Watch Your Mouth: The Vocal Mechanism
Did you know that your voice works similarly to a musical instrument? Just like a musician must master his instrument’s adjustable parts and source of energy, a successful public speaker must master the mechanics of his own vocal tools.
Professionally trained singers are well acquainted with the vocal mechanism. This is an intricate integration of four sets of organs that work together to produce speech. Just like singing, having a basic understanding of the vocal mechanism also helps you to become a better public speaker.
- Motor: Every machine needs an engine. The motor that controls your voice consists of your lungs, diaphragm, chest, ribs, and stomach.
These body parts create the “breath” to utter sounds. Even the volume of your voice comes from your stomach and diaphragm, rather than your vocal cords. If you run out of air before you end a sentence, you have no choice but to take a breath before you can resume speaking.
The takeaway? Take a deep breath through your nostrils before you open your mouth to speak.
- Vibrator: Your vocal chords vibrate and push the column of air passing through your throat into motion. Without this action, you would be voiceless.
Learn to regulate your breathing with slow, steady patterns so you naturally take in more breaths at the end of sentences. You can only speak on exhaled air. This is important, as the nerves that come with stage fright can interfere with your breathing pattern.
Hint: Put a hand on your stomach and push it out when you inhale to ensure an ample air supply when you speak. Singers learn to train their voice with the same kind of breath control.
- Articulators: Lips, tongue, teeth, gums, and palates move into various positions to form the different sounds of any spoken language.
Look at yourself in a mirror when you speak. See how your lips and tongue and teeth are constantly moving? Do any of those movements incorrectly, and you distort your vocal pattern. Multiple mouth parts often touch or slide from one spot to another to pronounce the syllables in a single word.
The takeaway? The concept of clear, accurate speaking known as articulation results from how precisely and smoothly you use your articulators. They produce the consonant sounds in any language.
- Resonators: The oral and nasal cavities that amplify vibrated air in the mouth to produce vowel sounds.
The tongue moves the vibrating air when it enters the back of the mouth to force it through two tiny holes in the roof of the mouth, between the hard and soft palates. This air diverts through the nose to produce various vowel sounds as the nasal openings close and enlarge.
Hint: Start talking and then pinch your nose closed to see how this works.
If you remain aware of your vocal mechanism, you can maximize your ability to speak loudly and clearly in public. Oral communications is the product of two forces: one is what you have to say, and the other how you use your voice to say it. If you do the first one well but not the second one, your message fails.