Voice Phobia. The Fear of (Some) Voices

Misophonia -The Fear of a Particular Voice/Voices

Some voices make you want to scream and screaming is contagious. When you play scary games on Halloween night part of the fun is having a good scream along with a good laugh, but when you’re listening to a voice that makes you want to scream and you can’t leave the room or say anything – what do you do?

When a friend in a group asked for things that frighten us most psychologically, some people said spiders  someone had a button phobia:  Koumpounophobia and a couple of others had phobias with (some) tones of voice: Misophonia.  I suspect that this is linked to the voices of people who they don’t like, because of what they say or represent.  I understand completely that listening to people who you know to be lying and they know that they’re lying, but they say it anyway, can feel like a sharp kick in the stomach.  There are also the droners – these are the people who pretend to sympathise with others, when they haven’t even listened to what’s been said.  I can think of a popular BBC presenter and host who does this a lot and 3 prime ministers.  A client once told me that listening to one political commentator made his teeth stand on edge like the sound of fingernails on a blackboard.  Of course, people can have the greatest voice in the room but if you don’t like what they’re saying it’s going to jar on you.

The best advice for when you’re confronted with someone’s voice that you really can’t bear to hear, is to imagine the sound of the voice as a colour and then change that colour into a colour that you like.  It won’t change your mind about what you’re hearing, but you’ll instantly feel better. 
About 4 percent of the people on Earth have the ability to see sound as a colour automatically.  It’s called synesthesia. A lot of musicians and music writers have the ability. Need help with your Voice? Contact us to find out more:

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Time to Use Your Voice


Science tells us that he left side of the brain is responsible for controlling the right side of the body. It also performs tasks that have to do with logic, such as in science and mathematics. On the other hand, the right hemisphere coordinates the left side of the body and performs tasks that have do with creativity and the arts.  But for more individual personality traits, such as creativity or a tendency toward the rational rather than the intuitive, there has been little or no evidence supporting a residence in one area of the brain. 

As babies we connect our needs through crying. These needs have nothing to do with our thoughts, they are driven by a primitive need to survive. The sound is insistent, overwhelming, and produced by a tiny body with tiny vocal olds. As we grow up life concentrates us on facts and the situations we create for ourselves. We adapt and use our language in creative ways and for most of us, it is our full voice that gets left behind.

We can use language and voice together to create a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.  This is difficult, as the more you let go of the facts and let in the feelings you have, the more likely it is that your voice retreats or your emotions overcome you and you cry or laugh so much that you can’t speak.  You can learn how to stay away from things that bother you by not allowing them into your consciousness or by not giving them their full value.  But this dulls or restricts the voice by constricting muscles that would normally be free. 
Voice and speech exercises are valuable for freeing up the voice.   If you learn to open up your breath to feed and sustain your voice, you will find that your ability to speak and express yourself grows.  It gives you a deeper understanding of yourself when you connect your body with your thoughts. 

Contact us and get a free question and answer session
When you hear someone speaking, who is also linked into a deeper understanding of being and of their belonging in the whole of here and now, you listen.  These are people that we know to be passionate about what they’re saying.  They have opened up their voices.  You, have that right to be passionate about your needs and wants, whether these are to do with your job or your personal life.   With voice work you can explore your voice and find that the ability to express yourself will grow.

With thanks to:
Rober H Shmerling
Jill Hall
Noah Pikes

Sound and Dialogue in Films


Post Production Sound

Towards the end of 2019 clients based in Africa and Europe started asking me to explain the American accent in a few Netflix series.  When I viewed and listened to the characters they were talking about, I could understand why they didn’t hear the words and chose to turn on the subtitles.  It’s not because of method acting but muffled sound.  The article below, by Ralph Jones goes some way to explaining the phenomenon.

“There is a wonderful exchange in Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Tenet, between Robert Pattinson and John David Washington. “Hngmmhmmh,” says Pattinson. “Mmghh nmmhhmmmm nghhh,” replies Washington. Marvellous.

This is how much of Tenet sounded to viewers in cinemas. The film’s dialogue has been criticised by reviewers and audience members for often being impossible to make out. Given how hard Nolan’s blockbuster would be to understand even if all the dialogue was crystal-clear, it is curious that the director has made it doubly difficult to hear the story of a screenplay he supposedly spent five years writing.

But it isn’t just Nolan’s films. It’s a much-repeated claim that movie dialogue is becoming harder and harder to hear. What is going on? Mathew Price is a production sound mixer who has worked on The Sopranos and The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. “When they take the sound we record on set and kind of undermix it, it feels like, ‘What did we try so hard for?’” he says. Price believes the problem is partly that modern directors have so many more tracks to play with, causing “track overload”, the result being that “the dialogue gets short shrift a lot of the time”. When he watches films or TV shows at home, he turns on the subtitles in case of clarity issues – he is far from the only one – and

will limit the TV’s dynamic range. (On home TVs the dynamic range is more extreme than in a cinema: this is why you often have to turn up the volume for dialogue, then down again for action.)

Is it actually a modern phenomenon? Sound engineer Ron Bochar, who was nominated for an Oscar for his mixing on Moneyball, thinks so. “Think about it: the first few Star Wars [films], we heard them all. We heard all the lines. Listen to Apocalypse Now – you hear everything.” Price agrees: “If you watch old movies, you might hear some sound effects here and there but now they go nuts: somebody’s walking across the room in a leather jacket, you hear the zippers clink and the creak of the leather and every footstep is right in your face.”

When television became commonplace in the mid-20th century and challenged cinema’s dominion, cinema needed to distinguish itself; it needed to prove that it could justify people leaving the comfort of their homes. It did so partly by becoming bigger and louder. In an era – and a pandemic – in which home streaming dominates, cinema may be forced to pull out the stops once more. “I think we’re bombarded,” Paul Markey, a projectionist at the Irish Film Institute, says of modern films. “The more expensive movies have got, the more of a bombardment they become on your senses.”

Sound effects and music tracks exist on faders that can slide up and down. This means that even “a crazy, bats**t scene” with numerous layers of sound is easy for a mixer to control. “It really isn’t a mystery. We know how to do it.” This means that Nolan’s use of noisier Imax cameras in Tenet would not explain the problem, as some have suggested.

To complicate matters, there is a disparity between the environment in which the director hears the final mix of a film and the one in which it is screened. Markey says Warren Beatty watched a screening of Bonnie and Clyde when it came out and couldn’t understand why the sound of the bullets was so quiet. The projectionist was turning the volume down. Beatty realised that projectionists, not directors, have final say on a film. Markey says that they could, for example, raise the volume of the dialogue specifically, but they never do – it would mean having to readjust it for every film.”

Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, Jack Cutmore-Scott in Tenet written and directed by Christopher Nolan

How Your Voice is Affected Through Wearing a Face Mask


Wearing a mouth mask is now mandatory on public transport in the UK.  I started wearing a face mask in March when it became clear that coronavirus cases were less in countries where they were recommended.   On the plus side, it lessens the risk of passing on coronavirus if you are asymptomatic on the minus side it can leave you feeling smothered, with a dry throat and sometimes a sore throat, all of which affect your voice.

Humidity inside the mask can potentially allow bacteria to grow so take the opportunity to move your mask and breathe freely whenever there is a safe option.  Keep your face mask clean and have more than one – soap and water is the best way to sanitize a face mask.  Avoid using Chloride or anti-bacterial spray on your mask. 

Give yourself and others a treat by making room therapy essential oil mixes that will clear your airwaves and ease dry and sore throats and help your voice:

Water bowl method:  Put boiling water in a bowl and add 3 drops of  grapefruit, lavender and bergamot pure essential oils.  Close doors and windows and allow 5 minutes for the aroma to permeate the room.
Room-spray method:  In a new plant-sprayer put 300 ml of warm water and add 2 drops of grapefruit, lavender and bergamot pure essential oil.  Shake before spraying.  As with any room spray – avoid spraying on polished wood.

You can make a soothing gargle by mixing 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar with 3 drops of ginger and 5 drops of lemon pure essential oil and adding one teaspoon of the mixture to a glass of warm water.

Special thanks to Valerie Ann Worwood
                             Dr Meza

Speaking at A Distance, Lockdown and Beyond


People who’ve been on the Improve Your Voice course have an advantage when talking outdoors to someone 2 meters away.   They’ve learned the “beam/aim/focus your voice” technique.
The voice beam exercise is fun.  In a room full of people, you pair off and then move into lines about 6 metres apart, facing each other.   You then decide what it is you’re going to talk about.  The only rule is that it has to be in the past:  a film, a play, a journey, the night before et al.    After deciding who’s going to begin you all talk at the same time. No moving forward, no bending forward or texting. 
The room was always a cacophony of sound.    Going around the room checking out what it was like to be on the listening end, was….interesting.  It’s not easy to stop people chatting after this exercise so it’s best done before a break. People are far more interested in the content of what is said rather than how it is said.  Once the voice is warmed and opened up, it can focus on where it wants to go, wants to be heard.  It’s the same beam as a torchlight.  This gives confidence.  When you’ve done this exercise, you can be sure you’ll get last orders (Hah! Memories) or talk easily to friends and family while being two meters apart.

Speaking at a distance can change our relationships. Concentration is required and more alert listening

Being Interviewed and Giving Advice During Lockdown


Being Interviewed and Giving Advice During Lockdown

I’ve been offering advice on how to relax with your voice during lockdown, with groups online.  It’s a different experience when you see people on screen as in Zoom and Meeting Room to when you can only see your interviewer as on Facebook stream live, GoToMeetings and Webinars.

If you are giving an interview or giving exercises and advice – it’s a good idea to use the following format.  It is the standard Lorraine format.  

Ask the host to alert you when everyone is in the room and the session will start.

Introduction chat with host who then asks you a pre- arranged question.

You reply together with an example or exercise.

The host then asks the viewers if they have any questions.

Answer questions

Depending on time, the host asks another pre-arranged question

You reply with another example or exercise

The host sums up or asks for more questions depending on time.

This way you’re aware of a structure and can be sure that the audience get their questions answered.
It may be that the host asks you questions already sent in and you can answer these and go into an example or exercise straightaway.  When there are no audience questions, your host has a few that can feed you into speaking about what’s happening in your field.

Trademark Voices or Great Voice Actors


There are some great actor’s voices around:  Jeremy Irons, Ralph Fiennes, Brendan Gleeson, Ray Gosling, Bryan Cranston, Richard E Grant among them.  James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman have trademark voices but for the most part, todays actors are great voice actors.  They don’t have the trademark voice of actors of the twentieth century like Cary Grant, Orson Wells, Humphrey Bogart, Laurence Olivier.   Today’s female actors are also great voice actors without having the trademark voice of past celebrity stars: Eartha Kit, Lauren Bacall, Katherine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Joan Collins.  Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Saoirse Ronan Elizabeth Moss, Sarah Lancashire, Elizabeth Olsen and Judi Dench all have distinctive voices, but they’re not ‘trademark’ in that you can’t instantly define them and copy the allusion.

By comparison today’s top actors are good at voice acting.   What would Shrek have been without Michael Myers, Antonio Banderas, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz or the Lion King without Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé, Donald Glover and Seth Rogan?  What would the Call of Duty games have been without the voice of Gary Oldman?  What would Beyond: Two Souls be without the voice of Ellen Page?

With celebrity actors voicing video games and animation, how can the yet to be famous voice actor get a job?   Well the good news is the industry is posting more and more jobs on sites available to all voice actors.  If you have access to a recording studio you can send in clips for jobs direct.  If they like the clips you’ve posted on a site, it could be the Spotlight site, you may get asked to record something and send it from your phone. They need voices that sound like – you at your most human.  Voice over agencies take on voice actors when they’ve done a few jobs and have established their zone.  Accents and dialects are good, but they need to be your own or as good as.

There is dubbing work and ADR.  Dubbing from English/American films into languages like Spanish and Danish is now better than the quality of dubbing into English.  I’ve heard some dubbed English voices in period dramas on Netflix recently that have been…not great.   There are some good ADR training courses. Sometimes the best ADR results come from when voice actors work only by listening.  Be aware that low paid jobs (outside Equity rates) are available.  If you choose to do them then make sure you don’t sacrifice your talent.  If you’re a voice actor who wants to do more work, keep out there, keep practicing, keep perfecting your timing and technique.  There are loads of resources on YouTube and online.  Stephen Kemble’s Audio/Visual resource pack from his VoiceOver Book is relevant for its information on technique.  You can download it from the www.oberonbooks.com/voiceover page.   There will always be room for quality voice actors.  Make sure you’re heard.  Max Your Voice.

Letting Go Of Your Breath


A lot of voice problems are caused by muscle tension in the chest. We hang on to our breath and never allow the lungs to empty.  When you feel muscle tension in your chest if you’re nervous about speaking or when you start to speak, this is a reason why.   With regular simple breathing exercises, you can alleviate chest tension.

When starting voice exercises you need to release your breath.  Most people are not used to completely emptying their lungs and you need to do this in a relaxed way before taking a breath in.   Your muscles can then learn to handle the breath in your lungs for maximum vocal interpretation.

Here is a picture of the flop over which allows the muscles in the stomach to flatten forcing the diaphragm up and expelling the breath from your lungs.  The other pictures show Pilates positions which flatten your stomach and expel the air from your lungs.

The flop over flattens your stomach and releases breath.  Gently some up while breathing in through the nose.
This position flattens your stomach & expels breath

Once you get to know how to completely empty your lungs you can go on to more advanced exercises that will help you to get rid of muscle tension and give you a better voice.  Want to know more?  Come on one of our workshops.  You can fill in a contact form.

The Son by Florian Zeller


Christopher Hampton’s translation of Florian Zeller’s The Son is a masterful.   It is so skilled.  The translation from the formal and informal tenses of French and from the flow of  French speech  into a rhythm in English which still maintains the structure is good. The director Michael Longhurst uses the speech rhythms to direct the play like movements from a symphony with surges and rests and always underneath – a sense of tension.  The composer and sound designer Isobel Waller-Bridge’s work was part of the success of the production.  The whole play flows from one conversation into another – with the son at the centre of the action.   The voices are so indicative of the characters that you feel you might know them.   The casting is faultless, and a lot of credit must go to Amy Bell and her assistant Atri Banerjee for this.  Cudjoe Asare, Amanda Abbington, Amaka Okafor, Martin Turner are all good, but the outstanding performances are from Laurie Kynaston who plays the son and John Light who plays the father.   Many men and women in the audience including me cried (a lot).  The Son is the final play in Florian Zeller’s trilogy after The Mother and The Father.  If plays are written to help us understand ourselves and the times we live in, then Florian Zeller is the playwright. 

English for German First Language Speakers


Fred Thompson – Head of English at the University of Koblenz – Landau

As teachers for English, we are always thrilled when our German pupils come to class well prepared as well as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.  Our enthusiasm, however, can be dampened whenever we hear a sentence like the following one from a pupil:

“I have made my homework last night at home”.

While this utterance should not cause a major breakdown in communication, it does lack a certain degree of accuracy in Standard English, especially with grammar and linguistics. In its written form, we have problems with verb tense, collocation and word order. And in its spoken form, the pronunciation of final voiced consonants will most likely need some more attention.

To begin, German speakers often confuse two English tenses: the present perfect and simple past. The usage of the present perfect in the utterance above (i.e. have made) may appear to match perfectly with the German perfect form or Das Perfekt (i.e. habe gemacht) as both tenses in these languages contain an auxiliary verb and past participle. This assumption, however, is a pitfall. The German perfect form is always used for completed past actions; English uses the simple past (not the present perfect) in similar cases. The English present perfect, in contrast, describes events that begin in the past but have some connection to the present moment of speech. It should be noted that there is no exact German equivalent for the English present perfect.

Another mistake in the original sentence is linguistic, specifically choice of verbs. The English verbs make and do can cause problems for German speakers. Whereas we do our homework in English, Germans use the verb machen or make (i.e. die Hausaufgaben machen) with this expression. This explains the odd combination of made my homework above. It is not always easy to know which of the two English verbs should be used, as direct translations can sometimes work. In both English and German, it is appropriate to say to make a mistake (i.e. einen Fehler machen) or to make fun of someone (i.e. sich über jdn lustig machen). In other expressions, however, we must know that only do can be used in English, for example to do the shopping (i.e. die Einkäufe machen).

Word order is also problematic. The specific order of adverbs in the end position of an English sentence can be particularly tricky. In contrast to German where adverbs of time usually precede any other type of adverb, English speakers generally prefer having adverbs of manner first and then having adverbs of place and time. In the original sentence, last night should actually follow at home.   

Turning our attention to pronunciation, we must concern ourselves with the “notorious” devoicing of final voiced consonants, especially with plosives and fricatives. Final devoicing or Auslautverhärtung is a common feature of L1-German speakers. Instead of articulating /meɪd/ for made in the original sentence, /meɪt/ (or mate) is usually uttered. Mate and made are two separate words in English. Likewise, the devoicing of have will create a new word: half.  Concentration on saying I have made and not I half mate will increase intelligibility between both the speaker and interlocutor. Needless to say, had the correct word order in the original sentence been used in the first place, we would have avoided at least one articulation problem with have!  

Fred Thompson – University of Koblenz – Landau