Learn how to project your voice clearly and powerfully with these simple techniques.
Voice projection, the ability to make one’s voice clear and easily audible, is a skill not possessed by everyone. When an individual excels at projecting their voice, they are said to have good voice projection. This means they can produce a loud and clear voice without straining. Natural voice projection is evident in animals, birds, and newborn human babies. However, as humans grow, their voices evolve due to various factors like environmental influences, family background, and personal development. Some individuals develop excellent voice projection, while others end up with less-than-ideal vocal abilities. In the world of music, voice projection is known by various terms like “throw,” “ring,” and “power.” For a singer, lacking this quality can compromise their ability to perform above the orchestra, regardless of their musical skills. Thus, good voice projection is essential for achieving a high level of artistic excellence.
How to project our voice
Comparing the human vocal apparatus to a musical string instrument like a guitar can help us understand the process. In a guitar, plucking the strings sets them into vibration, and the sound is amplified by the instrument’s body. Similarly, in our vocal apparatus, the twin vocal cords are like the guitar strings, and they vibrate when we exhale air over them, producing a feeble and unremarkable sound. What makes our voice rich and loud is the air column in our throat, nose, mouth, and sinuses, which imparts resonance. This component, resonance, is the key to good voice projection.
Unlike man-made musical instruments, the human vocal tract is highly versatile in resonance due to its muscular walls. This versatility allows the vocal tract to change its length, diameter, and shape, resulting in different resonance characteristics and powerful voice projection.
Five major organs contribute to controlling resonance: lips, teeth, tongue, palate, and lower jaw. We will explore each of these in detail.
The role of vowels in voice projection
Before delving into specific techniques for efficient voice projection, it’s essential to understand that voice projection relies heavily on vowels. Consonants are relatively weak in comparison. For example, in Malayalam, there are five vowels: “Aa,” “Ee,” “A,” “O,” and “Oo.” The following paragraphs will discuss voice projection techniques with reference to these vowels.
Lips: Lips form the outermost part of our resonating chamber and can widen or lengthen the vocal tract. For producing powerful anterior vowels like “Ee” and “A,” the oral aperture needs to extend well laterally. Experiment with producing these vowels with minimal lip movement and then with pronounced lip movement to observe the difference in loudness and clarity of the voice. For back vowels like “O” and “Oo,” the lips should be as rounded as possible. Once again, try producing these vowels with relaxed lips and then with well-rounded lips to notice how rounding enhances the power and loudness of these low-pitched sounds. The central vowel “Aa” is not significantly affected by lip positioning. It’s advisable to practice these exercises in front of a large mirror for better self-assessment.
Teeth: Keeping the teeth clenched can make the voice sound dull and powerless. Opening the mouth with a distance approximately equal to the breadth of a little finger between the upper and lower teeth can significantly improve voice projection. To develop this technique, sitting in front of a mirror and practicing with your fingers to maintain the appropriate gap between the teeth is recommended.
Tongue: Tongue is probably the most important voice projection organ. The loudness of a person’s voice is heavily dependent on the position of the tip of the tongue in the oral cavity. This position of the tongue during phonation is known as the tongue carriage. Ideal tongue carriage involves in keeping the tongue tip two to three mm behind the lower central teeth. Watch your tongue carriage on a mirror, while producing an “Aa” sound. Repeat the exercise with tongue held little back, then little in front and also with tongue raised as well as lowered in the oral cavity. You can appreciate that the most powerful voice is produced with ideal tongue carriage only.
Palate: Soft palate is attached to the back end of the hard palate. Soft palate plays a major role in deciding the nasality of the voice as well as its projection. For ideal voice projection, the gap between the tongue and the palate should be wide and not narrow. Listen to the voice of people who snore heavily. They generally have a closed “hot potato” voice. This is because of the fact that the tongue base is elevated inside the oral cavity and thus reducing the gap between the palate and the tongue. While practicing the ideal lip, teeth and tongue position for good voice projection is relatively easy, palate is not that easily put into the ideal voice projection position. There are many techniques for attaining this. The most commonly used technique is the half yawning technique. What you need to do is to start a yawn, but before completing it, at the height of yawning produce the vowel and listen to the voice. If did properly the voice will sound really powerful. Another simple technique will be to inhale deeply through the mouth with a piece of mint inside the mouth, and produce the voice at the height of inspiration. If practiced regularly, automatically the palate will maintain the ideal position for good voice projection.
Lower jaw: Among the skull bones only the lower jaw is mobile. In rest position and quiet voicing the lower jaw is slightly behind the upper jaw. But during high pitch voice production, this relation should be reversed. The lower jaw should be in front of the upper jaw. Produce voice in both positions and listen to the voice quality. Jutting the lower jaw forward is not easy if one is not used to it. But constant practice will make it work. Orthodontic appliances like brace and surgical procedures on the lower jaw can hamper this mechanism partially.
From the above discussion, it can be understood that many organs are involved in the mechanism of voice amplification. This is heavily dependent on various muscles of the face, jaw, tongue and palate. Muscles of the back of the neck also play an important role of counterbalancing these muscles. Hence any physical or mental strain resulting in stiffness of these muscles should be treated adequately. Above all, maintaining good vocal health by strictly avoiding voice abuse and misuse, and practicing good vocal hygiene will help in developing good voice projection.