Lately I’ve been doing a lot of readings, as well as teaching classes and workshops. The next few weeks are full of these opportunities.
As well, I’ll be sharing the work of other writers in the typical puppet shows and programs that library programmers do during the summer months.
I want to be “in good voice” for it all. As usual, though, I feel a sore throat coming on. Sometimes I think this is my body’s way of helping get over stage fright, by giving me something to take my mind off my nerves!
Here are my top three tips for getting in voice:
1. Hydrate! That’s the number one vocal rule. I always try to remember to bring a water bottle to a reading or event where I know I’ll be using my voice. (I’m sometimes affected by changes in water in different parts of the country, so it’s great to be able to bring my own water in a refillable bottle.)
2. Gargle. Sounds odd, but it works for me. Before I leave the house, I gargle with a non-alcoholic mouthwash mixed with a little water, or even just salt and water. On days when I’m facing more than one show, I’ve taken just enough mixture in a small reusable bottle to gargle once between shows. It helps kill most germs and relieves the strain on my voice as well.
3. Relax! Maybe that should be the number one rule. There are lots of ways to relax, but I’ve found the most useful one is a simple breathing exercise. I breathe out and keep pushing out the breath for several seconds longer than I normally would, until it feels like all the breath is gone. Then I take in a deep breath. I do this only once (so I don’t hyperventilate) and then breathe normally. This is so simple, I can do it backstage or even in the car on the way to an event. It works even better if I can bend over at the waist to breathe out, and then gently straighten up as I breathe in (like in the washroom after I gargle!) I move slowly and gently, though, so I don’t strain my body or back.
Also, to relax the throat and shoulder muscles I gently shifting my body a little as I start reading. Good posture helps. I’ve never had good posture, so I try to remember to stand straight and give my breath a clear path to reach my throat. (Is that what “breathing room” really means?)
I’ve also found some great tips and resources on the Internet. For example, it’s not a good idea to clear your throat too much, or use throat lozenges that may have menthol in them. Here are just a few of the resources I found useful:
10 Tips for a Powerful Voice (Entrepreneur.com)
Sound Advice (Shelagh Davies, speech pathologist)
I know my writer friends and colleagues have faced this problem as many times as I have, so please leave a comment and share your top tips for getting in voice!