Tuesday, May 13, 2014

5.14.14 - Vocal Analysis Day

What is Vocal Analysis?
The basic assumption is that there is a set of objectively measurable voice parameters that reflect the affective state a person is currently experiencing (or expressing for strategic purposes in social interaction). This assumption appears reasonable given that most affective states involve physiological reactions (e.g., changes in the autonomic and somatic nervous systems), which in turn modify different aspects of the voice production process. For example, the sympathetic arousal associated with an anger state often produce changes in respiration and an increase in muscle tension, which influence the vibration of the vocal folds and vocal tract shape, affecting the acoustic characteristics of the speech, which in turn can be used by the listener to infer the respective state (Scherer, 1986).

Three Levels of Description

  • the physiological level (e.g., describing nerve impulses or muscle innervation patterns of the major structures involved in the voice-production process)
  • the phonatory-articulatory level (e.g., describing the position or movement of the major structures such as the vocal folds)
  • the acoustic level (e.g., describing characteristics of the speech wave form emanating from the mouth)

The task: Understand how YOUR vocal expression is affected by the following factors:

  • Context - where you are, who you are talking to, who else is present
  • Power Dynamics - are you in a position of authority, subordination, intimacy with an other?
  • Affective environment - Affect = emotion (for our purposes, this is an extremely simplified take on affect theory/studies...) so the emotions you are experiencing; the emotions your audience is experiencing (affective milieu)
  • Social Expectations/Norms - Not only does this have to do with your expected role as a speaker, but intersectional nuances like gender, class, nationality, culture, etc.
Vocal Analysis Exercise Reflection - WAV files are posted here: Link to audio files
Please post at least two substantial paragraphs that include the following:
  • Explain the contexts of both recordings - what is the contextual source of contrast here (in terms of power dynamics, affective environment and social expectations/norms)?
  • What is the average pitch and loudness of your voice in each recording? How do they differ from one conversation to the next?
  • What is the average pitch and loudness of the other person's voice in your recorded conversation? Again, compare both dialogue partners
  • Take a moment to just listen to the conversations. What are the subjective qualities that you notice (without taking into account the numbers)?
  • Did you tend to mimic the pitch and loudness (tone) of the other person's voice? Or did your voice take on an opposing role (either dominant or submissive) in relation to the other person?
  • Please write a few sentences to critically analyze your conversations, combining both qualitative and quantitative data, and applying an analysis of the four factors listed above
  • What are some specific technical suggestions you would give yourself as a speaker to deliver a more effective speech?

Groups of 4: On a rotational basis, one person will be producing vocal analysis work/reflections, while the other three will discuss:
  • What are your top 3 ideas for your advocacy speech (please be sure to see the Advocacy Speech Assignment Post for details)
  • Help your fellow group members brainstorm ideas for: a.) ways to effectively use media b.) ideas for the accounting of different perspectives (speaking for others) c.) ideas for a potential call to action re: his/her campaign
  • When you are done, feel free to begin research
*While all of this is happening, EVERYONE is required to meet with me one-on-one for three minutes : here is the schedule:

10:20 - Amy
10:23 - Maren
10:26 - Cerena
10:29 - Elia
10:32 - Neda
10:35 - Amanda
10:38 - Caitlin
10:41 - Daniel
10:44 - Max
10:47 - Norah
10:50 - Shannon
10:53 - Jessi
10:56 - Mohammed
10:59 - Sean
11:02 - Sarah
11:05 - Mary
11:08 - Anna
11:11 - Courtney
11:14 - Lauren


  1. When comparing my elevator speech that I did in class, which was trying to sell a pharmacy to an investment board, to my conversation that I had in the privacy of my own apartment on my couch watching a movie, the results of my average loudness, average pitch, and average noisiness were remarkable. While both my average pitch and average noisiness were very similar, my average loudness was very much different. To explain more context into my conversation, I was watching a movie with a friend called "The Longest Yard", which is based on cons in a prison being able to make a football team and play against the guards. My conversation was about if this situation would happen in real life, what the outcome would be.
    My average loudness in my speech was 24.22 compared to my conversation where my average loudness was 16.48, which is not too far away from the speech in where I was purposefully speaking louder to emphasize my points. I also noticed in my conversation that my pitch got louder as my conversation went on, while in my speech I saw that my average pitch stayed pretty consistent throughout my elevator pitch. In my speech, my average pitch was 67.48, but what surprised me the most was the fact that my average pitch in my conversation was 67.1, which I thought was interesting because I was ust having a conversation with my friend.
    Last but not least, my average nosiness in my elevator pitch and my conversation with my friend were almost identical. While my average nosiness during my elevator pitch was 0.654, the average nosiness in my conversation with my friend was 0.653. This was also very interesting to me because it means that even when I speak with my friends I am good at projecting my voice. Not only that, the results also show that I am a very good conversational speaker during my speeches, which is really good to know moving forward.

  2. How i would better my speech from this is to have a better outline that is more structured as well as keeping a more consistent pitch during my speech to give out to the audience the full emotion of what I am trying to say. I learned that I should also continue to use my conversational strategy for my speeches because I am very good at keeping my tone.