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How do I speak clearly with (or without) a mask?

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

2020 has been a year of change in terms of how we live and work. This has included the widespread wearing of face masks in public. For some that means wearing them all day at work.


I don't think many of us had realised until we all started wearing masks, just how much we rely on seeing people’s lips and facial expressions when communicating. Even if someone doesn’t have the clearest articulation, we can usually make sense of their words by watching their face.


But adding to this challenge of not being able to see facial expressions is wearing a mask also forms a barrier which can muffle the sound.


Now more than ever we need to access more clarity and effortless in our speaking voice firstly so that people can understand us but also so that we’re not inadvertently tiring our voice. This can lead to a sore throat or even losing our voice. We might feel like we have to strain or shout to be heard.


In the video below I will focus on some powerful techniques that have the quickest impact on a person’s voice. Bear in mind that we all use our voice quite differently so if this is something you seriously want to address (whether you’re wearing a mask or not) the most effective way is to work privately on your voice, so your specific vocal habits can be addressed and exercises can be tailored for you.


First things first we produce speech by creating consonants and vowels to form words. In English consonants carry the meaning / definition, vowels the emotion / feeling. We need both, but if your voice is unclear or you mumble, the chances are the consonants are not being fully articulated.


Often we think we’re being intentional but usually our tongue, lips or jaw are not pulling their weight so the speech can be a bit “mushy”. The tongue is often quite tense and retracted in many of us, which will also restrict the voice.


In these exercises we’re just going to focus on consonants (specifically plosive consonants).

Plosive consonants are a group of 6 consonants sounds which we all use all the time. They hold a lot of power because they are created by building up air pressure inside the mouth and then there’s a mini explosion (not literally!). When pronounced intentionally they not only add more power but a crispness and clarity to our speech. We can vary the intensity and volume of this to suit the occasion.


These consonants are P, B, D, T, G and K and we can put them into 3 sub-groups:


- B / P - front of lips (P voiceless)

- D / T - tip of tongue against top gum ridge (T is voiceless)

- G / K - back of the tongue kissing the soft palate (K is voiceless)


Watch the video below for some exercises on how to work with this.


Quite simply the more intentional our articulation, the clearer and easier our speech and the easier it will be for others to understand us. Whether we wear a mask or not, intentional articulation is critical for a healthy and powerful voice.




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