In this Vocal Branding Series, we’ve spent some time identifying what a vocal brand is (how people hear your identity in the world). We’ve also introduced some ways that you can begin to identify your vocal brand (listening, understanding, and identifying). If you haven’t read those posts yet, check them out!
Now we turn our attention to how you can begin the process of expanding or evolving YOUR vocal brand to redefine how those around you perceive your voice!
We began to hint at this in our previous post as we turned our attention away from other voices and began exploring your vocal brand. As we discussed last week, knowing how your sound is being consumed by those around you is key to learning how your vocal brand exists in this moment. This requires finding a few trusted friends, colleagues or advisors who can share some of the perceived sounds and timbres they hear when you speak.
The process of soliciting honest, trusted feedback on your sounds and timbre is important because it allows you to create a baseline as you begin to explore what you want for your vocal brand.
There are many ways that you can begin the process of redefining your vocal brand. As you continue to read, you’ll notice some similar concepts from our last post that will be expanded upon here, all with the goal of aiding you as you embark on your vocal journey.
The first step to identifying your vocal brand is to figure out what you like.
Take stock of who you are listening to and what draws you to those voices. Think TV shows, movies, podcasts, radio, etc. Remember, we’re focused on their voices, so ignore the content of what you’re listening to and just focus on the sounds you are hearing. What patterns do you notice?
When doing this listening, start to identify some of the patterns that draw you in. Here are a few questions (and examples) that are helpful to get you started:
Bright vs Dark
Is the voice that you are listening to bright, or dark in tone? What do we mean when we say bright and dark, you might ask? This has to do with the resonance (aka tone) of sound as it moves through your body .
A few examples of bright voices come from some classic characters like comedian and actress Mindy Kaling, or actor Tom Hanks. When you hear these two voices, they have a brighter and more forward resonance. They may seem less rich or deep, but instead have a more brilliant or sparkly quality.
Others have richer and darker voices. An extreme example of a dark voice is Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos. Her voice has a distinctly low, round, dark sound. If you followed the dramatic fall of Ms. Holmes and her company, you have likely heard that this was an intentional choice on her end, to darken and lower her voice in order to be taken more seriously by investors and colleagues. Morgan Freeman, the acclaimed actor, is also a fantastic example of a dark, rich sound.
As you begin identifying if voices you are drawn to are bright or dark, keep note of what sorts of emotional connotations those voices and sounds bring to mind. What sounds whiny? Authoritative? Trustworthy? Passionate? Likable??
As you observe, play around with your own voice. What does it feel like to mimic some of your favorite sounds?
One thing we want to make very clear, however, if there is any discomfort while experimenting, don’t make that sound. Your throat should never get sore or hoarse!
Monotone vs Inflection
Are you hearing a monotone sound or one full of inflection?
A monotone voice is unchanging in pitch and inflection - think the character of April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation or the actor and famed personality Ben Stein.
A voice with a lot of inflection is one where the pitch varies greatly. Business mogle and TV host Oprah Winfrey is a fabulous example of someone who speaks with lots of inflection. “You get a car, you get a car, you get a car!”
When you hear someone speaking with a monotone, what impression does it leave you with? Boredom? A sense that this person is disinterested or low in energy?
Start to explore what happens when you shift your speech from moving upward and downward in pitch to something a bit more monotone or robotic. How does speaking like this feel? What elements of speech seem to be missing when you explore the lack of pitch variation that is monotone?
Conversely, what does it feel like to have a lot of pitch variation with a highly inflected sound?
Record both options, listen back and see what you like best.
These are just a couple of the MANY vocal attributes you have to choose from as you develop your vocal brand.
As you continue to play with your own sound, record yourself, listen back and make adjustments. You may find other vocal attributes that are important to you and how you want to be seen. Speed, volume, tone, inflection, the list goes on and on.
The key to defining your vocal brand is to get to know your voice and to play with vocal attributes you like and want to incorporate into your brand. What works for one of your favorite voices may not work for you, and only by trying and exploring will you find that out.
Remember, much like the rest of you, your voice and vocal brand will be a constantly changing and moving thing. Give yourself flexibility and have fun throughout this process!