That is a really bad pun, but the best I can do on a Monday morning! However I was forced to watch some horse racing on televisions over the weekend (yes – forced! The husband nodded off and was sitting on the remote; it was a delicate situation)
Anyway – being too lazy to walk over and fathom out how to do it manually, I spent a very idle half an hour watching the racing as I said.
I love horses, and spent a great deal of my younger days riding them, and I know horses love to run and when I have actually been at the races in person it was the thundering hooves, the sound of the horses dragging in every breath they could and the creaking of the saddle girths which energised me – and of course, my horse winning.
Sitting in my lounge room, far away from the reality – I was still excited and energised about the racing by the enthusiasm of the race caller. Without leaving my chair I felt my heart rate increasing, I sat up in the chair leaning forward and urging my chosen horse onto the winning post – alas unsuccessfully I may add. But, what was it that drove that energy and passion in me as I sat hundreds of miles away from the race course?
It was of course the excitement that the professional caller generated with his voice. The heart rate increased as the rate; the pitch and the volume rose. The excitement took hold as the words got faster, the voice got higher and the volume increased.
Our voice is the one thing that reflects our emotional engagement with what we are doing, or what we are talking about. Think about the last time you had to give some bad news to someone – did you sound ‘happy’? Were you energised? Or were you subdued with quieter voice, and slower delivery. Perhaps you instinctively included more pauses to show sympathy.
On the other hand, how about discussing that amazing win by your team at the very last minute – (yes Brisbane Broncos I am talking about you!) Wasn’t that amazing? The last minute field goal that put us one point ahead – tell someone else about it and listen to the voice!
There you go, increasing the pitch, the rate and the volume and now the folks at the next table are wondering what you are going on about!!
So what are pitch, rate and the other stuff really about?
Pitch – pitch refers to the highness or lowness of the tone. Like a singer we can change the pitch of our voice deliberately. But it will increase – that is the voice will reach for a higher tone – when we are excited. And to generate energy and excitement in our listeners, we can choose to deliberately raise the pitch of our voice.
Volume – refers to the loudness of our speech. Softly spoken people do not generate excitement, but they can sound thoughtful, sympathetic or even sad. Alternatively, we may have to chastise loudly spoken people who let their excitement run free in closed spaces.
Rate – is simply the speed, how fast or how slow we speak. Often this is a cultural thing; I have never really believed in the slow spoken Australian – they seem to speak at a perfect rate to me; that was until I returned to England for a couple of months and when I came back I was constantly being asked to ‘slow down’! So I guess there is something in it.
And there is one more aspect of our voice which can add – or detract – from what we are saying and that is the quality of the voice itself; (Sometimes referred to as the ‘timbre’).
The quality of our voice is its natural sound, the one that makes us easily recognised on the telephone. But we often change that quality to match our purpose; just think about the quality of Mae West’s voice when she said ‘Come up and see me sometime’!
What about that whiny child who wants another chocolate? Or the quality of command in the voice of a military officer issuing an order.
The quality of our voice is actually a powerful tool to reflect our emotion or our attitude towards our topic.
All of these can be deliberately manipulated to generate the emotion in our listeners. We want them to be enthusiastic about our subject; then we must use our voice to demonstrate just how enthusiastic we are ourselves: Increase the pace, just a fraction; raise the pitch, slightly; increase the volume, a trifle, and we will generate a voice that is redolent with energy and enthusiasm.
And if you want to become more familiar with what your voice can do, or to improve your vocal variety you just cannot go past fairy stories. Yes! Fairy stories! Where else do you get a collection of characters just itching to be vocalised?
Try how changing your voice can really introduce a difference in the character when you are reading aloud – plus the children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or even the next door kids will just love you.
The spoken English language has a sense of rhythm; it has a natural rise and fall unique to it; reading aloud will let you begin to feel that rhythm and once you do, you will always know just how to modulate your voice to achieve the right emotion to reflect your words.
This is what the race caller did on Saturday when he excitedly told me my horse had lost – alas, I did not feel the same enthusiasm; but that’s another story.