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PITCH OF VOICE.
PITCH of Voice has reference to its degree of elevation. Every person in reading or speaking, assumes a certain pitch, which may be either on a high or low note, according to circumstances, and which has a governing influence on the variations of voice, above and below it. This is usually called the key note.
2. There are in fact many pitches of voice, varying from the low, deep tone, to that of a loud scream, as prompted by sentiment and emotion. But in general, they may be considered as three; namely, the high, employed in calling to a person at a distance; the middle, used in common conversation; and the low, heard in expressing feelings of sublimity and awe. Of these pitches the middle, under ordinary cir cumstances, should be assumed, since it admits the widest range of voice both above and below it, and hence affords the greatest variety. In addressing a large assembly, or a person at a distance, an elevated key is preferable, as it will render what is uttered more audible, with less effort of the lungs, than one that is low and heavy.
3. Reading or speaking on one monotonous key, for a length of time, is a serious, as well as a very common fault. A variation of the voice as to pitch, is very desirable, on account of the relief which it affords the lungs, and pleasure to the hearer. As a person, wearied by remaining for a length of time in one position, is rested by assuming a different one, so are the lungs, in like manner, relieved by the adoption of a different pitch of voice. One of the principal causes, why many public speakers are afflicted with weakness of lungs, is, they have been accustomed to speak on the same uniform pitch; and it is mainly on account of this sameness, that such speakers are generally accused of dullness.
4. The variations of the voice as to key, should be such as are prompted by the sentiment and emotion. Mechanical variations are more disagreeable, and more to be avoided than monotony itself. These mainly consist in sudden and successive leaps from one extreme of the voice to another,— in beginning regularly each sentence on a high, full note, and gradually diminishing till the close, or in giving fres
quent and unnatural stress to unemphatic words. Each emotion of the mind is expressed in its own peculiar pitch of voice. Tender emotion has the effect to elevate the key, while strong emotion tends to render it firm and heavy.
QUESTIONS.-1. What is Modulation? 2. How many different ways is the voice modulated? 3. What are they? 4. What is meant by Pitch of voice? 5. How many pitches are there? 6. In general how many are considered, and what are they? 7. Which affords the greatest variety, and why? 8. Which is preferable in addressing a large assembly or one at a distance, and why? 9. What very common fault in reading or speaking is mentioned? 10.. Why is a variation of the voice as to pitch desirable? 11. How is it shown that the lungs are relieved by this variation? 12. What principal cause may be assigned, why many public speakers are afflicted with weakness of lungs? 13. What should be the character of these variations? 14. What is said of mechanical variations? 15. In what do these mainly consist? 16. What different effects have tender and strong emotion on the pitch of voice?
1. QUANTITY has reference to fullness of sound, and time of uttering it.
2. It is easy to perceive that a sentence may be read on any pitch, either in a loud or soft,-slow or quick tone of voice. Thus, the difference between the sounds produced by heavy and slight strokes on the same bell, consists in the quantity of the sound, and not in its pitch. Hence, the modulation of the voice in quantity, is twofold, consisting in fullness, as loud or soft, and in time, as slow or quick.
3. Though it may be easy to distinguish quantity from pitch in theory, yet they are often confounded in practice. For if one is requested to speak louder, instead of increasing the quantity of sound on the same pitch, he merely elevates the key note, thus mistaking an elevation of the pitch for an increase of quantity. For example, let any sentence, as the following,
"On Linden when the sun was low,"
be first read on as low a pitch as possible, and then repeated by elevating the voice one note higher, and thus on, till raised to its highest pitch, without increasing the quantity of sound, Then let the same be read on any key in a soft tone, and repeated without elevating the pitch, but increasing the quantity of sound, and thus on, till increased to its full extent.
4. This experiment, though at first apparently easy, will be found very difficult by those who have never attempted it. Much practice of this kind, is particularly recommended to all who wish to improve in the management of their voices.
5. To give, in all cases, the appropriate length, as well as fullness of sound, to the utterance of a passage, requires the exercise of much skill and good taste. For it would be exceedingly tiresome to listen to a reader or speaker, who should utter the unemphatic words, as, and, for, to, and the like, with equal length and force, as those which are emphatic.
6. A few examples are here annexed, the utterance of which will require sudden variations of the voice, both in quantity and pitch.
1. And whispered in an under tone,
"Let the hawk stoop,-his prey is flown!"
2. He woke to hear his sentry's shriek,
"To arms! they come,-the Greek! the Greek!"
3. They rally,—they bleed, for their kingdom and crown,
The last line of the first couplet, would naturally be read in a suppressed tone, resembling a whisper; while that of the second, on a high and loud note, resembling a person at a distance endeavoring to excite sudden alarm. The last line of the third example should be expressed in a firm, heavy tone. Other examples of similar character may be
selected, if required.
QUESTIONS.-1. To what does quantity have reference? 2. How may a sentence on any pitch be read? 3. How is this illustrated? 4. Of what does quantity consist? 5. What is said of mistaking pitch for quantity? 6. Repeat the example as directed. 7. What is necessary in order to give the proper length and fullness of sound to the reading of a passage? 8. Read the examples for practice, and define the variations of voice which each requires.
1. QUALITY has reference to the kind of sound expressed.
2. Two sounds may be alike in quantity and pitch, yet widely differ in quality. For example, a sound, produced on the piano, may agree in pitch and quantity with one on the flute, yet be very unlike it in quality. The same may
be said, also, in regard to the tones of voice of two individuals. In general, this difference originates in the difference of the vocal organs. It is not uncommon, however, that habits of reading or speaking in suppressed and disagreeable tones of voice, are often acquired, which might be easily remedied by effort.
3. However well a passage may be read with respect to articulation, inflection, emphasis, and the like; yet if it be uttered in a sort of nasal twang, or suppressed tone, it will appear extremely uncouth. Much care, therefore, should be had to render the tones of voice as musical, full, and melodious as possible. The habit of reading in a shrill, nasal, or guttural tone, which is often heard at schools, is quite intolerable.
4. But a different object is had in view in these remarks, than merely to refer to the bad qualities of voice, which are often acquired. Whenever these exist, no pains should be spared in removing them. It will be found far more difficult to vary the voice in quality, than in other respects; yet such skill should be acquired in its management, that it will be easy to change at pleasure the tones of the voice in this respect, however melodious and agreeable they may be already, to those which are equally so, without a variation of the pitch or quantity. This skill is acquired only by practice.
Remark. No pains should be spared to cultivate a clear and flexible voice. Reading aloud, in an erect posture, will* be found a valuable exercise. Unless a person have command of his voice, all other directions will be useless. Pieces, possessing great variety, should be selected and thoroughly studied, in order to ascertain the modulation of voice which they require. A correct model in the voice and manner of the living instructor, is of great importance; yet much may be accomplished by rigid, personal application.
QUESTIONS.-1. To what does Quality have reference? 2. How is it shown that quality differs from quantity or pitch? 3. From what mainly originates the difference in the voices of individuals? 4. What habits are often acquired as to the qualities of the voice? 5. Which is the most difficult, to vary the voice in pitch, quantity, or quality? 6. What plan is recommended in order to acquire a clear and flexible voice?
1. PERSONATION is the varying of the voice in pitch, quantity, or quality, so as to represent the voices of two or more individuals.
2. Personation may be regarded the practical part of modulation, since it brings into exercise the three variations of the voice, considered under that head, either singly or collectively. The voices of different individuals vary either in pitch, quantity, or quality, but more commonly in the first. Hence, the voices of two or more persons, may generally be represented simply by a variation of pitch.
3. To read a conversation or dialogue between two or more persons, in one uniform tone of voice, as to pitch, quantity, and quality, would deprive it of that variety and interest which properly belong to compositions of that character. For example, to read the following without variation in respect to modulation, would render it exceedingly tame and insipid.
Brutus. You say you are a better soldier;
Let it appear so; make your vaunting true,
And it shall please me well. For mine own part,
Cassius. You wrong me every way, you wrong me, Brutus:
Did I say better?
If you did, I care not.
When Cesar liv'd he durst not thus have mov'd me.
Peace, peace; you durst not thus have tempted him.
What! durst not tempt him?
For your life you durst not.
Do not presume too much upon my love,
You have done that you should be sorry for.