A Better Speaking Voice in One Easy (Alexander) Lesson

Your Brain on Vocal Fryby Karen Krueger I've been reading a lot lately about "vocal fry," a speaking mannerism that some people find extremely annoying and others defend as an innovative trend among influential young women. Vocal fry is a gravelly or creaky sound to the voice that is most clearly heard at the ends of words and phrases. Some people call it "the NPR voice." Others trace it to Kim Kardashian.

People who find vocal fry to be unpleasant and irritating often say it makes the speaker sound frivolous. Others reportedly consider it a mark of authority. Some say that young women cannot expect to be taken seriously in the workplace if they speak this way, and others respond that this is anti-feminist.

I do not propose to join this debate over aesthetics, politics and meaning. However, I would like to weigh in on one thread of the argument. Those who defend their own vocal fry and other trendy vocal mannerisms often say that "it's just the way I talk, and I can't change it." Inevitably, speaking coaches, vocal therapists and other such professionals will chime in with "yes you can, if you take lessons in how to speak properly, and by the way, if you don't, you'll damage your voice in the long run."

I'd like to point out another way: the Alexander Technique.

Anyone who talks can make an immediate change in how her voice sounds by changing what Alexander Technique calls her "use." You can try this out for yourself by duplicating an experiment I tried using the recording function on my phone.

Pick a text to read aloud while recording your voice. First, sit comfortably upright and read a few sentences in your normal speaking voice. Then, slump really badly and continue reading without purposely changing your voice. Next, sit up really straight and stiff, and continue for a few more sentences. Finally, relax and resume sitting easily upright, and read a bit more.

When you play back the recording, I think you'll be surprised by how different your voice sounds in the different parts, especially as you assumed postures different from your normal way of sitting. In my experiment, my "good use" voice (sitting like a good Alexander Technique teacher) was resonant and pleasant, though it had the usual weird otherness that I hear in all recordings of myself. My "sitting up straight" voice sounded unpleasantly strident. And I was very interested to hear that when I slumped, I developed a flat-sounding voice with a distinct vocal fry.

Four Readings, Three Postures

Alexander Technique lessons are good for many things: easing chronic pain, increasing efficiency of movement, dealing with stress, and on and on. I'd like to add to that list that the Alexander Technique can turn vocal fry from something you are stuck with to something you can eliminate -- when and if you choose.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/karen-headshot-67.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]KAREN G. KRUEGER practiced law in New York City for 25 years before training at ACAT, and has now been teaching the Alexander Technique for almost five years.  She is the author of the recently published book A Lawyer’s Guide to the Alexander Technique: Using  Your Mind-Body Connection to Handle Stress, Alleviate Pain, and Improve Performance (ABA Publishing).  Website:  http://kgk-llc.com.  Buy the book.[/author_info] [/author]

"So Tell Me, What is the Alexander Technique?": A Presentation Skills workshop for Alexander Teachers

Starting on Wednesday, February 12th, and running for the next 4 Wednesdays, Brooke Lieb will be leading a workshop open to all Alexander Technique teachers, members and non-members of ACAT. Q: What prompted you to design the class “So Tell Me, What is the Alexander Technique?: A Presentation Skills workshop for Alexander Teachers”?

A: I used to lead presentation and leadership skills workshops for TAI Partners in the early 90s, where we helped consultants, corporate trainers, teachers and performing artists find their authentic style of presenting to large and small groups. My background as an actor and Alexander Teacher allowed me to streamline the process for these participants, and give them real time experience presenting to a group so they truly embodied the tools and ideas on skillful presenting. The only way to get better at it is to do it, not read a book or listen to a lecture about how to present well.

Working with clients over the years, I realized I also understand workshop and presentation design. Again, my background in theater, training Alexander Teachers, and corporate training exposed me to a wide range of design elements, from presentation/storytelling, to interactive dialogue, to experiential group and partner activities. These skills are teachable, and learnable, and the best way to refine them is to have a place to practice them.

This workshop will give participants a chance to learn design and practice presentation. Everyone will walk away with ready to use components for introductory talks, content for your online introductory video, workshop design, and pitches to corporations. I expect more of us will have the chance to participate in conferences and TedX type events, and it's an important aspect of attracting clients and educating the  marketplace about the Alexander Technique.

Alexander Teachers can offer high level media training to our clients, so this course is also a chance to see how to incorporate the Alexander Technique when coaching your client in preparation for a talk, seminar or pitch she or he may be presenting. This might be a part of a client's job, even if she or he doesn't realize it. People rank the fear of public speaking higher than death, and we have a vital resource to help people not only survive but stand out in their communications.

"The lesson you gave me was super helpful. It was the calmest I've ever been during a presentation, and several people remarked on my delivery!" Jessica Santascoy, ACAT '14, on presenting at an Astronomy Conference.

For more information on course content and how to register, click here.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brooke1web.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com[/author_info] [/author]