Freeing the Natural Voice with Kristin Linklater

Freeing the Natural Voice with Kristin Linklater

This week’s guest on the 21st Century Creative Podcast is Kristin Linklater, the world-renowned teacher of voice work for actors and speakers, and the author of Freeing the Natural Voice and Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice.

Kristin LinklaterI recorded this interview at Kristin’s Linklater Voice Centre, in her native Orkney, at the end of a week-long course on speaking Shakespearean verse. As a student of Kristin’s I have personally benefitted greatly from her teaching, and I’m delighted to be able to share her work with you in this interview.

Kristin has some very insightful things to say about creativity, authenticity and communication, based on a lifetime spent teaching voice work – so you’ll find it helpful whether you’re an actor or you do any kind of public speaking.

And as we discover in the conversation, working on your voice can have a very interesting and positive effect on your creativity, outside of the realm of performance!

If you want to develop an authentic connection to your own voice – whether for professional performance, creativity or personal development – I highly recommend Kristin’s courses. I’ve taken two courses at the Linklater Voice Centre and it was absolutely worth the effort of travelling to Orkney. As you can see from the photos, it’s a magical setting in which to do some powerful inner and outer work.

Kristin Linklater and students working in her voice studio

External shot of the Linklater Voice Centre

Chairs round the stove inside the Linklater Voice Centre

Take Kristin’s Creative Challenge (and win a copy of Freeing the Natural Voice)

Every week, at the end of the show, I ask my guest to set you a Creative Challenge – something practical you can do that will help you put the ideas from the show into action.

Here’s how you can take part – and maybe win the prize of a copy of Kristin’s book Freeing the Natural Voice.

1. Listen to the interview part of the show, either in the player above or on iTunes or your favourite podcast platform.

2. There are two versions of Kristin’s challenge – you can do either (or both) if you want to enter the draw for the books.

First version: Go out to the countryside or if you’re in the city, to a big park, so that you’re alone or at least anonymous.

And in a loud voice, shout firstly to sky: “Haaaaaaah!”

Then to the horizon: “Heyyyyy!!”

Then down to the ground: “Hoooo!”

And remember those different sounds, they are significant.

Second version: choose a poem that has some personal relevance to you, and learn it by heart, letting the images of the poem flow into you and the feelings it arouses.

Then read the poem out loud to two or three friends.

4. Once the challenge has finished, I will pick 3 winners at random from the comments, who will receive the prize of a copy of Freeing the Natural Voice.

5. Over the weekend I will send a bonus recording with my feedback on your comments and what we can all learn from the challenge. I’ll be looking through the comments for common patterns, whether that’s ways a lot of you get stuck, or great solutions you’re finding to the challenge. I’ll also be sharing reflections and advice from my own experience of public speaking, reading my poems, and working with Kristin.

6. As usual the feedback recording will NOT be released on iTunes or anywhere else the show is syndicated. It will only be available via the 21st Century Creative mailing list – click here to join the list (and get a free Creative Career course).

One last thing…

If you’re enjoying the show it would be a huge help to me if you would take a moment to subscribe to The 21st Century Creative in iTunes.

And if you’d like to leave a brief review in iTunes, that would be even more helpful.

The more people who subscribe and review the show, the more visible the show will be in the iTunes store, and the more creators I can help with it.

This is particularly important in the first few weeks of a podcast – so if you enjoy the show, and you’d like to support it, taking a few moments to subscribe and/or review will give the podcast the best chance of success.

Thank you!

Mark McGuinness is a poet, a coach for creative professionals, and the host of The 21st Century Creative Podcast.

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Responses to this Post


  1. Best episode yet. Eager to try the challenges. I have 45 years of training in public speaking, but this is a very different approach and I love it. I’ve also always wanted to try my hand at poetry reading; I sing in public all the time (another place this will be interesting) but poetry recital is so very different.

  2. This was a revealing experiment.

    We live in a planned community, 1 mile square, regular neighborhood, but out in the desert, surrounded by mostly nothing. Still, neighbors right across the wall.

    Stepping onto our back patio, I heaved 3 huge sighs of ha hey ho to the sky, horizon, ground, and found myself chuckling about what the neighbors might think.

    Later, I read one of my own poems to my wife and daughter. I sing my songs in front of them and others all the time. Piece o’ cake, right?

    I locked up. Had to talk myself down from the ledge to even begin, and I know my whole body was rigid as I performed the poem.

  3. Anders Falkeholm says:

    Thank you, Mark, for a good podcast. I’ve been catching up on all episodes the last few weeks on vacation during workout, doing dishes and other moments when the kids prefer not to be around and about. Even though every topic hasn’t appealed to me directly by headline, every recording has been a good listen due to your high-quality interviews, the inspiring guests and your thoughtful insights.

    Yesterday I spent early morning until lunch in solitude rowing a boat on the sea. I had plenty of time for the podcast playlist. The 21st Century Creative was in queue right after episode 323 of The Art of Manliness podcast. The topic was vertical vs horizontal breathing, a good upbeat for your talk with Kristin Linklater.

    Finding a private place for some vocal exercises was easy at the open sea. It was kind of liberating to loudly say “haa, hey, hoo”, perhaps enhanced by me being a more quiet person normally.
    I though I was alone, but soon after a grey seal popped up and wondered what I was up to…

    Kristin, thank you for your generosity and inspiration. I’m really tempted to attend one of your classes some time and of course learn more from your book.

    As for the second version, I got stuck right from the start and had to alter the challenge. I never read poetry, so I looked up some for inspiration. I turned to recommended poems by a Swedish Nobel prize winner, but I failed to find any deeper meaning in the words. Think I’ll search for some more when inspiration returns…

    Eagerly awaiting the final episode and looking forward to following your work the next season.

    Best regards from Sweden

  4. Mark, thank you for the podcasts. I was listening to your first podcast driving through Hokkaido, Japan and you were talking about Kristin Linklater.

    The seed was planted in me to take up her course. Thank you for the episode where she talked about the need for warm up. Such a simple idea. But duh, I dont do it enough.

    I like the idea of memorising a poem instead of a Shakespeare sonnet. Keeps my monkey brain in check.

    I first came across your name in an interview where you mentioned Vikram Seth. You throw up Asian giants which I find unique. In this episode you talked about Sumo wrestling and the Mongolian who made good for himself in this field. Some of the episodes I like very much and listen again and again.

    I am playing to visit Kristin Linklater’s centre next year. Its very far from Singapore and it will bevan adventure for me.

  5. Hi Mark,

    Another great podcast thank you! …and yes, there is a difference when you’re able to talk directly face to face with your Creative. I love Kristin’s approach and as you said her authenticity and richness are clear in her voice.

    As an actor I liked her approach about not throwing or over articulating the voice and allowing it to move out with the breath and thought.

    I have just returned from my last art group meeting before the summer break. After supping on a small glass of Prosecco with my friends, I then drove back toward home. No one had time to listen to a quick recital so I decided to stop by an empty field. Clambered over the gate, into a wild flower meadow disturbing butterflies and as the rain started to fall, strode through the field and then called out hi, hey, hoo and then recited a short poem by Osip Mandlestam about a ray of light which held some metaphoric resonance for me when I came across it. I actually recorded it on my iPhone so it was heard in a virtual sense, then walked back to my car and drove back. It felt good 😉

    So thanks to both you and Kristen for an enlightening and enlivening experience.

    Am looking forward to the last episode in the season and hope the wait for season 2 won’t seem too long. Have a great summer.

  6. Another fantastic interview, Mark – many thanks to Kristin for her invaluable insights (her voice also had an immensely calming effect on me). I wish I lived closer, it would be amazing to participate in one of her workshops (for me, it would have to be an introductory level voice technique class, though…lol).

    After listening to the interview, I totally agreed with the assessment that you don’t have to be an actor, singer or even someone who makes a living with their voice, there is value for anyone interested in connecting with their authentic voice. This interview, combined with the challenges, has been extremely powerful…and eye-opening (even if, at times, I struggle with translating that into words)… 😉

    So…moving onto the challenges…

    First version:

    Though I live fairly close to several lovely city parks, I am also fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood where I felt comfortable shouting “Haaaaaaah!” to the sky, “Heyyyyy!” to the horizon and “Hoooo!” to the ground from the comfort of my own backyard, e.g. my neighbors likely have far more eye-raising things going on in their own backyards… 😉

    The exercise was exhilarating…and I felt both powerful on the first two, then a bit weak in the knees as I connected with the ground. Interesting? I repeated this same exercise for the next few days – it feels pretty darn liberating – and even though I continued to have that odd sensation on the third callout, noticed I tended to have more conviction on the “Hoooo” as the week progressed, and while it still wasn’t quite the rush as the other two, it did improve.

    On a sidenote, my Alaskan Malamute thought it was some sort of weird human game and joined in by howling (though it’s important to note, he tended to focus on the “speaking to the sky” part with the full head-tilt. What can I say, other than the dog is already copacetic with his own voice – perhaps we could all take a page from his book!?).

    Second version:

    I cheated on this one and chose lyrics from two songs I already knew the words to from by heart, in lieu of a poem. The first was “Mercy Street” by Peter Gabriel, inspired by Anne Sexton’s “45 Mercy Street” and the second was “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd.

    It was harder to speak the words without the music (or singing to it) and took a lot more practice than I had anticipated. Once I removed what I knew about the song and concentrated on the words, much like I would when reading a story aloud, I found myself running the gambit of emotions as I translated each line so that it verbally expressed my own feelings…a couple hit me hard (unfortunately, I’m not a pretty crier).

    At the end of the day, my significant other was the only one I was comfortable sharing this challenge with and while he is fond of both, was not privy to which song(s) I had chosen beforehand.

    My “presentation” was quite different from the songs he was used to. I changed the inflection on particular lines and focused on the emotion I wanted to communicate, e.g. I altered the tempo and pitch and on lines he might have expected me to “belt out” I spoke quietly, so he had to lean in to hear, then used inflection on only those words that possessed meaning (to me).

    Though I was exhausted and admittedly, a bit teary as I finished, he was gracious enough to hug me and said that my reading was powerful and that he “saw” the lyrics through my eyes. I winked, shook my head, and told him, no, you “heard” two powerfully-written and heart-felt stories, crafted by masterful storytellers (who just happen to be amazing musicians), as interpreted by my voice…

    Thank you, Mark, as always…for this opportunity…

  7. Thank you everyone, this week’s Creative Challenge is now closed.