I was thinking I would be logical and deliver this series of blogs alphabetically but it actually turns out that my creative brain won’t beat to the drum of alphabetical order!
Here I am, jumping in at the letter M! In one to one coaching I am always finding that people’s opinion of their own voices is actually a bit of a barrier when it comes to working on their voice.
Your voice is a deeply personal vessel, that centres you and connects you to the world around you. Maybe someone has made comment on you voice previously or you feel you struggle to be heard? Maybe you really don’t like the sound of your own voice? Maybe some people’s voices are better then others.
This last idea is a common thought. A good speaking voice is a natural talent. Some people are just talented. It makes me think of the Iceberg analogy of only seeing what’s above the surface….
I don’t believe that a strong speaking voice is a birth right belonging to a lucky and articulate few. Like anybody can sing, anybody can find authenticity, connectivity and confidence in their voice.
However the first step on the journey to finding your voice is most likely a case of changing how you view your voice. Dr Carol Dweck, psychologist, coined the terms ‘growth’ mindset and ‘fixed’ mindset. It looks like this:
This principle is obviously applicable to more then just your relationship to your voice, it’s to do with your outlook on yourself and the world. Growth Mindset is simple, accessible and possible for all. We just have to put it in to practice.
Breath is the driving force four body. We take 17,000-30,000 breaths in a day. That’s 7,363,289 breaths per year. However, how often does our breath end up taking for granted?
Your breath is a magical force. It gets your heart going, provides a platform for speech, it can work you up or it can calm you down.
I would like to invite you to take some time to get to know your breath.
Sit down comfortably somewhere where you feel warm and safe and close your eyes. Now breath in through your nose and as you breath in take the time to follow the journey of that breath, where you feel it is traveling to in the body. Keeping you jaw soft, let the breath out again. Repeat this for a few cycles.
On the next in breath imagine that the breath is travelling all the way through your body as you breath in. It comes in through the nose and travels all the way down to your feet. It travels through the head and the face. The arms and the shoulders. The chest, the spine, the stomach. In and across the hips and down through the thighs, the knees, the lower legs until it reaches the feet. Repeat this a few times.
Now on the next out breath imagine that the breath is travelling up from the feet and out of the body. Take your time to enjoy the feeling of air passing all the way through each and every part of the body. Repeat this a few times.
Now take the time to observe what happens between the in breath and the out breath. Does it stop and start or does it flow continuously. Try not to force yourself to do anything, just allow your breath cycle to come to your natural rhythm.
Now bring the awareness back to the way your body feels, any sound you can here in and out of the room. and write down three words that describe how you feel.
Try this exercise for 5 days and let me know what your words were? Did they change. How did you feel?
This is the first of a series of short blogs that will introduce folk to new ideas/ exercises about their voice.
Good articulation needs strength, flexibility and calm! The fluffing of words or tripping over our sentences when we nervous are a good sign to your articulation needing improvement.
The Soft palette is like the unseen articulator as it is right at the back of your mouth. The palette is the roof of your mouth. Its in divided into two areas. The hard palette which has almost no give and the soft palette which is a fleshy bit of tissue. Improving flexibility in the soft palette will not only improve articulations but it will also help with colour and cadence in the voice. Opera Singers have incredibly flexible soft palettes and Beat boxers can achieve amazing sounds through clicks and tongue placement using their soft palette
If you make a ‘k’ sound you can feel the back of your tongue raising to meet the roof of you mouth, but what you may not feel is that your soft palette is also coming down to form this closure the ‘k’ sound is made when this join comes apart like a tiny explosion. In fact ‘k’ is a sound belonging to a group on consonants called plosives.
So if you repeat a ‘k’ sound your are working the two articulators -your tongue and your soft palette. ‘g’ is made in exactly the same way but this time in stead of the sound being carried out solely on air. The vocal folds come engaged and their is now sound with it.
AN exciting article from TED on how we tell our personal narrative…
We’ve all created our own personal histories, marked by highs and lows, that we share with the world — and we can shape them to live with more meaning and purpose. We are all storytellers — all engaged, as the anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson puts it, in an “act of creation” of the “composition of our…
We consume books at a fast rate in our house and the titles below are well and truly tested on our two children. The eldest is an avid reader and has always liked sitting with book or youngest happy if there is nothing else to do, but would rather explore turning pages as suppose to looking at pictures. The books that made the list, had both of them gripped and are the ones that often get requested to be read that don’t make us Adults feel bored.
Me – Emma Dodd
This is a beautiful book and I love the simple designs and the simple words. Emma Dodd has an amazing ability to create depth and feelings that communicate the love between parent and child. It’s the perfect gift for new parents who are feeling overwhelmed by the never ending demands of a small person
Rosie’s Walk – Pat Hutchins
Words are few and tell a simple story, the pictures however tell something quite different. first published in 1968 and filled with yellow, oranges and browns, this book tells us that good illustration can make a book timeless
Each Peach Pear Plum – Janet & Alan Ahlberg
A simple story in verse that has lots go things to hunt for in the pictures. With all the different characters from famous fairy tales and nurses rhymes featured, this is a great book for triggering other stories and songs.
Oi Frog! -Kes Gray & Jim Field
This book is a great one for silly voices and having fun with language. As a voice teacher,it appeals in the same way that Fox in Socks does for older children.
The Lion Inside -Rachel Bright & Jim Field
My parents gave this book to out youngest for Christmas, I love the message behind bandits great for talking about being brave and scared.
Grrrrrr – Rob Biddulph
Really nice for expelling competition and playing fair. Also for underlining that success isn’t everything.
Oh No, George – Chris Haughton
George is a dog who keeps getting into trouble. A great read for consequences of action and perfect for you little one who loves throwing their food on the floor!
What the Ladybird Heard – Julia Donaldson & Lydia Monks
This book has glitter, farm yard animals and a brilliant story! That ticks about every small child box, right?
The new year came, and the new year went and all the reflections and plans you made fizzle out as you realise you’re cash strapped, cold and cranky. You’re past the shortest day of the year but daylight is still a fairly elusive time. The quantity of cheese you have consumed over the christmas period is now turning on you and making you realise that having a baked brie every other day was probably not your best decision. As for this new year’s resolutions they are gone, gone, gone as you motivation slips away from you.
I keep it simple this year: Don’t get down because it’s January. The 11,033 days that I have had treading on this earth, have been filled with words of how awful January is. Whether its January, June, Hot, Cold… So this year, i opted to not be to hard on January. It’s not January’s fault, it comes when it comes. But here I am, not even half way through the month, having a serious chat with January.
Me: Now, you listen to me January. I was really willing to give it a go this year. Make it a really special month.
January: Oh, how lovely.
Me: It should be, shouldn’t it? But no. Its cold and dark and windy and wet.
January: Well yes. But thats not my fault. There are plenty of places in the world, where it is January but its actually hot.
Me: Yes, but everyone is so grumpy.
January: Again not my fault. You all had a great time in December living it large, life of Reilly, but now you have to get on with normality and its a comedown. I didn’t tell you to live ostentatiously at christmas. Did I?
Me: Well –
January: No. I didn’t. I am just a month at the beginning of the year. You’d think that would be great, but no one wants to know. Unless your Kiwi. Do you know how exhausting it was last year when everyone was blaming me for taking David Bowie and Alan Rickman? No, you never stopped to think did you? It was all about how awful January has been to you. Well maybe its time you start thinking about how awful you’ve been to January.
Following on from this enlightening conversation, I think that maybe we all suffer from feeling out of control at this time of year, this is then heightened by failing at new years resolutions. I wonder if we reviewed our perspectives on new beginnings we could find that we are more the capable of making changes at any point. It doesn’t always have to be the big stuff. Its also fascinating the amount of resolutions that come out of not doing something. Dry January, not eating certain things, not flobbing out as much and not looking like we do. This is hard. Are we actually making it hard on ourselves. What if instead of saying ‘I’m NOT going to hate January’, I said ‘I’m going to write down three positive things that I have done everyday in January’. What if I let go of predetermine cycles of change that were not picked by me, I talk back some power and said I;m going to change today. I know January would like that. How about you?
Three Positives for today:
Teaching my first Home Education Class.
Watching a brilliant film, Song of the Sea, with my eldest and seeing her moved by beautiful story telling.
Realising that change can occur at any time, in any place in any one. We just have to be open to that idea.
I love books. They are unbelievably comforting and adorn my house in little piles. I find them incredibly hard to part with. The wisdom and escapism that books contain is a beautiful thing. I love reading lists of books too. Which ones have I read? Which ones have I yet to read? What should I read next?
I thought I’d share some books that I found really useful and enjoyable to read.
Presence by Patsy Rodenberg
This book is like three years of actor training whittled down into book form and made accessible for non performers. Its a brilliant insight in how to be in the moment more and is full of practical exercises to ‘perform’ at your best in an incredibly sincere and authentic way.
Finding your Element – Ken Robinson
Robinson is an educational guru ad talks about how we all have something where we are in are element. Using stories of how different people discovered their element, Robinson shows how we can have our eureka moment ourselves
Games for Actors and Non-Actors – Augustus Boal
This is like an arsenal of different warms ups and games to try out that liberate all, performer or not. In three sections, Boal outlines his method of Theatre of the Opressed, provides a wealth of different exercises and discusses problems that can arise in Forum theatre. This book should in every drama practitioners library. Anyone looking for group cohesion and release of expression could benefit from giving this book a read.
Finding your Voice – Barbara Houseman
This practical and easy to use book talks about the mechanics that go into speaking and the how you can galvanise your body to have a strong, rich and healthy voice. This book provides the foundation for a lot of the exercises that I now include in my Voice practice
Show your Work – Austin Kleon
Austin Kleon is an artist that works with words. His book Steal Like an Artist is also an excellent read. Show Your Work, talks about how to network effectively and efficiently in the 21st century. He describes it as networking for people who don’t really like networking. This book really made me think about how to develop a good web presence and how to share my process with an online community.
Wreck this Journal -Keri Smith
Smith should probably be proclaimed at Art wizard for the wonderful journalling books that she has created. They are a brilliant series but I love Wreck This Journal the most as it reminds us not to be to precious about what we create and that failure yields unexpected results.
Shakespeare Words: A glossary and language companion – Ben and David Crystal
This book will be tucked under my arm and is very well thumbed when I’m working on any of the bards works. Its a brilliant dictionary of language from when you can’t tell you greek god reference from your elbow.
The Playful Parent – Julia Deering
This behemoth of of a book is a plethora of ideas in playing with you kids. From Shampooing solutions to ideas for indoor play. Its a very practical tool kit and I think if parenting was to come with a manual, then this is the one I’d pick.
What Non-Fiction books would you put on your list? What should I read next?
Felicity Goodman is a Voice Teacher, Playologist and Story Teller based in Manchester. To find out more about her work, please visit www.felicitygoodman.co.uk
Play is a significant part of who we are as people. In fact, it is through play that humans are wired to learn. I love playing. I could play all day. I love games and songs and stories and dancing and make believe. Make believe is the best part of everything ever. But why is pretending to be a golden unicorn with ambitions to be the World Salsa Champion deemed as less then being a Doctor or a Engineer or a Fiscal Officer? I can see the significance of these roles in our society and I am not disputing their worth. They are in the hierarchy of professions though. They use our brains, in a way that we can quantify with money. Play is nothing in the face of medicine, technologies and finances. How have we got here? There are plenty of great thinkers who thought and still think today that play is an essential part of our make up. People at the top of the game in STEM subjects are saying that play is important part of innovation and discovery. However even if I was the best person at pretending to be a golden unicorn with ambitions to be a World Salsa Champion and I mean the BEST, I still wouldn’t be taken serious because make believe and play? Well that’s just for kids!
Kenneth R. Ginsberg writes on behalf of the American Academy of Paediatrics, outlining some of the ways that Play is important:-
“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children or adult caregivers. As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges.”
(Kenneth R. Ginsberg, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182)
Most of us have a good understanding of the importance of play in our children’s lives. We look at the opportunities that we can present them with. We hear the generations above us groan about kids being kept indoors, playing endlessly at video games and watching rubbish on iPads while at the same time managing to do Dancing on Monday, Choir on Tuesday, Art on Wednesday, Spanish on Thursday, Football on a Friday night and then Mindful-tots on a Saturday morning. So our kids are either doing too much or not enough??
Ginsberg talks about both of these things in his article and tells us that Parents are being fed ‘carefully marketed messages’ that children need every chance to be their best through parents buying a variety of toys and materials and making sure their children go to a range of activitities. Parents are not only being told that this is good for their child, they are also being told that this is the definition of a good parent.
It’s hard though, to work out what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘good’ and ‘bad’. After all we are all new to it. We’ve not done it before. We’re sleep deprived. It seems to be working for others and don’t get me wrong some children do completely thrive in a bustling week. These classes are structured and adult led. There is normally no element of free play. The kind where kids play shop, or mermaids. Or have an afternoon tea party with their teddies or get to be the fastest footballer on the planet or the bravest explorer.
Free play that is child driven is essential to the development of negotiation skills and an opportunity for children to discover what they are interested in. For many adults, play is something done by those mini adults that walk around copying every gesture, phrase or grimace that we do. Play seems hard. We know all the rules. We have all the answers. We have pressures on our time to keep the ship running smoothly. We have an idea and we suggest it to our children and then what?
We all just have to be careful about why we are setting up activities for our children. What might we be missing out on by keeping everyone busy and on the move. Our children need it yes, but we, the parents need it too. We need time to learn about our children’s likes and dislikes, we need to learn how to socialise and share and negotiate. We need time to cool off and unwind. Our children need to see us do this so that they do it too. Finding our love and comfort in free play is as necessary for our children to witness, as our children doing it in the first place. Our kids won’t see the point in it if we don’t.
So playing? Playing is more than stuff for kids. We need to let our children play freely and get on board with them. Let them decide the rules. If you’re not sure what that entirely means, I want to take you back in time to the late 80s in the Goodman household. There we all are: Big sister (7), big brother (5) and I (3) in the fun loving hands of our favourite babysitter -Wendy. We are wearing a rainbow of shell suits. We’d just finished watching the Never Ending Story on BBC 2.
Big Sister: Let's play a game.
Big Brother: Yeah, let's play a game.
Me: I know a game.
Big Sister: Really?
Big Brother: Bet you don't.
Me: I do.
Big Brother: No, you don't.
Me: Yes, I do.
Big Brother: No.
Big Sister: What is it then?
Big Sister: What's the rules?
Me: Whoever jumps the highest wins.
Big Brother and Big Sister exchange a look.
Big Brother: Fine. I'll go first.
He jumps. Big Sister jumps. I climb on the sofa.
Big Sister: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? YOU CHEATER!!
Me: I never said that I couldn't jump off something.
Big Brother: Fine then, I will jump off this chair. And be higher then you.
Big Sister: What? Why not?
Me: THOSE AREN'T THE RULES.
Big Sister: What? Those are different rules for you then us.
Big Brother: Well that's not fair.
Me: (With as much 3 year old sass as I can muster) Well, its MY game. So it's MY rules.
Big Sister: Then I'm not playing.
Big Brother and Big Sister leave
As irritating as this must have been for my older siblings (they have never let me live this one down), that is what child led play would look like. Let your child invent new stories where there is the same line about a big fat pig running down your trousers in every other sentence. In fact, encourage it. Get them to tell you how things work. Enjoy them sticking 23 dinosaur stickers in exactly the same position, or pour out the glue so the paper disappears. This is them playing. Hang out with them and accept what they are offering. The world that will open up for you both will be a truly magical one. One where a golden unicorn gets to Salsa.
Felicity Goodman in a Voice Teacher, Playologist and Storyteller in Manchester, U.K. To find out more about her work please visit felicitygoodman.co.uk
Sound is a wonderful thing. It fills me up, takes me away, gets my body moving and connects me to others. The spoken voice has the same effect and I love the act of sharing sound. It could stories about your Granny, songs for you children, sounds as you try to loosen your voice and set it free. It could be the first dance at your wedding, the way that you mother said your name when you were caught doing something you shouldn’t or the way that a whole room will start dancing to Whigfield’s Saturday Night.
It could be on the words from your midwife saying ‘it’s a girl!’ or the sound your child makes when saying hello, like a sample it sticks in your head on loop. Sound can be the turn of the key in a lock, in an egnition, in a front door. It could be the smashing of glass, the churning of the washing machine. It could be sssshhs and aaaahhss and ohs and ows and wows. Sound whether I hear it or make it, I feel its vibrations deep in my stomach warming up my body and trickling through me like an outstanding chocolate soufflé.
Sound can swamp us, divide us and conquer us. It can leave us alone and aching for noise to filter through our ears. It can build us up, reach out to love ones and strangers and alert others to dangers. It can be comfort. The sound of the oven timer, bread being lifted out of the oven and turned out onto a cooling rack.
Sound can be the voice of someone telling others what is right and wrong, who is right or wrong or where is right is wrong. Sound can be the sound of water lapping on the side of a rubber dingy as you make your way to a new life. Sound can be the shuffle of papers as you wait nervously for someone to tell you you are allowed to stay. It can be the call to arms, the call to hate, the call of love and propaganda and bird song and waterfalls and the purr of you cat. It can be the slam on your brakes, letting that pheasant quickly escape. Sound can be, can be, can be….
The sounds we make and hear have specific memories attached to them. Some of my clients and quite often surprised by the emotional challenges that voice work brings to the surface. I’m not a counsellor, but I am a willing listener and an open ear. I have to be to be a good teacher. Whether you come in the door, looking for accent reduction, better breath support or increased authenticity in the way you speak, a safe and open environment will greet you. Something which is vital for the vulnerability that is often exposed in the lessons.
Today is a new day and we don’t know what sounds await in the future. If you write, keep writing. If you sing, keep singing. Keep dancing, creating and sharing. It can feel so unbelievably futile but it is where we can be vulnerable and share our thoughts. Keep practicing vulnerability and trust that the sounds that come with that as just as valuable and beautiful as anything else.
Felicity is a Voice Teacher, Playologist and Story Teller based in South Manchester, UK. To find out more about her work, please visit http://www.felicitygoodman.co.uk