The voice tells us a lot about a person and what they have to say. Versatility in your vocal characteristics and skills can be extremely valuable, whether you’re podcasting, acting or simply communicating verbally in any professional capacity. This is particularly true where you’re looking to convey emotion – something which doing authentically and with impact is easier said than done, but, when you pull it off, can really leave a lasting impression on your listeners.
That being so, let’s take a look at some different vocal characteristics you can use and harness to better convey different emotions...
We know what you’re probably thinking – vocal expressions aren’t vocal characteristics – but bear with us. The point here is that you can change the way you sound by changing the expression on your face. If you think about it, this makes total sense. When you’re talking to someone in real life, you don’t just communicate with your voice, that’s only part of the equation. You also communicate with your facial expressions and your overall demeanour. As mentioned above, trying to convey emotions authentically is hard, but it’s even harder to do if you artificially restrict how you’re delivering the words. So, think more about acting out what you’re saying rather than just saying it. You’ll be amazed how something as simple as actually smiling when trying to convey happiness can make a difference to your performance. If you’re looking for some inspiration, we love this video of behind the scenes footage of actors recording voiceovers as an example of how this works in practice.
Emphasis involves laying stress on a particular word or phrase when you’re speaking. Obviously, it will play an important role in successfully conveying emotion. Whilst some people might prefer to wing it and see what emphasis comes naturally, if possible we would always advise reviewing your script/text well in advance and planning out where you’re going to place the emphasis. By the time you come to deliver your words, you’ll know exactly which parts you should be emphasising and why, giving your presentation as much impact as possible.
Whilst breathing is something everyone would take for granted, its usefulness in conveying emotion shouldn’t be overlooked. Like with emphasis, take the time to review your text and practise your breathing to see what sounds best. Will you look to speed up your breathing in parts, perhaps to convey a sense of excitement or anticipation? Can you look to exaggerate a point by including a not-so-subtle sigh? Play around with your breathing and see what works best for you and the words you’re reading. If you’re trying to appear natural then you obviously don’t want to overact, so it’s important that you find the right balance. Either way, there’s no denying that using your breathing correctly can really help portray a wide range of emotions.
Volume is another aspect of your voice that can very easily be changed and yet can have a big impact on how you come across to your audience. A louder voice would typically be associated with anger, upset or panic – a quieter voice being associated with fear, sadness or shyness. One thing to note is that as well as making your voice louder or quieter, you should also be mindful of how close or far away from the microphone you are, as this will also impact on the volume your listeners hear.
The pitch of your voice is generally how high or low it’s perceived to be by your audience. When it comes to emotions, think high pitched for excitement, annoyance or nervousness. A lower pitch would be more closely associated with being sad or sombre.
Putting it all together
“The tongue can paint what the eyes can’t see.” - Chinese Proverb
As you can see, there a number of different characteristics you can play around with to successfully convey emotion in your voice. However, whichever characteristics you decide to use, it’s important to practice them first – both in isolation, and in combination with others. This is particularly the case if English isn’t your native language – many of the characteristics noted above will be used entirely differently in other languages so it’s important to make sure your approach is appropriate for the emotions you’re trying to convey.
It’s important not to overact if you want to convey authenticity, so wherever possible you should make sure you know exactly how you’re going to sound by practising for others or recording yourself before you speak to or perform for your audience.
This blog was written by Matinée Multilingual.