Acknowledgement and Tribute: The twinkling value, a little lamp like me can add, to a bright Sun like you, is to keep shining with rich glowing light, when night falls; and show the way to wandering travellers, until the Sun rises again! This is in tribute to ‘the Sun’ - Prof. Waman Kendre for an enriching experience I had during a workshop with him. Only an in-person participatory experience with him, can truly enrich anyone completely. It is said that, ‘Satta’ (Power), ‘Matta’ (Wealth) and ‘Vidwatta’ (Knowledge) truly grows and enriches life, when shared (and rusts when accumulated in isolation). This is my little attempt at sharing whatever value there is in the knowledge acquired, for the benefit of the many wandering travellers. Please be aware that this is just a tiny glow from a little lamp like me, and the real light keeps glowing from the Sun!
A Sound, Voice and Speech with a Smile, influences millions across miles!
One way of understanding ‘Dhwani’ or sound is to recognize it as ‘whatever our ears can experience’! A ‘sense’, just like what our tongue can ‘taste’, our eyes can ‘see’, our skin can ‘feel’ and our nose can ‘smell’. Sound is produced by inanimate objects (non-living) due to impact or friction, like when the bell rings in a place of worship or a glass crackles when it breaks upon impact with another object.
Voice (‘naad’, ‘sur’) is produced by living beings due to their desire to express themselves. Voice is used to communicate with other living beings. Voice should reach our ears as well as the ears of who we wish to communicate with. Hence it must be thrown to traverse the distance it is expected to cover, to reach the intended listener. We have a gift to produce voice using our mechanism of our vocal chords. Respiratory air, when going out encounters the muscles in our voice box, friction creates ‘Nad’ (vibration) and then the same converts to a ‘Sur’ (Voice) that can be ‘Shravaniya’ (pleasing to all ears), as we open our mouth. One of the basic voices we can produce with our vocal chords is “Mmmmmmm” when our mouth is closed but air is made to pass over our vocal chords internally. The same voice transitions into an ‘Aaaaaaaaaaaa’ when we open our mouth, as the air breathes out and vibrates our vocal chords mechanism.
People who want to improve their voice quality can start with implementing certain basic habits as follows:
· Make sure that your mind is relaxed, to begin with. A smile (natural preferred) on your lovely face accompanied with a bit of relaxation exercises of the forehead, shoulders, facial muscles, neck, etc. can have good results.
· Make sure that you express with your clear natural voice that is directly thrown at the intended listener/s and pleasant to all ears. Ears start ‘running away’ from harsh/hoarse voices, and if you have one, you may unfortunately take some time to even realize this yourself!
Exercises to relax your mind, and body
Some exercises are described here-in. Please note that you should have a SMILE on your face when doing these exercises. They are for your good and hence the expression on your face should reflect the joy of doing it. These exercises should be done slowly and should NOT be done if you have any other ailments that can get aggravated due to them. Please do seek a doctor/physician expert opinion.
1. Eyelids up-down, left-right, round clock-wise(cw) and anti-clockwise (acw). Count of 8, each.
2. Eyelids stretched. Eyeballs up-down, left-right, round cw and acw. Count of 8, each.
3. Nose Shrink, Nose Expand. Count of 8, each.
4. Mouth (lips locked in a closed O) up-down, left-right, round cw and acw. Count of 8, each.
5. Fill air in your mouth, and rotate it around within. Count of 8.
6. Close your mouth; rotate your tongue around within. Count of 8.
7. Make random faces so all parts of your face get stretched and relaxed.
8. Neck Up-Down, Left-Right, Round cw and acw. Count of 8, each.
9. Shoulders, up-down, front-back, round cw and acw. Count of 8, each
10. Hands raised forward at shoulder height and stretched. Open and close wrists. Count of 8.
11. Bend at waist, hands stretched. Down to Upright position Count of 8. Bend Back. Count of 4. Come back to upright position. Count of 4. Bend down again. Count of 8.
12. Bend sideways from upright position, hands stretched. Count of 8, each side.
13. Hands on hips. Bend Hips front-back, side ways, round cw and acw. Count of 8.
14. Bend at hip position. Full rotate cw to a count of 12, rotate acw to a count of 12.
15. One leg up, bent 90 deg at knee. Up-down, right-left and round cw and acw. Count of 8 each. Repeat for the other leg
16. One leg up, bent 90 deg at knee. Ankle up-down, right-left and round cw and acw. Count of 8, each. Repeat for the other ankle.
17. Bend at knee, back upright position. Do a round at the knee cw and acw. Count of 8, each.
18. Start going up and down with your ankles at one place. Slowly start jumping and then gradually start jumping higher and higher with your arms stretched up.
19. Walk randomly 5-10 minutes. Focus on your breathing and make sure you do not bump into anyone (if in a group)
20. Run randomly 5-10 minutes. Focus on your breathing and make sure you do not bump into anyone (if in a group)
21. You can also do Humming (Hmmmmmmm) and Voice with open mouth (Aaaaaaaaaaa) when walking and running, but gradually.
22. Bend down. Blow out all the hot air let your hands move sideways, relaxed. Get into normal breathing mode.
23. Lay down on your back, arms on your side, eyes closed, breathing normally and relaxed. Focus on your breathing. Do this for 5-10 minutes
24. Turn left for about 2-3 minutes, then again on your back, then turn right for about 2-3 minutes and repeat the same.
25. Get up slowly with eyes closed, clean your palms on your clothes, rub your palms against each other to make them warm and then apply both your palms to your forehead, cheek, chin and eyes. Gradually open your eyes with your Smiling face. Relax.
On completion of these exercises the goal is to have a state of body and mind that is relaxed.
Exercises to improve respiratory / breathing
26. Breathe In to a count of about 12, hold, again breathe in to a count of 4-6, hold. Your count will grow with practice. Do not over stretch yourselves. You will feel the pressure of air wanting to rush out. Control the flow of air flowing out slowly (through nose, mouth). Due to incorrect breathing habits, formed over the years, many people usually use only as little as 10% of the lung capacity. The body gets used to it, by design! (One of the countless miracles that the human body is made of, that we take for granted). We have to increase the utilization of our lung capacity, consciously by practise, especially since flow of air is the basis of sound, voice and speech!
27. Breathe In (deep) and then say ‘Aaaaaaaaa’ as you breathe out, mouth open normally, smile on your relaxed face, for as long as you can comfortably. Do not compete with anyone else, just focus on increasing your own ability, gradually.
28. Lay down (like in ‘shavaasana’). Keep the palm of one of your hands just below the navel on your stomach. Breathe normally. No extra effort. Take deep breath (count of 1 to 10). Air should fill up bottom – up as you breathe in. i.e. you should feel your palm rising up first and then the rest of the lungs get filled up. Hold for a count of 2. Slowly breathe out, palm goes down with the stomach.
29. Try repeating the same with one leg bent up at knee, feet on ground near your buttock.
30. Try repeating the same with both legs bent up at knee, feet on ground near your buttock.
31. Try repeating the same breathing, now in sitting position
32. Try repeating the same breathing, now in standing position
33. Standing and filling in air, stretching both hands around atop in a circle.
34. Standing and slightly kneeling and same as previous.
35. Bend down, take deep breath, rise up to ‘Aaaaaaaaa’
36. Same as previous, except when you are in the up position, then increase your volume by 3-4 times (you should feel this increase). Conserve your breath initially.
37. Bend just a little and then do the same as previous
38. Same as previous, but you increase and decrease your volume a couple of times (Try with OooooooMmmmmmmm)
39. Play a ‘sur’...Sit down, eyes closed...catch the ‘sur’ being played in your ears and transition your voice into it with ‘Hmmmmm’, then ‘Aaaaaaaa and then ‘OooooooooMmmmmmmm’
Rhythm is a continuous beat of similar cycles of sound. Example : Da-Din-Din-Dha, Da-Din-Din-Dha OR Dhinaka-Din-Dha, Dinaka-Din-Dha. Speed of Rhythm can be slow or fast (rate).
There are many reasons ‘why’ (purpose) we speak and the search for an answer to this question, itself is a life-long exercise! Some of the reasons why we speak are to communicate, to seek/give information, to relate to people, to express our feelings, to present/understand/seek..
‘How’ we speak too makes a difference. When you speak, it is recommended that you address the person directly. If there is no person present, imagine (visualize) him/her and then address the person directly. Do not speak without imagining the person who you are speaking to. Do not speak in the ‘air’ or in ‘random’ directions. Do not forget to smile when you speak.
‘Swar’ or alphabets are produced based on how you mould your organs including mouth, forehead, lips, tongue, inner tongue, jaws, etc. ‘Shabda’ or words are a collection of alphabets. Speech is a collection of meaningful alphabets and words. The starting point of good speech is therefore by correction of inappropriate moulds ‘Sacha or sache’ that we have formed over a period of time, used to create our alphabets and words. We also need to understand that our sharp hearing too has a role to play in good speech. Based on the quality of speech, our ears can hear clearly or perceive the speech that is a bit unclear or assume a speech that is rather unclear! Hence, when we speak our intended goal must be to achieve a clear and crisp flow of alphabets and words, meaningfully. Else, it is energy wasted!
We all carry around our ‘burdened’ self-image that often creates a block in our own development due to resistance to change. One should attempt to be honest, truthful, transparent, unreserved and positive in intent, content, values, demeanour and deeds. The sooner we shed our ‘negative, self-harming’ self-image (ego of a negative kind), we clear our own self imposed block, to allow learning and growth.
‘Akshar’ (alphabets) OR ‘Swar’ (Vowels) and ‘Vyanjan (Consonants) are the starting point for correcting our speech moulds.
English : A, E, I, O, U (5 vowels) and rest of the alphabets (consonants)
Marathi : A, Aa, E, Ee, U, Uu....Aha! (12 vowels) and rest of the alphabets (consonants)
Exercise – Correct each mould (of alphabets) by saying it slowly and then increasing the frequency of repeating that alphabet continually. Example A | A A | A A A| A A A A| A A A A A |. This exercise has to be done every day for 15-20 minutes, till your vowels and consonants are sharp and clear.
Qualities of Voice / Speech
- Volume can make your voice reach across mountains (long distances)
- Controlling volume is built-in to our system, and needs to be practised
Exercise (for volume control)
- Breath In (deep)with a smile on your face
- Say A starting at low volume , gradually taking it to high volume and then bringing it down to low volume. It should be pleasant to the ears ‘Shravaniya’. Pitch ‘Patti’ of the voice should not be changed when changing volume
Resonance is created due to cavities in our body (Chest, Neck and Skull). Voice and its resonance create a powerful expression. Try keeping your palms on your chest, throat, near ears, top of your head (skull) and try and feel the resonance of high and low frequency. Practise humming in various volumes. This is a wonderful exercise and will significantly improve your voice quality over a period of time.
Exercise (for voice quality)
Make three short sentences and say them, transitioning from a deliberately harsh voice to a pleasant voice, a couple of times.
c. Pitch (‘Patti’)
Pitch is yet another quality of voice and speech. Low, Medium and High as on the keyboards of a harmonium. Some blessed people (Example : Shri. Gulam Ali Khan) have a voice quality that enables them to extend their pitch beyond that of the keyboard range of a harmonium, on either side! Use of pitch in your voice serves as a powerful tool during your speech.
Exercise for Pitch
- Take a deep breath and raise the pitch from lowest to highest, one per breath. Repeat, cycle now twice per breath. Repeat, cycle now thrice per breath
- Imagine a vertical pitch scale. Randomly play at various pitch (example, take A and randomly say it at different pitch)
Simple sentences can be dramatized using pitch to arrest the attention of the audience.
Be good inside. Be committed to yourself, your family, your duties, your values. Refrain from being carried away by glamour, fame and fortune. “Swatah Shravaniya Wha” – Become Pleasant Yourself. Eliminate the negativity in your character.
Stress in Voice / Speech
‘Taan’ is Tension in voice. “Aaghaat” is Stress (i.e. to highlight, underline, emphasize). Make a short sentence and practise saying it with all words of same stress and then with all words of same strength but one of the words stressed more than others.
Exercise – Para (dialogue) of 4 sentences write down 5 times. Each time, highlight / stress different words in different lines in the para.
Each person has an overall voice quality that is unique to that person and this is called his Timber. The next step of speech is being able to speak using different Timber (eg. Timber of various street vendors)
Pause in Speech
Pause is required during speech for :
- To provide time for our words to register in the ears of the audience
- To value and respect our content and words as well as the ears of the listeners
- To emphasize
Pause can be short or long. Pause in speech is a powerful and effective tool used to draw attention.
Playing with shapes of words
Stretch Horizontally, Stretch Vertically, Stretch Diagonally, Pierce / Push words into, Round them.
Throwing words down, up, straight, diagonally (example ‘gira’, ‘uchal’, ‘de’, etc.). Throwing words dramatically communicates extreme emotions in speech such as anger, enthusiasm, etc. Low emotions – low pitch sound, high emotions – high pitch sounds.
Emotions in Speech
‘Nirvikar Man’ or ‘ Dhyanastha Awastha’ or zero state mind or a mind without thought is an ideal. Various ‘Vikars’ fill the mind with emotions. Intensity of emotions has to be proportional. High intensity of emotion can be responded to equally if not powerfully by using low intensity but with high energy.
‘Bhav’ – Response to present/current situation
‘Vibhav’ - Secondary / Accumulator response to additional stimuli
‘Anubhav’ - Response to actual “validated’ situation
‘Vyabhichari bhav’ – Transient / Temporary responses
‘Rasa’ – of audience and ‘Bhav’ of performer. A presenter must resist the temptation to emote the ‘rasa’ being experienced by the audience. There are about 9 types of ‘rasa’ and ‘bhav’
Points for an effective speech
Always remember that when you are called upon to make a speech anywhere, you need to follow this simple five step practise:
GO – SETTLE – FOCUS – SMILE – SPEAK
- Approach the centre of your stage from the shortest possible distance, wherever possible.
- Your side profile should be seen and not hidden. You should not look at the audience when you are approaching the centre. Make them eager to see you!
- After reaching the centre, settle down, relax, breath normally, check the mike (just once or twice) and then be ready (say that to yourself)
- Smile (Bigger the better), scan the audience left to right, right to left and then back to centre. Look at the last person position of the centre in the audience and start your speech as if addressing him (his distance).
- Use pauses often, appropriately with definitive purpose.
- Use hands, expressions and generally be comfortable and relaxed for a free, natural flow.
- You must mesmerise the audience by your body language, smile, voice, pitch, timber, content and expressions
A Sound, Voice and Speech with a Smile, influences millions across miles!