39: Head Voice Placement Warm-Ups and Techniques

Real Talking Tips 39 is the 2nd of 4 Voice Placement episodes. Last episode, we concentrated on the natural sounding ‘mask voice.’ This time, we move the voice pitch higher into the skull and head area.

Speaking from the head voice can be used in business, entertainment, personal, and social situations to:
1. Calm an uncomfortable guest in a podcast or interview show.
2. Differentiate the sound of two similar sounding people in a live performance, recorded dialog, or interview.
3. Establish specific character voices when reading books aloud to children and voicing higher pitched characters in a variety of entertainment genres.
4. Sound like a baby in a cartoon, video game, or toy.

Practice along with this Real Talking Tips video, podcast, and blog, my Elaine Clark app, Adding Melody To Your Voice, and my best selling books, There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is and Voice-Overs for Podcasting. For an effective 5-minute warm-up before speaking, use the Elaine Clark Activate Your Voice app!

Click the video to watch or select the audio podcast by clicking start or selecting the audio player in the icon below.

Head Voice Placement Warm-Ups and Techniques.

Real Talking Tips 39 is the 2nd of 4 Voice Placement episodes. Last episode we worked on the strength, breath support, and resonance of the natural ‘mask’ speaking voice. Now we’re going to elevate the voice higher into the ‘Head Voice.’ But WHY you must be asking yourself. Doesn’t the voice naturally get higher when a person is nervous, agitated, emotional, intimidated, or uncomfortable? YES! And it also helps individuals appear more excited, youthful, less domineering, and threatening. You see, the pitch of the voice is often associated with social status. The lower the social status is, typically the higher the voice. Consciously or subconsciously, the voice responds to people, situations, and self-confidence.

Having an understanding of how the voice changes pitch and placement can be used to the speaker’s advantage. For example, an interviewer who recognizes that their guest is uncomfortable can choose to speak in a higher pitch so their voice sounds less threatening or higher status. Thus, aiding the guest to relax, become more comfortable, and speak on equal levels. Or, in a live or recorded dialog where two or more speakers have similar voice qualities, consciously choose to raise the voice pitch so the listeners can more easily delineate between each individual speaker.

While it might be a ‘coin toss’ for WHEN to integrate the higher toned head voice into conversation, let’s work next on HOW to do it.

Speak from the Mask
#2 Voice Placement: WHEN and HOW to Use Your ‘Head Voice’.

The vibrations and resonance of the head voice are, not surprisingly, in the skull or head. The higher speaking tones can easily sound weak and thin, so the higher voice needs the same… if not more… of the breath support we worked on in episode 38 where we grounded ourselves, brought the breath up from the bottom of the body, the diaphragm pushed the air higher, and the voice projected up and out.

Let’s warm up the head voice. You may want to open your eyes a little wider to help connect the upper part of face with the higher skull area voice tones. We’ll start with the NG (ngggg) and ONG (ongggg) resonating exercises found in my Elaine Clark Activate Your Voice app.

This higher resonance area takes a bit more work to connect with, but when you do it helps increase the higher resonant vibrations. Let’s elongate those NG and ONG resonators now:

NGGGGGGGGGG
NG
ONGGGGGGGGGG
ONG

For some of you, the NG resonator may have had intermittent drop outs as the back of the tongue disconnected from the roof of the mouth. That’s why this warm-up exercise is important. Try it again and move the NG sound back and forth on the roof of your mouth. (ngggggggggggg)

Now, say the word PING and hold onto that final NG resonance:

PiNNNNNGGGGGG

Next, let’s repurpose that 5-word M-buzz series we used in Real Talking Tips episode 38. This time, rather than adding more resonance to the ‘M’, open the mouth wider in the middle of the following words on the vowel ‘U’.

Hum. Numb. Drum. Strum. Crumb.

Let’s say you’re reading a children’s book to a child or performing a high pitched character voice for a cartoon, video game, or toy. You can create that higher pitched voice starting at your normal or lower speaking voice and glide a word up and then down the musical scale. The mouth opens wider on the vowel. Try it now with the word ‘WOW’.

WWWWOOOOOOWWWWW

Let’s practice these head voice warm-ups in this next section.

Crossing the Bridge from the Mask Voice

Crossing the Bridge from the Mask to the Head Voice.

During these warm-ups, some of you may have noticed a voice crack, thinness, or inconsistency of the voice when you tried adding resonance or used a vowel to glide up from a lower voice to the higher voice placement. There’s a musical bridge or mixed voice area where the two voice placements – in this case, lower and higher pitches – come together briefly and then separate. Warming up the voice helps minimize voice cracks and drop-outs. Physical movements can help, too, like gesturing upward, raising a hand higher to head level or above, and opening the eyes wider. We’re also human so don’t forget that age, gender, and physiology of the throat anatomy can play a factor in the strength, power, and musical range of the speaking voice.

The following are a variety of ways to use the higher ‘Head Voice.’
1. Calming an uncomfortable guest in a podcast or interview show.
Guest Introduction – starts from a higher head voice and drops lower.
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Example: “I’m exited to introduce my next guest and host of Real Talking Tips, Elaine Clark.”
2. Two people in a live performance, recorded dialog, or interview.
When the speaker becomes aware of speech similarities, the voice may start lower and then rise to a higher pitch.
arrow it up icon
Example: That’s incredible. But what happened when you realized the similarity?
3. Audiobook narrators often have to establish specific character voices to imply the age and gender of the characters.
Young child, youth, or higher voiced female.

Example: I didn’t know where he was, so I came here. Can you help me?”
4. A baby in a cartoon, video game, and toy.
Gurgles, cries, and coos, can accompany the spoken high and newly developing baby voice.

Example: (giggle & coos) Mamma.” (cry) “I wan’ Mamma.” (surprise) “Dada.” (giggle)

Depending on your area of work, entertainment needs, and social interactions, think about ways to add the head voice into your speech pattern. Chances are, if you’re a doctor you probably wouldn’t want to use the baby head voice when you say “Nurse… hand me the scalpel.” If you are a teacher or have small children at home, you can place some of the younger characters’ voices in your head voice. And don’t forget to be aware of given circumstances, people you’re interacting with, and desired outcomes so you can make quick adjustments to the voice pitch in interviews, live performances, and recording sessions.

Join me next time in Real Talking Tips Episode 40 for the third Voice Placement lesson.

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