Voice Skills

by Judy Apps

Pitch

Use high sounds and low sounds.

A voice all on one level is monotonous. Pitching your voice at different levels will give what you say much more interest. This requires the ability to resonate the sound in different parts of your head and body. If your voice is free, this happens automatically as your intention changes.

For example, excitement or enthusiasm cause increased high frequencies. The sound seems to come from right up in your head.

Determination and trustworthiness show themselves in more body resonance. The voice seems to come directly from your chest or solar plexus.

To learn how to do this, see Resonance.

Exercise

To practise speaking at different pitches, try this exercise.

Take a famous rhetorical statement and proclaim each part of it at a different pitch. For example:

Friends! (low voice)

Romans! (middle voice)

Countrymen! (high voice)

or the opposite:

Friends! (high voice to attract attention)

Romans! (middle voice with more weight)

Countrymen! (deep, resonant and statesmanlike).

Now try similar patterns with:

We shall fight them on the beaches.

We shall fight on the landing grounds.

We shall fight in the fields and in the streets

and

Some are born great,

Some achieve greatness,

And some have greatness thrust upon them.

It is often thought that a lower pitch carries more psychological weight, and it is true that using your body resonance allows your voice to sound more confident and authentic. However, your voice has natural resonance according to your body and head shape, and you will sound most authentic when you use your own natural range, rather than forcing the voice much lower than is natural.

Warning

It is easy to overdo the pharyngeal resonance, producing an overblown artificial sound as if you really had a large plum in the mouth. Go easy!

That said, public speakers often work on their voices to make them lower-pitched and more imposing. Margaret Thatcher was a famous example. She learned how to pitch her voice low for television and personal interviews, by increasing the pharyngeal resonance. You can get the feeling of this a little by imagining there is a plum right in the back of your mouth increasing the space there. Trying this may make you feel as if you are yawning!

See more about this under How to sound more authoritative.

Exercise

Voice deepening

The low sound used in chanting by Tibetan lamas is a simple and effective way of feeling the low vibrations in your body that are needed for your own deep voice.

Fill your lungs completely with air and, standing erect, slowly expel the full breath to create the Ohhh-mmm sound. Divide your breath more or less evenly between the Ohhh and the Mmmm. You can feel the sound reverberate through your body, with the Ohhh felt especially in the chest cavities and the Mmm especially in the nasal cavities.

Following a few minutes of making this sound, make a statement, allowing your voice to come from the same place. Makes quite a difference, doesn’t it?

You can make a darker lower sound by lowering your larynx. Try this: make a long aaah sound and gradually drop your jaw further and attempt to yawn; then try extending your lips forward as far as possible. You will find the sound becomes darker and has more of the lower resonance.

Imagine you have a large plum in the back of your mouth.

Once you have discovered the feeling, practise saying Ghaaaa, Khaaaa and Ngaaaa. Ngaaa is the sound at the end of the word singing. (If you’re from Lancashire, we mean the sound just before that strong final ‘g’!) Try lengthening that end sound when you say ‘singing’.

Then speak from the same place.