Friday, December 7, 2012

Care and Feeding of the Voice - Powering It Out

I always use a microphone.  Always.  I have a pretty strong voice for speaking, and I can fill a space pretty well, but there is no need for it when we have such technological marvels as microphones.

I often encounter people who are a bit annoyed by my request that the forum offer a microphone.  If they do not have a good sound system, I will bring my own, but I always ask for one.  There are some general responses when I ask for amplification.  They are as follows.

The space is not that big.

Our last performer didn't use a microphone.

There aren't that many children.

You have a pretty big voice.

None of that has anything to do with why I want a microphone.  The fact of the matter is that a storyteller only works so long as their voice is intact.  If you over stress your vocal chords, you can cause yourself months of hurt.

I am a trained speaker.  That means I have years of vocal training to help me get through a show if the mic should fail, but it is never my desire to power through forty five minutes of intricate vocal work while still being loud enough to be heard by two hundred people in a gymnasium, which was surely never built with acoustics perfect for a single performer.

So, with this in mind, here are some tips for those of us who work in the telling fields.  This is mostly beginner stuff, but it sometimes helps to be reminded.

1 - if you are doing something with your voice and it makes your throat a bit sore...stop.

2 - if you drink water during your set, room temperature water is best.  Your vocal chords are at their ease and move freely when they are warm.  Hitting them with cold water means you are straining them until they warm up again.  Don't fight yourself.

3 - For most people, eating dairy is not a good choice before going on stage as it encourages the production of mucus.

4 - Only you know how long it takes for your voice to recover after you hurt yourself.  Don't push it.  If you feel like you have to pull back from a story because it requires a bit more than you have, tell something else.

5 - If your throat is sore after a performance, unless you are ill, it means you are straining your vocal chords.  Get yourself a good reference book.  Better yet, contact Doug Lipman.  He should be able to point you in the right direction!

6 - Don't let someone talk you into hurting your voice.  Just because you can bring the power to fill a room doesn't mean you should.  Voices need a rest.  The older you get, the more that is true.  The microphone gives your voice more running time.  It also means you are directing less energy into the level of sound and you can devote that energy to the craft of the tale.

Like I said, much of this is obvious, but every now and then, it is good to be reminded that if someone gets testy with you about amplification, it is okay to remind them that they are only getting one or two shows from you, but that is not the end of your obligations.  if you blow your voice out on Tuesday, is that fair to the four shows you have on Friday?

Happy Telling -


  1. Good advice!

    Another reason to insist on a mike is because some of your audience members may be hard of hearing, and that boost of amplification means they can relax and hear the story without wondering what they might have missed.

    1. Megan, thanks for commenting! Yeah, I know, you forgot all about this. Me? I just found out! I hope you are well.

  2. Good points. I've also used the explanation that I can get more subtle voice effects with a mic . . . sounds technical and like something they wouldn't want to miss out on.

    1. I'm glad you dropped by my blog last year. I've peeked in at yours from time to time as well. Hope things are going well with you!