ball and hold it. Now you are going to throw this ball to someone else. As you release the ball, you should release sound by signing a vowel. Lets say "AY" or "OO", "EE" etc. This exercise makes your voice firm and clear. Infact, it is not that you need to do this exercise with group of people, imagine a ball and perform the action of throwing it.

Warming-up Micro environment exercises
The micro environment deals with your face muscles.

1) Lips: A) RUB B) TRILL
2) Tongue and mouth - rotate tongue inside
3) Face muscles and bones:
  • Roll cheek bones
  • Extend Jaw
  • Look at ceiling and bite an apple
4) Open mouth wide/ puff out cheeks

5) Pushing Adam's Apple down:
    To introduce Adam apple, we first uttered the words "ge" , "ge" , "ge"... when we do this you can notice a small cartilage just bulging out of our neck and moving slight up and down movement. When the Adam's apple is moving down, you can also observe the soft palate, area above in the mouth cavity which our tongue touches to utter some consonants like "n", "t",  "l", etc., is also released. So the point is that the throat feels more open and mouth cavity gets more breath to pass, contributing to a richer sound.

     This needs practice and cannot be observed in one day, However, everyone can easily get to this state. Now, with the Adam's apple down, you utter the words out of the poem or sing a song. Do you see any difference?

6) Releasing soft palate: A) voiceless yawn B) Swallow c) "KUH-GUH'; "NGUH-GUH' sound

7) Relax the larynx: Silent giggle

Experience the soft palate

Try gegege - with the palate and the tongue tensed at the back.
 gegege - with the palate and tongue dropped

Hear the difference in sound:

gegege - tense
gegege - relaxed
AH - dropped and open

Utilizing the exercises
Now keeping in mind the exercises that we did, here is a practice on some words. Stand upright, ensure breathing from the diaphragm, push adam's apple down and then repeat the words below in each row.

HOE               | |        OH
HIGH             | |        EYE
HEAT             | |        EAT
HILL              | |        ILL
HIS                | |         IS
HAT               | |         AT
HEEL            | |         EEL
HAD             | |         ADD
HAIL            | |         AIL
HEART        | |          ART
HARM         | |          ARM
HANDY      | |          ANDY
HEDGE       | |         EDGE
HEAR          | |        EAR

You can recite any poem as well.

As explained above, our body has several resonator points. The chest, the nasal cavity, oral cavity, head. Only when all of these are active you can feel the richness of your voice. To experience the resonators, try Kazoo buzz. "The kazoo is a musical instrument that adds a "buzzing" timbral quality to a player's voice when the player vocalizes into it" - Source: Wikipedia. To understand how its done, here you go:

Consonants and Vowels:
"This exercise gives awareness of movement of the jaw, the lips and tongue, and the soft palate, which are the muscles we use to make vowels and consonants. Whatever the text, the actor has to find the specific measure of the words he is using and relay with clarity and accuracy in whatever space he/she is in, so that they can be heard without strain. "

"A consonant is a sound in which the passage of air or sound is stopped or partially stopped by either the lips or parts of the tongue. For some consonants, the soft palate is involved and position of the jaw is always important."

"A vowel is different in that it always has a free passage of sound through the mouth. It does also include the correct placement of tongue, lips, freedom of jaw and the mobility of soft palate"

Try speaking these, using whatever you have learned above:

La            lah          lah         lah
lala          lala          lala        lala
lalalala    lalalala    lalalala   lalala

The rhythm should be precise and the movement accurate with the tongue-tip going right down each time.

Now similarly, a different sound using tongue and tip differently,

tah             tah          tah          tah
tetete         tetete       tetete      tah

dedede       dedede         dedede       dah
nenene       nenene       nenene        nah

Now back of tongue
kekeke     kekeke       kekeke      gegege   kah    gah

Now lips,
 pepepe        pepepe          pepepe     pah
bebebe         bebebe          bebebe     bah
mememe      mememe       mememe   mah

 Now, in the below exercise, press the tongue and lip muscles hard so you become aware of them.

AH     OO
AH     AW       OO  
AH     AW       OO     OW

 Feel the front of the tongue arching upwards.

EAR       AIR

In the workshop, we didn't do all the exercises above but i choose a few and with variations. Here, you will see a more detailed explanation. All of it is in Cecile Berry book,

Concluding the workshop
We concluded this workshop by singing the song "hum honge kamyab" and starting with a low volume and then making it go high but without putting much effort on our throat. I am not sure if everyone could do because this has to be in your subconscious mind. All of us have been ingrained with lots of habits since our childhood and one of which is pushing voice from the throat. To change this, you need to put efforts consciously everyday so that it becomes part of our subconscious.

My two cents
1) For those who couldn't attend, i understand reading this blog may not make you understand all the exercises. I am willing to conduct another session next month if i have people interested. I am ok to do this with even 1 person if he/she is interested.

2)  "Apna Hath Jagannath" Chapter 6 of this book is key. Every exercise starts from that, so don't miss this chapter.

3) Without a daily disciplined practice, don't expect any changes. If you practice some exercises for only 15 mins daily and for a month or two, you will start seeing some nice improvements.

4) Here are some exercises you can definitely do at home:
    a) The hiss sound while lying down
    b) Stand and keep your hands on diaphragm to observe its movement
    c) Release your soft palate, push adam's apple down without tensing it.
    d) Read newspaper everyday this way

That's all. Thanks for reading. I am open for any feedback or comments you have. Please direct to me in email or a personal message on my phone.

Thanks. Wish you good luck.


Satyendra Srivastava said...

Wow! Took me sometime to explore all the links, you have given.. They are really relevant and useful. This is most detailed write up on "speech warm up" ad related issues..
TISA must plan many more such workshops.. or sessions in NC..
That little voice box has so many secrets waiting to be explored - and we, pws, keep obsessing about just one aspect of it!

Thank you, Animesh! Keep at it...

Animesh said...

Thank you Sir.