Notes on Freeing the Natural Voice
Drama Book Publishers, NY, NY (1970)
by Kristin Linklater
|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
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
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
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
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
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
g. These vibrations break up the outgoing breath
stream into puffs of air that are relased into the vocal
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
|1. There is an impulse in the motor cortex of the
2. The impulse stimulates breath to enter and leave the
3. Thye breath makes contact with the vocal folds
4. The oscillations create vibrations in the breath
5. These vibrations are amplified by resonators.
6. The resultant sound is articulated by the lips and
the tongue to form words.
|(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
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
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
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
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
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
The voice does not work to its true potential if its basic energy is
|1. emotionally protective: no breath
2. Without breath, the voice depends on the throat and
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:
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
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.