Pitch Perfect

Jenni Steck, Voice Guru

“My producer keeps telling me that my pitch is too high.”

“I don’t like the sound of my voice – I think it sounds too high.”

“Will smoking and drinking whiskey help me get a deeper voice?”

Elevated pitch, or a voice that is “too high”, is a common complaint for both male and female clients.  Why is the pitch high and what can be done about it?  Why is it an issue?

Why is it too high?

Does the phrase, “you need more energy,” sound familiar?  Too often, “energy” gets translated into high pitch and fast pace.  In an effort to create “more energy,” we typically tense up and push too much vocally.  Tension can lead to a higher pitch – the muscles are tight and the voice is not supported by the breath.

Why is it an issue?

For reporters and anchors, a high pitched voice results in feedback that you sound young and immature, weak and nervous, or frantic and unsure.  This is mostly due to the combination of high pitch and fast rate of speech.

To correct this issue, you might try forcing your pitch lower.  Unfortunately, in an effort to force the pitch lower you may develop vocal habits that can be harmful to your voice over time and produce a sound that is inauthentic – the “anchor man” voice.

Forcing the voice lower also introduces tension into the voice and can result in vocal fatigue and limited vocal variety.  It can also lead to vocal fry, the “creaky” vocal quality that has been much maligned of late (think Ira Glass).

So, how can you work on getting a deeper voice in a healthy way?

There are a few things you want to check on when you get ready to go on air:

Breath. Make sure you are breathing properly. Focus on dropping your breath lower in the body. You should feel your abdomen EXPAND as you INHALE and COLLAPSE as you EXHALE (it is surprising how many people breathe backwards).  High, shallow chest breathing will introduce tension into the muscles of the shoulders and neck which can lead to a high, thin vocal quality.  Diaphragmatic breathing will also help you settle down and ground yourself.

Warm up. Try humming from a high note down to a low note. Try starting your track or your hit from the lower part of your range to let you have more space to elevate your pitch when you want to emphasize something.

On air / in the booth. Check to make sure you are relaxed in your body. You want to have soft knees, relaxed lower back and abdomen, as well as loose shoulders, neck and jaw. Keep your body engaged and animated without pushing to be loud.

Don’t push. Increasing volume can result in heightened pitch. Pull back on your volume just a bit but maintain the animation in your gestures and your facial expressions.

Homework. During your time away from work, do gentle glides on a hum up and down through your range to explore your lower register. The humming will also help you feel your voice more in the front of your face, which adds more resonance and dimension to your tone.

If you continue to get the feedback that your voice is too high, find a coach to help you make adjustments in a healthy way.

Jenni Steck is Barry Nash & Company’s voice and speech coach. She is smart (She has advanced degrees and licenses!) and friendly and really really good at helping professionals sound their best.

She also really likes to talk about this stuff. If you have a voice or speech-related concern or question, reach out to her at jenni@barrynashandcompany.com. She’ll be quick to get back to you!

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