* Musicians and singers, not surprisingly, used the widest range of notes. In the course of a conversation, they’d use many thirds (moving from do to mi), fourths (do up to fa), and fifths (from do to sol). Engineers used mostly thirds and tended to stay within that small range. And bankers used only seconds (do-re), which
are very limiting and almost monotonous. After a while my friend had no trouble guessing what a person did for a living, based simply on the intervals used in speech. He also identified the odd, dissonant intervals (minor seconds and flatted fifths) that cause us instantly to back off from someone we think might be emotionally off — the wackos and crazies we sometimes come across.
* Whispering and soft, airy speech happen to be murderous for the vocal cords. That alone is reason enough for me to encourage you to broaden your repertoire of “approachable” voices to include something a little easier on the pipes. A full 80 percent of all singers who develop physical problems with their vocal cords do so because of the way they speak, not the way they sing.
* To the brain, speaking and singing feel almost like the same thing. They use the same body parts, the same
muscles, and when you sing, your brain simply thinks you’re speaking but sustaining words an unusually long time and using more pitch variation.
* Paying attention to alignment will help you eliminate much of the muscle tension that impedes good singing and speaking. I’m impressed by the ideas developed by movement specialists like those practicing the Alexander Technique, and I think they have definite applications for the work we’re doing here. Alexander Technique experts believe that our bodies were designed to move and perform easily. Watch a healthy toddler in action and you will see an erect spine, free joints, and a large head balancing effortlessly on a small put unwanted pressure on the body, exerting more force than we need for even the simplest act — standing, sitting, or, I would add, singing. Paying attention to the alignment of the head and the spine can help correct the body’s overall coordination and bring us back into balance. So can being aware of how much force we’re putting into simple actions like lifting a book, opening a jar — or breathing. Balance, once we find it, is essentially effortless, and so is the flow of air into and out of our bodies. Discovering a way of standing that opens and lines you up may seem incidental to singing, but it frees space and energy for producing beautiful sounds.
* A newscaster’s goal is most often to make negative information sound intriguing but not depressing. Rather than giving in to the emotions tied to news of death and devastation, they look for ways to keep a high-energy, positive sound in their voices. The feeling of energy is created in part by the way they “punch” particular words, making them louder, or lifting the pitch, for emphasis. These speakers also end nearly every sentence by either staying on the same note or going higher. In regular conversation, most of us drop the pitch at the end of a sentence, which releases tension and lowers the feeling of intensity we’re creating. But by ending on the same pitch or going higher, news voices sustain the feeling of importance that they’ve built around what they’re saying — and leave you wanting to hear what comes next.