Sep
25

How to Sound Feminine One Step at a Time. Step 9 September: Pacing (tempo) – not too fast, not too slow, just right.

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September:  the harvest moon, crisp autumn nights, thoughts of sweaters and home-cooked soups.

As was mentioned last month, the naturalizing elements–phrasing, pacing, melodic intonation and fluency–when used together, help you create an authentic feminine voice…something we all want, right?

September is Step 9–Pacing.  Think of all the things you do that you have a pace for:  walking, biking, jogging, driving, and speaking.  We establish our pace for these activities based largely on our own internal sense of tempo.

Music theory helps us understand pacing a bit more.

Let’s consider beat.  In its simplest definition, beat is tempo, pace, or the time it takes to play a piece. In Western music, beat is often demarcated by a metronome, a device that produces a steady pulse at the rate of x beats per minute (bpm).  A metronome marking of 60 would have 60 pulses (or beats) per minute, or one per second, while a marking of 120 would have 120 pulses per minute, or two per second.

Rhythm can be confused with beat, because sometimes the beat is also the rhythm. For instance, in a piece with a 4/4 time signature, a section of only quarter notes would be both the beat and the rhythm. However, while beat must be constant, rhythm is, by definition, variable. Rhythm is the length and accent given to a series of notes in a piece. In most Western music, rhythm and pitch go hand in hand to create a melody. The rhythm determines the length of the notes and the pitch, whether they go up or down. A noted exception is a chant (like an auctioneer’s chant, see the videos below), in which the singer concentrates solely on the pitch and allows the lyrics to move the melody along without rhythm. Beside the length of notes, rhythm is also created when some notes are emphasized over others.

Read more.

For you non-musical folks, don’t let the technical discussion above overwhelm you.  We keep the concept of pacing, or tempo/rhythm quite simple when training voices.  In fact, pacing is fundamentally a training tool rather than a goal.  There is no ideal tempo that you need to establish. Many people assume that women tend to speak more quickly than men, but this notion has been difficult to substantiate. See SEX AND SPEAKING RATE (August 2006) http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003423.html

Thinking that you must speak more quickly isn’t at all necessary!

The way that pacing becomes useful in your training is to help you set a pace so that you more effectively “code” the other training elements (posture, breathing, pitch, resonance, etc.).  Practicing at too quick at tempo will impede your progresss.  And conversely, practicing words and phrasing too slowly tends to have a  negative impact on resonance and melodic intonation.

Practicing your words and phrases at “just right” pace will greatly enhance your training.

We use a metronome in VFT (voice feminization therapy), but we don’t get too picky about accuracy.  Unlike music, our speaking pace (and thus, beats) has a lot of wiggle-room.  It’s not about counting beats or understanding time signatures on a musical staff; it’s about developing an internal sense of tempo.

Listen to these two tempos:

72 bpm

This is a relatively slow beat.  Try to sense this rhythm; feel it move with it.   Use a thought experiment (like we talked about in June Step 6 Resonance) and is something to consider when practicing.

120 bpm

This is a much faster tempo.   It’s too fast, in fact to speak with good breath, pitch, articulation or resonance control.  But some people are very successful with a pace like this.

Listen a bit to these speakers.  What do you think of their tempo/pace?

John Korrey,  World Champion Auctioneer

Emily Wears, female auctioneer

I found this video and like it a lot because it shows a very typical, well spoken professional woman speaking at a comfortable pace.  What do you think?

Perfectly paced speech

This last video, of Jean Kilbourne, who is a feminist author, speaker, and filmmaker is a fine example of wonderfully paced female speaker!  Listen to her tempo, and while you’re listening, notice her melodic intonation and fluency.

Exercises:

These three exercises are designed to give you a sense of pace or tempo when you speak.

One: count the beats

I know I said counting beats wasn’t necessary, but initially (for you non-musical folks) it’s a good way to incorporate the notion of pacing.  Listen again to the three samples above.

Two: Phrases

Recall, that one important strategy to mastering your feminine voice is to chunk down all the tasks into manageable sizes.  Working with phrases is one way to implement this strategy.

Let one of the above beats play in the background as you read each phrase.  Remember, it’s not about saying one word per beat, but just having a general sense of how fast/slow you’re going and what feels right to you.

Three Syllable Phrases Four Syllable Phrases
Not right now. Cream and sugar.
Time to go. Bread and butter.
Close your eyes. Salt and pepper.
Fine report. Toast and butter.
Read the book. Pie and coffee.
Who is it? Needle and thread.
Pick it up. Turkey and cheese.
Take a nap. Nice to meet you.

Three: Reading

This fun little limerick has a rhythmic pace to it.  Let any of the tempos above play in the background as you read this poem.  Which tempo feels right?

SMILE FOR YOU


Smiling is infectious; you catch it like the flu,
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin
When he smiled I realized I’d passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile, then I realized its worth,
A single smile, just like mine could travel round the earth.
So, if you feel a smile begin, don’t leave it undetected
Let’s start an epidemic quick, and get the world infected!

Step 9:  PACING

For September, your goal is to apply your metacognitve strategy to the pacing of your daily practice routine and to your daily speaking.

I’d LOVE to know how you’re doing with Step 9. Stay in touch over the month.

Keeping you and your voice close to my heart,

Kathe

Denver, Colorado

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