In this episode of our series, “The World’s Most Interesting People,” I sat down with one of the world’s leading experts on voice.
He has worked with Selena Gomez, Tony Robbins, Gwen Stefani, John Mayer, Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper and Joaquin Phoenix just to name a few.
He is one of the few vocal coaches who works with singers, speakers and professionals like us. He has produced more than 100 million CD sales worldwide. Please welcome vocal coach, Roger Love.
Saving the World One Voice At a Time
Vanessa: Your vocal strategies have helped me get my voice ready for videos. I actually do a lot of vocal prep before I even get on video–most of us don’t even realize that our voices are so important. You mention you’re “saving the world one voice at a time.” What does that mean? Why is our voice so important?
Roger: Well, it comes down to the fact that people don’t realize that the words they’re using are actually helping them create the life that they want. They think if they have the right words that their YouTube followers would follow them more. They think if they have the right words and were asking somebody on a date, the person would say yes. They think if they were in a business situation and they had the right words, they could close the deal.
But the truth is that science has proven that theory wrong. The words used hardly matter at all.
In 2017, Yale did a study that researched speaking patterns. They found that what makes you believe someone, what makes you like someone, what makes you trust someone isn’t the specific words used. Why? Because most people have learned to lie with their words.
People have learned to lie with words, so you can’t always trust them. And then for years, people were thinking your physicality and your body movements were what made people believe you or like you or want to listen to you. But we’ve also learned to lie with our physicality. The words are not always telling the truth and the body doesn’t always tell the truth either. This Yale study basically said the only thing that’s truthful are the sounds your voice makes. When you listen to someone, no matter what they say you instantly feel something good or bad based on the sounds. But most people don’t even listen to themselves.
When is typically the only time someone listens to themselves? When they record their voice on a voicemail message when they get a new phone. They record their message and they listen back, thinking “Yuck! That’s horrible.” And then they try again and again and again. And then after about 30 minutes on average, they’re like “Oh I can’t spend anymore time working on my voicemail message. That’ll just have to do.” That voice that you settled with on your voicemail message? Well, that’s the voice that you’re going through life with.
So, how do I save the world? By changing people’s voices so that they move people emotionally and so they can have communications that get them the results that they want.
How to Love the Sound of Your Own Voice
Vanessa: One of the most common questions I get (and I am not a voice coach) is: “I do not like the sound of my own voice. What do I do?” Roger, I have no idea how to answer them, and I often point them to your products because I don’t know how to answer them. So for someone watching who doesn’t like the sound of their own voice or isn’t even sure what they sound like, what should they do? Where should they start?
Roger: First, they should know that they are not the voice that they are born with. Here’s what I mean with that. We get up as young adults or older adults, and we open up our mouths and sound comes out and we think that’s what Mother Nature gave us. So if it’s nasal, we’re like, “Oh thanks a lot, Mother Nature.”
And if it’s really soft and airy we’re like, “Oh well, Mother Nature said maybe I should be a therapist.” Or if it’s all squeaky and generates vocal fry, then we think Mother Nature just gave us that so we could be guest stars on the Kardashian show or something. So we think that’s our voice.
But here’s what actually happened. When we were babies, we just listened to the sounds that the people in our environment were using. So if mom spoke with a really nasal voice, and I had already decided really early on that I was totally into breast milk, then as soon as I could speak, I would just sound exactly like she sounded so that we would connect. We grow up sounding like the people we’re trying to connect with. And then we get older, and we think that’s our voice. But the truth is that wherever people are in their life–young, old, it doesn’t matter–they can decide how they want to sound.
Action Step: Who would you have vocally mirrored? Think about the people in your life just for a second. Is there anyone in your life whether it was a teacher or a parent or an older sibling, where you picked up their vocal patterns?
I’m walking down the street in Texas, and let’s say I haven’t been in Texas a long time and somebody says “Howdy!” And then the first thing that comes out of my mouth is “Howdy!” (Even though I never say this because I live in Los Angeles, this is vocal mirroring). We mirror each other so that we can connect.
Here’s what you should immediately do if you don’t like the sound of your voice. Record yourself on your phone talking about anything or reading from anything. Just get five or six or seven sentences recorded on your device.
Action Step: Record yourself answering the question, “What do you do?”
Once recorded, listen back. Specifically, listen back for:
- First, does your voice sound nasal? Does it sound like your voice is trapped in your nose?
- Next, when you speak, does it all kind of stay on one note or does it go up and down like a good song? Are there high notes and low notes or do you just stay on one note? If you stay on one note, that’s called monotone.
- Finally, does your voice sound airy?
You do not have to be a songwriter or a vocal coach to listen and just get your immediate feelings on your own voice. Okay, so let’s say you listened to your answer to “What do you do?” And you noticed that you stay on one note the whole time.
Think about your voice like a piano. A piano has 88 keys, and most people are walking around speaking with two notes. How can you access more notes? You learn how to navigate stairs.
Listen to Roger in action in the video above. “Now I’m walking up the steps where you go from a low note to a high note. Now I’m walking up the steps and now I’m walking down the steps.”
I want people to practice that, because when they speak, I want them to spend more time walking up steps. It’s called an ascending scale. And when you walk up the steps and the notes get a little higher a little higher a little higher a little higher, it makes people happy. Walking down the steps makes people sad.
People often don’t realize they’re walking down, because they were taught in school to go down at commas and periods. And they were told the only time they’re allowed to go up is when we get to a question.
Vanessa: How do you avoid the question inflection while also using the ascending scale?
Roger: Uptalk is this kind of this thing where the voice goes up at the ends of phrases, commas and periods. Here’s the difference between uptalk (which is bad) and walking up the stairs (which is good). When you walk up the stairs, each word gets a note. When you do uptalk, you slide up to the last note. There’s no negative to going up the scale, however, there is negative in the slide up.
Vanessa: Okay, so this is extremely important, and I feel like I’m never going to listen to anyone the same again. With uptalk, the last syllable goes on a side verses with ascending scale, each word goes up on a step to indicate excitement or happiness or passion or just something a little different.
Roger: That’s right. And again, you do not have to be a singer to do it. You just walk up the stairs. It doesn’t make people think you’re asking a question–it actually engages them. Aren’t you tired of being interrupted? I bet a lot of your listeners get interrupted a lot all the time. Now you know why. When you go down at a comma or a period, it instinctively makes the other person think you’re done speaking. So they jump in the conversation, and you’re being interrupted. You’re not creating any excitement when you go down.
When you talk to someone and you don’t go down, what happens is they know you’re not done. I’m talking to you and I get to a comma, and you know I’m not done, so you’re going to wait for me.
Vanessa: Not only is the ascending stairs important for the dynamic aspect of your voice, it’s also important for people to listen to you and to stop interrupting you.
Building Rapport with VIPs
Vanessa: You’ve worked with so many VIPs. How do you bond with a huge celebrity or a huge star? You’re obviously not diving right into the vocal piece. Are you building rapport with them or using conversation starters? How do you bond with someone who is important?
Roger: First of all, I have something going on my side. These celebrities have heard that I’ve done miracles with people’s voices. I made Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix sound great for Walk the Line. I made Jeff Bridges and Colin Farrell sound great for Crazy Heart. I taught Bradley Cooper how to sing, and I made him sound great in A Star Is Born. Celebrities come to me and they’re thinking maybe I’m the doctor who has the cure. So maybe you hate your voice or you want to sing or you lose your voice. People are extra nice to me because they think I can fix it. That’s one layer. I’m also good at showcasing who I am. I’m very open and authentic.
There’s no hidden agenda in the sound of my voice or in the words written on my face. “The voice is the window to the soul” sounds woohoo. People like to say the eyes are the windows of the soul–like look in someone’s eyes and you know what they’re thinking–well, you don’t. When I look in your eyes, I don’t know what you’re thinking, but when I hear someone’s voice, it’s authentic. You can’t lie with your voice.
People who come in to work with me or people who come to my live events or people who watch my videos, they see that I am authentic and then they realize that I’ve spent my lifetime creating techniques to fix the problems. I don’t even like to call myself an expert. Most experts are experts at nothing other than garnering people to listen to them.
I’m a teacher, so it’s all based on techniques to fix the problems like if you’re losing your voice, you’re not going to lose your voice anymore. Or if you hate your voice, here’s how to not hate it. I have great techniques that I deliver openly and honestly with very happy and grateful positive energy. And you know, so far it’s worked out absolutely perfectly.
Vanessa: You’re embodying the Offer Mentality. You have this knowledge as a teacher. You’re not going into meetings with people wanting something from them. You’re going in with an offer. All you want to do is authentically and openly help them. For anyone who’s watching or listening, if you’re meeting with a boss or a VIP, the absolute wrong way to do it is to think that they have the knowledge that you want or to just take, take, take. The way to do it is exactly what Roger is saying, which is I want to help, I want to be open and I want to offer something that’s going to solve one of our problems.
Action Step: When you’re meeting with a VIP or boss or teacher or client or celebrity, the best thing you can do is think about what you can do for that person. Is there something you can teach or an expertise you can offer in an open, authentic way that’s going to draw people to you?
Your Vocal First Impression
Vanessa: Many professionals think that the voice doesn’t matter or they don’t consider their vocal first impression. You offer a lot of perspective and exercises on this. What is one thing that professionals can do before they walk into a meeting?
Roger: I have created a bunch of fun exercises that literally tell your vocal cords where to go and how to be in the right position to make amazing sounds and also control the way that air comes in and out of the body.
To be a great speaker and to move people emotionally with the sounds of your voice and to achieve what you want, you have to have control over the air and you have to have control of the vocal cords. If you can do that then you know how to play the instrument of your voice.
I have warmups that literally make your vocal cords do what they’re supposed to and fix the air. One of them is an exercise called “Goog” and it sounds like this:
Listen to Roger in action in the video above. “Goog goog goog goog goog goog goog goog.”
In this exercise, you can have all the low notes that you need and all the high notes that you need, so when you walk in, you’re coming in as an amazing, tuned instrument. And then when the words come out, they ride out on beautiful sounds.
Vanessa: Here’s what I want to encourage everyone listening to do. Before you walk into a meeting, before you walk into a networking event, before a speech or a pitch, carve out time to warm up your voice.
Hopefully, we gave you some ideas in this post, but if you want to take it to the next level, Roger is offering all of our viewers and readers $50 off The Perfect Voice collection with code “Captivate”.
I can’t encourage you enough to check this out, especially because you are going to be using your voice forever, whether or not you stay in your job now or in 50 years from now. You’re always going to be speaking. You’re never going to stop speaking. Investing in your voice is one of the greatest ways you can invest in future career success.
I want to ask you one last question, Roger. What are you excited about coming up?
Roger: I am working on a new podcast. I’ve been guests on other people’s podcast, but I’m working with I Heart Media, and we’re doing a podcast called Love Your Voice. I’m just finishing up the last round of the first 10 episodes that we’re going to deliver to the general public and I’m really excited about that because I’ve learned so much from enjoying so many great podcasts, I decided it was my time to also have something offered in that space.
I learned early on in my life that voice is the most powerful communication tool that we have. And yet a very high percentage of the population is trapped behind voices that don’t even begin to showcase how amazing they are. You are a beautiful, shining and positive example of someone who is using their voice to make the world sound better.
Vanessa: I want to thank you so much for spending time with us and for sharing some of your knowledge with my students, readers and viewers. I hope this empowers you to find your voice. You don’t have to be trapped with a voice you don’t like.
Follow along with Roger’s journey:
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.
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