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Developing Your Speaking Voice As A Musician

As a successful solo musician, public speaking is inevitable. In the beginning you’ll MC your recitals, introduce yourself on audition videos, or speak between pieces while on stage to create a more engaging narrative. Over time you may be asked to give interviews for radio, TV, or print media with video links – and you’ll need to create Vlogs and videos to promote yourself online.

Thus, the more successful you are as a musician, the more important the quality of your speaking voice becomes.

Develop a confident, expressive voice to support your public persona

If you’re a singer, a pleasant public speaking voice comes more naturally for you. If, however, you're prone to performance anxiety, get nervous when speaking in front of others, or you have a softer, quieter voice, it’s imperative that you begin developing a strong and confident public voice.

We wish we could say that the quality of your playing is all that matters, the reality is that your future success is directly related to your public persona – and that persona involves your speaking voice.

The key is to develop a confident voice - one that projects across the audience but doesn’t overwhelm audio equipment, that is colorful and melodious to the ears while retaining an expressive quality that is unique to you and your personality. Your public speaking voice must prevail over concert fatigue and the rigors of worldwide travel. It should sound positive and compelling – no matter how you’re feeling inside.

Start with the breath (and a smile)

Breathing is essential for both speaking and singing because they rely on a steady stream of air to activate the vocal cords. Weak or shallow breaths create a weak and hollow voice. This is why singers work tirelessly on developing deep, diaphragmatic breathing techniques that enrich vocal tone and projection.

Simple breathing exercises are a great place to start, and we recommend the following five simple breathwork exercises from the Institute of Public Speaking, and don’t forget to smile, which “…is proven to change your state of mind and besides – you look and feel better when you do so!”

Take voice lessons and/or a public speaking course

As a musician, you may be more drawn to voice lessons than public speaking lessons, and that’s fine. The better you sing, the better you’ll speak, which is why so many professional public and motivational speakers take voice lessons of some kind. The tenets you learn there will optimize your speaking voice – creating a stronger, healthier version of it.

Voice classes (whether music or speech-based) enhance your ability to:

  • Project
  • Express yourself naturally and effectively
  • To vocally overcome nerves, anxiety or a bad day
  • Enunciate and articulate so you’re clearly understood
  • Pace yourself so you don’t speak too fast or too slow
  • Develop the most pleasant qualities of your natural voice

Additionally, you’ll learn what NOT to do when it comes to your voice, including tips for protecting the voice from overuse – especially when a hectic concert and travel schedule causes fatigue.

Avoid activities that harm or strain the voice

Here are some of the things that tire, strain or injure your voice:

  • Smoking, recreational drugs and excessive drinking. Smoking wreaks havoc on the voice and compromises physical well-being, as does recreational drug use and excessive drinking. If you’re a smoker, speak with your healthcare provider about programs, support groups and techniques to help you quit.
  • Yelling and shouting. Try to avoid shouting at all costs, including events or activities that take place in loud environments that force you to speak/shout to be heard. If you love live sporting events or nights out at clubs/bars – let friends and family know you’ll be staying mum as much as possible to avoid vocal strain.
  • Neglecting your body. Good nutrition and exercise, adequate rest, hydration, a healthy immune system – all are vital to a healthy speaking voice. By taking care of your body, you’ll protect your voice as well.

Your voice and your face are public relations agents

Developing a confident, pleasant, and public speaking voice positively impacts your professional musician’s persona. We’ll leave you with these words from Toastmasters International:

Your voice and your face are your public relations agents. More than any other factors, they serve to establish an image of you in the minds of others. Your face, body, and speech are the interpreters of your mind. They reveal your character – the real you – as nothing else can.

Violins on the wall