Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Storyteller's Tool Kit: THE VOICE

The Storyteller's Toolkit is a simple way to talk about the elements that storyteller's use to present a story.  These do not include puppets, props, costumes or anything extraneous.  You can certainly use all of those things as a storyteller, but they are not standard tools in the toolkit.

The basics in the toolkit are as follows.


Eyes:  If you missed the post, click here.

Face:  If you missed this pos, just click here.

Hands:  If you missed the post, click here.

Body:  If you missed the post, just click here

Easy enough.  In keeping with my new policy about blog entries.  We will deal with each of these one at a time.  Today's selection deals with voice.

Whether you are signing, speaking, singing, or using sound effects, your voice is an important part of the tale.  Not just the speaking element, but how you use your voice, and how you maintain vocal health.

Earlier this year I did a blog about the care and feeding of the voice.
Here are some other links about taking care of your voice.
Diane Bradon
Doug Lipman
Beth Lawrence

As a storyteller, I use lots of sound effects, character voices, and non-pedestrian sounds to convey my stories.  This is not necessary.  You can use lots of sound effects or none at all.  The choice must be yours.  Do not let someone pressure you to do something that makes you uncomfortable.  If you are uncomfortable, the audience will be uncomfortable.  Here is a clip of me telling 'The Monkey's Heart', a very vocal heavy story.

That clip is obviously an extreme example of putting sounds and voices into your stories, but there is no need to go that far to create a fun piece of storytelling.

Whether you use sound effects or not, there are some things you can definitely do to help your voice work with your stories.

1.  Pace

The flow at which your stories land on your audience can sweep them along, or hold them spell bound on the edge of their seats.    Play with the rate of speech to control the story and take the audience on a wild ride.

2.  Rhythm.

Find places to give your stories a rhythm.  The rhythm will set off a signal for your audience, and give them something to listen for.  It also allows you to build in some laughs or relief for the listeners.

3.  Volume.

Look for places to control how loud or soft your stories fall.  Draw your audience in with softer tones, hit them with power when you want them holding onto their seats.  Use your volume to  take your audience into the heart of your tale.

4.  Sounds.

Sounds help fill in background and build images that fill out your tales and give them textures.  Sounds don't have to be exotic.  It can be as simple as whistling into the mic, making the sound of the wind, sighing.  Do what you can.

5.  Pitch.

You can easily create character choices by simply changing the pitch of your voice.  Play with your voice and see what sorts of pitches you can easily make.

6.  The Pause.

Pinter knew what he was doing when he wrote those fantastic pauses.  Pausing allows an audience to catch on, consider what just happened, predict what is going to happen next, or laugh, scream, wiggle, or whatever they need to do.  They can also be used for comic relief, or to enhance suspense.


There are lots of articles about the best way to find out who you are and what to do with your voice.  Here are a few if you really want to get into it.

Rachel Hedman
Anne Glover
Effective storytelling:  A Manual for Beginners

There are plenty of resources if you want to get ideas about using your storytelling voice.  Have fun, play with your voice, make sure you maintain its health, and figure out ways to challenge yourself.  Playing with stories can be lots of fun.  Discovering new ways to make your point of view and voice shine is exciting.

Empower yourself....Empower your listeners.

Happy Telling!


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