We, a bunch of stammers, did a voice workshop today. The objective of the workshop is to understand how voice works and what are the ways to modulate your voice to sound it as you want. This is very less related to stammering and mainly used in theaters. Instead of focusing on external factors like standing straight, looking people in the eye and others, the workshop is mainly engineers inner mechanism of speaking in order to make your speech more connected with inner self.
Let me take you through the events. After introducing ourselves once, we played a game which was Zip Zap Zoom. The objective of the game is to make one more aware and listening to what you are receiving and then passing it on. Zip should be passed to person right to you, Zap to left and Zoom to anyone other than people adjacent to you. After a while, you start to act without any external attachment like what should I do next etc. In other words, it becomes an involuntary act and comes natural to one.
After some physical warm-up, We performed few very basic activities. It commenced with simple walking, taking turns when needed and slowly, adding variations to it. After a minute of neutral walking, we started to walk as if someone is pulling our head forward. We were also asked to notice what change happens to our thoughts as well as our walks. One very important point to notice is that we were to exaggerate this as much as we can. This was lot fun as well as very informing about our own self. After forward, We were to do as if our head is pulled backwards. Again, It was to exaggerate. Then sideways, then as if someone is pulling you from you abdomen. It went on till it felt like we are pulling very heavy weight with our legs. If you are having doubt why we are doing this in a voice workshop, bear with me for some time and you will get to know.
Noticing our thoughts as well as walks, we understood the relation one has with his posture. Why some musicians stand in a particular instance when they are singing a particular note. When one walks with his shoulder hunched, the voice changes and he becomes a different person altogether. It also affects the very mood of the person. All this happens naturally to him. This also suggests that one is born with many capabilities and later conditioned to behave/speak in a particular manner. The mind ceases to know what it can do and limits itself you only what it thinks it can do. I read a very similar story when I was a kid. There was an eagle egg which fell into the chicken farm. It was hatched by a hen and taken care by a hen only. One day, when older, It saw an eagle soaring in the sky. It asks it’s mother, when can I fly like that? The hen tells the kid that you can never fly like that. You are a hen not an eagle. Same has been done to us through many years of conditioning. We have forgotten what we can do and needs to be reminded.
There was one more variation added to it in the next step. We started speaking gibberish while walking. So now, we are walking in a very exaggerated manner, adding variations to our walk consciously(pacing, slowing down, taking big step, turning abruptly etc.) and speaking gibberish. This was followed by pairing up and then speaking gibberish to each other. Slowly the pattern started to emerge. Now we could see what is actually happening. After speaking gibberish to your partner for sometime, a story started to form between two people. Sometimes one is imitating other, sometimes they are fighting, sometime walking as a friend. We started to form a relationship with our partner and acting accordingly. Mind that we are still speaking gibberish but we have made friends. Now we are communicating without language. Which is the whole point of language. Now, we started adding words to the communication rather than speaking gibberish. This was an eye opening scenario. It was like words were coming to you without thinking. When the relationship is formed already and each participant knows who he is, the thoughts and words began to flow automatically. One doesn’t need to make what situation he is in and it comes to him naturally. Probably this is how language was developed.
This is what we usually do but in the reverse order. We always try to make meaning of a situation and then act on what we think. We don’t want to be in the natural situation. That is when we lose our voice and communication. In other words, we are not ourselves. This makes all the difference.
Now It was time for the tea break. A physically exhausting session was waiting for us at the other end.
After tea break, we returned to do some voice exercises which helps in controlling how you produce sound. We all speak but rarely anyone knows how sound is produced and can it be optimized in. We stood in a circle and started with the relaxation technique. It was like rolling your body starting from your head and touching the earth with your hands. Knees should be bent and there should not be any tension in any part of the body. Rolling should start from you neck not your back. It like each roll would add pressure to one part of your spine starting from the neck. Its a difficult process to explain with words. Anyway, when you are completely bent, then you will start standing up. Here all the pressure should be applied from your legs and not your back. It should be noted that it’s a push process not a pull. You are not pulling your body up but pushing the earth down and with that, you are standing up. Its kind of like performing dead-lifts if you know gym terms. In all this process, your breathing should be natural. You will inhale when you bend and exhale when you get up. One inhale and you are completely bent. One exhale and you are standing now.
Adding variations. When one is bent down and relaxed. He is supposed to slowly go into baby position. Lying down sideways and kneed bent will your chest. Absolutely no tension in the body. Relaxed head, chest, shoulders and legs and breathe. Now slowly start to lie down on your back and breathe. Now baby position to other side and finally lying down on your back and breathing. After this, we started producing and understanding how sounds are emeged. We raised our legs about 5 degree. All the pressure should be on the center of gravity of the body which lies somewhere below our belly button, All the other body parts are relaxed. Raised legs and we were to produce ‘ccccc’ while pressure is same on the COG. Inhale breath and produce sound while exhaling. Slowly we changed the sound to ‘zzzzz’. Inhale, produce ‘ccccc’ and slowly turn it into ‘zzzzz’ and come back to ‘ccccc’. All this while pressure is maintained on your COG with all other muscle relaxed.
We came to another position with which our whole body should be opened up. It’s not same for everybody. Whatever is comfortable for someone. Now, we produced vowel sounds with slowly passing breath to different parts of the mouth. Then the sound ‘mmmmm’. While producing ‘mmmmm’ we slowly opened our lips and and word ‘M’ was produced. Jawa were dropped and relaxed the whole time. This was the way to produce a sound.
After this, we learned about the muscles involved in speaking. How a more beautiful sound is produced. How some people have such deep voice and the way anyone can do that when trained. We understood how diaphragm is involved in producing sound and we need to use our pelvic floor in order to have a deep and projecting voice. One thing to say is that we all have very weak pelvic base. In order to live our life the way we live, we have lost the connection which is needed from our throat to our pelvic floor (Pelvic floor is the muscle between anus and genitals). We also performed various techniques which helps in strengthening the pelvic floor. [It goes without saying that this can’t be done in a single day.] Most important of them was SUZUKI Method. Suzuki is a collection of various techniques and exercised to improve all the muscle which are involved in speaking. It can’t be explained in one paragraph hence I am skipping it.
This was all that happened on the first day of the workshop. It was conducted by very experienced voice and theater trainer Akshay Gandhi. It is not advised to perform the above exercises just by reading this article. Please research about this or preferably train under a professional. I am sure I have missed many exercises as one can’t remember everything. In spite of that, I have tried my best to put what I learnt.