Whether speaking or singing, many of us want to change our voice to sound richer, sweeter, more authoritative or more sensual. However, practices intended to alter vocal qualities from an external desire rather than from an internal transition are limited in their impact and sustainability. It would be like wearing cosmetics and expecting them to cover a frown.
Our voice sounds our soul into the world. At any moment in time there is a gift or grace that each of us may speak or sing. Our voices land in one another's bodies and energetic fields and we hear not only with our ears and minds but also more deeply with every cell and atom. The quality of the voice tells us more than the actual meaning of the words being articulated. For example, a voice that is weak in the middle and that sounds very different in the low and high ranges might indicate low self-esteem. When emotional pain squelches the life force, the voice may break or sound like it is on the verge of crying. A high, thin, disembodied voice might betray a tendency to live in the world of imagination or to disown a body that houses memories of experiences one is still not ready to process. A flat quality to the voice might convey a belief that only the measurable, material world exists.
When it is functioning optimally, the voice is designed to energize all of our chakras and the corresponding physical, emotional, mental and spiritual anatomies. Just as there is a place on the feet that corresponds to each area of the physical and metaphysical anatomy, so there is a corresponding place on the vocal cords. As we sing and speak, we may stimulate these areas with the vibrations of the voice. Crystallized energy that causes blockage is disintegrated and released, bridges between the various chakras and energy bodies are strengthened and we become more congruent. After making healing sounds, voices that were once broken with grief begin to sing with joy. Voices once tired or demanding begin to nurture and inspire. The more pure and sonorous the voice, the more the aura brightens and the more powerfully the immune system is supported. Furthermore, as we heal ourselves with our voices, we simultaneously heal others.
The voice achieves all of this automatically because of the miracle of our physical design.Just as the alignment of the earth within the galaxy is perfect to support life, the structure of the voice is perfect to communicate every aspect of our being. Because everyone has a different life experience, genetic inheritance and spiritual direction, the process of developing the voice is unique for each of us. However, there are certain elements of vocal function that are common to everyone: structural support, breath management, phonation, resonance and articulation.
Because the voice is most easily and fully developed when we sing, adding the elements of singing into our lives can restore the system to balance. Each sound we make with our voice can have what we call overtones or secondary elements sounding at a higher pitch simultaneously. (You can listen to examples of overtones in Tibetan chanting and in harmonic choirs.) The more overtones in the voice, the more it affects our body and our energy anatomies. Humming naturally increases these overtones as it helps us to access the resonators in the face and head. By humming 10 to 20 minutes every morning we can energize our physical and metaphysical systems, and awaken the voice to more fully express our soul throughout the day. Each vowel also has a unique overtone structure and it can be very beneficial to highlight them in an overtone chant. Pretend you are going to yawn with your mouth closed. Keeping the lips rounded as though you are blowing through a straw, start with the sound oh and move through the sounds oh, ah, y and e using the tongue and soft palette to shift the inside of the mouth while changing the lips and jaw as little as possible. Increasing nasality may help you to hear the high whistling sounds above the vowel tone you are making. These whistling overtones will create a little melody of their own as you move from vowel to vowel.
As we allow our voice its full expression we become as a flute through which the sacred may blow its grace into all of life. As we notice when our voice is vibrant and full of presence or when it is hollow or broken, we also begin to hear different qualities in others voices. As we listen for all that is being communicated from the souls of others, the voice becomes a spiritual ally, guiding us into deeper wisdom and compassion than mere words could ever convey.
Jocelyn sings, composes and teaches in Manhattan. She delivers keynotes and seminars to conferences and organizations. For more information about her and her work, or to pose questions about your voice, go to www.morethansinging.com and www.morethanspeaking.com.