Vocal Image & Unhealthy Voice Behaviors

A good voice coach can diagnose your specific, unhealthy voice behaviors which undercut your voice endurance or your vocal image. Most of the examples on this page are a bit extreme. If your voice is sore, hoarse, and/or tired at the end of the day, OR if you don't like the way your voice sounds, chances are that you have muliple behaviors that could use correction.

A good voice coach will help you to replace your unhealthy voice behaviors with healthy voice behaviors so that speaking (and singing) are strain-free... so that your vocal image is vibrant, compelling, and a pleasure to listen to.

Unhealthy behaviors include:

Geoffrey Rush as voice coach and speech therapist Lionel Logue works with Colin Firth as King George VI

In the 2010 film, The King’s Speech, Geoffrey Rush as voice coach Lionel Logue works with Colin Firth as King George VI of England to overcome George’s stuttering problem.

Forcing your voice

Forcing, or exerting excessive force on the larynx (voice box) will cause hoarseness, loss of voice, and could result in serious problems such as polyps or nodules.

In the audio clip, Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in Elia Kazan’s 1951 classic film A Streetcar Named Desire visibly forces his voice to suggest his character’s drunken desperation and animalistic nature.

Voice coaching can teach you:

  • To support your speaking, singing, or yelling with a strong column of air pushed out by your abdominal muscles—so you can achieve loudness for public speaking and stage work without straining and exerting force on the larynx.

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Audio Clip:Forcing

Brando: Forcing the Voice

Tightening your throat

When you habitually tighten your throat while speaking, singing, or yelling you can cause vocal tiredness, hoarseness, loss of voice. A tight throat also presents a poor vocal image—it sounds uptight and/or strained—as well. Many people who tighten their throats force their voices as well.

The audio clip features the vocal wizardry of the late Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc was able to put on vocal “bad habits” which would help characterize his creations for the Warner Brothers “Looney Tunes” and “Merrie Melodies.” In this example, Marvin Martian speaks through a perpetually tight throat. Perhaps the mouthless Martian could only eek out speech by means of his throat...

Voice coaching can teach you:

  • To keep your throat relaxed in speaking, singing, or yelling—so you can achieve a rich, “open” quality
  • To support your voice properly (see forcing, above)

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Audio Clip:Tight Throat

Marvin Martian: Tightening the Throat

Limiting your jaw

When you limit the movement of your jaw when speaking or singing you present a poor vocal image, and in many cases, look silly as well. Your voice will lack vibrancy and you may be difficult to understand. Oftentimes, people “compensate” for the lack of vibrancy in the voice by exerting pressure from the larynx (see forcing, above).

In the audio clip, Humphrey Bogart barely moved his jaw as he delivered this classic line as “hard boiled” detective Philip Marlowe in Howard Hawks’ 1943 classic, The Big Sleep. In this instance, the lack of jaw movement only enhances the character's cynicism.

Voice coaching can teach you:

  • To move your jaw generously as you speak or sing—so that your voice is literally louder and richer

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Audio Clip: Limited Jaw

Humphrey Bogart: Limited Jaw Movement

Speaking too low

When you speak in an artificially low pitch range you might think that your voice sounds “authoritative” and “mature.” In reality the image you're projecting is of a dull, strained, and sometimes “gravelly” sounding voice. Maintaining an artificially low pitch puts a strain on the larynx and could cause nodules.

In the audio clip, we don’t want to pick on Martha Stewart, but she is a well-known personality with a very familiar voice. She tends to speak in a pitch range that is much too low for her.

Note the “gravelly” sound in her voice, especially as the clip begins. At one point, the gravelly sound disappears--and her pitch is higher.

Voice coaching can teach you:

  • To speak in the pitch range which is appropriate for your voice, i.e., the pitch range which is physiologically friendly to your voice—so that your voice will sound vibrant, alive, and compelling.

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Audio Clip: Speaking too Low

Martha Stewart: Speaking at a pitch that is too low

More benefits of vocal image consulting:

In addition to coaching healthy voice use, a good voice coach also helps people who want to:

  • Overcome lisps or other mispronounced sounds (like l, r, ch, or sh)
  • Modify an accent
  • Use a less rapid rate of speech

Mispronounced sounds, unwanted accents, or an excessive rate of speech can interfere with career aspirations for acting, singing, broadcasting, public relations, sales and marketing, and more. It is entirely possible to overcome mispronounced sounds, modify an accent or slow down rapid speech rate in adulthood, as many of Ms. Scott’s former clients have done.

For more information, see the resources page

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King George VI Making a Speech

The real-life King George VI making a speech with Lionel Logue behind him.