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6 Tips for Finding Your Voice

A young Larry Gifford finding his voice in Philadelphia (WWDB-FM)

Last January my wife bought me a guitar for my birthday. I played a long time ago as a kid. Today, I can pluck around and make it sound a bit like something familiar, but by no means can I make it sing like Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy or insert your favorite axe artist here. In order to be considered even good there are more than a couple of things that have to take place; you need to learn how to tune the instrument, how to hold it, place your fingers, how to play all about the notes, strings, chords, know what the frets are and do, learn up strokes and down strokes, plus you have to keep the beat, find the rhythm of the song, know when to rock out and know when to gently strum, figure out how to read music, build up your finger strength, dexterity, and calluses and you have to practice, practice, practice.  

Your voice is also instrument. Unfortunately, most radio talent don’t take that into consideration. Here are six tips for finding your voice and using it for full effect. 

1. Breathing. It all starts with your breathing. How do you breath? Do your shoulders move? You should be breathing in air and filling your diaphragm which sits below your lungs. The more you can breath from the core of your body the stronger your voice and delivery will become.

2. Vocal Cord Warm Up. Do you warm up your voice before a show? The way the vocal cords work is that to make sound they need to vibrate. The more easily they vibrate, the more control you have over your voice and the larger your vocal range. There are a lot of vocal exercises available online – just google it. You can also use hot tea and honey to help keep them lubricated.

3. Intonation. Every time you tell a story, read a script, talk to a caller, make a point, transition from topic to topic – try letting your voice do more of the work instead of your words. Use your full range of vocal intonation, by altering the pitch of your voice. How high and how low can your voice go if you really try? And how much of that range do you use on your show?

4. Tone. Use your voice to exaggerate your emotions. Are you happy, sad, angry, disgusted, shocked, inquisitive, excited? Use the tone of your voice (in connection with the words) to express yourself fully. Radio listeners can’t see you, so don’t be afraid to contort you face or move around when you’re talking to find more variety in your delivery. (see photo at top of page)

5. Pacing. Slow your voice down, speed it up. Stop. Say…one…distinct…word…at…a…time and then just talk normally. Altering the rhythm of your voice can help tell stories, make a point, or transition from one idea or topic to the next.

6. Practice, practice, practice. Explore your voice. Have fun with it. Try new things. This is the main tool of your trade. You should know it inside and out. What can it do? What can’t it do? How can you use your voice to be a more impactful, entertaining, and engaging air talent? Spend time working on integrating your breathing, pitch, tone, and pace. Read everything aloud in a variety of ways to see what’s possible.

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