Rehearsing Pace of Voice

What is Pace of Voice?

The word pace simple describes the speed at which speech takes place. In the real world, we only notice the pace of someone’s voice when it becomes annoying and difficult to listen to. When someone speaks too fast or too slowly. However, your own natural pace of voice can communicate several different things. A fast pace can communicate excitement and confidence whereas a slow pace can communicate cautiousness or listlessness. 

It is important that we think about manipulating our pace of voice when developing characters for a performance. A character’s pace should reflect their mental and emotional state. As your character goes through their journey in the play, the pace of your voice should change and reflect that journey. Here is a great rehearsal exercise to help achieve that.

Rehearsal exercise

It is important that you can use pace as a means of expressing your character’s motivation on stage. 

Take a piece of text that you are working on. It doesn’t matter whether it is a monologue, duologue or scene with multiple characters. Focus on your lines and your character.

Read through your lines, either on your own or with your group. As you read it, try to find the right pace for your character as they are normally and maintain the same pace throughout. That pace we shall call level 3. 

Remember that your level 3 is specific to your character’s general psychology. It is based on whether they are generally a confidence, nervous or energetic character.

The next part of the exercise is based on your understanding of your character’s overall motivation in this scene and how that character reacts to that motivation. 

So, we’ll look at some examples first. 

  • If your character is normally quite excitable but they must deliver bad news they might slow down the pace of their voice as they get closer to achieving their motivation.
  • Whereas if your character wants to avoid a conflict and leave the scene but they are normally quite slow and nervous, their pace of voice might speed up as they attempt to get out of the conversation as quick as they can.

Break your lines down into small sections based on changes to your character’s psychology and how close they get to achieving their motivation in the scene. Mark the scenes using the numbers 1 to 5 to represent the pace of the voice and a P for a pause. Use the following levels as a guide:

  1. = Very slow for your character
  2. = Slow for your character
  3. = Your characters normal pace
  4. = Fast for your character
  5. = Very fast for your character

Read the scene again and keep making changes until you feel comfortable with the changes in your use of pace to represent the characters changing psychology and motivation.