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.

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.

Your Eye Contact

Your eyes can also be your Control Device

20180621_232252When we speak, we involve our listeners with our eyes to make our presentation more direct, personal and conversational.  One sure way to break that communication bond is by failing to look at your audience.  No matter how large your audience may be, each listener wants to feel a sense of personal connection with you the speaker. With your eye contact, you can amplify your voice and the conversation exponentially.

In some cultures, the act of looking someone directly in the eyes is a symbol of sincerity. In several studies, it was noted that speakers who established eye contact were judged to be more truthful, honest and credible than those who did not.  By looking at your listeners as individuals, you can convince them that you are interested in them and that you care whether or not they accept your message. This technique of making eye contact with every audience member as you speak of your is often referred to as the art speaking one too many. With practice, it can be mastered.

Eye contact can also help overcome nervousness. When you look at your audience and realize most are interested in your message, that instant feedback can decrease nervous tension if any exist. Not only do your eyes send vital messages while you are speaking, they also receive feedback to let you know how your audience is reacting to your message. By watching your audience’s reactions, you can make immediate adjustments to your presentation.  Your eyes can also be your  “Control Device”

After your voice, your eyes are the most powerful tool when communicating. Use them to amplify your message. Engage your audience with eye contact. With time and practice, you will develop the ability to read your audience reaction as you speak and develop the ability to tailor your words accordingly. Develop your eye contact and will become a better communicator and a more effective Public Speaker.

 

 

 

 

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.