Pitch Pitch Pitch!

Speaking is simple right?  You just open your mouth and do it!  Then why do so many people have such an awful speaking voice?

The reason is that most of us are not generally taught how to speak or how to find the best pitch for our own unique voice.  In this five-part series you will find expert vocal advice from Internationally Renowned Voice Coach Elisa James.

Are you speaking at the correct pitch for you?

After almost twenty years of teaching voice and presentation coaching in Europe, America and Australia, I have found that many people speak in a pitch that is unnatural to them and sounds forced.  Often due to their position of authority in their job, many people actually force their voice box into an unnaturally low position in order to be taken seriously as a leader.

This is due to the fact that the world media time and time again uses voice-over tracks of men and women speaking in a low authoritarian voice in order to sell a particular product. We as a community have come to accept a low voice as an authoritarian voice.

Many clients I have seen over the years have exactly this problem, and in some cases also the opposite: speaking in a voice that is too high and ungrounded makes them sound unsure and squeaky.

During presentations, lowering one’s voice in order to be taken more seriously is a simple trick which can be used to good effect.  However, when this becomes a long term habit there is real danger of damaging the vocal folds.  You’ll probably notice that if you “put on” a low voice for about an hour, you’ll feel vocal strain and fatigue in the throat area and may even become raspy or gravelly sounding.

Don’t dismay, help is at hand!  There is a well-known exercise taught by many speech therapists during speech coaching that can fix these kinds of problems quickly if you suspect that you may be speaking in an unnaturally low tone.

Try this simple trick:

  • Imagine someone asks you a question that you agree with, such as:  “Isn’t it lovely weather today?”  You answer “Uh-hmm”, as though you agree but don’t want to start a conversation.
  • Ask yourself 10 questions like this as you look around the room you are currently in and each time answer with a positive “Uh-hmm”.  For example, “There is the TV!”, or “The walls are white!”  You can ask yourself any silent statement and say the “Uh-hmm” out loud as an agreement with yourself.
  • Do this 10 times quickly concentrating on the room and objects around you.  You will soon find that you are naturally humming (agreeing) at a particular vocal pitch.  Many times I have found that this new pitch is a few notes higher and more natural sounding than the previous pitch the client walked in with.

This new pitch is where your natural voice tone settles and you will find it feels comfortable, relaxed and not at all forced. Take mental note of this new pitch and begin practicing using it during daily conversation.