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Elocution, Accent Softening & Voice Coaching - Stage 2
by Martin MacLeod
Elocution has been around for centuries as a means of helping people to speak with more clarity and finesse. But can some simple elocution lessons or voice coaching lessons actually help improve your impact when you speak today? And does it really have some place in business training?
In our earlier article "Elocution, Accent Softening & Voice Coaching - Stage 1" we looked at some simple breathing exercises and how reading out a paragraph aloud can help us get more emphasis and meaning when we speak.
In this second article on Elocution we're going to carry on with some more of the typical exercises you can expect to cover in an elocution or voice coaching session and review what we covered last time as well.
So why not print out this article and find yourself a quiet room where you wont be disturbed and have a go with us.
Elocution Lesson Three - Tongue Twisters
Now try and read out aloud the following "tongue twister"
"Three grey geese in a green field grazing"
And again ... read it out aloud and faster. Don't worry if you get mixed up with some of the words just try it again a few times till you can say it out loud ten times in 30 seconds. And remember to open your mouth as much as possible.
Now lets try another phrase. And of course you know the routine now ... so try this one:-
"a proper copper coffee pot"
Read it out aloud 10 times yet?
Are you starting to feel as if your jaw, mouth and tongue are getting some exercise?
If not then you need to try the two tongue twisters again!
Elocution Lesson Four - Recap
Now lets go back to the start.
1. Try our breathing control exercise again.
Ready? OK ...Breathe in ..... deeply ... remember to use your stomach ... and now wait a few seconds .... then breathe out slowly .... and count out aloud as you do it ...
... 1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ... 5 ... 6... 7 ... 8 ... 9 ... 10 ...
... 11 ... 12 ... 13 ... 14 ... 15 ... 16 ... 17 ... 18 ... 19 ... 20.
Try and count all the way to 20 as you breathe out.
2. Now read out the text aloud and put in as much expression as you can, ensuring that every word is clearly heard. If you have a tape recorder - then record yourself.
It was a beautiful day in more ways than one when Gerry finally decided to ask Sally to marry him. The Summer weather had now settled down and although there were still a few clouds in the sky, it was a very bright, blue sky that greeted them as they left the motel. Gerry took Sally by the arm and embraced her. And in that moment, he knew they were meant for each other.
Listen to yourself when you are reading it out aloud. Does it sound any clearer and more articulate to you than it did the first time you tried to read it out?
What you have been doing (in a simplistic way) by the above exercise is a warm up. Many presenters, actors and public speakers spend lots of time in vocal exercises like that before going on stage or reading the news or giving a presentation so that when they start speaking to the audience they have already warmed up their voice and are able to "hit the road running".
A lot of what you do in elocution lessons is similar to this. (The main difference of course is that you will be constantly getting constructive feedback on your progress from a highly experienced voice coach.) You'll also work on specific vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u) and consonants (b, c, d, f, g, h, ... etc). These exercises will help you change the way some of your words sounds to the ear (vowel sounds) and also help you pronounce words more clearly (consonant sounds). You can use these exercises to soften or even (over time) lose an accent.
Next Steps ... Elocution Coach?
Remember developing a great voice takes time and dedication. But there's nothing to stop you starting to improve your own voice right now. In fact ... you have done just that if you actually took part in these exercises above.
... and if you didn't actually try out the exercises ...
... but just skimmed through them silently ... Why not try them?
... what have you got to lose?
We rarely read aloud these days. Why not start doing this. Pick up a paper or magazine and read some of the text out aloud. Not in front of people - otherwise they might think you a bit strange! But in the comfort of your own home.
Spend about 5 - 10 minutes a day reading out aloud ... and by the end of your first week will not only have got used to doing this you will start to enjoy hearing the sound of your voice. You will also be on the road to achieving more from your voice.
And when you are reading the text in the papers or magazines ... try and experiment reading them out with different emotions. Be angry ... be mysterious ... be humourous ... and note how the tone of your voice changes when you change your emotions. And if you have the chance try recording yourself again.
If you'd like to take things further you might well want to have face to face elocution training with an experienced voice coach.
But remember ... above all ... have fun ... and enjoy the experience.