This week, I want to return to an older technical subject
we havent covered in a while: the right pitch for your
Contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing intrinsically
good or bad about high or low voices. What makes a voice sound
good or bad in its higher or lower range is how that
pitch is being used. A high pitch that is good increases the
tension in the speech and builds a sense of anticipation.
A high pitch which is bad simply sounds shrill and tense.
Conversely, a low pitch which is good sounds anchored
and solid, while a bad low voice just drones on and on. So
the issue is not simply whether your voice is working in its
high or low pitches in and of themselves, but rather what
you are trying to do with those pitches.
It is an interesting observation of spoken English (and incidentally,
most European languages as well), a rising inflection or pitch
-that is to say moving from a lower note to a higher note
- implies suspense, tension. That is why our questions tend
go up at the end, right? It is because the question is begging
a completion, an answer, a resolution. This simple dynamic
has profound implications for how we construct sentences.
We intuitively understand that the rising inflection implies
suspense and tension which wants to be resolved somehow.
Another observation about this rising tension is that the
degree of tension is exquisitely tuned to the distance of
that rising inflection; the further the rise in inflection,
the more intense the suspense.
So if you put these two thoughts together, you begin to see
why in general, we try to work in a comfortable lower voice.
It is not because there is something intrinsically better
about that lower voice, but rather that the potential for
contrast into those upper pitches is much greater. There is
more opportunity for color and variation. If you constantly
work in an upper range, the distance to those upper tones
are so limited that we never get any contrast to imply that
In a like manner, your lower tones done signify anchored
control without the contrast of those occasional upper notes.
This has been summarized in what is called the Three
1. SETTLE (dont force your voice, just let it float)
2. Into a COMFORTABLE (easy to make, natural part of your
3. LOWER range (NOT a lower note, but rather a lower place)
SETTLE, COMFORTABLE, LOWER - Not because a lower voice is
better by itself, but rather because it gives you so much
potential to increase the tension by raising that pitch (by
comparison to where you started) into all those lovely upper
Why and where you raise that pitch is the subject of another
segment, but suffice it to say, raising your pitch has to
be justified by the copy you are reading and the increase
in suspense and tension you are trying to achieve. More on
that next week.
As usual, keep breathing!