Just so you know, this video won’t explain how to find your optimal speaking pitch. I’ve never addressed optimum pitch in the training I offer. First of all, no speaker uses just one note; you should be using a whole range of pitches when you speak. Furthermore, there’s not much point in trying to find your optimum pitch if your voice is already distorted by tension, bad habits and a lack of technique.
Optimal pitch has always seemed like a gimmick to me, something interesting and fun to do, like taking a personality test, but definitely not the most basic thing to address, especially for a beginner. I always felt that once you get your voice opened up, supported by breath and resonating fully, you wouldn’t even have to think about your optimum speaking pitch.
Now I’m starting to wonder if I haven’t been too hasty to dismiss the value of optimum pitch. I notice many of you, maybe a majority, are making sounds that are too low for your ideal voice, and this tendency has consequences for your speaking voice.
If your speaking pitch is too low, your voice won’t project very well and it will trail off at the end of phrases. The tone of your voice will be more prone to sounding scratchy and tense, with little depth and richness. If you’re speaking at the bottom of your range, your delivery will be flat and monotone because your voice has no room to move around. Finally, a voice that’s pitched too low will tire quickly and feel uncomfortable.
What can you do about this? I often find myself encouraging students to start sounds or phrases on a pitch just slightly higher than what feels “natural” to them. Since intonation tends to drop over the course of a sentence, start a bit higher, so your voice is still in a comfortable range when you reach the end. If you’re low at the very start, you’ll end up in the gravel by the time you finish the phrase.
Essentially, you want to explore and cultivate the middle of your speaking range, instead of the very bottom of your range. You’re moving everything up a little bit. This shift doesn’t have to be so drastic that other people notice; a small shift can make a significant difference. But it will seem like a big shift to you, so you need to be familiar with the feeling, otherwise you’ll never give yourself permission to use it in conversation, let alone presentation.
Some people find it very easy to explore a range of pitches. For others, it’s not that easy. For example, I might tell a person to start on a higher pitch, but they just get louder, or they start on the same note they were using and don’t even realize it. You might need the help of a vocal coach to familiarize yourself with this aspect of your voice.
When you learn how it feels to speak in the middle of your range, your voice will be stronger and project effectively. You’ll speak with less effort and more pleasure. The tone of your voice will be richer, more expressive and engaging, and your communication will be clearer, overall.
I still think that identifying one optimum pitch for speaking is an unnecessary exercise—but—if it helps you find—and feel—the sweet spot around which your voice operates more efficiently, then I agree there’s some value in the experience.
For more exercises to enhance your speaking skills, visit Voice & Speech.com and enroll in the free video mini course, The Sound of Success.