A thin voice is one of the problems new directors contact me about most often. They ask me if there is anything that can be done about it. I always tell them that it’s one of the toughest problems to fix, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I have heard almost 100% improvement in some clients, but it takes a devoted person who will work diligently to make the change.
Why is it so hard? There may be multiple reasons why the person is using a thin voice. Some of them are physiological and some of them may be psychological. Consider Marilyn Monroe’s voice. It was thin and childlike for a reason. It made her appear vulnerable and helpless, which fit most of the roles she was given.
But let’s look at the physiological reasons for a thin voice. The problems are in the position of the tongue and the openness of the jaw. Both of these contribute to the amount of air that can resonate in the oral cavity. The more air that resonates, the richer and fuller the voice sounds. If the tongue is raised high in the mouth, as it usually is in a thin voice, then it takes up more room. Likewise, if the jaw is not open (especially at the back) there is less air in that resonating cavity.
Let’s try an exercise to feel the tongue issue. Say the word, “gone,” a few times. Now say the word, “good,” a few times trying to keep the tongue in the same position on the vowel sound for both. Switch between the two words to get the feeling of the tongue in the low position for “gone.” This will help you feel the lower tongue position so you can carry it over into other vowels.
For the openness of the jaw, I tell clients to think of an inverted megaphone with the large part in the back of the mouth and the narrow opening in the front (the exact reverse of the picture to the right). This gives you a nice opening of the jaw. To practice this, say “ah” and then any word to follow it. Try to keep the open feeling you get with “ah” as you say the other word.
Both of these exercises are important in beginning to turn a thin voice iinto a rich, full voice. The bummer is that you have to practice every day and it may take months before you hear a change.
Here’s an added tip that will begin to help immediately. Avoid smiling while talking. Smiling works against the small opening of the mouth and actually makes your voice sound higher pitched. Click here for a post that explains this concept.
And, finally, for you voiceover artists out there, if you need to sound childlike for a job, try humping up your tongue in your mouth and not opening your jaw very much!