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Vocal Variety

A.S.T. - District 50, Area 66, Club 9872


                    Toastmaster Speech Manual Number Five

Vocal Variety  

i.   To explore the use of voice volume, pitch, rate and quality as assets to your speaking 
ii.  To achieve a pleasing natural voice quality when speaking 
iii. TIME: Five to seven minutes 


  What kind of voice do you have? Is it resonant, musical, and easy to listen to? Or is it harsh, monotonous, or tiresome? You can make it just about what you want if you're willing to work at it.   
    Every time you present a talk, you involve your mind, body, and voice in communicating the message to your listeners. We've looked at sincerity, organization, and body language as parts of effective communication. Now we will concentrate on the primary link between you and your audience: your voice. The skills you develop in this project will be among your most important tools for favorably impressing people, whether you're speaking to one person or to a thousand.   
    You have the potential for an effective speaking voice. The first step in building a better speaking voice is awareness. You should work to develop a voice that is pleasant to the ear and display enough variety of sound to be an expressive part of your speaking.   

Using Your Voice  
Psychologist Albert Mehrabian states that we are five times as likely to be influenced by voice than by spoken words as we listen to a speaker. Thus, we are more influenced by how a speaker talks than by what a speaker says. A good speaking voice 
is loud enough to be heard, clear enough to be interesting, and pleasing enough to be enjoyable.  
    A good speaking voice should be balanced between extremes of volume, pitch, and rate, while having a pleasing sound quality. Let's examine each of these individually:  


Volume. Some people habitually speak loudly. Perhaps their parents talked this way, or they may have an assertive nature. Such people should make a special effort to speak more quietly. At the other extreme are people who can  
barely be heard. They need to concentrate on projecting their voices. In any case, you should vary your voice volume to add emphasis or dramatic impact to your speeches.  


Pitch. Good speakers vary the pitch of their voices to convey emotion and conviction. Avoid high pitches because they suggest immaturity and excitability. The best approach is to be conversational in your speaking.  


Rate. The most effective speaking rate falls into the range of 125-160 words a minute. You can easily keep within this range by speaking rapidly enough to avoid a boring drone, yet slowly enough to be clearly understood. Vary your speaking rate during your talk to reflect mood changes and to emphasize points of the speech. 


Quality. The most important recommendation for voice quality is to relax your throat while you speak. Try to convey friendliness, confidence, and a desire to communicate. Relax, eliminating any tension from your voice. A pleasing tonal quality will usually follow.  


A Good Speaking Voice  
By applying the above principles to your speech you'll find that a good speaking voice generally has the following 

1.    The tone is pleasant, conveying a sense of friendliness.  
2.    It is natural, reflecting the true personality and sincerity of the speaker.  
3.    It has vitality, giving the impression of force and strength, even when it isn't especially loud.  
4.    It portrays various shades of meaning, never sounding monotonous and emotionless.  
5.    It is easy heard, thanks to proper volume and clear articulation. 

        You can train your own voice to excel in all these qualities if you listen closely to the way you speak and concentrate on improvement. To learn more about how to build your vocal skills, read the manual Your speaking Voice, which you received in your New Member Kit. It also contains exercises for developing your voice control.  

Try Your Voice  
Begin by experimenting with a few short passages to discover the meanings you can project using different vocal values. Read these passages aloud and create others using a tone of voice appropriate to each passage:  

    "I appreciate the kindness you have shown me, and I hope to return the favor when I can." (Simple, honest statement, or  
    "Kindness! Do you call that kindness? I wouldn't treat a stray dog the way you've treated me!" (Resentment, anger, unfriendliness.)   
    "If we all show a little kindness, a little concern for other's need as well as our own, we can help make the world what it should be." (Deep feeling of earnestness and conviction.)   

    Notice how your tone and effect vary with the different thoughts you express. See how easy it is to change the meaning by changing your emphasis.   
    As another experiment, call a friend on the telephone and talk foe several minutes on some topic of mutual interest. Vary your tone of voice as well as your rate, pitch, and volume. Use pauses to emphasize a point or arouse interest in what you will say next. At the same time, keep your vocal experimentation within the context of a normal conversation.   

Your Speech Subject   
For this speech, choose a subject that lends itself easily to voice variety. Something of a narrative or descriptive nature would be good, as would be a topic requiring a display of emotion. Another idea is to select a subject that enables you to quote or imitate different tones of voice or  manners of speaking. Use your imagination in preparing your talk and remember to apply the principles you have learned in the first four projects.   

Rehearsing Your Talk  
You will need to rehearse until you've mastered the voices you'll be using in the speech. Find a place where you can be alone, so you can speak without inhibitions or interruptions. Bring your voice out of the common, monotonous routine by varying the  pitch, volume, and quality. Work especially on varying the delivery rate. Speak clearly and project you voice.  Although you will be evaluated primarily on voice variety, don't neglect gestures and other body language. All work together  to bring sight and sound into harmony as you communicate.   
    A valuable aid in rehearsing your vocal variety is a tape recorder. Record your voice and practice until the vocal variety satisfies you. Then pay attention to your organization and sincerity as well as voice. The sound of your recorded voice may  
surprise you at first, but it's closer to what your audience hears than the voice you're used to hearing directly as you speak.  

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