Pitch – What this Vocal Element Says About You

Did you know that people make assumptions about you based upon your voice?

As you begin speaking, your audience is listening for clues about your personality and trustworthiness. The key to delivering your words with intention is to accurately understand how people receive your vocal cues.

A lot goes into vocal dynamics. Today I want to focus on pitch - the highness and lowness in your voice - and the importance of varying your pitch when you speak.

Think of your voice as a musical instrument.

Most humans have a speaking voice with a range of five to eight available notes. At some point in time, usually early adulthood, most of us settle into the habit of using our favorite note(s) most of time.

Do you tend to speak at the higher end of your range, or the lower end?

Generally speaking, audiences prefer a lower speaking voice. This is true for both men and women.

That’s why when you listen to the radio or TV news, the broadcasters almost always use the lower notes of their range. This practice has become so extreme that it's common to hear "glottal fry," a term for pushing a voice down so low that a popping or rattling sound is produced. No need to go that far!

If you tend to speak with a higher pitch, try lowering your voice by just one note. See how that feels. It’s not that hard to do, and a lower voice sends a signal of confidence.

Beware of a monotone!

I once had a client, Rich. He had a deep resonant voice, but he wasn’t using all of the notes at his disposal. Rich was in the habit of speaking in a monotone.

When Rich came to me for help, he said, “I’ve been told that my voice puts people to sleep.”

The voice is a very personal thing, and this was tough for Rich to hear. Like a lot of people, he assumed that the voice “is what it is” and can’t really be changed.

While people can't change their voices, they can certainly use them differently. I explained to Rich that his deep voice was appealing to the ear. In my experience, it only takes practice and a little patience to add some variety and interest to a speaking voice.

Vocal variety helps a speaker connect to an audience.

An audience has a tough time connecting and engaging with a person who speaks mostly in monotone.

In fact, when I told Rich that actor’s often use monotone to convey characters who are boring or disconnected, he was motivated to change.

I’m happy to say that with a little practice, Rich was able to make his voice lively and engaging. Here is the exercise we used to get him there:

Exercise to Eliminate Monotone

(Adapted from The Pindrop Principle: Captivate, Influence and Communicate Better Using Time Tested Methods of Professional Performers, by David Lewis and G. Riley Mills.)

Step 1: Read something aloud. Record yourself for one minute.

Step 2: Listen to the recording, and pay close attention to pitch variations.

Step 3: Now read it again. This time read it with the intention of creating excitement. Think about reading an adventure story to a child.

Step 4: Listen again. Notice the difference in pitch.

Step 5: Read and record one last time. Find a happy medium of pitch between the first reading and the second.

Step 6: Listen to the final recording. Observe how the variety in your voice makes you so much more engaging.

Hope this is helpful!



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