Voice Coaching Goes Hollywood

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on January 10, 2011

If you’ve seen The King’s Speech you know that the main plot involves a voice coach working with King George VI to eliminate his stammer.  (Watch the trailer if you haven’t seen it The King’s Speech – Official Site.)   It’s a moving story that has appealed to everyone I know who has seen it.  But for a voice coach like me, it’s more than just appealing.  It’s a look back in time to observe what coaches were doing eighty years ago.  And much to my surprise, what I saw Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue, the voice coach) doing were many of the same exercises I do with clients today.  I’ll give you three examples.

He begins by having the King work on breathing exercises.  That, for me, is the place any voice work should begin.  Breathing is the foundation for speech.  I often say, if there’s any thing wrong with your breathing every aspect of your voice will suffer.  Click here to learn more of what I tell clients about breathing.

Next, I  give almost every client articulation warm-ups to do before voicing.  Rush’s were pretty difficult with lots of “th” sounds.  I try and make it a bit easier by using simple phrases like,  Put a Cup or Fat Lazy Cat.  These phrases should be repeated rapidly for a minute or so before voicing.  What these do is move the articulators to bring blood into the muscles of speech:  the tongue, lips, and jaw.  One of my previous posts will tell you more about articulation warm-ups.

Finally, almost every day I use the phrase that Rush used in one of the most meaningful scenes in the movie.  That phrase is, “Just say it to me–as a friend.”  Talking to a real person is one of the best ways to sound relaxed, comfortable and connected to the listener.  I’ve got a blog post about that, too.

And I can’t end this without commenting on the prophetic line in the film that is also a mantra of mine.  Rush tells the King simply, “Don’t smoke.  It’ll kill you.”  That is perhaps the best advice any voice coach can give.

Want to hear the real King George VI after doing voice work?  Ck it out.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark May 24, 2012 at 2:30 am

Hi,

I am a hypnotherapist (in training) & am constantly being told that while I have a lovely melodic hypnotic voice it is too quiet & that straining to hear me is getting in the way of the client fully relaxing into hypnosis.

My view of the problem is that while I agree with the feedback above, I am a quiet person & do not feel comfortable raising my voice to someone near me, also that this would sound stressful to the client, therefore I need to find a way to project a quiet voice but have no idea of how to achieve this in a natural comfortable manner.

Any suggestions would be most welcome.
Thanks,
M

Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. May 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm

You have an interesting challenge. First, I would say to make sure when you’re doing hypnotherapy that you are not allowing your words to hypnotize you as well. That is actually a big problem with this type of work. You get lulled into the same energy.

Next I think the way to work with this would be to improve your projection. This will allow your sound waves to move away from your mouth and carry a longer distance. You do not have to increase your volume to do this. I suggest you go to my Category entitled “Projection” in the right sidebar of any page of my site. This will give you a post that explains projection and a video.

Hope this helps!

Ann

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