Transcript

 
 

Vocal Production and Soft Palate Focus

 

 

In this episode, vocal production and soft palate focus

The content of our last few episodes has focused primarily on the non verbal communication of the body.

We’ve also talked a bit about the connection between our breath and our thought process as we begin to speak.

With that foundation behind us, we will now begin to discuss the physical aspects of verbally communicating thoughts.

To understand what’s happening when we speak let’s break the process down.

Vocal production comes from the use of your breath, your vocal cords, and resonant chambers like the sinuses and the chest cavity to produce and reverberate sound.

Once the sound is generated we employ the use of our articulators, the lips the teeth and the tongue, to modify the sound produced by the  breath and the vocal cords as it passes through the mouth and also up through the nose.

This episode will address the basics of strong vocal production, and our next episode will focus on taking that information and using it to explore the articulation process as well as how pitch and resonance impact your speaking voice and the experience of your listener.

There are a lot of voice exercises in these two, so you want to make sure you are in a place where you can practice without having to feel self conscious.

On the most basic level we produce sound by exhaling air through the larynx, an organ in the throat that contains two folds of mucous membrane atop muscle and ligament called vocal cords, which sit just behind the adam’s apple.

The folds are horizontal in the throat, joined in the front of the larynx and open in the back of the larynx.

You can think of them as forming something similar to a v shape if the v was laid flat.

When we exhale normally the diaphragm pushes air up through the larynx, which by the way is sometimes called the voice box, with the vocal cords open and relaxed, and then out through the mouth and nose.

When the vocal cords are open and relaxed like this they don't produce sound

Sound is produced when the muscles and ligaments in the vocal cords are engaged and contract to narrow the gap in the larynx.

Now when we exhale and pass air over these tensed folds it causes the mucous membrane that surrounds our vocal cords to vibrate.

That’s when we get sound.

Low sounds vibrate at slower more elastic movements of the cords, while higher pitched sounds are the result of tighter, faster vibrating cords.

The diaphragmatic breathing exercise from our first episode will be the first step in ensuring a supported voice.

It is essential that we first employ proper breath work to fuel and positively influence our vocal production.

A full and steady stream of air will allow you to use your voice fully with strength and confidence, as well as provide the foundation for successful breath-thought connection so that you can apply that effective voice to your content.

Once we have proper breath support, the goal will be to send the air and newly generated sound into our soft palate.

The soft palate is located in the back of the mouth in between the hard palate and the uvula.

It’s the soft fleshy area that begins when the rigid roof of your mouth ends.

When we yawn this part of the back of the mouth stretches tight as the air is expelled through the mouth.

You may not have thought of this before, but you have a few options when it come to where to direct your voice.

For speaking purposes a well placed voice will be focused into the soft palate.  

Let me demonstrate so that you can hear the difference between a few types of voice placement.

(Nasal placement) Here is a nasally placed voice.

(Throaty placement)Here is a voice from the throat.

(Soft Palate Placement) Here is a voice placed in the soft palate

A soft palate focus will result in a voice that can carry and be more clearly understood by the listener.

Directing the voice into the soft palate will also allow you to better increase or regulate your volume without having to put strain on your voice box in the process.

But how can you find soft palate focus?

We’ll find out after a quick break.

 

(Sponsor)

 


There are many vocal exercises that warm up the vocal cords and help with learning how to properly place the voice.

Let’s try one to begin to practice deliberate placement into the soft palate.

We’ll start with a basic hum, lips closed.

(demonstrate hum sound)

Now follow along and hum after I hum, paying close attention to where you feel vibration.

Ready? Together.

(Hum)

Again

(Hum)

We can feel the vibration of the sound against our lips, throughout our mouth, and up in the face as it passes through the sinuses.

Sometimes the impact of that that vibration extends out into the facial bones or expands up through the skull.

Now I want you to try and control your hum so that it focuses just in the front by your teeth. Let’s use a higher pitch.

Like this.

(Higher Pitch)Hum

Ready? Together.

(Hum)

Now move the vibration away from the lips and the teeth and direct it to the rear of your mouth, again trying to isolate the vibration in that area. Let’s use a lower pitch.

Like this.(Lower Pitch)Hum

Ready? Together.

(Hum)

Once you’ve got the hang of moving of that vibration of the hum from front to back let’s move to the next step.

Let the jaw drop gently and open the mouth.

Lift the back of the tongue up to close off the soft palate.

You can find this motion by making the “G” sound for Go, or Good.

Now you will keep the tongue tucked up in the soft palate and hold it there while you vocalize.

Again, You will generate sound, but with the back of the mouth closed off with your tongue.

Hum as before with air escaping out the nose, and keep your jaw dropped with the mouth open.

It will sound like this.

(Open Mouth Hum)

Okay. You try it.

Ready? Together

(Open Mouth Hum)

This open mouth hum can feel tricky to some people, so let’s be sure you have it.  

So, let’s lift the back of your tongue so that it is pressed up to the roof of the mouth in the back closing off the soft palate, while the tip of the tongue rests easy behind the front teeth.

You will produce sound and create a hum that vibrates against the tongue in the back of the mouth.

With an open mouth hum the sound is more like a “hung” sound. H U N G. rather that  a Hum sound, like H U M.

Now let’s add more to the Hung by turning it into a scale.

Like this.

"Hung Ung Ung Ung Ung."

Same scale but with hung. With a sustained ng sound.

Ready? Together.

And,

"Hung ung ung ung ung."

Let’s do that again. Ready? Together.

And,

"Hung ung ung ung ung."

Okay.

Now, we will do two sets of this humming scale.

The first will be as we just rehearsed.

"Hung ung ung ung ung."

The second set we will go up the scale with the back of the mouth closed and then come down the scale by dropping the back of our tongue producing and AH sound.

Like this.

"Hung ung-AH AH AH"

Right, did you hear Gah sound as I dropped my tongue to finish the scale.

That is exactly what you what to begin to achieve.  

The first set of humming scales will be a completely closed off soft palate with the back of the tongue and the second set of humming scales we will drop the back of the tongue on the way down the scale.

 

Like this.  

(Hung ung ung ung ung.   Hung ung GAH AH AH)

 

Now, do it with me. Ready? Together

 

And, (Hung ung ung ung ung.   Hung ung GAH AH AH)

 

Let’s do that again.

 

Ready? Together

 

And, (Hung ung ung ung ung.   Hung ung GAH AH AH)

 

Hopefully you are experiencing a sound that is focused in the soft palate, lifted out of the throat or, slipped down from a nasal placement, into a full soft palate focus that produces a full open sound.

If you are inclined to have the first Hung AH forward and then swallow back the other two AH AH’s as you finish the scale you need to focus on continuing to send that sound forward.

You can practice a variation of this exercise by simple making sound with the

HUNG the to AH  - like Hung AH.

 

Like this.

 

"Hung Ah Hung Ah Hung Ah"

 

This glottal “G” into the “Ah” will help you warm up your speaking voice and also remind you where the soft palate focused production resides.

You can elongate the first Hung in a sliding scale into a gently extended vibration before dropping the back of the mouth. Like this.

"Hung ah"

For speakers that speak with their voice stuck in their throats, or if you are simply a quiet speaker, or if you are particularly sound sensitive, the bold soft palate focus may sound loud to you in the beginning.

It is important to try to gauge the vocal production needed by what your audience is hearing and how the vocal quality is impacting their listening.  

For presentation or to connect with other people  in a more impactful manner, a shared voice, out of the throat and forward, is essential.

The soft palate focused voice will help you achieve a better heard speaking voice.

Remember in the episode about breath where there was mention that the organic, natural diaphragmatic placement of breath support typically occurs when we are passionate about something, or when we know the material well, or when there is an urgency involved in our communication?

You can also observe the soft palate placement of the voice naturally happening when our most genuine feelings are communicated with urgency outloud.

And of course, there is more to using your voice effectively than breath support and soft palate focus.

Articulation and Resonance are what craft a well produced sound into clear syllables that carry throughout the room.

To stay prepared, practice your soft palate humming exercise both sitting and standing.

We will build on what that hum can do for use next time on WTF do I do with my hands.

 

RECAP

 

Sound is produced when air is exhaled over engaged vocal cords.

Higher pitched sounds come from tighter thinner stretching of these cords, whereas lower pitched sounds are the result of more relaxed cords that vibrate at a slower rate.

Once sound has been produced you have a choice of where to direct it.

For interactions that require clarity it is best to direct the voice into the soft palate, the fleshy back of the roof of your mouth between the hard palate and the uvula.

Directing your voice to the soft palate will allow you to project your voice clearly and without strain on the voice box.

Practicing the open mouth humming exercise for a few minutes before an important interaction will allow you to effectively warm up your voice and alternating between an hmmmm and an hun GAH will help you to rediscover that soft palate focus.