To achieve the low placement of American English, you have to speak with a relaxed body and face. This video helps you release tension in the neck and throat.
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In this American English pronunciation video, we’re going to go over neck and throat relaxation exercises.
When we help students find the UH sound, which we consider the core sound of American English, we often suggest finding a chest resonance, or a lower resonance, to help them find this sound. The way to find that lower resonance is to relax your neck and throat, and connect the vibrations of your sound to your body. Here are a few exercises to help relax your neck and throat and access that body connection.
First, let’s just relax the head down, chin to chest, and massage the back and sides of the neck.
>> I can do that.
This should feel really good.
>> Oh it does!
Feel free to give your shoulders some love. You may also feel like sighing as you do this, a nice easy sound carried by easy breath.
Now let’s roll our head around, starting slowly, just let your head hang down, with the chin on the chest, and start to gently roll it back and forth. Just a little bit, don’t go too far. Stay slow, and then start rolling it up even further on each side. Then eventually, you can go around the whole circle.
>> How’s that feel Tom?
>> That feels really good.
Now as you go around the full circle, if you feel any spot that feels tense, that you feel a little bit of ache in as you go around, really focus on that. Maybe get in there with your fingers and rub that out, so that you can go ahead and free the neck all the way around.
Now drop one ear to your left shoulder, while you do this, gently reach your right hand towards the ground, you’ll feel a little stretch in the right side of your neck. Don’t go too far, just do what feels good to release. Then switch sides.
>> How you doing there Tom?
>> This is great!
Now, leading with your eyes, look over your left shoulder, as far as you can (but, of course, don’t hurt yourself!!), and switch.
Here’s one that may feel a little bit weird at first. Let’s start with a very relaxed face, the jaw should be relaxed and possibly hanging open just a little bit. Let’s just sigh, nice full breath in, and a relaxed sigh out. Let a little sound out with the sigh, let the vibrations from the sound relax the throat even more. Now, put both hands on either side of your larynx, and very gently jiggle it back and forth. As you do this, continue your easy breath in and easy sigh out. If you’re able to do this, then it means your throat is relaxed because it’s impossible to do this with a lot of throat tension.
Lastly, let’s rub our hands together so they’re nice and warm and then place them around the neck. A natural heating pad, though it cools down a little too quickly!
Now, with your newly relaxed neck and throat, sigh on AH and see if you can feel the vibration in the chest. This relaxation will really come in handy as you work on your American English.
A lot of my students who speak with natural throat tension because of their native language have a hard time identifying the tension, because it’s so normal to them. So one way to work with this, to try to move your placement down is just to think of opening up the neck some. And all of these exercises will help. So go through all of these exercises, and then think of an opening sensation, so that your voice can rest more here. Any time there’s tension in the neck, it brings the placement up higher. But we want the American English placement to feel like it’s coming from here.
This video is part of a series on Relaxation and Placement. If you like it, check out the previous video on Lip Relaxation, or the next video on the Soft Palate. If you have any questions, put them in the comments below.
Now, I have to thank Tom for the exercises in this section. Tom picked up a lot of these tools when he was getting his Master’s degree in Acting at Harvard University.
>> So thanks, Tom, for lending your expertise.
>> You’re very welcome.
That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.