Vocal Variety

Vocal Variety Image

Vocal variety is the way we use our voice. It is a combination of pitch, tone, volume, and rate. Having good vocal variety helps to avoid monotony in your speeches. Keeping an expressive, energized voice helps to keep your audience from falling asleep during your speech.

Every competent speaker's ultimate goals are:

1. To find the most appropriate expression to meet the audience's needs.

2. To match those needs with the content of their speech.

3. To have a range of vocal varieties in their skill set to select the most appropriate from. This gives you vocal flexibility.


Volume is how loudly or quietly you speak. Although Pitch some voices are naturally more loud or quiet than others, there are some exercises you can do to increase volume control.

Practice breathing using your diaphragm.

1. Stand in front of a mirror.

2. Pull yourself up straight and let your head sit square on your neck.

3. Place one hand on your stomach. Breathe in through your nose.

4. You should feel your stomach rising and then breathe out. This time your stomach falls.

5. Try until you can feel a definite rise and fall of your stomach while keeping relaxed.


Tone refers to the emotional content carried by our voices. It is not the words themselves, but 'how' we say them. Try thinking of each word as a basket that carry its intent along. The more intent you think a word has, the more the tone can be varied effectively. Here are some tone exercises to try.

The Ham Sandwich Exercise

Repeat the words “ham sandwich” in as many varying ways as you can. For example, say it angrily, happily, sadly, lovingly, disparaging, rudely. Keep experimenting with a variety of emotions.

This s a fantastic exercise to share with a partner. Take turns giving each other ways to say the phrase. Repeat until you run out of variations and remember to listen for emotional truth and believability.


Pitch is something that everyone has, but it ranges from person to person. Women have naturally higher pitches than men. However, varying your pitch involves increasing your range and using notes you do not usually use. Here are some pitch exercises to try.

One Note Charlie

Take a deep breath in and begin speaking on whatever topic you choose until you run out of breath. Remain on the SAME note all the time. When you have finished, choose another note. It could be higher or lower and repeat. Pay careful attention to the effect it has on you! You should feel a physical difference as well as an emotional one.

See-Saw, Up-down

Practice between your upper and lower range. Read aloud from a book. The first sentence is up, the next is down. Continue see-sawing for at least a minute. Read the same passage but this time it is three words up and three words down. Continue to play with variations!

Pitch Experimentation

Say the sentences below in your high, middle and low pitch range. Note what happens to the intensity and the way you perceive the emotional content of the sentences. There will be a distinct variation between each.

1. Her Grandmother died yesterday.

2. I want a new car.

3. This dinner is delicious.