Public speaking : How is pitch created in speech?

by | Oct 4, 2018

To create speech, first you need air, from your respiratory system. After you have adequate air, it travels up to your larynx. This is also known as the voice box, the place where your vocal cords live.

It takes 18 small muscles to rapidly contract and release in a coordinated pattern and create speech. When some of these muscles tighten too much, or do not work as well, your voice gets affected.

Why do muscles tighten? There are few reasons, which include: talking when your vocal cords are injured, or holding anxiety and tension from everyday speaking.

Sometimes when you get nervous , you tend to squeeze the muscles around your vocal cords so hard, and are not able to get your voice out clearly.

Muscles in our larynx are small and are not easily felt, or seen. For example, if I said tighten your biceps, you would be able to see your biceps and feel them and tighten them. However, since laryngeal muscles are not readily visible to the human eye, we fall into habits of tightening and hence changing the quality of our voices.

When your vocal cords vibrate, phonation happens, and you make voice! A few things influence the pitch of your voice, and these are namely, frequency of vibration, length of vocal cords and height where they sit.When the vocal cords stretch, the pitch of your voice changes. When the vocal folds are sitting higher up or lower down in the larynx, also determines your pitch. The number of times your vocal cords vibrate, makes up for your pitch too!

To feel where your vocal cords are, feel for your Adam’s apple. Swallow and you will notice it move up and down. Take a deep breath, and hold your breath, whilst keeping your mouth open.

When you let your breath go, you will hear a small click at the beginning. That is the sound of your vocal cords opening and letting out air.

Awareness exercise with this blog: Play along with opening and closing your vocal cords. Do some humming to feel the buzz. Draw your attention to them. When you shut them, that is when air gets restricted. Tune into this feeling when you are speaking, and you will start becoming aware of how tensed you get when speaking!

Watch my video here:

In my future blogs, I will explain in detail about deconstriction.

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