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Jon Beaupré is a voice and performance consultant for radio and television performers. Under the name Broadcast Voice, he provides private training and workshops for reporters, anchors, sports and weather casters, and others working in electronic and broadcast media. He teaches in the Broadcast Communications program at California State University at Los Angeles, and conducts workshops and seminars with the Associated Press Radio and Television Association. He has been a fixture on the convention circuit, teaching workshops at a wide range of specialty journalism and broadcast conventions and stations on both coasts of the U.S.


August 13th, 2001

During the past two weeks, we’ve been describing the acronym “BATS” as a short hand to prepare you each time you track, do a stand up, anchor, rehearse, or in any other way perform on your job. The acronym stands for “Breathing”, “Audience”, “Three Part Rule”, and “Set-Up”.

We’ve already covered some rudimentary thoughts on breathing and putting the audience at the center of your performance, this week, let’s tackle “The Three Part Rule”.

In its shortest form, the three part rule is this: Settle, Comfortable, Lower. Or with more elaboration:
1. SETTLE your voice downwards, don’t force it. Let it fall like gravity pulling it down. Again, don’t force it or make it artificial!

2. Settle into a COMFORTABLE natural range. Don’t invent new sounds for your voice when you are working. Nothing wrong with making weird sounds when you are practicing, but in your performances, it should part of your already exisiting comfortable natural range.

3. Settle into a comfortable LOWER RANGE, not just a lower note. Now, it is very, very easy to misinterpret this ‘Three Part Rule’. We are not suggesting in any way, shape or form that you put on a fake, creepy lower voice that has nothing to do with your normal, day to day delivery. Furthermore, we are not saying that a high voice is bad; far from it. In fact, voices high and low can be both good and bad.

A high voice that is good, increases the tension and anticipation in the spoken word, and pulls the audience along to hear how that higher voiced tension will be resolved. A high voice that is bad is simply shrill and grating.

A low voice that is bad simply drones on, and can ultimately sedate your audience. But a low voice that is good has a sense of solidity, strength and ‘anchored-ness’ that audiences are instinctively drawn toward.

What this implies, however, is that the sense of high and low is always relative to the person speaking. It is not an objective measure of what is high or low, but rather what we perceive to be the highs and lows of that person speaking. So what we depend on to communicate that sense of tension and anticipation is the contrast between the normal low pitch baseline where you normally speak and the higher pitched sounds that imply suspense or tension.

So it stands to reason, if you start out in high notes already, you are robbing yourself of those same notes later when you need to push the pitch of your voice higher for accent or inflection. But if you work in a comfortable lower range, you increase the number of high pitches available to you to express that anticipation and tension when your voice moves to those higher notes.

But it is vital that this comfortable lower voice be absolutely natural and not fake or put-on. Your audience will grasp instantly what is the ‘fake’ you and what is the ‘real’ you. Just listen to your own voice and emphasize those lower, darker sounds as the sort of baseline you work from.

Next, the vital importance of ‘Set-Up’.