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Voice Stuck In A High Pitch?
Start Lower And Climb Up ...
January 5, 2012

By Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D
Voice Specialist
As we begin 2012, snow is on the way or has already arrived in many parts of the country.
Snow means ski season, and that's a great reminder for me to think about vocal pitch.
I say that because I often use the analogy of a ski slope to discuss pitch. Let me explain.
Many people have a tendency to begin voicing higher in pitch than they should.
This could be at the beginning of a read, top of a story, or coming out of a sound bite.
I call this the "ski slope initiation." Instead of beginning in their normal pitch, it's like they start at the top of the hill and ski down.
Now when they ski down, the problem is they never get to their normal pitch. They get stuck halfway down.
The whole recording ends up being slightly higher than it should be in pitch.

How can you fix this problem? Think of climbing up a hill instead of skiing down a slope.
Begin with your pitch slightly down and come up to your normal pitch. This usually puts you in a good place to use your normal pitch throughout whatever you're recording.
You don't get stuck slightly above your normal pitch.

Want to find your optimum or best pitch? To understand optimum pitch, you have to understand the basics of pitch.
Pitch is created at the vocal folds (cords) when this tissue, which is muscle and ligament, gets stretched in different ways.
Imagine your vocal folds like the neck of a balloon. We've all pulled the opening of the balloon to create a sound as the air comes out.
The more we pulled the latex, the higher the pitch. That's the way the vocal folds create pitch as well.
It takes extra muscular effort to make a really high-pitched sound with our voices.
Say your name right now in the highest voice you can. Feel the tension in your throat?
Now say your name in a really, really low pitch. Tense, right? Not a voice you’d want to use for very long.
Our optimum pitch is the pitch that takes the least work for us to produce.
It comes from a relaxed throat and is our strongest voice. In this pitch we're most likely to avoid any vocal damage.

Finally, do you have trouble identifying whether you're going up or down in pitch? I did for a while.
I used counting to help me identify pitch changes. Count to three and make each number slightly higher than the last.
When you get to the highest at three, say three again at that pitch and count down to one in pitch.
You can imagine that you're first climbing up a hill with your voice and then skiing down.
Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D., is a voice specialist with more than 40 years of experience and has helped hundreds of people make the most of their voices, working with broadcasters, voice over artists and podcasters around the world. An author of eight books and over 50 articles on voice, her Broadcast Voice Handbook is used in newsrooms and classrooms throughout the U.S. It is designed as a self-help book that teaches how to improve every aspect of your voice. Her website offers more information, including a link to her informative blog and a free mp3 to begin your voice improvement.


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Comments (1)
Roy Wells
1/6/2012 at 10:01 AM
Thanks for the article Ann, always great to read your advice about the voice.
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