Claire Duffy's blog about public speaking and communication (in real life). Speak well, do well!
If you know David Tennant from his smash hit role as Doctor Who you may not be aware that his real voice is clipped and Scottish. There’s even a gag exploiting this when The Doctor finds himself in Scotland in 1879 and flips effortlessly between the two accents. Watch it here.
Tennant gets much of his character and ‘actorly’ personality from the way he varies his pitch and inflection.
Pitch is just like a note in music – it can be high or low. Speaking at a higher pitch usually conveys excitement, nervousness, fear ….whereas lower pitches tend to convey calmness, confidence and certainty. Moving between a wide range of pitches can make you sound animated and interesting.
Inflection is the pattern of pitch in an utterance. Different inflections convey meaning. Saying “Really?” with a downward inflection at the end implies doubt and suspicion, sarcasm. But with an upward inflection it’s surprise and interest.We always use an upward inflection at the end of a question: “Hungry?”
Tennant’s voice does what all speaking voices should do – it makes you feel comfortable and as though you’re in safe hands. It’s lively, it supports his character and is an important part of how he manages to be so charming and engaging.
Watch how this soup ad, of all things, is far more interesting because his of whimsical odd ball cadences and exaggerated ups and downs in pitch.