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CHAPTER VIII

PITCH

The bane of public speaking is monotony. Probably the most noticeable fault of the poor speaker or reader is that of going on and on with an almost expressionless monotone, hardly raising or lowering the voice perceptibly at any time, but holding it almost constantly on one key. Neither does there appear to be any break or pause in the expression to indicate the thought of the speaker, but all flows along in a ceaseless stream from beginning to end. Nor does there seem to be any special stress laid upon one idea more than upon another, nor any color of the voice that will help to convey the meaning. This kind of speaking becomes extremely monotonous in a short time. It is as though the musician were to attempt to play an entire selection upon a single key. And yet how much public speaking of just this kind do we hear constantly! It would seem as if many speakers were quite unaware that such a thing existed as variety in expression.

This monotony is usually due to one of two things : either the speaker is not thinking about what he is saying or, if he is really thinking, he does not know how to use his voice so as to express to others what is in his own mind.

Obviously the ear cannot long endure absolute monotony. It demands change of some kind. If the speaker does not comply with this demand, his audience will either remain respectfully in their seats and doze or gradually get up and leave him. Just as in music there is constant change, — change in pitch, in rate, in stress, and in color,

so in all speech that is to be effective there must be like change. All expression is dependent upon this principle. This involves a consideration of the four so-called elements of vocal expression that may be employed in securing change, namely, pitch, time, quality, and force.

Pitch as a vocal element. Pitch in speech is the raising or lowering of the voice to express different degrees and shades of thought or emotion. It is dependent upon the rate of the vibrations of the vocal cords. If the cords are tightly drawn the vibrations are very rapid and the pitch of the voice is high. If the cords are less tense the vibrations are slower and the pitch of the voice is low. There seems to be a common misconception with beginners that pitch is determined by the amount of force applied to the vocal ligaments by the breath stream from the lungs; that if a good deal of breath is employed the pitch will be high, and that if less is used the pitch will be low. This is not at all the case. There may be a great deal of breath sent against the cords and the pitch be very low, or there may be very little breath employed and the pitch be very high. All depends upon the tension to which the cords are drawn.

This in turn is dependent upon the mental and emotional state of the speaker. Strong emotions have a very marked influence upon vocalization. Anger or extreme rage will often so affect the voice that the vocal cords refuse to act, and the person is unable for some seconds to speak at all ; while, on the other hand, pleasing

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emotions, such as generosity or love, tend to have just the opposite effect upon the vocal mechanism, making it singularly easy for the speaker to use his voice expressively. In a similar manner different mental states of the speaker have an influence upon the muscles that govern vocalization. Many of these responses are involuntary. We are interested more particularly with the voluntary actions of the muscles as they respond to conscious promptings from the brain.

The melody of speech. The speaking voice has a scale, or range, through which it may travel, just as does the singing voice. As the singer is constantly attacking different points of pitch up and down the scale in the expression of various shades of thought and feeling, so the speaker should be constantly letting the voice play up and down this scale to express his ideas. This is known as vocal melody

In one sense the vocal melody of the speaker is more difficult than that of the singer, in that the singer has his melody all worked out for him and set down in the form of definite notes; while the speaker has merely his own thoughts, and is obliged to manufacture his melody as he goes along. The singer can give his entire attention to vocal interpretation, while the speaker has the double duty of oral composition and vocal improvisation, both of which must be accomplished at the same time. This makes his task doubly difficult, and is the reason why the beginner is usually so confused when he tries to think and to use his body at the same time.

Many speakers, even after long experience, never seem to learn that it is just as essential for the voice to travel up

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