The Newsletter
October 1st, 2008                                                                  Find your natural dynamic speaking voice and maintain it!
Vocal Tip of the Month!

Breathe and Relax!

O.K…  I will be the first one to admit that going back to school was not easy!  My students are adorable despite the usual one or two that require more of my attending but vocally, I still found myself struggling with a dry throat and a little bit of vocal fatigue within the end of the first few days back to work.  I have to say that I did not expect that at all coming from my (so I thought) well-educated self when it comes to using my speaking voice properly.  It turns out that even I have to stop and reassess myself to monitor my speaking voice once in a while and ensure that I follow all of my own advice.  So I asked myself the following fundamental questions:

1) Am I drinking plenty of water?  YES!

2) Am I speaking at a low reasonable volume as much as possible?  YES!

3) Am I placing my voice in the mask (sinus resonators)?  YES!

I couldn't quite pinpoint what was wrong so I decided to give myself some more time and try to be more self aware of what I'm doing when I'm addressing my class.  Then it happened; I had a breakthrough!  On one odd afternoon, a stressful situation arose.  I might have appeared calm in dealing with the problem but inside, I felt annoyed and a tiny bit upset.  I felt my body tense from my abdomen to my neck.  I stopped and I told myself to just BREATHE and RELAX!  I took a deep breath naturally letting my belly come out and my larynx and neck loosen up.  In a fraction of second, I visualized all my tension coming out of my body as I exhaled slowly.  That is very important because a lack of control on how the air comes out creates irregular diaphragmatic rhythmic movements that will in turn tighten the chest, larynx and jaw.  In short, that translates to a lack of support and friction on the vocal cords.  The next word I spoke came out smoothly even though assertive.  My throat hasn't hurt since!  Remember: breath is gas for your engine.  Your voice is a vehicle for your emotions and thoughts.  They work hand in hand together.  When one or the other is off, everything else falls apart.  Keep your instrument free of stress by applying consistent diaphragmatic breathing to avoid strain on the vocal folds.

Interesting Facts

Demystifying the Diaphragm

"Sing from the diaphragm!" is something you have probably heard countless times.  You might wonder what it means exactly since the vocal cords are primarily responsible for producing the sound of the voice.  So why don't we hear "sing from the vocal cords!" instead?  Well, I guess that would be a little too obvious!  Plus, the opposite (talk or sing without involving the vocal cords) is practically impossible so it would not make sense!  The point of this expression is rather to remind you to engage the diaphragm in supporting the voice by regulating the desired air pressure necessary to speak or sing.  The diaphragm is a flat muscle attached to the bottom front, sides and back of the lungs.  It expands in a dome-like shape during inhalation and relaxes or shrinks back up during exhalation.  To support the voice, it is important to utilize enough air to project it; this is where singing (or speaking in our case) from the diaphragm becomes in context.  During singing or purposeful speaking, keep the diaphragm expanded as long as possible by applying a slight downward pressure and better control how much air is leaving your lungs.  The correct belly sensation in using the diaphragm correctly to support the voice is the same as in trying to blow candles on a birthday cake.  Except during speech or during a slow breath exhalation, maintain that same sensation on a smaller scale.

Inspiring Quotes and Stories...
Get Active!

A great way to oxygenate oneself and learn to regulate the breath is to practice sports.  Last year, my teacher's aide organized a Pilates class during lunch for teachers at my school.  (Thank you, Karen!)  We met once a week for a 45 minute session.  We all loved it!  I personally enjoy exercising every morning before I leave for work.  I enjoy my daily Pilates but I also swim and jog from time to time.  Concentrate on your breathing whenever you exercise.  It is recommended to breathe out during the effort phase of the exercise.  If you jog or bike, try to get into a rhythm and stick to that pattern as long as possible.  Exercising allows for the release of negative energy by letting go of accumulated stress and replaces it with positive naturally occurring chemicals, most notably endorphins and norepinephrine.  Come on, get moving!

Follow-Up Questions...
Question: It would be interesting for French Immersion or Core French teachers to know some of the call and response sentences you used in French. In my new role as a Beginning Teacher Coach for FSL programs I would love to share them with new teachers who need all the help they can get in establishing good routines.  Do you think you could share some of the sentences with me?

Answer: Here are the ones I use all year long in my classroom in French:
 -Le respect s.v.p.!/Le RESPECT S.V.P!
-Dans la classe j'écoute le professeur/J'ÉCOUTE LE PROFESSEUR, J'ÉCOUTE LE PROFESSEUR!
(Clap hands on each syllable rhythmically for the response.)  I use that one a lot especially when a rule if broken, always using "Dans la classe, je__________." then students repeat the last part. 
-Un, deux, trois/YEUX SUR TOI

Relevant Links

Voice Yourself in the Classroom

Valerie Bastien

The Voice Connection

Things to Note

If you like what I do, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and feedback with me by signing my online Guest Book! You can also contact me directly at:

Have a wonderful month!

-Valerie Bastien

What's Happening?
Voice Lessons
I will be accepting more voice students this term.  I am therefore available for one-on-one consultations at my house for Toronto residents.  If you live in a different part of the globe and still wish to get a voice lesson with me, we can meet "live" via Skype providing that you have a webcam.  Please contact me for more information at