Is there someone you would recommend to me if I wanted to slightly change a certain tightness, for lack of a better word, in my voice? Example: my “r” sound can sound hard to me me when I hear myself back on a recorder. In general my voice just sounds tight to me at times, as though I pronounce my consonants more than I’d like to, unless I’m doing a breathy voice. But I don’t want to compromise strength in order to sound softer. I spent the first 8 years of my life in upstate New York and I think I have some sort of lingering accent even though I’ve lived in California for most of my life. Thanks!
You are absolutely right — getting breathy is not a good option. There are many reasons a voice can sound tight. Work with a voice coach or speech therapist will definitely support you. You can also think about whether or not you are a high energy or even anxious person. To modify that you could work with a life coach, a therapist or a spiritual advisor. You could also practice meditation or yoga.
Since you have noted consonants are an issue for you, I’ll add some suggestions. Tension in what we call the articulators (the tongue, lips, jaw) can cause the voice to sound tight. You can do some tongue trills (like a rolled “r”) and lip trills (blowing air through slightly pursed lips so they vibrate) and wiggle your lower jaw to loosen things up. Also check to see if the back of your neck is tight. You can use self massage and neck rolls to release it. When you form consonants the trick is to make them as efficient as possible. Think of them being small and involving very little movement as well as being crisp and supported by expanded ribs and open posture. As for “r” try emphasizing the vowel that comes before it and just barely making the “r” sound. Tart would sound almost like taught until the last moment. You will sound a bit affected at first, but with a little repetition you can master the art of a less harsh “r.”