What are the 5 voices?

Why is voice important?

There is a high demand made on the teaching voice, often in conditions that are not healthy for a voice that is untrained. This demand made on your voice can produce stress and subsequently voice abuse and loss.

A resilient and expressive voice is crucial to becoming a good and effective teacher. Teaching requires the speaking voice to remain at a professional level and you need to understand its qualities, range and limitations, and the consequences of these on your students.

At The 5voices, we teach our students that the voice influences the listener and their behaviour, is a musical instrument that requires training in order to be played effectively and that has more than one tone colour.

The tone colour of the voice is important in creating the right atmosphere in the session.  By varying the tone colour and inflection of the voice, the pupils will be able to hear when they are to listen, when they are to respond, or when they are to keep quiet because you need their attention. The voice is more interesting when variation is used. Learning vocal variation helps the listener to take in what is being said.

There are 5 different voices for effective communication

There are five distinct voices that, when used properly, will help you communicate effectively with your audience.  These are the centred neutral voice, the encouraging voice, the firm voice, the advisory/counselling voice and the extra firm voice.

By learning to utilise each of these five voices at the appropriate time during teaching, or in other professional communication settings, you will be able to harness the interest of your audience, motivate them better and also use your voice in such a way that does not cause strain or voice problems.

1. Centred Neutral Voice 

The “centred neutral voice” is produced from the note on which your voice is tuned, also known as your optimal pitch or centre note, and is used for introductions, expectations for behaviour, instructions, explanations, demonstrations, announcements and requests. 

Your centred neutral voice can be adjusted for large spaces or outdoor use needs an increase in carrying power and a slight rise in pitch and firmness, but otherwise the same as your centred neutral voice.  

Your centred neutral voice should have the most usage. This is your normal speaking voice and pitched at a note that feels natural to you. This is where your voice is at its strongest, most resonant and takes the minimum of effort. To be an effective speaker, you should try to use your optimum pitch as a base and vary the notes for variety and emphasis.

2. Encouraging Voice 

Your “encouraging voice” requires a neutral voice moving towards a warmer tone colour and a slightly higher pitch and is used for praise and compliments, encouragement and support in group discussions and group projects and general encouragement for good behaviour.  Exaggerating your encouraging voice with increased can lead to a slip into “motherese”, a voice not typically suitable for classroom settings or professional ones.

3. Firm Voice 

Your “firm voice” requires a slightly lower note and firmer attack moving towards firm tone colour and is used for discipline and behaviour management, demands and warnings after making a request and achieving silence and full attention (if not managed using centred neutral voice). You should only use your firm voice when you need to gain attention after making a request in your centred neutral voice.  Using your firm voice to make a request initially will make you appear overly authoritative and harsh.  If your pitch is too high when using your firm voice you will sound sharp and shrill; too low and you will sound unnatural with faux authority.

4. Advisory/Comforting Voice 

Your “advisory/comforting voice” is an extension of your encouraging voice and requires a slightly lower note. It is used for support, protection, counselling and empathy. 

5. Extra-Firm Voice 

Your “extra firm voice” requires a lower note, firmer tone colour, more power and slower pace and is used for unacceptable behaviour, final warnings and reprimands after unacceptable behaviour.  However, your extra-firm voice is not shouting. Our 5voices methodology teaches that shouting is not a suitable method of vocal communication because it demonstrates a lack of control by the speaker, can prompt negative reactions in the audience and is harsh and damaging to your voice.  It is an over-reliance on shouting that leads to many voice problems experienced by teachers and other professional speakers. Most speakers will either not need to use their extra firm voice or use it very rarely.

Different types of talk

There are many different types of talk that we encounter day-to-day. In order to ensure that you are being understood it is important to appreciate the variety of mechanisms you employ to communicate with your audience, be it children in the classroom or team members in the office.

As you can see, there are so many ways to introduce variety in how we communicate verbally.  Our 5voices methodology helps teachers and other professional speakers navigate this journey. It helps our students understand that how we speak, as well as what we say, heavily impacts how a message is received, processed and acted upon by the audience.

Voice Care

How to preserve your voice

  • Warm up!
  • Keep well-hydrated – pee pale.
  • Be alert to gastric reflux and other dietary factors.
  • Reduce background noise where possible.
  • Stand or sit upright, beware of the slouch or slump.
  • Stay as relaxed as possible to avoid unnecessary tension.
  • Breathe as deeply as you can.
  • Remember loudness comes from good breath control and has nothing to do with raising pitch.
  • Increase the strength of the breath when you need to project.
  • Talk slowly and pause for breath when appropriate.
    Open mouth for clarity and volume.

What not to do

  • Shouting.
  • Habitual throat clearing.
  • Caffeinated drinks: Coffee, black tea, soda as the only source of hydration.
  • Dairy products can make your throat feel more phlegmy.
  • Irritating atmospheres: smoke, swimming pools, cleaning products. Keep room ventilated.
  • Eating late at night, especially very hot and spicy food as it can cause gastric reflux whilst sleeping.
  • Strong cough sweets and medicated lozenges.
  • Extreme and sudden changes in temperature.
  • Breathing continually through your mouth.

What to do when things go wrong

  • Rest your voice.
  • Don’t whisper.
  • Speak softly.
  • Don’t speak over background noise in school or in your car.
  • Keep well-hydrated with honey, lemon and ginger infusions.
  • Inhale steam morning and evening for 10-15 minutes.
  • Don’t speak at all if, when you gently hum, it is either painful or your voice cuts out.

If the quality of your voice changes and does not improve over a four-week period following an illness or strain you should see your GP and request to see an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

Having a voice problem isn’t your fault. You have the choice to do something about it.

Self-Analysis Voice Test

You will need to be able to use your voice at a professional skills level in order to communicate effectively in the classroom.  Read and consider the following statements.  Mark each statement yes or no according to your view of your voice.

To do...