Developing Vocal Projection

Vocal projection is important to all speakers, actors, and singers. The audience must be able to hear you. You must be capable of projecting your voice to the entire group. Sometimes you will have a microphone to help you; sometimes you will not. Yelling is not a good solution. Yelling is very hard on the vocal cords and you can end up becoming hoarse and develop nodules on the cords. Not good. Instead, you need to develop your voice such that you can increase the volume without damaging your voice. You can make your voice reach the back of the room with the right techniques.

In order for the sound to carry that far, you will use your entire body to push it out. The first thing you must pay attention to is your posture. You need to sit or stand erectly. Slumping over compresses your lungs and provides less air for you to provide the push necessary to reach the back rows.

Relax your shoulders and neck. You are going to create the maximum amount of resonance possible. Tightness will constrict the airflow. If you are singing, you are very likely to go sharp when you are tight and you will have trouble with breath control. So, shake it out before you get on stage. Yawn a couple of times to relax your larynx, mouth, neck, and throat.

In order to create a pleasing sound that will carry, you will need to create resonance in your 'facial mask'. This means you should feel a buzzing in your nose, cheek bones, lips, and forward part of your mouth, perhaps even your chin.

You will need a lot of air which means you must breathe deeply and then control the rate of air flow over your vocal cords with your diaphragm. This muscle sits across the bottom of your lungs and you will use it to push the air out of your lungs.

Exercising the various muscles involved in vocal projection will develop the strength and technique needed. Practice the following exercises at least 10 minutes a day to increase your ability to project or 'throw' your voice. There are some exercises for developing facial mask resonance and some for developing strength and control of the diaphragm. Including a daily workout of some sort that makes you breathe hard will increase your lung capacity which will give you more air to work with.

  1. Start with a warm-up that creates resonance in your facial mask. Singers can use the syllables "ma, mae, me, moe, moo" on a single pitch and work up and down the scale. Speakers can repeat the phrase "hmmmm, ma, mae, me, moe, moo". Humming and the letter 'm' both push the air into your nasal passages which causes vibration in the facial mask. You are striving to create a sound that combines sound development in both your head and chest with no strain in the throat area. Shaping the sound will be done with lip and tongue positions. The vocal chords should stay relaxed. If you feel yourself tightening up, yawn to release the tension.
  2. Next, use the syllable "ma" and crescendo (make the sound louder). Singers should do this with a single pitch and work their way up and down the scale, restarting on each new pitch. Speakers should speak the syllable, draw out the syllable, and increase the volume. Repeat 10 times. In both cases, create the increase in volume by pushing air out with your diaphragm. Don't change any other factor. Just push hard from below. Keep the upper chest, throat, and face relaxed. Any time you feel tightening in the upper part of your body, yawn. Shake it out. And pick up where you left off. Repeat this exercise using each of the vowels sounds (ma, mae, me, moe, moo).
  3. Pant like a dog for 30 seconds. Over time extend this exercise to a minute. This works your diaphragm, building strength and control. You can get light-headed doing this exercise. Stop and get your breath back before you give it another try.
  4. Now, use the syllable "ma", crescendo and then diminuendo (increase and then decrease the volume). Repeat 10 times. Try to make the increase and decrease in volume as even and smooth as possible. Singers should work this exercise up and down the scale as in exercise #2. Repeat this exercise using each of the vowels sounds (ma, mae, me, moe, moo).
  5. Count to 5 increasing the loudness with each number. Then count backwards and lower the volume with each number.
  6. Count to 10 with every odd number being soft and every even number being loud.

These simple exercises will develop your body such that it can create beautiful, resonant sound which will be heard all the way to the back of the auditorium. Vocal coaches can help you further develop your ability. Look for voice teachers at music stores, local theater production companies, high schools, and colleges.

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