Full Voice – Five Elements of Vocal Presence

Dr. Joel Ying, MD

Physician, Educator, Storyteller. He hosts this website for "Living the Present Moment" as a conscious journey of Body, Mind, Emotion & Spirit. Holistic and integrative, his practice includes Tai Chi and Yoga, Craniosacral Therapy, Healing From the Core, Meditation. Always exploring his edges, he shares them in the blog, newsletter, courses, and online study group.

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Are your unconscious vocal habits keeping you from your full potential?

When I first started public speaking, my voice was hidden behind the podium and trapped in my throat. I had no volume and a singing cadence that would put you to sleep. Someone who is now a dear friend (through no fault of her own) once said, “When I first saw him speak, I thought to myself, he’s so quiet and timid. I can barely hear him. He’ll never be a good speaker.” Today, she cannot believe the transformation. Really, there is nothing wrong with a soft sing-song cadence … but only when used at the right time! I had no access to the rest of the range that a voice can have, and it was holding me back. My personal journey to expand my vocal range as a speaker has taken me through public speaking with Toastmasters Clubs, storytelling performance, and even singing workshops (and I don’t sing!).

Recently, another friend introduced me to a video by Barbara McAfee that has expanded my understanding of my vocal range as a speaker. If you want a short cut to expanding your vocal range, watch her video below.

Midwifing Voices

Barbara McAfee
Barbara McAfee

As a vocal coach, Barbara McAfee makes a living “midwifing” voices into the world. “Your voice is what brings your gifts into the world. When you free the voice, you free the person.” Your voice releases your full potential into the world. Vocal presence is when your voice is in alignment with your thoughts, feelings, purpose, and actions. Vocal presence comes from an authentic voice.

Most of us do not utilize our full vocal range. We do not have access to our whole voice. The voice brings our gifts and talents out into the world. When you birth the voice, you birth the person.

In her work, she has identified Five Elements of Your Voice. In her coaching and workshops, she teaches how to access those elements and how to use them deliberately in the right situations. When I think about my own voice, I had a WATER voice that would disappear into the AIR when I got nervous. Today, I continue to expand my voice into all the elements. The framework of the Five Elements has helped me to understand and move towards a more powerful vocal presence.

Check out her book, Full Voice: The Art and Practice of Vocal Presence, and watch her TEDx talk below.

If you want to reach your full potential, learn to use all Five Elements of your voice.

Five Elements of Full Voice

Element Resonance Example Use
EARTH Pelvis/Legs Say “O NO” in a very low resonance. Project authority

Stand your ground

FIRE Belly Sing “Lasangna” like Pavarotti Passion

Personal Power

WATER Heart/Throat Say “Ahhhh” with open throat, exaggerate by speaking like Julia Child Expressing from your heart
METAL Face/Nose Irritable Cat, “Meow” with a wrinkled nose Amplification
AIR Crown Talking to a baby,  lots of air, little sound Inspiration