8 ESSENTIAL TIPS ON VOICE MODULATION AND TONALITY

Voice modulation is an art. It’s a way of expressing things in such a way that it creates an effective impact on the audience. Sure, your content plays a role in what you speak but HOW you speak matters more than anything.

Now you must have noticed how I emphasised on the word HOW in the above paragraph and it immediately created an impact. That’s exactly what voice modulation and tonality is all about.

The effectiveness of your speech doesn’t depend on what knowledge you put out there. It depends more on how the audience receives your ideas and thoughts.

So, to put it out there in simple words:

Voice modulation is basically how you adjust your voice while speaking. Fast or slow, high pitched or low pitched, taking the right pauses, stressing on words, etc. And Tonality is the way you sound when you speak. Combine the two in your speech and your speech will turn out to be extremely effective.

Voice modulation and tonality help in making your speech less monotonous and boring. The way you modulate your voice leaves a strong impact on the people and that is why it is really important to incorporate voice modulation in your speeches.

If you are someone who has struggled with keeping the audience engaged throughout your speeches, then these simple tips on voice modulation and tonality are for you.

1. Adjust the Pitch

Good pitch for voice modulation and tonality.

Pitch is how high or low your voice sounds. It’s more of a horizontal projection of the voice towards the audience. Pitch represents the frequency of the sound.

You can adjust the pitch according to the sentences in your speech. For instance, if you have to say something that you are excited about or something that shows your passion, use a high pitch.

If you have to say, “I am so excited to be a part of this organisation!” Try saying it in a higher pitch and then in a lower pitch. You will immediately see the difference for yourself.

Sound of excitement, action and passion can easily be conveyed when the pitch is raised because that’s what we do when we actually are excited. We raise our pitch.  

When you have to say a sentence, which is authoritative and important, use a lower pitch and a slow pace. People tend to respond well to sentences that are important and have a lower pitch.

Basically, the trick is to keep changing the pitch now and then and not stick to just one kind of pitch. It will save a lot of monotony.

2. Adjust Your Volume

Man with a horn speaker.

You must adjust the volume of your voice according to the size of the audience. You should speak loud enough for the person sitting at the very end of the room to be able to hear you.

Speaking loudly does not mean shouting. It just means speaking in a way that every single person in the room could hear you.

You should speak loudly or softly according to the sentences in your speech. You do not have to be too loud all the time as it can irritate people and you also shouldn’t speak so softly that people do not understand what you say.

If you are a naturally soft-spoken person and find it difficult to speak a bit loudly and clearly, there are some exercises that you can try for being able to speak a bit loudly. Few exercises on voice modulation are mentioned further in this blog. Do check those out!

3. Stress on Keywords

Whenever you speak, make sure that you stress keywords in your speech to create a good impact on the audience.

For example, try saying “Climate change is real” in a plain tone without stressing any word and then say the same sentence with emphasising on the important words in the sentence.

For example, if I add some emphasis on the important words in the sentence like “CLIMATE CHANGE is REAL!” It immediately creates an impact.

When you stress on the keywords, your audience starts remembering these important words, which creates an impact.

4. Speak with Clarity

A woman speaking

A lot of times while speaking, people start with a really loud and clear voice but as they reach the end of the sentence, their voice often gets too low and unclear, and the audience fails to understand what the speaker is trying to convey.

To avoid this, make sure you pronounce every single word as clearly as possible. This helps in conveying the information effectively.

To practice this, what you can do is, as you are reading this blog, read everything that is written loudly and focus on the last word. Make sure that you are pronouncing the last word loudly and clearly.

See to it that you do not fumble and ramble while speaking. Speak slowly and with clarity.

5. Keep an Eye on Your Pace

The most common misconception that people have is that the best way to speak is speaking very fast. But that is not true.

If you speak fast, your audience fails to grasp what you said and eventually lose interest in your speech because they find everything that you say hard to process. You must give your audience the time to process every word that you say.

Speaking fast often leaves a person breathless and the chances of fumbling or messing up the speech are comparatively higher.

To avoid this, you should speak at a slow, controlled and natural pace. When you speak slowly, you can also avoid the use of filler words like ‘uh’, ‘um’, ‘er’ etc. Take pauses wherever necessary (more on this in the next point).

If at all you do have to speak fast, choose few sentences that show excitement and thrill and say them fast and then pause so that it gives your audience the time to process what you said, and it also adds a little emotion to your speech.

You can keep adjusting the pace of your voice however you want but just make sure that a major chunk of your speech is not you speaking extremely fast and leaving the audience confused.

6. Pause

Pauses are one of the most important things when it comes to public speaking.

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

Mark Twain

Many people wouldn’t believe this, but a pause of few seconds seems completely natural to the audience. So, you don’t have to worry about the fact that the audience will think that you have forgotten your speech.

And that makes us wonder, when exactly do we take a pause?

Pauses can mostly be used whenever a sentence has a comma or a full stop, or when you are about to talk about something important and you want to emphasize on something, pauses can be used when you want your audience to process the information you shared while moving on to a new topic etc.

Pauses in public speaking are like verbal forms of punctuations.

An example of pause would be –

“How would you feel if..(pause)”

“For several weeks (Pause), Kerala has been reporting a maximum number of COVID-19 cases in the country (Pause).”

7. Tone of Your Voice

Watch your tone

The tone is how your voice sounds when you speak. It is crucial to have a good tone when you speak. A good tone can be developed by practising.

People like a warm and friendly voice. A good tone of voice will help you persuade and influence people in a much better way.

You must express your emotions through the tone of your voice. Be it sad, happy, angry, anything. Make sure that you say it in such a way that it conveys your emotions to the audience.

8. Examples of Speeches With Great Voice Modulation and Tonality

You can watch various videos of people who have used voice modulation and tonality and get a better idea. Some examples of speeches with great voice modulation and tonality are given below.

What makes life complete? – Gaur Gopal Das, TEDxMITP

This is an excellent example of what voice modulation looks like. Check out this video and observe how Mr Gaur Gopal Das changes his voice and tone according to the context of the sentences.

Check how he emphasises on few words, increases the volume of his voice in a few places, adjusts the pace of the voice and so on and basically, manages to keep us engaged throughout the speech.

Also, the fact that he is moving around continuously on the stage while speaking, keeps the audience engaged.

Here are some more inspirational speeches which have amazing voice modulation and tonality.

How To Become Your Best When Life Gives You the Worst – Peter Sage, TEDxKlagenfurt

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Lee Duckworth

How To Be Really Successful? – Sadhguru

Now that we know what voice modulation and tonality is all about, here are some exercises that you can try to get better at modulating your voice.

Exercises for Voice Modulation and Tonality

Voice modulation exercises

1. Counting Numbers

Start counting from 1 to 10 and increase your volume with every number. 1 being the softest and 10 loudest and vice versa. This exercise will help you with the volume of your voice.

2. Humming

Keep your hands on your chest and start saying ‘hmmmmmmm’, and you will feel the vibrations of that sound in your chest and that will help you understand the tone and range of your voice.

This exercise can help you get a deeper voice and it will improve the tone of your voice with time.

3. Say “huh”

While doing this exercise, make sure that the voice comes out from your stomach and not just the vocal cords.

Say huh in a way as if you are throwing the voice outside.

4. Breathing Exercises

Apart from the exercises mentioned above, some more exercises you can do are breathing exercises. Try deep breathing and pranayama or om chanting.

Breath in through your nose and fill up your stomach first. Hold the breath for 10 seconds and then exhale slowly.

Breathing exercises are very effective for vocal training.

Breathing exercises

To Conclude,

Incorporating voice modulation in your speeches can transform the speech to a whole new level and it can become immensely effective for the audience.

Truth to be told, voice modulation cannot be mastered in a day or two. It needs a lot of practice. But constant practising can help you become a better speaker and you can expect fewer people dozing off and zoning out during your speeches.

Try out these tips and get ready to give effective and engaging speeches!

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.