HYMN TO A POWERFUL INSTRUMENT!

When I was five years old, I took singing lessons for a year. My teacher was one of my dad’s (many) cousins. At the end of that year, I gave my first recital in front of family members. Yes, I actually have a few memories of that event! Sadly enough, I couldn’t continue with that teacher because she was moving to another town.

My dad had another cousin who was also a music teacher. So she took over the task of teaching me singing but she believed that I needed to learn more about music to start with. (when I think about it now, maybe she didn’t dare to tell me that my singing was bad?…). So she taught me the piano and later on the flute (or the other way around, I can’t recall properly). Whatever… I just didn’t like to play these instruments! I wanted to play my own VOICE!!! Yes, the word of the month!

After a long break of music lessons… I started again with singing 15 years ago when I was living in Stockholm and signed up for a group class. And I loved it so much that I’ve been with that teacher since (she’s not a relative of my dad ;-))!

Through the many lessons, workshops and master classes that I took, I learned a lot about one’s VOICE, not only for singing but also for normal speaking. It’s such a powerful instrument that we are born with! Think about a small baby screaming… and you know exactly what I mean. We agree that this example is not so pleasant but it shows the very strong effect that a VOICE can have.

I realise that we’re generally not very aware of the impact that our VOICES have in different situations. We learned how to use our VOICE at home and we take that « teaching » for granted. So, if you parents always said that they cannot sing… you also say it. I have good news for you if it’s your case: if you can speak, you can sing too! It’s a matter of technique and intensity :-).

You may have heard of the 7-33-55 rule of personal communication from Dr. Albert Mehrabian. He studied the importance of verbal and non-verbal messages in experiments that dealt with communications of feelings and attitudes (note that there has been different interpretations of his findings). From these experiments, he developed the following formula:

Total liking = 7% verbal liking + 33% vocal liking + 55% facial liking

The VOICE makes up for 1/3 of the equation! Imagine even an interaction when we don’t see the persons involved (e.g. telephone call/conference). You can’t make any evaluation of the facial expressions. Then you’re left with verbal liking (what is being said) and vocal liking (how the voice is being used).

I attended many telephone conferences in the past… sometimes I already knew the participants and sometimes I didn’t. Of course, the latter calls were more challenging because I spent a lot of time at the beginning sorting the people out (formal introductions are rare these days…): which VOICE belonged to whom. The spoken words did not play such a big role… the VOICE seemed to carry more weight because unconsciously I did categorize the participants into likeable/unlikeable and competent/incompetent to start with…

With the people that I knew… I could at times understand when someone was uncomfortable or unsecure to present a topic just by the tone in the VOICE. It’s not always 100% black and white but it’s a good indicator!!!

And you know it very well too: when you call a user help desk or a call center, you easily hear if the person at the other end is for example smiling or not. The VOICE tells you and this does something with you. It will likely determine the outcome of your experience…

More abstract definitions of the word VOICE refer to an opinion, to a medium of expression and to influential power. The different translations of VOICE, « voix » (French), « Stimme » (German) and « röst » (Swedish), simultaneously also mean a « vote » in their respective language. When there is an election in a country, the VOICES of the population are being expressed and heard.

During the next 3 days (= start today!), I invite you to a reflection on how you use your VOICE:

* Is it loud or low? Is it commanding or soft? Is it nasal or deeply anchored?
* Is it monotone or rythmic? Is it going up or down? Is it exact or unclear?
* Is it like an easy flow or like drops slowly dripping?
* Is it well-intended or not really thought through?
* Is it different when you speak a foreign language?
* Does it change whether you are at work or at home or with your friends?
* Does it change depending on your mood?
* If so, how does it change?
* Is there a VOICE that you prefer more? One that you don’t like?
* What would you like to improve within the next month?

For me, I know that my VOICE changes when I switch languages. And strangely enough, there are languages in which I love to sing (e.g. Italian) but can’t really speak while there are others that I speak but don’t like to sing in (please have a guess…).

I’m curious about what you’ll find… enjoy the exercise and thank you for sharing the reflections about your VOICE with me!

Inspiringly yours,
Caroline

P.S.: Today, I surely would find it cool to be able to play the piano so I could play it while I sing. But I find it way more enriching and giving when another person accompanies me. Have a look here to understand what I mean!