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How To Get Over Your Hangups and Start Loving the Sound of Your Own Voice
Whether you’re cringing at the sound of your voice or you just feel like you could do with some basic tweaks to improve things, we’ve got a few ideas on how to improve your podcast voice.
1. Pinpoint Your Flaws
Pretty much everyone starts their journey into podcasting with the thought “I hate my voice,” but that won’t help you change things. You’re going to hate me for saying this, but what you have to do is listen to yourself a lot.
Pick out clips that really make you cringe. Listen back to them and make a list of everything you dislike. Is it your tone? How high or low your voice goes? Maybe you’ve a lisp or can’t say your TH’s properly. There’s a fix for practically everything. You just need to know where to start.
Not only will figuring out what you dislike help you to overcome it, but it should act as a reminder that not everything about your voice is awful. You have good qualities too, and you can even make a list of those as a reminder.
2. Listen To Yourself
It can be quite jarring the first few times you listen to yourself speaking while wearing headphones so a lot of people tend to give up and go without. In between episodes, spend some time alone in the studio, talking and reading into the mic so you can familiarise yourself with your voice.
Record yourself for a couple of minutes and pick out one way you want to improve. Then try recording yourself again, while listening out for that area of your voice you want to improve on. By being consciously aware of how and when it happens, you can train yourself out of your bad habits.
Once you’ve got that down, always check that you can hear yourself in your headphones before a recording session. Before recording the first episode of my podcast What Would You Do If?, I focused on making sure I could hear my co-presenter clearly but I neglected myself as our levels were uneven. When I listened back, I could hear how I wasn’t in complete control of my voice. I didn’t pick up on bad habits that I thought I’d trained myself out of. It was simple things like having a lispy S or my voice going higher than I’d like, but it all contributes. If I had just been more aware of how I sounded, I would have been more aware of all the ways I was slipping up. Having your headphones on at a good volume is vital to avoiding this.
3. Muscle Work
If you entered a marathon without any prior training, you’d probably come out pretty disappointed. The same goes for your voice – you have to work on it regularly to develop it.
There are tons of resources online but my favourite is the app Astound. I use it daily to develop my voice and improve my diction. Astound calls itself your ‘personal speech coach,’ which is a pretty accurate statement. It offers different exercises to warm up and strengthen your muscles, whether it’s improving your breathing through shoulder exercises or working on your tongue muscles to improve pronunciation. It could take ten minutes to go through the exercises but I always come away feeling the difference after a session.
If you struggle to fit in a daily workout, here’s one thing you can definitely do. Make sure to give your face a thorough wash every day. The rubbing action will help to massage your facial muscles and loosen them up. If you find your mouth stiffening again throughout the day, open your mouth slightly and put your fingers on your cheeks. Move them in a circular motion for thirty seconds to massage the muscles. You can do this along your cheekbones and jawline too.
4. Slow Down
A lot of people (myself included) deal with stuttering or stumbling over words. The fix for this is often simple – just slow down. By speaking a little slower, your mind has longer to figure out what it is you want to say. This gives your mouth a greater opportunity to pronounce the words clearly.
Not only that, but the audience will appreciate it too. The faster you talk, the more the listener has to work to follow you. If the aim is to make your podcast an easier listen, taking your pace down ever-so-slightly can help a great deal.
5. Tongue Twisters
We all grew up knowing “she sells seashells by the sea shore,” but there are plenty more tongue twisters out there. You can even make up your own to focus on the words you struggle with. The key is to always use them in your natural voice, like you’re saying it in conversation rather than reading.
Here’s some I use:
To improve THs: Thirty three thousand people thought that Thursday was their thirty third birthday.
To improve S: Sally sings songs to sell silly socks to Sam.
To improve your word endings: It was lit with spit in it.
6. Make a Checklist
Now that you’re ready to go, make a checklist of everything you need to do to warm up your body before a recording session. Include even the mundane tasks like drinking a glass of water or applying vaseline to your lips (the most underrated lifesaver).
Go through your list before you start recording to allow your body the chance to get your voice ready. Something I’d recommend to keep yourself focused on your voice is to write in ten words or less what you specifically want to hear improved in this episode. Stick that note on the top of your prep sheet. This way you can glance down and refocus on that one area during the recording. For me, I keep it as simple as “remember to pronounce the t in it.” It’s just a quick reminder to stay on track.
Appreciate Your Voice
Most people don’t like their own voices but here’s the thing – we don’t hate each other’s. You wouldn’t usually listen to your mate and think “their voice is awful.” Even if you would, you get over it fast enough once you realise how hilarious they are anyway. Truth is, your voice is probably average.
Nobody will be as critical as you so the best thing you can do is to not let your voice hold you back. Without it, you’ll have no podcast. It’s gotten you this far, so you should cut it some slack!