It is a fantastic day for An Min-ho. His friend set him up with the most beautiful girl he has ever laid his eyes upon. The world seems to come to a stop as she looks at him and smiles. Excited, yet nervous, he takes a seat in front of her. Then, she opens her mouth to speak and that is when he hears it. The whiniest, most high-pitched nasal voice he has ever heard. It sounds like an orchestra of chalks screeching up and down against a blackboard. Each syllable is torture to his ear-drums. The girl waits for him to respond but all Min-ho wants to do is somehow put her on mute. Maybe she is not so perfect, after all.
The significance of a person’s voice accounts for 38 percent of face-to-face communication, ac-cording to the studies of Albert Mehrabian, a professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. In other words, one’s voice substantially influences how people form their first impressions of them. Then, how should a person sound appealing to others? Is there such a thing as a good voice?
How the Voice Works
The parts of the vocal anatomy which are integral to voice production are the lungs, trachea, larynx and the vocal chords. The human voice is usually classified by the pitch, which is a measurement of how high or low a person’s voice is. The pitch is determined by the frequency of which the vocal chords vibrate to make sound. Voice production starts from our lungs as we exhale air which travels upwards through the trachea, which is the tube-like airway that connects the lungs to the larynx, a “voice box” composed of muscles that control the voice. The air pushes through the vocal chords, which stretch across the larynx, making the folds vibrate very quickly between 100 to even 1000 times per second (measured by Hertz). The average frequency of vibration ranges from 100Hz to 150Hz, or 100 to 150 times, for men. For women, it is 170Hz to 275Hz. As the frequency gets higher, so does the pitch.
The thickness of the vocal chords impacts how high or low a person sounds. A thin, flappy pair of vocal chords vibrates more, thus leading to a higher pitch. In contrast, a plumper pair of vocal chords is less prone to vibration, producing a lower voice than average. The overall size of the larynx also affects the pitch. Men have larger larynxes than women, so they have bigger vocal chords. “A small instrument like the violin with thin strings stretching across it produces high, squeaky sounds. Instruments like cellos or guitars are bigger with thicker strings, so they give off lower notes,” explained Doctor Kim Young-ho, the Director of Beautiful Voice Clinic and a former professor of Otolaryngology in Yonsei University. This is why men tend to have lower voices than women do and children have higher voices than adults.
What Makes a Good Voice?
Of course, everyone’s vocal anatomic parts vary in size, which is why people have their own unique sound. Thus, it is rather difficult to scientifically determine which voice is good and which is bad. However, there are certain pitches that are socially determined as good. According to Kim, the frequency of around 128Hz sounds the most socially acceptable in a man while 200Hz sounds the best in women. These pitches are not overly high or much too low, for both genders.
Reaching for the Perfect Pitch
Some take extreme measures such as plastic surgery in order to attain the perfect voice. In the United States, those pursuing more attractive or youthful voices are turning to “voicelifts,” a term that is used to describe the procedures of vocal surgery for superficial purposes. According to Dr. Kim, this trend seems to be catching on in Korea. “Some patients want their voices altered so they can sound more attractive or because they want to sound like a certain celebrity.” There are various surgical procedures available for voice alteration, otherwise known as phonosurgery, which involve adjusting the size and length of the vocal chords to change the pitch. Cricothyroid Approximation elevates the pitch by tightening the vocal chords while Laryngoplasty shortens the length of the vocal chords. For those who wish to have deeper voices, Fat Injection Thyroplasty injects fat taken from another part of the body into the vocal chords so that they become thicker and vibrate less, ultimately creating a lower pitch. Another way to deepen one’s voice is to loosen the vocal chords by re-moving a segment of cartilage from the larynx.
Not What You Say but How You Say It
If a “good pitch” exists, then what are the qualities in a voice that make it as charismatic as the ones on television adverts or radio? Hong Seung-pyo, the Director of The Sori Voice Training Center, explained, “The way you control and deliver your voice is important in creating a good voice that achieves effective communication.” Hong said that the key to communication is sounding “trustworthy” through steadiness. Pronunciation should be precise and your voice should not waver. If you can be clearly understood, your companion will feel at ease with your voice. This leads to the consolidation of trust which, in turn, forms interest in what you are saying. Overall, you can deliver your thoughts and present yourself in a more impressionable manner.
How to Naturally Attain a Good Voice
Whether you are presenting in class or chatting with a friend, having a good voice can be resourceful for the average university student. Reading out loud is a simple, yet effective exercise of developing voice by practicing pronunciation and breathing techniques, according to Hong. Another way to train your voice is by recording yourself as you speak. In this way, you can pick up on your speech defects and correct them accordingly.
In order to lay the physical foundations for an unfaltering, trustworthy voice, Dr. Kim recommended some guidelines. First, it is important not to strain your vocal chords. Do not talk or sing for a long time and speak quietly in places where people can easily hear you, instead of shouting over the noise. Second, make a difference with what you eat and drink. Stay hydrated and re-duce consumption of alcohol, caffeine, fizzy drinks and dairy. Also, cut out habits that damage your vocal chords, such as smoking or eating before going to bed.
A Good Voice for a Good Image
Having a good voice is undoubtedly important. Out of the 215 Hanyangians that the Hanyang Journal surveyed, 91 percent said that voice is an important quality in making a good first impression. We can, thus, conclude that sounding good also makes a person look good. Through practice and healthy vocal habits, Hanyangians, too, can acquire impressive voices.