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When the vocal chords meet and release they produce sound vibrations / waves that reverberate outwards. These sound waves are amplified by your bones, the chest cavity and the speech cavities where they are felt as vibrations, before and as they are released out into the world as full rich sound.  

You can enhance and amplify the vibrations you feel in your bones, in your chest, your skull, your nose and on your lips to produce a fuller more resonant sound. You do this by releasing muscle tension in the body and by opening up your resonating chambers so that the vibrations can bounce around more freely and so grow in volume and intensity.  

Growing the vibrations in your body can be fun, pleasurable and very liberating. However if you place your focus of your larynx when growing resonance you will likely create tension in the larynx and hurt your vocal chords. You need to rather focus on your chest, back, skull, nose and lips when growing and enriching your vibrations, and you need to make sure that you do not apply to much breath pressure on the vocal chords by trying to force the production of vibrations and sound. Allow yourself to gently spread the vibrations around your body starting off with humming before opening up into well resonated vowel sounds. 

It is important to remember that some people can place sound more easily than others. Those of you that can place and enhance your vibrations easily please go ahead and have fun with resonance. Those of you that can’t, dip in, explore gently, and then move on. As soon as you feel any pressure or tension on your vocal chords, stop what you are doing and reconnect to your lower breathing musculature so that you release the tension from your larynx.  

I say explore gently because it is easy to bash your vocal chords with harsh sound. And I say move on, because it is better to let go of an exercise that frustrates you and creates vocal tension than to place your vocal chords under stress. I have watched some actors fight with resonance, become frustrated, grow tension, and ultimately become unnecessarily frustrated with their voices.  And tension is deadly in performance. 

A good introduction to resonance work is through humming. Humming is wonderful because it acquaints your body with vibrations in areas that we often neglect in speech, such as the top of your head, the back of your neck, your face and your chest.  

In her manual The Human Instrument, Rowena Balos, an accomplished American Voice Coach, names the “M”, “N” and “NG” hums as The Three Hums. They are the three that I like to use in my work. I also like to work with “V” and “Z” to bring the resonance forward and onto deep breath support. 

Kristin Linklater’s Freeing The Natural Voice is also full of great resonance exercises. 

© Donald Woodburn

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