Primitive Dynamic of Voice

What are your biggest challenges in speaking?

Nerves? Your voice? Connecting to the audience? Finding the right stories to tell?

I want to make sure this newsletter answers the concerns and challenges you have as a speaker and provide you with the tools you can use to become a better one. So email me (

I will be addressing four of the top concerns speakers have in a free audio download – 4 Proven Acting Skills meant especially for speakers. It will be covering Tension Reduction, Vocal Authenticity, Vivid Storytelling, and Vocal Clarity. Look for it and my new web site GREAT SPEAKERS USE ACTING SKILLS by summer’s end.

This month’s article touches on one aspect of Vocal Power or Influence. This interesting article makes one aware of how vitally important it is to understand the affect your voice has on an audience.


Good speakers know that their voice has levels and movement and can affect an audience.

Great speakers know that the voice is an instrument and that it needs tuning and proper playing and constant attention.

What is the primitive dynamic of the voice?  It is the music your vocal instrument creates which, when used effectively, can move an audience.

Good speakers know that their voice has levels and movement and can affect an audience.

Excellent speakers know that the voice is an instrument and that it needs tuning and proper playing and constant attention.  They know how to use pitch, pace and power to create the vocal music necessary to connect to their audience.  They aren’t afraid of iambic pentameter because they understand how to use the primitive dynamic voice.

Here is an interview with Lyn Darnley*, one of the most respected vocal coaches in the world, discussing the dynamics of speech.  There is much to learn.

by Lee Jamieson

I think that language is becoming very cerebral and we are now separating ourselves from its primitive dynamic.  Today, we tend to ask “what does that word mean?” rather than “what does that word do to us when we speak or hear it?”

The power of the spoken word is something that goes back to the Greeks and Romans in an age before technology.  The most powerful thing is the spoken word.  So my work is about going back and looking at the real visceral energy of language and what its prime purpose is.  And that requires a fair amount of dexterity and physical technique because we’re much less engaged with language now.  Speech is less engaged.  We don’t speak with the same muscularity, energy or dynamic like people did before there was a visual back up for communication.

Lyn Darnley
Photo © RSC / Ellie Kurttz

Spoken language is primarily a vibration capable of physically impacting upon us in the same way music does.  So, Shakespeare’s language conveys much more than its literal meaning because it’s layered with sound, dynamic, explosion – language is actually very violent.

The sound and rhythm of Shakespeare’s language helps create his characters.  You can physically feel it when consonants collide or when vowels are open, long, short or squeezed.

The English language is naturally full of rhythm, full of stressed and unstressed sounds.  Iambic pentameter is simply an unstressed sound followed by a stressed one repeated five times.  It’s very close to the natural rhythm of the English language, so it works very well.  Ten beats coincides nicely with the length of a thought.  But Shakespeare becomes really exciting when you break that iambic pentameter rhythm.  The energy in performance comes from when you go against the iambic.  You don’t need to study iambic pentameter – you just need to feel it, which will come naturally from speaking and listening to the text.

I think that the most important thing is to speak Shakespeare, not read it. This is because you need to get it into your body.  The words need to affect you through the sound and through the muscular activity in the mouth. The words can’t do that on the page!

*Lyn Darnley is Head of Text, Voice and Artist Development at the Royal Shakespeare Company,
and initially worked in the theater as an actor and as a broadcaster and television presenter.
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