Moments of stuttering often occur as the body tries to coordinate vocal fold movement with other speech movements. Continuous phonation is a technique where speakers learn to keep their vocal folds vibrating throughout speech. This can help to reduce stuttering.
You can start to learn continuous phonation by working through the exercises below:
Learning continuous phonation with single words
Say the word "pocket". Touch your voice box as you say this word. Notice that there are two brief bursts of vibration (known as voicing). The vibration is occurring during the voiced sounds - in this case, it is the two vowel sounds "o" and "e".
Keep your fingers on your voice box. Try saying the word "pocket" again but this time consciously keep the vibration throughout the word. This will change the consonant sounds in the word, resulting in something more like "bo-ged".
Practice saying the following words with voiceless words. Practise keeping the vibration in the voice box running throughout the whole word:
picket catapult wicket packet tackle
A tip to help achieve continuous phonation Visualise your voice box as the engine of a car. To achieve continuous phonation you will need to keep the car's engine running throughout your speech.
The car's engine is always moving while you are driving - sometimes it is working hard and sometimes it is idling. In the same way, when you are using continuous phonation your voice box will be vibrating throughout the whole sentence. Sometimes the vibration will be more powerful and sometimes it will be softer, but it is present throughout - even between the words in the sentence.
Learning continuous phonation with short phrases and sentences Practice saying the following phrases. Keep the phonation running through the whole sentence. If it helps, keep you fingers on your voice box to make sure that the vibration keeps going throughout: What time is it? I’ll see you later. Shall we walk or drive? No ifs, ands, or buts. Better late than never. Sailing into the sunset. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. It was a cold and misty morning. The actor was signing autographs. She is getting a promotion. The lake was frozen over all winter. A bad workman always blames his tools. My brother went on a walking holiday in the mountains.
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Learning continuous phonation while reading aloud Next pick some short paragraphs of text. Practice reading these aloud and try to keep the vibration going. Make a recording of yourself as you do this. Listen back to check that you are using continuous phonation throughout.
1) I had called upon Sherlock Holmes one day in the autumn of last year and found him in deep conversation with an elderly gentleman with fiery red hair. I was about to leave when Holmes pulled me into the room and closed the door behind me.
2) My dear fellow,” said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side of the fire in his lodgings, “life is far stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent. We would not dare to conceive the things which are really mere commonplaces of existence.“
3) He had risen from his chair and was standing between the parted blinds gazing down into the dull neutral-tinted London street. Looking over his shoulder, I saw that on the pavement opposite there stood a woman wearing a fur coat and red hat.
4) I left Sherlock Holmes then, still puffing at his black clay pipe, with the conviction that when I came again on the next evening I would find that he held in his hands all the clues which would lead to the identity of the missing jewellery.
5) The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry. The miller lent him the small cart and a horse to carry his goods to the city of his destination, about twenty miles off. The vehicle was big enough.
6) He sat in his armchair, and pen in hand he began what looked very much like algebraic formula: I followed with my eyes his trembling hands, I took count of his every movement. For three long hours my uncle worked on without a word.
Learning to use continuous phonation while delivering monologues and in conversation
When you feel confident reading aloud while using continuous phonation, try delivering some monologues while using this technique. A monologue is where you speak aloud spontaneously, without reading from a script. Talk about anything you like, see below for some examples. Try to replicate the keep the vibration in your voice box going as you do this.
You can deliver these monologues by yourself. Record yourself doing this and listen back to check your technique.
Some examples of monologue topics:
Talk about what you have done so far today – break this down into steps and give lots of detail.
Talk about your most memorable holiday.
Which country would you most like to visit and why?
Talk about the plot of a film of TV show you saw recently.
Talk about some of your interests / hobbies.
Do you support a sports team? Talk about your team and how they are doing recently.
Learning to use continuous phonation in conversation
Once you feel able to reliably use continuous phonation while delivering monologues, you can try using it in conversation. Choose someone you are comfortable with and explain to them that you want to practice using a new technique. Choose a simple topic and try to keep the vibration in the voice box going throughout the conversation.
This will be very difficult at first. If you notice that you are not using the technique, remind yourself to keep the vibration going and try again. It will take a long time and lots of practice to be able to use any fluency technique in conversations.
As you continue to practice using continuous phonation you will become more skilled at making it sound more natural. Keep making recordings of yourself using the technique and listening back. This is an excellent way to increase how natural sounding your speech is while using fluency techniques.