Updated: Feb 2
"People who have deeper voices seem to speak with more authority, more influence, more confidence" is what a recent client of mine asserted.
And she's not alone...
Tina Dietz of Forbes wrote that, "CEOs with lower voices had longer tenure, led larger companies, and made more money — to the tune of $180K+ per year." according to research of 792 male CEO voices.
So, that's that then, right?
Which means that if you can learn how to make your voice deeper, you'll win more contracts, get that promotion, and get people hanging on to your every word.
Well, I'm not convinced...
I've been coaching for over 12 years and it is NEVER this simple.
A 'deep voice' without clarity of speech, an ability to express ones thoughts and ideas, and a physical presence is just a 'deep voice'. And that alone isn't going to get you anywhere, professionally or socially.
But assuming that these other attributes are in place, let's get to the bottom of what a 'deep voice' might be and how you might get one.
Get Thicker, Looser, Longer Vocal Folds
Think of the strings of a guitar in a conventional tuning.
The first string is low E and the last string is high E, (they are an octave apart).
The first string is much thicker than the top string and this is part of what makes the pitch lower.
It's the same with your vocal folds. The thicker (and looser they are) the lower the pitch.
If you were to tighten any one of the strings of a guitar, they would go up in pitch. And vice versa.
Equally, if you put your finger high up on the fret board (which essentially shortens the length of the string between your finger and the bridge of a guitar) the pitch would go up. If you were to let go again, the length would then be longer and the pitch would be lower.
It's the same for the vocal folds.
So, I guess the question is...
How Do You Get Thicker, Longer And Looser Vocal Folds?
Firstly, our voices are unique for all sorts of reasons and so the natural length, thickness and looseness of the vocal folds is innate.
But, (and it's a big 'but') there are many things that can influence your vocal folds which might be getting in the way of your voice being deeper and more resonant:
Hydration - the vocal folds need a certain level of lubrication to help them do their job effectively. So keeping hydrated is important, not least of all for your general health but also evidently for your vocal fold function. In the UK the NHS recommends six to eight glasses of water (1.2 litres) a day. There are also other things that can dehydrate the body: certain medication and diuretics (caffeinated drinks, alcohol).
Environment - For a lot of people, air quality can really affect the vocal folds. Things like air conditioning, dust and air pollution, even deodorant aerosols and hairsprays. These things may not affect you. And even if they do, there may be nothing major that you can change about your environment, but any small changes might help your voice.
Acid Reflux - this is where acid from the stomach travels up through the oesophagus into the throat. For some, this can irritate the vocal folds and lead to other conditions. This is a big subject, one that I won't dive into now. But things like stress and certain foods and drinks have been linked to acid reflux and many strategies for reducing it (see this article) but something simple to start with is to put at least 2 hours between eating and laying down (either on a sofa or going to bed).
Posture - the alignment of your spine is important for a number of reasons, and misalignment can really affect your breath and muscles around your larynx which in turn might affect your vocal folds. There are all sorts of practices that can help you with alignment, a couple of which I'll list in a moment, but you may want to consider simple things like how you sit when working at a computer or in a meeting or when eating, how you stand when waiting for something/someone and maybe even whether your shoes are affecting your posture (here are some practices: Feldenkrais Technique, Alexander Technique).
Unwanted Physical Tension - In some ways this is linked to posture, but it's fair to say - because every part of the body communicates with one another - that unwanted physical tension of any kind can affect the functioning of your vocal folds. But unwanted tension around the jaw, tongue, neck and shoulders in particular would be very beneficial to release. There are many ways you can do this and practices like the ones mentioned above that can really help, but other than voice coaching, a vocal physiotherapist specialises in releasing tension in these areas.
Vocal Fatigue - if you have used your voice a lot or regularly speak in noisy spaces or spaces with poor acoustics, then it's likely that your voice needs rest. Those at high risk are teachers and lecturers, professionals who speak to clients or customers all day, customer-facing staff in noisy restaurants, cafes or bars, actors and singers and other professionals on television or radio. Those with sever fatigue or overuse can of course develop other more serious vocal damage like nodules, polyps, cysts etc... Taking vocal naps (short periods of complete silence - not even whispering - when it's not essential to use your voice) and longer periods of vocal rest (the longer the better) is essential. Steaming can also be very helpful. As is getting a good nights sleep.
Illness - it's perhaps obvious that illness can affect your vocal folds, particular those that cause a lot of mucus, those that cause you to cough, and those that dehydrate you. Certain medication have been known to dehydrate the vocal folds, as can lozenges containing menthol and eucalyptus.
Throat Clearing, Glottalising and Effort Closure - Effort closure is when we close the vocal folds to keep air from releasing in order to stabilise the torso (core/trunk of the body. We do this necessarily when lifting, pushing and bearing down (defecating, child birth). If your job is particularly physical, then you might be effort closing all day long, and your vocal folds might be very tight. If you weight-lift, do a lot of resistance training at the gym, or do any sports that involve pushing or pressing, you might also be encouraging your vocal folds to be tense. TIP: The answer is not to stop doing any of these things, but an option would be to exhale on an /f/ sound when pressing or lifting which will keep your vocal folds a ease. Throat clearing may seem little a very normal thing to do, and it is. But it's not great for your vocal folds and can with repetition cause your vocal folds to become tired and tight. TIP: Much better to take a breath and cough. It might be worth asking yourself why people do it? Aside from this list, some people do it out of nervousness and it can become an unwanted and unconscious habit. Glottalising is a closure of your glottis (the space between your vocal folds) and then sudden release of air. You often hear it used in place of some T sounds in some accents, as in 'better' or 'water'. If you do this at lot then again your vocal folds are practicing being tense over and over and can stay tense during speech. TIP: pronouncing T sounds can help you avoid this tightness.
Air Flow - to function well, your vocal folds need just the right amount of breath. There can be many, many things that affect your breathing when speaking, but unwanted tension in your abdominal muscles is a significant one. Releasing this tension can be challenging, but definitely worth paying attention to when speaking.
Mental Health - anger, fear, frustration and stress can affect your body physically, this includes your vocal folds. Finding balance emotionally and psychologically help to create conditions whereby your breathing, body and vocal folds can function effectively.
Assuming that you are managing some of the above, there is one last consideration before I give you some exercises...
Are You Speaking At Your Natural/Resting Pitch?
This is the pitch at which you were born to speak. But things can get in the way of that:
being continually asked to sound 'polite' as a child can (for some) make them speak at a higher, more conventionally 'pleasant sounding' pitch.
puberty can make children want to be more historically 'masculine' sounding so they try to make their voices to sound deeper than they naturally are OR more historically 'feminine' sounding so they make their voices sound higher than they naturally are.
this can also happen as adults as we form social groups or start working in certain professions where there is a culture that encourages us to speak and communicate in certain ways.
it can also be true that some accents and even languages have a sort of 'typical pitch' at which they like to speak.
These things might not simply result in tenser vocal folds but also may have actually made you subconsciously raise or lower your whole larynx (your voice box) unnecessarily, and/or tilt part of the larynx, which means that your voice is higher or even possible lower than it naturally is.
So, you can see why anyone who claims to have the answer for 'how to talk with a deeper voice: 15 steps' needs to be avoided.
These headings make great click-bait, but they smack of our modern need to find quick fixes to our problems. "Give me some low hanging fruit..." is a phrase used by so many of my clients who want quick, easy results. And searching for things like 'does testosterone make voice deeper?' or 'drinks that make your voice deeper?' won't help.
So, if you're looking for tricks, you won't get them here.
Deeper Voice Exercises
Here are my meaningful suggestions to help deepen your voice (please read the disclaimer at the bottom of this post):
STEP ONE: Release Unwanted Tension
Jaw - Start with massaging your jaw muscle. If you clench your teeth you should feel a muscle just in front of your ears on the corner of your jaws called the masseter muscles. Then, look at the palm of your right hand and in the bottom left corner there is a little bone called the pisiform. Find the same bone on your right hand and press them into masseter muscles on either side of your jaw. Massage in circular motions: up, forwards, down and back. Leave your mouth relaxed open and breath naturally.
Tongue - Put the tip of your tongue behind the back of your bottom front teeth - keep it there. Then smile and let your bottom jaw relax open. Then stretch the body of your out between your teeth, leave it there for a few seconds and then relaxed it back in. When you stretch your tongue, avoid pushing your bottom jaw forward and avoid the top of the tongue scraping your upper front teeth.
Neck - There are many things you can do to release unwanted tension in your neck. Even spending time laying on your back with your head on a small book can create the condition where your muscle tension in your neck will start to release. Also try dropping your head forwards whilst standing and roll it easily over to one side (left ear towards left shoulder) and then back through the middle to the other side. Accompany this movement from side to side with a sigh of breath, maybe leave the head on each side for a few seconds to encourage more release.
Throat - let your left ear drop towards left shoulder looking straight forwards. Let your jaws relax open. Then yawn deeply, feeling the inner spaces of your throat, particularly on your right side, stretch slightly. Repeat on the other side. Then let your head and neck drop forward (don't collapse your chest). Lace your fingers together. Place them on the back of your skull (not your neck) then let your elbows relax towards one another to the sides of your head. Feel the natural weight of your arms gently stretching the back of your neck. As you do this, yawn again, this time feeling a gentle stretch in the back of your throat. Lastly, drop your arms to your sides. Float your neck and head up and then look up towards the sky but without collapsing the back of your neck. Let your jaws relax apart. Your mouth should be relaxed open. Then yawn again, feeling the front of your throat stretch gently.
STEP TWO: Stretch Your Vocal Folds
Have you ever heard a dog whining to go outside for a walk? When we imitate this, our vocal folds are stretched.
make an /NG/ sound (as in the end of the word 'song' - but don't pronounce the 'g'). Then imitate the sound of a dog whining. Ensure that you take easy, deep breaths and that you only go as high in your voice as is comfortable (with time you may find that you can go higher). Do this for about 1 minute.
STEP THREE: Loosen Your Vocal Folds
following on from the previous exercise, slide down through your voice from high to low on an /NG/ sound. At the bottom, let the back of your tongue relax in your mouth and make the vowel sound /AH/. The let your voice relax into what some people call 'creak' or 'vocal fry'. This is a part of the voice that sounds like a old wooden door creaking open in a horror film. In this state, the vocal folds are at their loosest. If your vocal folds are tense, you may find this difficult to achieve to begin with. You need very little air flow to produce this sound. Don't push. It will happen when you are at your most relaxed. You may find that your 'creak' doesn't last for very long, but as your vocal folds become looser so your creak may last longer. If you can do 1 or 2 minutes of creak (of course you'll need to take several breaths over during this time).
STEP FOUR: Relaxed, Constant Air Flow
Your vocal folds are happiest when they have just the right amount of air travelling up from inside to outside. One way to encourage this is to blow through a straw whilst making sound. Now, there is much discussion out there about the benefits of vocal straw exercise for voice. People talk about different sizes of straws, whether or not to blow bubbles into a bottle of water, and what to do with your voice as you do it. Here are my suggestions for deeper voice exercises:
take a small/medium width straw.
let a breath drop in to your belly.
release the air out through the straw and ensure that your cheeks are puffed out and that you are not tightening your stomach muscles. If you put your hand in front of the end of the straw you should feel a steady flow of air.
as you do this, make sound in the mid/low part of your voice, letting your voice drop lower (very slowly) during the exercise (place your hand on your larynx and
when the breath naturally finished, let a new breath drop in through your open mouth and repeat it again.
do this for about 1 or 2 minutes.
(It is optional to do this with the other end of the straw in a bottle of water. The slight resistance of the water can be helpful for some people).
REPEAT STEPS TWO, THREE AND FOUR THREE TIMES
NOTE: it should feel easy. If you feel like you are trying to push the sound out for as long as you can, you won't benefit from the exercise. It also won't be very loud, don't try or else you will end up pushing.
STEP FIVE: Resonance - Deeper Harmonics
The vibrations of your voice love bones. And the low pitches of your voice love the big, porous bones of the rib cage and sternum (breast bone). This is physics not opinion. It's what's known as secondary resonance. Encouraging these deeper vibrations of your voice to resonate through the bones in your chest is again about releasing unwanted tension but also about awareness. Just noticing these vibrations in your chest may help you to develop them.
after going through step one and then step two to four three times, stand and hum on an easy, low pitch (make an /M/ sound) with your hands on your chest.
feel the vibrations (or lack of them to begin with) across your chest. Feel around to the sides and back of your rib cage. You may notice that they are stronger in some places than others.
Also notice that as you go up in pitch, the feeling of vibrations in your chest reduces and that as you come back down to lower pitches they strengthen.
Stay in the low part of your voice either humming on an /M/ sound or on an /AH/ with a low tongue and your mouth relaxed open and loosely and gently beat your chest with a loosely clenched fist.
You might also look diagonally up towards the sky (keep your spine through your neck aligned), let your bottom jaw relax open so that you feel space down through your throat and sigh on a low, easy /HAAAH/ again gentle beating your chest or even bouncing loosely through your knees.
So, consider the list of things that can influence your vocal folds, make the changes you can and follow these five steps for about 15/20 mins a day, and I'm sure you will begin to find more of deeper voice.
The information in this blog post has been compiled by way of general guidance in relation to the specific subjects addressed, but is not a substitute for individual professional guidance on specific circumstances. Please consult a medical professional before beginning any physical exercises or speech related exercises, particularly if you have known specific issues that may influence their general safety and efficacy. If you engage in the exercises in this blog post, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge the author from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of the author's negligence.