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How can you amplify your message in a way that sounds enthusiastic rather than angry?
Most people think of speaking as talking. But according to vocal master Roger Love who has coached stars from John Mayor to Kiera Knightly and the entire cast of Glee, we should really think of it more as singing.
Your speaking has an inherent melody to it. If you’re not conscious of this when you’re speaking, you will have a very flat melody. Just like in music, you need an audibly intriguing melody to not only bring people in, but also to keep their interest.
In this mini sabbatical episode, I share notes I took from Roger’s advice broken down into 3 sections for improvement: Melody, Volume, and Continuity.
You’ll learn to be aware of the “squeaky hinge” you didn’t know you had, the power of intentional silence, and where to begin improving your voice if you’re just getting started with speaking or podcasting.
Hey, it’s Sean here with a mini sabbatical episode. I’m currently on sabbatical, and I scheduled out a couple of episodes with some food for thought to get you through the week during my absence.
We have a new kalimba icon on the featured image. I commissioned Community member Kyle Adams to design the icon for me to brand the sabbatical episodes. Here’s the design case study from last week if you missed it.
Today, I want to talk about your voice. I don’t mean your style or your artistic voice, but your literal actual voice.
I talked about this topic in tv004 ”What if my voice sounds bad?”
After watching this episode, Scott, who is another community member mentioned in the chat room that the topic reminded him of Roger Love. I hadn’t actually heard of him before.
Roger Love is a voice coach, he’s worked with very popular singers from John Mayor to the cast on the tv show Glee, as well as actors and actresses like Reese Witherspoon and Kiera Knightly on her film from last year, Begin Again, which coincidentally I just watched last week and quite enjoyed.
But it’s not so much that I’m interesting in singing as I am in how Roger applies singing principles to speaking.
As a voice coach, he says a lot of people see speaking as talking, but that really we should think of it more as singing.
The goal with speaking (whether that’s an actual speaking event, your podcast, a screencast, or a video) is to get someone to hear your message. In order for them to hear your message, they have to be listening. In order for them to listen, they must be paying attention. In order for them to be paying attention, they must be interested. Just like with music, the melody must be intriguing.
He says to think of your voice like a piano. You have all of this range to work with. The typical range for the human voice is 25 notes—that’s a full 3 octaves! Yet we use only 3 notes on average when speaking.
Most people are not very compelling speakers. They have a safe zone, a fallback range that they default to and they stay right here.
They talk in monotone using only one note. As the listener, you almost feel like you know exactly what they’re about to say because the predictability of their pitch leads you to assume predictability of their words.
Maybe they actually do have something interesting to say, but you’re tuning out because you feel like you can already guess it. That’s simply because of the pitch.
When you speak, there is a melody to your words. If you’re not conscious of this when you’re speaking, you will have a very flat melody—a repeating note, essentially. That’s not very interesting at all.
Beyond just melody, Roger emphasizes the importance of volume. Most people are self conscious about the sound of their own voice.
In tv004, I talk about the reasons for this. First of all, our own voice sounds different to us than it does to others. We hear our voice in our ears not only through air-conducted sounds but also bone-conducted sounds. It’s coming through our body. Because our voice is originating from within us, we feel and hear the vibrations. It resonates more, and it feels deeper.
So when we hear recordings of our voice it sounds more nasally to us and it’s less pleasant. We don’t want to believe that’s how we really sound and it’s off-putting.
This leads to us being timid and talking quieter because we are self conscious. We talk as if we’re talking to ourselves. Most people speak too timidly. Roger talks about how you want to fill the space in a room with your sound. When he’s on the phone, he’ll go so far as to actually hold the phone several inches away from his mouth and talk louder as a way of “filling the space with his sound,” as he puts it.
How to Increase Volume Without Sounding Angry
Of course, you can’t just talk louder because by default, talking louder will make you sound angry. You need one extra thing: melody.
Loudness without melody sounds angry.
More volume + more melody = enthusiasm.
You will actually sound happy. You can get away with being louder because you have more melody—there’s more pitch variation in the words that you’re saying so people take it as enthusiasm.
He also says you want to exude a gratefulness. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to talk to you.” That’s how you want to think. That’s how you want to approach a conversation or approach speaking because it will come through in the way that you talk.
Lastly, the third thing you want to consider is Continuity. You have Melody, Volume, and Continuity.
Continuity is the connectedness of your words. You want to connect your words together. Think of it as a smooth stream of air.
Most people chop words same length: They. talk. like. this. and. every. word. is. the. same. length.
But important words need to be stretched out. The sentence needs to flow. It needs to be continuous.
It doesn’t work if you have melody and volume but no continuity. If you just have the first two parts (melody and volume), then yes, your words will fill the space of the room but there won’t be any connectedness. It’s not going to sound natural. It sounds like you’re forcing it and people won’t take you seriously.
Roger says to think of it as “melody clusters.” Just like on a piano, you don’t hit random high and low keys all over the place, you stay within a reasonable range that your hand can reach. You work your way up and you work your way down, and you have variance within that range, but it’s reasonable variance. It sounds natural and that’s because it’s continuous.
Short words result in short breaths which comes across as nervousness or that you’re scared. Maybe you are nervous or scared, but by practicing these bad habits out, you won’t come across that way. Once you’re no longer coming across that way, you’re no longer going to feel that way.
Avoid the “Squeaky Hinge”
You have to practice the melody, practice the volume, and practice the continuity. It’s the same thing with your filler words. Your “uhhs,” your “umms,” and what Roger calls your “squeaky hinge.” It’s when you get to the end of a sentence and your air stream starts to fall off and you get that “uhhhh” sound.
You want to deliver your message with confidence. The last words of your sentence are the most important. They communicate whether you’re done speaking, or whether you have more to say depending on whether you go up or you go down.
The Power of Intentional Silence
Most people are afraid of silence. Silence can be one of the greatest gifts because it allows points to resonate. Intentional silence is the mark of someone with experience. Uncomfortable silence is the mark of a novice. This is why they try to insert something into the void to fill the silence.
If you fix your squeaky hinge and end your sentences purposefully, you can communicate the intent of the silence. If you end on a repeated note or an upturn, it communicates that you have more to say. When you do that before a pause, it gives someone time to process what you’ve said without communicating that you’re done talking. That’s how you give purpose to the silence.
This all seems like a lot. It seems like information overload. How can you be thinking about all of this when you’re trying to improve your speaking and your voice?
This is stuff that I’m still working on even after having done well over one hundred podcasts.
If you’re just getting started, the first thing is to start. Don’t get overwhelmed by all of this. You’re not going to be able to do all of it at once—no one is.
- The first thing is getting started. If you’re starting to put your voice out there, guess what? You’re already ahead of 90% of people. Remember that: you’re ahead. Most people are consumers. Just get started means you are ahead.
- Now are you ready to get ahead of 90% again? Be purposeful about improving. You’ve passed most people by starting and putting your voice out there, but most people stop there. They think they’re going to get better automatically. They aren’t. They’ll get 1% better automatically. The rest is practice. If you’re practicing bad habits, all you’re doing is solidifying them. There are plenty of speakers and podcasters who still only speak in 3 notes, who still use filler words, who still say “umm” and “uhh” in every single sentence, who are still afraid of silence and purposefully fill it with drivel. If you want to get ahead of 90% again, record yourself, listen back and purposefully practice out the bad habits.
- Lastly, once you’ve done that, then you can revisit these 3 improvement steps: Melody, Volume, and Continuity.
I hope this was helpful to you. If it was, shoot me a message or tweet at me. It’s nice to hear back from you.
Engage With Others Working on the Same Thing
If this is something you’re working on, you might consider joining the Community. We have numerous podcasters there who are also working on improving these same kinds of things. I really undersell the Community. I’m somewhat reserved just because we’re working on expanding and adding so many new and awesome things that I’m holding back from really promoting it and how great it is, but seriously, you should join.
If you work for yourself, if you’re doing your own thing, you don’t have to do it alone. There are a lot of people there who would love to share in your journey. It’s a digital water cooler. It’s 24/7 chat, we’ve got an iOS application, it’s just good stuff.
I’m still on sabbatical having a nice restful break, so we’ll have one more of these mini sabbatical episodes and then I’ll be back with Ben a week from now.
My daily video show, seanwes.tv, will be resuming next week, and kicking off with a very relevant video: “009: Podcasts can be like a good book. But most aren’t.”
See why on Monday.
Have a great weekend!