The northeastern air is becoming crisper.. baseball is winding down- or should I say up?... and the addiction to outdoor swimming doesn’t feel as compelling.
With these observations comes inspiration to open my Stevens Nomenclature book to more of you. We’ll start with Home Base.. and move on to Breaststroking In next time.
For all of us who believe we ‘recognize someone’s voice’ : the reason for this is that each of us speaks in a unique fluctuation of pitch. It’s the rolling incantation of voice and speech sounds that carries our message to a listener’s ear. If you picture the 5-lines on which music is written- somewhere around the middle is a black dot- or note- that signifies your personal ‘Home Base’. This is your own ‘neutral pitch’. It’s the place you ‘start from’ most often when you speak.
When we begin to speak- we essentially have 3 choices: We can start from Home Base.. or from a spot that is slightly higher or slightly lower. The reality is that the rise and fall in pitch of our personal speaking voices doesn’t travel that far from Home.
The majority of my clients who need ‘voice work’ have invariably lost their Home Base in effort to project their voice.. in effort to sound ‘urgent’.. or when trying to artificially make their information sound ‘interesting’. Whether you’re anchoring, tracking or doing a standup- the trick is to figure out or re-discover your Home Base- and then roll out your speaking from there. This concept is great for speakers who become incrementally higher without realizing it.. and for speakers who end up talking from their ‘neck and face’ in effort to project and ‘speak with authority’.
For many new or semi-seasoned ‘speaking journalists’: it’s important to know your Home Base- and to easily and naturally tap into it. The presentation of your journalism is a litany of starting.. stopping.. starting .. stopping.. Ie. you have infinite opportunities to restart from your base.. or to lose your way. With a nod to Thomas Wolfe- these folks often find they can’t go home again.
2 common ways to find your Home Base:
a- When you’re listening to someone and you hear yourself saying ‘ok’ or ‘got it’ out of politeness (ie. yup- I hear you) : the long /a/ in ok or the /ah/ in got should be pretty close to your Home Base. This comes from the fact that you’ve phonated without worrying about how you’ll sound… you’re not carrying a message (ie. information or a sentence).. and you’re essentially making a neutral ‘non-semantic’ utterance.
b- If you’re tracking or doing a standup: try doing a 3-2-1 countdown. Your goal is to hit your Home Base starting from ‘3’.. so you now have 2 opportunities to make an honest mistake. The idea is to ‘feel the 3’.. relax into your phonation as you say it.. and let your ‘2’ and ‘1’ ever so slightly fall into a “1-1-1” phonation that feels very comfortable.. neutral.. and sounds pleasant. If you believe your ‘3’ has pretty much nailed your Home Base- then the ‘2’ and ‘1’ will serve to reinforce it.
* Always remember that it’s important to phonate ‘from your stomach’- as we discussed in an earlier blog. Your countdown can be done in one continuous stomach-pulling-in flow. Or if you’re trying to improve your breathing and resonance- ie. trying to take your voice ‘out of your face and neck’ and more into a torso rumble- try doing your 3-2-1 in a series of 3 stomach pumps in. (Bingo! Who knew you’d learn to belly dance as a bonus?)
Once you have the ‘feel of the 1’ in your countdown- you are ready to start speaking. Be careful not to do a stupendous ‘3-2-1’ and then default right back to your ‘old voice’ as you start speaking! It’s a common mistake- but if you record your practice you’ll hear it.
Remember- the idea is not to flatten your voice.. but rather to learn to start speaking from the natural, comfortable pitch. It’s most likely the spot that you target all day long- when you’re not worrying about ‘how you sound’!
Next time- Breaststroking In.
3-2-1… signing off. !
Previously featured on the Radio Television Digital News Association as the News Coach blog series.