Notes on Freeing the Natural Voice
Drama Book Publishers, NY, NY (1970)
by Kristin Linklater

Introduction (1-6)


1. Everyone possesses a voice capable of expressing the gamut of emotion, complexity of mood, and subtlety of thought that he or she experiences.
2. Tensions acquired through living in the world, as well as defenses, inhibitions, and negative reactions to environmental influences, often diminish the efficiency of the natural voice to the point of distorted communication.
3. The goal of these exercises is thus the removal of the blocks that inhibit the human voice. (1)


a voice in direct contact with emotional impulse, shaped by the intellect but not inhibited by it. The natural voice is transparent- revealing not describing the inner impulses of emotion and thought directly and spontaneously. The person is heard not the person’s voice.

These exercises recondition the voice’s habitual way of communicating. Physical awareness and relaxation are the first steps in the work to be done, with a constant emphasis on mind-body unity. Breath and sound are re-connected to thought and feeling.


Evolution of this approach:

Elsie Fogerty: She systematized a method of speech training based on accurate physical mechanics of the voice.

F. Mathias Alexander: Habitual patterns of physical usage impose a dictatorship on the body which can only be broken with careful psycho-physical conditioning.

Iris Warren: Added psychological understanding to physiological knowledge. Actors would express strong emotions by dealing directly with a sufferiung sound rather than unblocking the emotions. This signaled a shift to internal, psychological controls. “I want to hear you, not your voice.” (2-3)

The actor’s goal is the development of a body that is sensitive and integrated rather than super-controlled and muscular. The voice has been neglected (aside from endless talk and primal screams) and never released from the prison of environmental influence, unconscious psychophysical conditioning and aesthetic standardization.

To teach relaxation, one must be willing to touch the student’s body and feel whether the muscles are responding to the messages. To introduce a new use of the voice, one must take hold of the body and move it in new directions to break conditioned movements. (4)


1. Abandon intellect in favor of feeling sensory impressions.
2. Avoid conclusions of right and wrong; you are your own worst enemy: the censor of your self.
3. Don’t trust your judgment. You have been biased by habitual ideas of good and bad and have become wary of new experiences. (5)

Notes on “How the Voice Works: A Scientific Description” (7-)


a. A series of impulses are generated in the motor cortex of the brain and sent through neural pathways to the speech structures.

b. The impulses are timed to arrive at the different locations of in the body so that a smooth, coordinated set of actions take place.

c. First, the vocal tract from the lips and nose to the lungs is opened up and the inspiratory muscles of respiration contract to lower pressure in the thorax so that air can rush into the lungs relatively unimpeded.

d. When sufficient air has been inspired for the desired utterance, the respiratory system reverses itself and by a combination of elastic recoil of distended tissue and by the abdominal and thoracic muscle contraction, forces are developed to push air back up the vocal tract and out the mouth and nose.

e. The larynx, however, has at least partially closed the vocal folds at the beginning of exhalation so the air stream is now impeded in its upward path.

f. The pliable vocal folds are set into quasi-synchronous vibration as the air passes between them.

g. These vibrations break up the outgoing breath stream into puffs of air that are relased into the vocal tract above.

h. These puffs of air excite the air in the resonating cavities of the pharyngeal, oral and nasal passages and produce sound in the upper vocal tracts.

i. The shape, volume, and opening of the resonators determines the overtone structure of the sound, while the basic pitch is determined by the rate at which the vocal folds vibrate.

j. Resonation can be thought of as of two types. The first tyle is used shape or color the voice generated at the larynx regardless of the speech sound intended. The second type is that which modifies the larynx-generated sound for a specific speech sound. The first type of sound is always present for the speaker, and the second type depends on what the speaker wants to say- the movements involved in this comprise what is called articulation.

Simply put,

1. There is an impulse in the motor cortex of the brain.
2. The impulse stimulates breath to enter and leave the body.
3. Thye breath makes contact with the vocal folds creating oscillations.
4. The oscillations create vibrations in the breath stream.
5. These vibrations are amplified by resonators.
6. The resultant sound is articulated by the lips and the tongue to form words.

1. impulse:


(The need to communicate becomes an electrical impulse which travels from the brain to the spinal cord to the nerve endings of the muscles which operate the organs of speech. This impulse has greater and lesser voltages. The lesser stimulate a slight breath reaction and the larynx muscles. The greater impulse stimulates the solar plexus’ nerve endings to glow and draw breath with vitality. It plays on the vocal folds which make vibrations dance out through the resonators of the body. This impulse arouses the reflex musculature of speech and controls the expression.)

2. breath response:


countless muscles throughout the length and breadth of the torso undergo coordinated movements that expand and the rib cage, contract the diaphragm, move the stomach down, and shift the intestines.

3. play of breath on the vocal folds:


simultaneous to the respiratory actions are laryngeal actions which stretch the vocal folds so that they offer resistance to air and oscillate on impact. Gentle pressure creates slower oscillations and low frequencies. Stronger pressure creates greater resistance and a higher pitch. Vocal folds are not muscles; they are membranes (30 to 50 millimeters) that are attached to the surrounding cartilages whose muscles react directly to impulse form the brain.

4. vibrations are amplified by resonators:


It is the nature of these vibrations to multiply as they meet resistant surfaces and sound again with different qualities and quantities determined by the textuyre of the surface and the shape of the cavity. The best resonators are bone, cartilage and toned up muscles. Flabby, fleshy unresistant surfaces muffle and absorb vibrations like a sponge. The hollows and empty tunnels of the body are also resonators: the pharynx, mouth, nose and also the boney structure of the chest, cheekbones, jawbones, sinus hollows, skull, the cartlilage of the larynx and the vertebrae of the spine.

Resonation corresponds to pitch:


LOW: chest, lower throat (pharynx)
LOW-MIDDLE: backwall of throat, soft palate, teeth, jawbone, hard palate
MIDDLE: mid-spine, cheekbones, nose
UPPER-MIDDLE- HIGH: upper sinuses, skull



Relaxed: with just enough energy to send breath gently into the vocal folds, a low sound resonates in the chest and lower pharynx.

Positive happiness, surprise, impatience: With increased causal energy, the breath is dispatched with greater vigor onto tighter folds, creating a higher pitched sound which rings into the middle resonators of the face.

Even more excitement: Stretches the muscle tissue lining the corridors of the throat, mouth and mask, tuning the resonators. With more breath and more stimulation, the muscles in the upper pharynx stretch and tone, the soft palate lifts higher and sound is released into the upper sinuses.

Hysteria: the pressure on the vocal folds and responsive tension sends a scream into the skull.

Articulation: The Final Stage of Communication


The stream of vibrations flows unimpeded through the richly resonating chambers of the body and out through the mouth.

Articulators are the surfaces which meet and interrupt the flow of breath or sound: the lips and tongue mold vibrations into different shapes.

Consonants: Two articulating surfaces meet: two lips, the front of the tongue, the upper gum ridge, the roof of the mouth, back of the tongue, back of the hard palate.

Vowels: lips and tongues mold the flow of vibrations into different shapes.

The articulators goal: to respond finely enough to reflect the agility of thought.

Why The Voice Does Not Work (11-18)


The voice is prevented from responding spontaneously because the vocal reflex is short circuited by secondary impulses except in moments ‘beyond control’ (extreme pain, fear or ecstasy).

Habit is the enemy: when secondary impulses are so great that reflex and impulse are blotted out. “I never cry.” “I can’t sing.” Most mental and emotional habits are formed unconsciously and by people other than oneself. Habit responds to secondary impulses: “Boys don’t cry.” “Nice girls don’t shout.”

The animal instinct of emotional response to a stimulus is conditioned out of us as we grow up. We come to a point where we want to access primitive sources of laughter, sorrow, anger or pity, and they have been civilized out of us.

First, the ability to receive a stimulus is impaired.
Then, secondary impulses interrupt the voyage of electrical impulses to the breathing and laryngeal musculature. These secondary impulses prevent the breathing muscles from reacting spontaneously, so they fail to deliver the necessary air: a little breath is found under the collarbone while muscles of the throat, jaw, lips, and tongue work twice as hard to compensate. The resultant tone is thin and not a spontaneous response.

The voice does not work to its true potential if its basic energy is not breath:

1. emotionally protective: no breath
2. Without breath, the voice depends on the throat and mouth muscles.
3. They find a safe, musical way to describe emotion which drives the sound monotonously into the head.
4. The throat and mouth muscles tense, contract and squeeze with such effort that vocal folds rub together, inflame, lose their resilience, and grow lumps without the lubrication of breath.

When breathing is restricted, throat tension constricts the channel and prevents vibrations from traveling into the lower resonating chambers of the larynx and chest producing a light, high, strident tone. The soft palate and back of the tongue bunch together and force sound into the nose. The nuance of your voice is ironed out, and its content is distorted by the one resonating form available.

If your breathing apparatus is tense, so is the muscle tissue lining the larynx. These muscles cannot perform their subtle movements, tightening and releasing to change pitch with thought inflections. Muscle tension diminishes the ability of the voice to be inflected by thought. The attempt to consciously control this process is a manipulative skill which
distances the voice from its true sound.

Finally, when the duties of the breathing apparatus and sound resonators have been abdicated, the articulators are buried. The tongue cannot perform (ie. mold sound) unless relaxed. The lips are part of the complex facial musculature which responds to inhibitory messages from the mind by drawing a curtain across the face. The face can be either the most or the least revealing part of the body. Over time facial muscles produce a mask which reflects the personality formed over forty or fifty years. To avoid this fate, in your early years your muscles can be prevented from setting prematurely by allowing them to pick up the complexities of changing moods and responses. For this to happen, though, the person must be willing to reveal her or himself.

Open-ness of countenance- Vulnerability is strength.

Lips can be well-oiled hinges or they can be heavily armed porticos.

You’ve heard the expression “a stiff upper lip”. That person is determined not to show any fear, doubt, any emotion at all, and the freedom of the upper lip is essential to articulation.

In summary, we need to break down the following BAD habits:


1. Breathing:
Emotion denied: protective neuro- muscular structures
Postures with sunken chests and swyed backs
Control of breath solely through large outside muscles

2. Vocal Folds and Larynx:
Lack of freedom in breathing shifts too much responsibility for sound to the delicate laryngeal muscles, which consequently tighten and destroy over time the free play of the vocal folds.

3. Resonating System
Tension in the larynx and throat blocks the voice from pharyngeal and chest resonators, inhibiting the lower resonators..
Tension in the back of the tongue, soft palate, face and neck hinders the free use of mask and head resonators, inhibiting the middle and upper resonators.

4. Articulating System
When breath is not free, the tongue provides conpensation diminishing its role as an articulator. Psychological tension leads to tight lips.