The Art of Interpretation

Bringing words to life can be a daunting task!

20190704_140329The art of Interpretation is one of the essential disciplines speakers should attempt to master. Bringing words to life can be a daunting task for speakers and coaches. Some may ask, what is the art of Interpretation? Is it acting, well, not exactly! It is a multi-faceted dynamic style of speaking which demands the mastery of communicating your concepts, thoughts, and ideas by carefully combing words, tone, and body language. Some of the many other related fundamental requirements include breath control, good diction, vocal variety, rhythm, resonance, and phrasing. Mastery of each of these disciplines can completely change your audience Interpretation of the spoken word.

All speakers cannot fully acquire these requirements in a few short months. Certain concepts are more difficult to grasp than others immediately. It takes long and serious study and the development of best practices. Good speaking begins with proper breathing. There are two points to remember regarding the use of breath in speaking. (1) The speaker should inhale each breath quickly and deeply. (2) Its emission must be gradual and perfectly controlled to sustain, expand, or diminish their tone. The basis of breath control is good posture. Perfect posture makes inhaling easy. An active diaphragm and strong rib muscles provide the necessary perfection of controlling emission.

Speakers should also be aware that it is not the quantity of breath taken in, it is the managed column of air expelled, and that makes for an excellent speaking voice. Some additional physical requirements to produce a resonant tone are the loosening of the neck, jaw, throat, lips and tongue muscles and the regular recurrence of stressed and unstressed words, which creates rhythm in your speech patterns. It is those speech patterns, which add that distinctive quality to your tone and voice.

Tone and body language play an essential role in the art of Interpretation. While there are those who will say that Interpretation and acting are indistinguishable, there are notable differences. The speakers, who excel at this art, are those whose focus is on delivering a speech and not an act. They use verbal punctuation, correct pronunciation, and expression to connect with their audience while discovering the many joys and benefits of interpretation.

Speakers, challenge yourself to explore the use of neutral and weak vowels to heighten the effect of your tone.  Use body language to reinforce your punch lines by adding a punch look. Use silence to send your message. Be aware that sometimes your words may convey one meaning to your audiences while your tone and body language may be screaming something completely different.  And remember speakers,  what your audience decide to think, feel, or do after they have heard your speech, may depend on how well you have mastered the art of Interpretation.

Breathing Exercises to Improve Volume

10 exercises that will help you develop proper breathing

 

20181208_090917Correct, natural breathing is the foundation of a good voice.  Unless you have had voice lessons, athletic training or play an instrument, most likely your breathing is shallow, misdirected or may be lacking control. Failure to breathe properly is a leading cause of poor speaking volume. Watch an infant lying asleep. The entire body is relaxed and the abdominal muscles work with every breath. The muscular movement is almost entirely below the ribs. How do you breathe? You can judge the correctness of your own breathing by watching your shoulders. If they are raised when you inhale, you are missing the deep, abdominal breathing effect that is natural and correct.

Here are 10 exercises that will help you develop proper breathing and improve your vocal volume.

  1. Exhale all air from your lungs. Continue pushing it out even after you feel all your air is expelled. When no more air can be forced out of your lungs you will automatically inhale. Inhale deeply. Observe how the air rushes in. Only a deep, full inhalation will satisfy your hunger for air. Repeat this process frequently, but not more than three or four times at each repetition.

  2. Exhale comfortably. Then take a moderately filling breath, not crowding your capacity. Hold it for 15 seconds, then exhale quietly. Repeat this process frequently for several days. Then gradually increase your holding time to 20 seconds, 30 seconds, and 45 seconds. Eventually, you will be able to hold your breath for a full minute. This exercise will help you to develop breath control by strengthening your diaphragm and related muscles.

  3. Standing erect, inhale taking five quick short gasps with your mouth open. You will notice that you cannot gasp like this without using your diaphragm. Five gasps should fill your lungs to capacity, then exhale in five quick gasps or puffs. Next, practice gasping and puffing through your nose with your mouth closed.

  4. Laugh heartily with a big “Ha Ha Ha” Carry this through to complete exhalation, then inhale deeply and quickly.

  5. Close your lips and laugh soundless through your nose. You will exercise your diaphragm whether you breathe through your mouth or your nose, but laughing silently through your nose will promote better control.

  6. Lie on your back. Place a book on your diaphragm. Try to relax each part of your body, then concentrate on the movement of your diaphragm. As you inhale, the book rises. As you exhale, flatten your abdomen as much as you can. Repeat this exercise until you automatically expand and contract your waist as you breathe.

  7. Stand, then bend over as if to touch your toes, but just hang limply. Remain in this position for a full minute, then straighten and repeat the exercise. Your breath is expelled naturally when you bend at the waist.

  8. Standing, place your hands on your hips, lean your head back, look at the ceiling, and yawn. Your waist will expand as your diaphragm flattens and draws in air. Then, as you exhale, produce the sound, ah, holding it as long as you can without discomfort.

  9. Standing, take a deep breath. As you exhale, count aloud from one to five on a single breath. Repeat the exercise, counting from one to 10. Do not strain. Allow the air to flow easily.

  10. Read a paragraph aloud that contains a mixture of short and long sentences. Read each sentence on a single breath, if possible, inhaling before the sentence, then controlling your exhalation as you read. Do not think that you must fill your lungs before speaking. Your brain controls the amount of air needed with each breath. Keep your breathing easy and comfortable.

The preceding exercises will help you increase breathing strength and technique, however, when you speak, keep your breathing quiet and natural so that the audience won’t notice it. Breathe easily at natural pauses and if you’re using a microphone, be especially careful that the microphone does not pick up your breathing. Those distracting sounds will be transmitted to your audience.

Methods for Voice Relaxation

Your voice will sound richer and more colorful.

20181203_143234.jpgVoice relaxation is essential for good speaking, especially when doing vocal exercises. Many people “talk in their throat,” meaning they hold their vocal tones too far back.  When your vocal tones are too far back in your throat, your jaw muscles tense up and your voice sounds harsh and squeezed. You cannot produce a fine, resonant, pleasing tone when your throat muscles are pinched, tense, or strained.

Tight muscles combined with inadequate breath support causes disagreeable tones. A tone that sounds thin, nasal, high-pitched, and lacking in resonance. Nervousness also causes throat tightness, which is a common occurrence for inexperienced public speakers. If tightness is present during ordinary conversation, it is usually because of carelessness or if the speaker is not aware of how to relax their voice.

Here is a six-step method for relaxing your voice. If you do these simple exercises several times daily for a few minutes each time, you will soon notice a difference. Your voice will sound richer and more colorful.

  1. While standing or sitting comfortably, place your hands lightly on your throat muscles and speaks in a normal tone. Note the tenseness of the throat muscles and the tightness of your jaw.
  1. Yawn. Open your mouth wide. Finish the yawn with an easy “ho-hum,” prolonging the “hum” for several seconds. Drop your jaw as far as it will go without stress. Waggle the jaw from side to side and continue humming with your lips closed and jaw loose.
  1. Repeat the yawning and humming. Notice how your throat muscles have loosened and become relaxed see how comfortable your throat feels with the strain removed.
  1. To retain a feeling of ease and looseness, say the following words: hang, harm, lane, main, lone, loom. Open your mouth wide, dropping your jaw loosely. Exaggerate your lip and jaw movements. When your throat feels tired, stop and yawn again.
  1. Lightly knead the throat muscles with your fingers to eliminate tightness.
  1. Slowly repeat the following sounds: nah, nay, nee, no, noo. Drop your jaw and relax your throat. Prolong the sounds, giving each equal length.

Practice these methods of voice relaxation and you will develop a tone that is richer and more colorful.

Your Speaking Voice

The primary cause of negative voice quality is tension

20181208_090953On a recent trip to Pismo Beach, I was asked by a colleague how can I improve my speaking voice? Are there exercises I should be doing to improve my voice and where should I begin? Those questions made me refer to some of my notes from a training session which addressed those questions. That Toastmasters training session was entitled – “Your Speaking Voice.”

Breath Produces Voice:  Deep, controlled breathing is necessary for good Vocal production. Your voice is supported by a column of air, the depth, and steadiness of which determines your vocal quality. Think of the diaphragm as the foundation on which this air column rests and by which it is controlled as it comes upward to meet the vocal organs. When you breathe in, your abdominal wall expands and the dome-shaped diaphragm flattens. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and the abdominal wall contracts. The relaxed diaphragm rises, pushing air out of the lungs. The exhaled air provides the controlled production of speech sounds.

As the air pushes upward against the vocal cords, it causes them to momentarily separate, allowing the air to pass between them. The rush of air and the elasticity of the vocal cords then pulls them back together. The production of these vibrations is called phonation. Consider how sound is produced at the mouth of an inflated balloon. Vocal sound is produced in a similar manner. Air pressure comes up through the throat, mouth, and nose, causing a continuous pressure change in the air surrounding the speaker. These pressure changes are called sound waves. They are transmitted to the ear of the listener and the voice is heard.

Production of Voice Quality: Think for a moment about musical woodwind and brass instruments. Their sound comes from the musician’s breath and lip vibrations or the vibrations of a reed in the mouthpiece. Because the chambers of these instruments differ in size and shape, their tone qualities are distinctive. Different parts of the original tone are increased, or resonated, and other parts are reduced. Human resonance is the increasing or modifying of sounds by the throat, nose, and mouth. The sound waves created by the vibration of the vocal cords travel into the upper part of the throat, then to the mouth and, at times, into the nose. As these waves bounce around within these structures, they are reinforced and amplified. The differences in people’s voices arise from the size of the vocal cords and the effects that the resonators (throat, mouth, nasal passages) have on the vocal tone. To a certain extent, a speaker can change the size, shape, and surface tensions of the pharynx and the oral cavity; he or she may also use, partly use, or close off the nasal cavities.

Improving Your Voice: Before trying to improve your voice, you must first understand what kind of vice you have. Do you whisper or boom. Does your voice convey life, color, and melody, or do your sentences come out flat, wooden, and without variety? The primary cause of negative voice quality is tension – emotional or physical tension – so controlling tension is critical to improving your voice quality. The key to developing effective voice quality is being aware of the different roles you play during a typical day: parent, employee, boss, friend, lover, consumer, salesperson. Each of these roles reflects different personality traits and requires different voice images. Listen to how your voice sounds in your various roles as you relate to others. Consider what you are doing with your voice. How is your mouth moving? How are you using your lips? To improve your voice, you must become aware of stress, muscle tension, and relaxation. The most important recommendation for developing voice quality is to relax your throat while you speak. Think in terms of the impression you would like to convey. Is it friendliness, confidence, and a desire to communicate? If you release the tension from your voice, a pleasing tone will likely result. Remember that the emotions and vocal colorings you express with your voice can arouse similar feelings in others.

The Power of Tongue Twisters

IMG_6959In my last article on tongue twisters, I mentioned how much they can help with your speaking development.  Tongue twisters are sentences that are hard to pronounce when you speak really fast. The reason they are hard to pronounce is that they have words that have similar sounds. Here are a few I found on the internet for you to try as you begin to develop your own. Try the following tongue twisters: Start slowly and develop speed as you progress. They will also help develop the muscles we use when speaking.

  1. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!
  2. I wish to wish the wish you wish to wish, but if you wish the wish the witch wishes, I won’t wish the wish you wish to wish.
  3. Bubble bobble, bubble bobble, bubble bobble
  4. A sailor went to sea to see, what he could see. And all he could see Was sea, sea, sea.
  5. Sally sells sea shells by the seashore. But if Sally sells sea shells by the sea shore then where are the seashells Sally sells?
  6. If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?
  7. Wayne went to Wales to watch walruses.
  8. Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair, FuzzyWuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy
  9. How much wood could a wood chopper chop, if a wood chopper could chop wood?
  10. Penny’s pretty pink piggy bank
  11. Jolly juggling jesters jauntily juggled jingling jacks.
  12. I thought a thought. But the thought I thought wasn’t the thought
    I thought I thought.
  13. Double bubble gum bubbles double
  14. Lovely Laura loves lucky Larry.
  15. A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk,
    but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.
  16. Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
    Spread it thick, say it quick!
    Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
    Spread it thicker, say it quicker!
    Yellow butter, purple jelly, red jam, black bread.
    Don’t eat with your mouth full!
  17. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    if Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    wheres the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
  18. Whether the weather be fine
    or whether the weather be not.
    Whether the weather be cold
    or whether the weather be hot.
    We’ll weather the weather
    whether we like it or not.
  19. How many yaks could a yak pack – pack if a yak pack could pack yaks?
  20. Don’t trouble – trouble, until trouble troubles you! If you trouble – trouble, triple trouble troubles you!

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Your words and body language must be in sync with your message.

 

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I AND I – NOT I

When we speak, we send two kinds of messages to our audiences. While your voice is transmitting a verbal message, a vast amount of information is visually conveyed by our appearance, manner and physical behavior  – why because our actions often speak louder than our words.

Research shows that more than half of all human communication takes place nonverbally. When we speak, listeners base their judgment of us and our message on what they saw, heard and felt. Our audiences often remember what we were doing when we said what we were saying.  In public speaking, your body can be another very effective tool for adding emphasis and clarity to your words.  It can also be your most powerful instrument for convincing an audience of your sincerity, earnestness, and enthusiasm.

Your physical actions must agree with your verbal message.  If your actions are distracting your body language can defeat your words. Whether the purpose of your presentation is to persuade, inform, entertain, motivate or inspire, your body and the personality you project must be appropriate, not only to what you say but also, to how you say what you said. Your words and body language must be in sync with your message for it to resonate with your audience.

If you want to become an effective Public Speaker, you must understand how your body speaks. While you can’t stop sending your audiences nonverbal messages, you can learn to manage and control the negative and to accentuate the positives.  With practice, you can learn how to make your body speak as eloquently as your words once you understand your body language and your actions speak louder than your words.

 “Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.”                               ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

The Power of Tongue Twisters

Tongue twisters can be fun!

HipstamaticPhoto-481376334.599027 (1)A tongue twister is a sequence of words, sounds, phrases or sentences that can be difficult to articulate clearly, especially when repeated quickly and often. One example of the power of tongue twisters and how they can be used to correct speech impediments was featured in the movie – The King’s Speech.

In that movie, tongue twisters played an import role in helping Prince Albert who became King George VI in real life overcome, his stammering. One of the tongue twisters used in his therapy sessions was the following, “She sifted seven thick-stalked thistles through a strong thick sieve.

” The original King’s tongue twister:  “I have a sieve full of sifted thistles and a sieve full of unsifted thistles because I am a thistle sifter.”  Tongue twisters can be fun. Some focus on the letters A-Z, sounds or alphabet. The following are a few of my favorites.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

    If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

            Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

************

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck

If a woodchuck could chuck wood?

       He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,

        and chuck as much wood, as a woodchuck would

if a woodchuck could chuck wood

************

There was a fisherman named Fisher

who fished for some fish in a fissure.

        Till a fish with a grin, pulled the fisherman in.

Now they’re fishing the fissure for Fisher.

***********

How much ground would a groundhog hog,

if a groundhog could hog ground?

              A groundhog would hog all the ground he could hog,

if a groundhog could hog ground.

                                                                           ************

If you are having problems with articulation, or stammering, try tongue twisters.  Make them a part of your warm up exercises even when you are preparing to speak.

How to Develop Vocal Strength

Proper Breathing is the Foundation of a Healthy Voice

Cork2In speaking, breath control is of supreme importance. Therefore, all speakers should give some time and thought to the development of their natural speaking voice. In order to find your natural voice, you will first have to correct your breathing. To secure control of your breath, the following physical conditions must be maintained.

  1. Correct Posture
  2. Free (loose) neck, throat and shoulder muscles
  3. Correct inhalation of breath
  4. Controlled emission of breath

Begin by taking deep breaths – In through the nostrils, out through the mouth. Proper breathing is the foundation for a healthy voice and control over nervous energy that can make your voice quiver.

One of the best exercises to strengthen your voice is the cork exercise. All you need is the cork from a bottle of wine. Start by placing the cork lengthways in your mouth. Read a passage from a book. Read a  poem or try speaking with the cork in your mouth. The idea is to get the speaker to begin strengthening the muscles we all use daily when speaking. Breathe naturally as you speak. 

To take this exercise to the next level, cut a groove into the side of the cork as shown above. Bite into the cork, to let the groove fit into your upper front teeth. Repeat the same readings you did earlier, however, this time you are opening up even more. The objective is to achieve as much clarity as possible as you speak with the cork lodged in your teeth. I would highly recommend you do these exercises in private.

Do these exercises for two to three minutes per day. After a month for sure you are going to see a marked improvement in your diction, enunciation, and resonance. Your voice is your instrument.  To keep it turned, every now and again, put a cork in it.

Stand and Deliver – Move with a Purpose

Movement keeps your audience engaged.

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If as much as 60 percent of our communication is nonverbal, and our entire body communicates more to our audience than the spoken word, it is important that we include in our preparation how we stand and how we move when we are on stage or the platform.

Movement attracts and keeps your audience engaged. Your entire body communicates its own visual message to your audience. Your posture and how you move or even sit, communicate to your audience whether you are confident, alert or if you are in command of the platform. Sitting and speaking will be addressed in another article. This article is about how to stand and deliver and moving with or for a purpose.

Some speakers prefer to stand and deliver while others may choose to use the stage for different purposes. When asked the question, which one works better, my answer is always the same. It depends on the type of speech you are delivering.  When you are standing behind a lectern or podium, obviously stand and deliver would be ab better choice, however when you are on the platform or stage, a combination of both, stand and deliver and moving with a purpose – for a purpose produces better results.

Before you begin your presentation, it is important to decide how you are going to use the speaking area. Becoming familiar with your speaking area to decide how it can be used to your advantage is very important. Your movement should always be in sync with the content of your speech. Some speakers even position parts of their speech at different locations on stage.  At times they would stand and deliver. Move to take their audience to a different time and place. Move to make a connection with the audience as they make a point, or demonstrate a particular action or activity in their speech.

How ever you plan to move on stage takes practice and preparation.  Whether you choose to stand and deliver or move with a purpose or for a purpose, remember why you are on the platform. You are there to connect with your audience. You are there to deliver a message. You are there as the messenger. The stage is yours for a few minutes. You can own it, you can work it or you can use it to your advantage. Whatever you do, never forget to make your movement part of your preparation. If you do, your audience will surely remember what you and your body said, long after you have finished delivering your story or message.