Recently a metropolitan radio station offered to give auditions to women. Nearly
one thousand replies came in from all sorts of applicants, many of them having
no idea as to what radio requires in the way of voice and reading ability.
Doubtless a few were deeply hurt because
they did not win a place for themselves.
No person would apply for a secretarial position without first having studied
shorthand, but for some reason radio, like the stage, appeals to people who
believe they may become famous overnight without any preparation whatsoever. Any
person with brains can talk, they feel.
As a matter of fact, few people do talk or read well enough for radio. A really
beautiful speaking voice is rarely heard, particularly among women. Men can
"get by" with bad tone production because their voices are in low range and
radio is kinder to them, but the shrill feminine voice or the thin, high, sweet
voice is not pleasant when it is
Any person who wishes to broadcast should make a recording of his voice to hear
himself as others hear him. His first reaction will likely be "Oh, I don't sound
like that," but it is just possible he may
discover for the first time in his life what his voice really is.
In England, where dialects are so marked and where people frequently speak with
an immobile upper lip, the British Broadcasting Corporation has made a practice
of requiring advance recording of prospective speakers, not so much to keep bad
voices off the air as to train speakers and let them know what is expected in
the way of clear and natural diction.
In America, where until recently*we have not been so insistent upon a high
standard of speech, we have heard over the air all types of voices—throaty,
nasal, thin, or monotonously inflected—even
among candidates for high political office, we have become
aware of the many dialects that have
developed in this country, and we are at last becoming speech conscious.
We may be on the road toward a standard American speech.
HOW TO ACQUIRE A PLEASING VOICE
The human voice is a musical instrument. At its best it can express fine
shades of feeling through changing inflection and tone quality. It possesses all
the attributes of the violin plus the capacity to express concrete thoughts.
Speech has pitch, tempo, dynamics, and resonance. The speaker who is master of
his voice uses all these effectively, just as the master of a violin brings out
its most beautiful and expressive tones to delight a listening audience.
Almost everyone is naturally endowed with a good voice. When we hear a person
with a high-pitched or a low, monotonous voice, with indistinct enunciation or
poor resonance, we know there is much to be done before a career as a
broadcaster will be possible.
Radio speakers who most nearly approach perfection, like Milton Cross have
studied singing. They have learned how to control the breath with the diaphragm,
how to relax the throat completely so there will be no harsh or nasal tones, how
to form the lips and use the tongue to enunciate clearly. Their ears have been
trained to distinguish the many shades of difference in vowel pronunciation. One
of the most versatile and effective voices in radio is that of David Ross. It
can be crisp and staccato in advertising commercials or melodious and legato in
the reading of poetry. It can change pitch, tempo, and volume at the will of its
Far too many people in America speak the provincial language acquired in
childhood through imitation. Often it is extremely difficult for an unmusical
adult to alter his provincial dialect. Sometimes he doesn't care to change.
We've all heard of the Southern mother who sent her daughter out for social
conquest with the injunction, "Now, Honey, don't forget your Southern accent."
Any person with a trained ear can detect the section of the country in which a
speaker spent his early childhood. For example, certain characteristic
inflections abound in parts of Pennsylvania and parts of Arkansas; people from
Tennessee and West Virginia have voices with characteristic tone quality; the
Southeastern seaboard produces a leisurely, drawling speech not at all in the
same tempo as that to be found in the Middle West and New England. Climate, of
course, and a preponderance of certain racial strains have much to do with
speech provincialisms. A cosmopolite who has spent his entire life roving about
is apt to have a speech free from eccentricities, but any person with a
normally musical ear and a true desire to overcome flaws in tone production and
pronunciation can do so by study. Even though he does no formal studying he can
listen to the best moving-picture actors and the best radio performers.
A young person who is able to mimic comedians like Mortimer Snurd and Rochester
can just as easily imitate cultured speech and make his voice a permanent asset
to his personality.
Proper breath control is the basis of good speaking just as it is the basis of
good singing. The infant breathes correctly as he sleeps peacefully in his
cradle. The child or the athlete, after he has exercised in the fresh air,
breathes the way nature intended he should. Tight clothing and the restrictions
and inhibitions of so-called civilization have made most adults forget how to
breathe deeply and naturally, letting involuntary muscles of the body do the
but relaxed, before a
push out the sides of the trunk as you sing
"hng" explosively on a designated pitch (possibly c or
f). After you have done this
you feel powerful vibrations in the forehead, nose, throat,
chest (but absolutely
no tightness in
vocal cords) then add a vowel sound like
or oo and sustain it (hng-ee or hng-oo). The corresponding string on the piano
vibrate and cause the piano's sounding board to reinforce the tone. If you
you will discover that other
are also vibrating. For C the overtones
the tones of the
If the diaphragm is used correctly, and the throat relaxed so that the quality
of the voice is resonant, the student may
practice "throwing" his voice or projecting it by reading
lines from different poems and orations. If he focuses his voice through the
upper lip and calls to the rear of the room, the quality of his voice
will improve. The same technique should be used before the microphone except
that the voice should be normally soft.