"Most people don’t even come close to using the full range of their voices."– Buckley vocal coach Emmalee Robbins
The session is a bit of a shock for some students in The Buckley School’s Executive Seminar—the moment when we hand them over to veteran actor and director Emmalee Robbins for 45 minutes of vocal training.
That’s because Emmalee comes at the task like a mischievous pixie, urging them to make noise, move recklessly, and toss dignity to the wind.
The silliness has a serious point, Emmalee says, to get you to explore the possibilities of the voice you were born with—so that you can make the most of it.
“When people come to me for vocal coaching, their motives are to change or 'fix' their voices. But most people don’t even come close to using the full range of their voices, the voices they already have,” she says. “I want people to stretch themselves, to see what’s possible.”
Here are three things Emmalee suggests that every speaker try—perhaps on stage—and most definitely in rehearsals:
“Of course, breath is how we generate sound,” says Emmalee, “but voice is a product of the entire body.”
When you move your body—rather than concentrate only on breathing—you quickly see the connections.
If your voice feels flat or sluggish, you might try:
“See how high, how low you can go. Be loud. Be soft. Break out of that middle zone,” Emmalee says.
Some ways you can do this:
In The Executive Seminar, Emmalee leads students through a series of sounds, urging them to hit the consonants, roll the vowels around—and also control the explosion of air that makes plosive consonants pop.
Exaggeration is also a great tool for warming up before a presentation:
Another way to work on vocal delivery is to read poetry out loud (which is why we provide a fresh poem for this pursuit every month). You might try recording some of your readings, so that you can hear where you’re doing well—and where there might be room to improve.
And in the video, below, a glimpse of how Emmalee pushes speakers to stretch their delivery:
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