As a speech professor at Center for Advanced Legal Studies, at the beginning of each semester, I tell my students in the AAS Degree paralegal program that one of the goals of the speech class is for them to find their voices. By that, I mean that I want them to discover their true way of expressing themselves, whether it is humorously, poetically, or perhaps with an authoritative tone they didn’t know they possessed.
I also point out to them that they are each born with certain qualities to their physical voices that they may or may not like. Of course, it is possible to change the physical voice. Actors, for example, besides ridding themselves of accents, often work with a coach to lower their voice or make it more resonant or vibrant, and they learn breathing techniques that help with vocal projection.
Vocal Viruses are Infectious Habits
Why, then, when we put so much focus on sounding good, would people deliberately adopt weird vocal habits that are unsettling to the listener? Currently, for example, vocal “fads” exist that make the voice sound gravelly, childish, and whiny. There is even a grating vocal style known as “tattered voice,” heard in both male and female actors and voiceover artists. These people sound as if they have been up for three days straight, chain smoking and drinking Everclear.