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
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
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’.