There's a lot we can learn from singing. So, I'll share with you three practical exercises that you can use to develop your speaking.
If you're thinking about singing as a speaking exercise for stuttering - let's dive into it!
When we organize our words into sentences we utilize the cognitive, the logical part of the brain which is the left part. And when we sing we mostly utilize the right part of the brain which is responsible, among other things, for creativity and emotions.
So, you might go thinking, "Why do I need singing for my speaking if that's the other part of the brain? Kind of doesn't help much, right?" No, it does! It does help much because we want our speaking to be expressive.
I've been taking a singing class for about two and a half years by now and I can tell you I see a great change. I hated my voice before and now I like it.
So, let's get down to three exercises. And we'll play with the phrase "I think you're right."
I want you to shake your body a little bit, shake your wrists and arms to feel really loose and relaxed. And then you release the first sound effortlessly growing in towards the end. So, we say "I" this way.
Now let's combine it with "think." So, we grow "I" and get down to "think." And you can notice that "I" is much bigger than "think." So, we go up and down "I think."
The same way we can go up and down with "you're right." It's like a heartbeat "I think you're right."
And you might have heard about such stuttering techniques as prolongation. A mere prolongation "I think you're right" doesn't sound natural, it sounds robotic. In our exercise we also make the sound bigger, so technically it's prolongation but it sounds very natural.
We kind of open the door and enter that space of speaking interaction. We connect to another person or to the speaking setting if there are several people around.
The first sound gives feedback to our body and mind about how we really feel at that moment. We want to feel that we're stepping on the firm ground with that first sound. And other people also get a signal that you are here, you're present, you're confident, you're not running away.
Let's connect "I think." And actually we're connecting the vowel sounds. They are the sounds that we sing, that are voiced "I - ee" - "I - think."
Our airflow doesn't stay on the consonants. At least we don't want to stay there. When we stay there that's something bad happening like "I th-th-th-th..." We don't want to stay there.
And a great way to feel that connection is to actually sing the phrase. Try it. You might have no idea about the music notes but just try it. We put power there but without any tension. And you'll notice that it works like a pump. You get all your air out and you automatically breathe in.
So, I want you to do that, to play, to explore producing the sound, growing it, playing with it. We want to release the sound without any tension, but as powerfully as you can and as long as you can so that you feel like you don't have any more air. Then you automatically breathe in and do it a couple of times, do it several times not giving yourself a pause.
It's exactly like going to the gym. You want to do several reps in a row to really feel something, to feel that your muscles are working. The diaphragm is a muscle. We don't use it to its full capacity. Our breathing usually doesn't get deep there. Our speaking usually doesn't get any support from there. We want to use it and that's exactly what this exercise does.
The third exercise is bringing a little bit of music, a little bit of rhythm in that phrase. In our case let's just feel with our body first the stresses "I think you're right." So, we have two stresses "think" and "right."
And if you listen to a song you would always hear some beat, some rhythm. So, that rhythm, that beat, that music is also present in our speaking. Each time we're putting a stress we're creating a bit of a rhythm, a bit of a beat.
And usually, stresses come with some message, with the main point. So, I can say "it comes with the main point" regularly not stressing anything or I can say "it comes with the main point" stressing "comes" and "point."
So, we become much more expressive, much more assertive, much more confident in our speaking when we feel that rhythm, that music, that dance, if you wish, with our gestures and stresses.
And for speaking in particular it's also very important to feel that this is the end of the speaking piece when we putt a stress. We feel that we've made a point. Then follows a pause and it sounds much more legitimate and natural after we've stressed something and made some point.
Then we start a new piece again growing the first sound and this way we get back to exercise #1.
Apart from the very speaking side these exercises also develop our performing ability. You can take any phrase, you can take any song that you like and sing it. Sing your favorite song! And you also can record yourself. This is a very powerful element because we're getting from just practicing to performing. And when we get to stuttering treatment performing should be a big part of it.
You can record a phrase or song and post it to the Free From Stutter Facebook group. Becoming more open, active and positive about yourself. That is a huge exercise.
You can take a look at Ed Sheeran and Kylie Minogue. They say they used to stutter and they don't stutter these days. Of course, we all are different in terms of the severity of our stuttering and our circumstances but working on these two elements in combination could be very powerful: 1) working on our voice and singing fundamentals, 2) and performing, opening to the judgment of other people and to our own judgment.
And some people would say, "I tried singing and doesn't work, I still stutter. What about Megan Washington and her TEDx talk? She's a singer but she stutters."
Well, the singing/speaking exercises that I suggested are not a technique. It's a great exercise to develop the fundamentals of our speaking. In Free From Stutter Program that I run for example these are some of the fundamentals that we use to build a new training speech. We also use the hand stuttering technique to give that new training speech a very firm physical foundation so that it doesn't collapse in real life.
I do believe that singing helps Megan Washington big time both in terms of speaking and in terms of general confidence and self-esteem. So, do the exercises, tell me how it goes, leave a comment!
If you are a person who stutters,
and you're not quite satisfied with how you feel at the moment of speaking interaction
I invite you to my free training where I share my view on getting free from stuttering.
And for more interaction,
join the Free From Stutter Facebook group.
Please, don't stay isolated! It's crucial to feel you’re part of the community!