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Speech 101
Vocal Strain Part 2
| Monday, 04.09.2018, 10:00 AM |   (39209 views)

Vocal Strain:  Part 2

By Ginny Kopf

Last issue, I shared how to “check your neck” by looking in a mirror to catch neck tension that may be causing the strain or constriction in your throat.  And I showed you how to use your fingers to literally contrast the feel of loose muscles versus tight muscles.  Today, I’m going to ask you to “check your neck posture.” 

            This is the most common cause of throat constriction, and is vitally important to your tone quality and vocal health.  It can cause you to have a scratchy tone, less ability to project, and less endurance.

            As I encouraged you last issue, look in the mirror when you sing or speak.  Here are some things you need to look for:

            ~~Are you straining your nose up? 

            ~~Bowing your nose down? 

            ~~Straining your nose forward? 

            ~~Pulling your head back?

            Pulling the nose up (especially for high notes) is really common, and causes a strained sound AND looks like you are struggling to hit the note.  It can also look haughty.

            Bowing your nose down squishes the throat, and it looks meek.

            Straining forward also changes the openness of the throat “tube” and looks too overeager or like a nosey turtle.

            Pulling your head back hardens the voice, and looks too defensive, like you’re trying to be “macho.”

            Any of these neck/nose positions can tighten the throat tube, wearing out your voice, and you will get a sore throat pretty fast.

            Another thing to pay attention to, is your neck position AT WORK all day.             

            ~~Do you lean over your desk, straining your nose forward, or strain your neck to look at the computer screen?

            ~~Do you lean forward, elbows on the table, your shoulders scrunched up? 

            ~~Do you slump? 

            ~~Do you sit way back in your chair with your neck pulled back, talking on the phone?

            ~~Do you bow your head, looking at the keyboard or notes as you talk to clients on the phone? 

            ~~Do you try to hold the phone up to your ear with your shoulder scrunched up? 

            All these positions cause strain.  You’re constricting the breath flow and you’re cutting off the blood stream that gives you energy for more endurance.  Your head should float easily up, like a helium balloon, with shoulders relaxed down, a nice long, soft neck.  Try to catch yourself at work (or at home, on your computer, watching TV, talking on the phone, exercising, cooking), and make an adjustment to your neck position.  It might mean getting a better chair for work, so your posture improves.  Or if you stand at work, or are up and down, you need to balance yourself on two feet, and work on your overall posture.

            So, you can get rid of that tightness in your throat and have full, rich, projected tones by eliminating the tension in your neck “tube” that is dampening your sound.  Keep your neck floating up, soft, and flexible, like a swan  to eliminate strain.

Ginny Kopf is well known throughout Florida as a voice, speech and dialect coach.  For over 25 years she has been a teacher at Valencia and Seminole Community Colleges, and L.A. Acting Workshop.  She’s given thousands of workshops nationally and has done extensive coaching for Disney and numerous theatres, films and television series.  She holds a Masters Degree in theatre voice, and an MFA in vocal science.  Ginny has written two textbooks, The Dialect Handbook and Accent Reduction Workshop for Professional American Speech (CD set).  Web site:




Ginny Knopf

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