Town Criers know that not all words are equal. Especially when it comes to belting the words out loudly.
Some words can be roared at maximum volume with comparative ease whereas other words are a struggle to project at anywhere near the same volume.
I have been wondering why that is, so decided to investigate. after all, I wouldn’t mind winning a Town Crier competition again one day.
A few Youtube videos later, here’s what I found.
Firstly there is a mismatch between the parts of speech we can easily put the most power behind and the parts of speech that convey meaning most easily.
It is mostly the consonants that convey understanding. The vowels are a sort of filler. The problem is that the vowels are the sounds we can belt to the back of the town square without going hoarse after half a minute.
Vowels generally have a lower frequency and consonants have a higher frequency. According to one video the vowels are found in the 200 – 300Hz frequency band but the consonants are found in the 2-4Khz band. A different video said male speech is mostly between 1800-2800Hz so I have no clue which the numbers are correct, but simply put, both videos agreed that it takes a lot more energy to vibrate the tighter (i.e. higher) vocal chords needed for consonants than the looser vocal chords needed for vowels.
Incidentally, the “Oyez” that we Town Criers generally start with is pronounced “oh, yay”. As it is comprised mostly of vowel sounds it can be belted out loudly. Perhaps this is why we Town Criers can generally start well, but then things sometimes head south thereafter.
So it appears the challenge is to concentrate on improving consonants… or perhaps to replace them with vowels were possible? Oh, sneaky!
“At twelve o clock on the High Street” is a typical phrase that appears in many proclamations. If I replace it with “At noon today, here in Windsor” can I produce more volume? The science says “yes, I can”.
Where it is impossible to replace consonant laden words we need to slow down even further to give the audience enough time to process what we are saying.
We should also consider the acoustics of the locations where we deliver our cries from. If you are standing a long way away from your audience with a strong wind blowing in your face, you are on a hiding to nothing from the get go.
I did a few more searches but got little else to go on, so I went to GPT, the latest AI powered chatbot and asked what I could do to cry louder. The result was the following sage advice….
“There are a few things you can try if you want to shout louder:
- Take a deep breath before you start shouting. This will give you more air to work with, which will make your voice louder.
- Open your mouth wide when you shout. This will create more space for the sound waves to escape, which will make your voice louder.
- Use your diaphragm to power your shout. To do this, place your hand on your stomach and take a deep breath. As you shout, try to push the air out from your diaphragm, rather than just using your throat. This will give your voice more volume.
- Use a microphone or megaphone if you need to shout over a large distance or a lot of background noise. These devices will amplify your voice, making it louder without you having to strain your vocal cords.”
Then GPT even added a bit of extra health and safety advice, just to keep me safe.
“Remember to always use caution when shouting, as shouting too loudly or for too long can damage your vocal cords and lead to vocal fatigue. If you need to shout frequently or for long periods of time, consider using a microphone or other amplification device to avoid straining your voice.”
I replied that microphones were against the rules. I didn’t expect a meaningful response, but chatbots are getting really clever really quickly. Here’s what the second response was…
“If using a microphone is not an option, there are still a few things you can try to make your voice louder without damaging your vocal cords:
- Stand up straight and keep your body relaxed. Good posture will help you breathe more easily and project your voice better.
- Use your hands to help amplify your voice. Cup your hands around your mouth to create a makeshift megaphone, or hold them out to the sides to direct the sound waves towards your audience.
- Use proper breathing techniques. Take a deep breath from your diaphragm and exhale slowly as you shout. This will give you more air to work with and help you control the volume of your voice.
- Practice your shouting technique. Just like any other skill, shouting takes practice to master. The more you practice, the better you will become at controlling the volume and tone of your voice.”
Pretty good advice. However, we have missed one important limitation on the power of the voice. Nothing so far has mentioned drinks to ‘lubrcate’ the throat. This is important because without lubrication you will get audibly raspy after just a few sentences and then your automatic reflexes kick in, trying to stop you from damaging yourself. Fighting through it leads to mispronounced words, unwanted swallowing and a general messy noise coming out of your mush.
The one piece of advice that Professional singers seem to regularly post online is that a little pineapple juice (or strawberry juice if no pineapple is available) is the best thing to drink immediately before a performance. I have never tried this but will give it a go soon.
Who knows, I might just enter a town crier competition or two next year!