Dear Madam Secretary

I heard your speech this past week, the one where you very adroitly framed your opponent using his own words. But what concerns me here is how you used your voice. All went really well until the last few minutes when you tried to make a big impression, and unfortunately ended with something of a yell. Not a good finish!

Listen. I want see you win, vocally speaking. That's why I am writing this. So, I am taking the liberty of giving you a few pointers.

I've read you practice yoga in the morning. Great stuff! I do too. This tells me that you probably know something about breathing. What you probably don't know is how singers and speakers were taught to use the breath, that is, by wildly successful voice teachers like Manuel García and Francesco Lamperti.

What did they teach their students to do?

They taught their students to practice inhaling with the mouth shut for up to 18 seconds. Yes, you heard that right: 18 seconds. Seems like a long time, and it is if you are in a hurry. But stay with me here.

All you have to do is be gentle with yourself. Don't be in a hurry. Inhale gently for about 10 seconds, and then work your way up to 18.

Why is this done?

To obtain full vocal control for your voice, you need to keep the sensation you have while inhaling with your mouth shut when it is open. To put it another way: Once you learn how to breath with your mouth shut, keep the same feeling when it is open. The 18 second margin will teach you what you need to know.

What will you feel when inhaling with your mouth shut?

You will feel your ribs expand and open, your spine elongate, and the muscles of your body—including your abdomen, back, upper chest, neck, head and face—come alive. With practice, these sensations are felt regardless of the amount of air in your lungs. In fact, true vocal readiness means having these feelings before you inhale. This is not hard to acquire. You can do it every time you get in your transport and have a few minutes to yourself, or while you are practicing yoga in the morning.

Ok. What's next?

Once you have a handle on how to use the breath, you need to be aware of a few things:

  1. If you want to have a more powerful oratorical style, you need to let the feeling of the breath intensify when you use more volume or speak in the upper range. I'm not talking about pushing air. I am talking about anticipating the feeling of the breath that you've acquired from the instruction above. It's a whole body feeling. The body—all of it—swells when scaling the heights.
  2. The higher you go, you must hear your voice as coming through your face: Rooted in your chest, clear as a bell at the front of your mouth, and coming through your face. Without this, you are yelling from the throat. And this you do not want.

Guard the feelings you've acquired while breathing. They will bring you great control with practice.