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How to preserve your voice when teaching online

Susie Millen – MyVocalFitness

BEHIND THE TEACHER

Teachers always had issues with preserving their voices and vocal cords. I remember my school teachers consuming tons of mint candy and often having a hoarse voice. Talking online using a video conferencing tool brings a new set of issues as we tend to over-compensate speaking louder, trying to go through the screen barrier.

Even more so if you are teaching online with a music background. It’s like telling a story in a nightclub screaming over the noise. I believe that the infamous Zoom-fatigue is due also to this factor. 

People as teachers need to understand that they are performing when working. A professional performer such as an actor or a singer, considers the voice as an instrument, understands the acoustic of the surroundings and makes studies on how to use all these elements and how to project the voice. They use the voice as a muscle and they train it. 

We speak today with Susie, a vocal teacher who is also a fitness trainer in one of the most prestigious fitness club in London and knows exactly what we need to make sure we save our voice and at the same time send our message across with confidence, delivering a quality online fitness class.

Read also: How to engage your parents in doing yoga with you

How important is it to preserve our voice and which damage can we do to our voices?

It’s massively important! The voice is so fragile and it gets overlooked. It’s one of those things where it can catch you out and as an instructor, if you’re injured you can still teach but if you don’t have a voice, you can’t work.

I find it so bonkers that as fitness instructors, we learn about all the muscles in the body, teaching points, cueing etc. but never are we taught how to use a microphone properly, or taught good times to talk and not good times to talk over the music, and if you’re teaching 10+ classes a week, what effect that might have on your voice.

But learning about the voice has been a game-changer for myself and my fellow instructors at ThirdSpasce and across the planet! So educating yourself about the voice, what it does, and how to prevent strain, equals a long career as a fitness instructor.

I’ve worked with a number of instructors who have come to me with vocal injuries and without my training, there’s no way they could teach as much as they do. So yes, preserving your voice is important because when you know you can rely on your voice, you then have the confidence to teach more, which means you can work more, yay! 

What damage can occur in the voice, without the risk of scaremongering?

It can range from tiredness in the voice from overuse or misuse. I’ve helped instructors with croaky/husky voices which can come from swelling or something that can develop on the vocal folds called nodules which is like a callus growth.

There’s something called a polyp, which is like a blister that can develop on your vocal folds as well, again these may develop from overuse or misuse. But don’t panic I’m not saying this is going to happen to you! It’s like those people who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for 50 years and never get lung cancer!

All of the above is reversible if caught early and learning about the voice it can prevent any frustration & discomfort. However, if you are worried about your voice, or if you feel your voice has changed due to teaching, the ONLY way to know for sure if there is an issue is to have a laryngoscopy, which is a tiny camera that goes up your nose and into the Larynx, which is what houses the vocal folds.

Are there differences in delivering a class online or in presence?

Absolutely, the main difference vocally of course is whether or not you are able to use a microphone. Let’s face it, the losing battle when teaching any fitness class is to be heard over the music! And if you are teaching classes over Zoom, the good news is that Zoom is designed to pick up the speaking voice. A lot of people forget this. There are x3 volumes at which we speak when teaching.


1- Conversational volume,
2- Moderate calling voice
3- Shouting, the third being unsustainable.

It’s soooooo tempting to talk with a moderate-calling voice with or without a microphone,  and if you’re speaking at this volume for 45 mins, you will probably come away after class and say “why is my voice tired?!” When teaching in class with a microphone, you only need to speak at conversational volume for 95% of the class. For classes online I would say it’s roughly the same depending on where you stand and what type of exercise you are doing.

There are lots of exercises to improve how you can be heard in a safe way when not using a microphone and also without putting more effort into your voice.

Music is such an important part of training but we need to get it right so that it doesn’t cover our voice. Any tips?

YES, I’ve got one simple tip here you can implement in your classes today! Don’t talk over the lyrics in the music! Two voices together equals a clash, so try to avoid speaking over the lyrics. By not speaking over the vocalist, not only is  it less strain on your voice and you will also be understood more. Find those times in the music where you can speak, this way your audience will subconsciously feel a pattern of when you are going to deliver what’s coming up next.

Have a sneaky peeky at  Susie’s pearls of wisdom – This coming Thursday, 10th Dec 2020 15:30 (Europe/London) – the first lesson is free for getwofh.com trainers – (normal price £ 75) MyVocalFitness

Mar Bovi

Mar has work experience in tech, her passion is to make complex concepts easily digestible. Writer with a passion for fitness and health who wants to make the world a more peaceful place. A nomadic soul speaking 4 languages who lived in many countries around the world.

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