Nels L. (Nels Lars) Nelson.

Preaching and public speaking : a manual for the use of preachers of the Gospel and public speakers in general online

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Online LibraryNels L. (Nels Lars) NelsonPreaching and public speaking : a manual for the use of preachers of the Gospel and public speakers in general → online text (page 34 of 37)
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low, far or near, it takes into its capacious maw and in due time
masticates and digests. But for a long time, and in some cases for
all time, such words retain some distinctive characteristic of their
origin. In most instances this is the accent. There is a peculiar
English accent which words have a tendency to assume; but until
they become Anglicized, each retains its own, and there is no know-
ing what this may be, save by examination in each case. From
these circumstances comes the importance of accentuation in Eng-
lish pronunciation.

On this point very little can be said to advantage further than
to urge constant reference to standard authorities whenever some-
one else's accent differs from our own. A vest pocket dictionary
is valuable for this purpose. Mispronunciation is perhaps more
common through wrong accent than by all other methods com-
bined. Sometimes mistakes are amusing. A man who made a
point of collecting and using large words was asked his reason for
such stilted language. "Oh," said he, "I want to improve my vo-
cabul-ary." (Accent on bul.)

By way of conclusion let me say that the very best assurance
of ultimately getting a good voice, and one trained to articulate and
pronounce well, is to feel a constant anxiety that not a word of
one's speech shall be lost on even a single hearer.




'Tis not enough the voice be sound and clear —
'Tis modulation that must charm the ear.

The last chapter was devoted to the development of the voice,
its relation to breathing, and its use in articulation and pronuncia-
tion. It is the purpose of the present to discuss those changes in
sound-production which enable us to express the ever-varying emo-
tions of the soul.

It is a most difficult chapter to write, for in it I must sift and
condense what usuall}' fills a good-sized volume on elocution. I
cannot hope to satisfy enquiry respecting the management of the
voice, nor would I if I could. My design is merely to furnish such
an outline as shall enable the Elder to investigate intelligently his
own vocal delivery, and perchance arouse in him the desire to study
a manual devoted especially to this subject.

Styles of Delivery — Conversational. — To begin, then, at the
broadest point we may note that the various styles of delivery fall
conveniently into three general divisions, viz.: the conversational,
the oratorical, and the dramatic. The first named is the most
natural and therefore, all other things equal, the most effective way
of reaching an audience. As the name implies, conversational de-
livery proceeds with a multitude of people as if it were a single be-
ing. If the reader will make a careful study of tone-production
in conversation, he will discover that its chief charm lies in modu-
lation — in a constantly varying inflection to suit the most delicate
sliades of meaning. He who can do this with an entire congrega-
tion, will not fail to awaken sparkling attention — the attention in
which each mind becomes an active participant in the ideas set


forth; in which each listener is ready and eager to contribute his
rill to the advancing stream, should the opportunity afford.

Such a speaker does not overwhelm his hearers — leaving their
faculties paralyzed save only as they have power to gape with eyes
ears, and mouth, and to exclaim, "How sublime!'^ On the contrary
he wakes up all their sleeping powers of intellect and imagination,
and they lose sight of him in the luxuriance of the ideas he has con-
jured into existence. Figuratively he hides himself in the light of
his own thought. It is for this reason that he is seldom called elo-
quent, and never while he is speaking. But for all this depend
upon it, he is the true orator; not a man whose words cease to ring
with the voice that uttered them; not one whose magnetism mar-
tials our powers of mind merely to make them gaze spell-bound at
him, the man; rather is he one who, forgetting self, strives to make
his thoughts breed high resolve and lofty action in all who hear

But conversational oratory is a most difficult acquirement, one
rarely more than approached in its perfection. It can be imagined,
however. On the part of the speaker, there is the rich and varied
glow of colloquialism intensified, but otherwise unmodified, accord-
ing to the size of the audience; on the part of the congregation,
there is the sensation felt by each listener as of being singled out
and specially favored.

Oratorical Delivery. — '"Tis modulation that must charm the
ear," says the poet. We may add also, "inform the mind." But
this is the very quality most likely to be sacrificed by the young
speaker when he is compelled to rise above his usual pitch or go be-
yond his habitual force. Let us suppose that in order to reach an
audience he must multiply his conversational delivery by ten.
Then it is quite safe to assert that out of, say, one hundred graphic
variations of voice which make his conversation charming, ninety
will be lost when he rises into the higher plane. Of the ten remain-
ing the chances are, that fewer than half will be used constantly.


I have listened to many speakers who rung all their changes on
three or four variations of voice. The best way to test a speaker on
this point is to listen just far enough outside the building to catch
his voice but not his words. The sing-song and monotony of it
often become painful.

This is the so-called oratorical style of delivery. We have be-
come so accustomed to the artificiality of it as to think it quite the
proper thing for the preacher. Our Elders are often so much ad-
dicted to this high-sounding but really empty style, that they can-
not lay it aside even to address a family gathering.

By way of contrasting the merits of this method with the
merits of the conversational method, let us suppose a speaker of
each kind addressing an audience of five thousand people. In the
middle of the finest passage in each, let all the listeners save the one
farthest away vanish as by magic. Picture the result! Granting
that both would be self-possessed enough to be otherwise undis-
turbed, the first speaker might go on without perceptible change in
style, because he always talks to individuals; but what of the sec-
ond? He must inevitably collapse. His style is wholesale; he talks
only to areas of humanity. The prop would therefore be knocked
out from under him.

"Audiences," says Prof. Shoemaker, "are made up of individ-
ual souls, not one of which loses its individual character because
in juxta-position with another. The soul of an audience can be
reached only by reaching the individual souls that compose it. An
individual being addressed, each person regards himself the indi-
vidual, and accordingly appropriates the thought; and each having
received it, all have received it. We submit that there is no one
fault among public speakers more common, or one more baneful
than the habit of addressing a mass of individuals as if their souls
had also massed and that, therefore, they must resort to some un-
natural and monstrous means of access to it."

Dramatic Delivery. — Little need be said here of the third di-


vision, the dramatic style. When perfected it is most powerful in
moving an audience; but he who would thus excel must be a con-
summate actor. To attempt to act the emotions one feels and fall
below the fusing point in the emotions of others is to advertise
one's self as a spectacle.

The basis of dramatic speaking is of course conversational. To
this is added the attempt to depict by gesture and attitude the
ideas and feelings that make up the speech. I have seen it done
twice successfully, the more notable instance being the lectures on
life in the Orient by Madam Von Finkelstein Mountf ord ; but I
have seen it fail so often, especially in political harangues, that I
would caution young speakers against attempting to carry their
audiences in this way. It is far more dignified to suggest the thing
you are tempted to portray, and trust to the imaginations of your
hearers to complete the picture, than to run the risk of acting it
with ten chances to one that it will fall flat, or at best appeal only
to the gallery gods.

Attributes of Voice. — Voice production is usually treated
under the following heads: Form, Quality, Force, Stress, Pitch,
Movement, and Grouping. AVhat I shall have to say about these
subjects will relate to the development of the first style of delivery
discussed above, which I regard as the most desirable for young
Elders to cultivate.

The form of the voice has reference to the manner — the
abruptness or smoothness — with which the sound issues from the
vocal organs. Many classifications might be made, but the simplest
as well as most logical, is to consider it under three heads, the two
extremes and the mean. The extreme on the side of smoothness
may then be called effusive form, the extreme on the side of
abruptness, explosive form, and the mean, expulsive form.

The Effusive Form. — From the very exegency of life, the
last two forms of voice will receive more or less cultivation, but the
first is universally neglected and yet to the preacher it is the most


important of the three. "The etiusive form," says Prof. Hamill,
"gives a smoothness to the tone and a mildness to the utterance
which, in the expression of pathos and solemnity, reverence and de-
votion, produce one of the most pleasing effects in delivery, calling
out at once all the purer and nobler feelings, and fitting the mind
for higher and holier contemplations. The absence of this element
in the utterance of sublime passages in prayer and praise gives a
harshness to the expression. In the milder forms of awe and horror
the effusive gives intensity to the utterance."

Indeed, for the expression of the beautiful, the sublime, the
pathetic, or of those emotions which call for reverence, devotion, or
adoration, the voice must be smooth, gentle, and subdued. To use
the same abrupt tones with which we make our ordinary com-
munications or transact business, grates upon the finer feelings not
unlike the first clods that fall upon the coffin.

Physical Basis of Tone — As set forth in the last chapter
the physical basis of tone-production is breathing; and in no other
attribute is voice modified by the manner of the breathing so much
as in form. It is almost entirely dependent upon the muscles that
control respiration. If inhalation and exhalation result from that
frictionless muscle, the diaphragm, the voice will be able to respond
to the slighest touches of thought or sentiment; but if the should-
ers must rise and fall, or the rib-cage expand and contract, to furnish
air neoessary to vocalization, loudness, abruptness, and harshness
will be inevitable.

The main difficulty lies in exhalation; for it is with the out-
going air that voice is produced. I have occasion to test hundreds
of young people each year in voice-production, and they are in-
variably weak in those muscles which control the expulsion of the
breath. "WQiile most of them can inhale steadily for ten seconds,
it is rarely the case that they can exhale smoothly and evenly for
the same length of time; whereas to be able to produce the tones


required by effusive utterance, they should be able to prolong the
exhalation for a full half minute.

As will be seen, therefore, the first requisite of vocal training
is a steady, uniform bellows-power; attention must be given rather
to the breathing than to the voice. To overcome the short, choppy,
barking tones so common and so distressing in ordinary speaking
and reading, is well nigh impossible without breaking up old, and
establishing new habits of lung movement. When this has been
done, however, let the student practice prolonging the vowel
sounds, then words alone, then phrases and short sentences, and at
leng-th connected thoughts requiring the effusive form of voice.
Care should be taken to avoid monotony and to preserve in the
slow, smooth utterance the modulation which characterizes the
rapid speech of habit.

The expulsive form of voice is no whit less necessary or use-
ful to the preacher than is the effusive. "It is the expulsive that
gives life, energy, and spirit to all forcible speaking," says the au-
thority above quoted. "The speaker who fails in regard to the
effect of this property of utterance solicits our pity rather than
commands our respect. Divested of this form of voice, the manly
and powerful eloquence of Demosthenes, Webster, Catham, and
Clay would become ridiculous and contemptible."

"To produce the expulsive form the breath must be forced
from the lungs to the larynx by a vigorous inward and upward
action of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm. The larynx is
the instrument of sound, the lungs the reservoir of air, and the
abdominal muscles and diaphragm the power for propelling the air.
It is the inward and upward action of the abdominal muscles that
compresses the lungs, and thus keeps the larynx supplied with a
sufficient supply of air. Many cases of speaker's sore throat are
caused by inefficient action of the diaphragm."

Although the expulsive is our habitual form of voice, it does
not follow by any means that it is faultless. Deducting the weak-


nesses which result from failure to mould accurately the sound by
the teeth, tongue, lips, and palate (See articulation and pronuncia-
tion in last chapter), we still fail in producing the firm, rounded
and well-sustained tones of the ideal expulsive; and our failure is
due to the same cause that prevents us from producing the effusive.
We make our vowels mere dots of sound when they should be bars.
Technically the fault is called want of vowel quantity. The defect
will disappear only when we have mastered the effusive form, and
learned to make use of it in tempering all degrees and shades of

The Explosive Form. — Of the explosive a noted authority in
elocution says: "This form of the human voice is one of the most
impressive in its effects. By a law of our constitution it acts with
an instantaneous shock on the sympathetic nerve, and rouses the
sensibility of the whole frame; it summons to instant action all the
senses, and in the thrill which it sends from nerve to brain, we feel
its awakening and inciting power over the mind. With the rapidi-
ty of lightning it penetrates every faculty and sets it instinctively
on the alert. It seems designed by nature as the note of alarm to
the citadel of the soul.'^

So important a form of voice as this ought surely to be at the
instant command of every preacher. Habitually our utterances
range very little beyond the expulsive either way, so it will gener-
ally turn out that he whose muscles are unused to the effusive on
one extreme will be unprepared for the explosive on the other. It
can, however, be attained by vigorous drill.

"The breath in this process is, as it were, dashed against the
glottis or lips of the larynx, causing a loud and instantaneous ex-
plosion. Just before the act of the explosion, the chink of the
glottis is for a moment closed, and a resistance offered to the es-
cape of the breath, by a firm compression of the lips of the larynx,
and downward pressure of the epiglottis. After this instant pres-
siure and resistance follows the explosion caused by the appulsive


act of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm propelling the breath
with powerful and irresistible force on the glottis and epiglottis
which at length give way, and suffer the breath to escape with a
loud and sudden report of a purely explosive character."




Voice may next be considered as respects its quality. The
following varieties are usually treated at length in works on elo-
cution: jNornial tone. Orotund, Oval, Aspirate, Pectoral, Guttural,
Nasal and Falsetto. I shall discuss only the first two.

Pure tone [a beter name is normal tone] is that quality of
voice in which all the breath is converted into a clear, round,
smooth, musical sound with the resonance in the back part of the
roof of the mouth. It is free from all aspirate, oral, nasal, or other
impure qualities. Owing to our neglect of voice-culture, this
quality, so peculiar to childhood, is rarely possessed in more mature
age. The restraining influences of the school-room tend directly
to destroy all the natural purity and sweetness of the voice.

"The advantages of pure tone are two-fold — first, to the
speaker; second, to the hearer. It is produced with less expendi-
ture of breath than any other quality; its effect upon the vocal or-
gans is beneficial rather than injurious; with the same effort it is
heard at a greater distance than any other quality; its clear, musical
properties give a distinctness to articulation and an ease to utter-
ance grateful to the ear; it produces none of the jarring effects ex-
perienced in listening to a speaker whose voice is harsh, hard, or
in any way impure in quality."

Nine-tenths of all communication is made with the pure or


riormaJ tone. Jt ih tiio nuturai tone of conversation, and is suita-
ble for the expression of aJl ordinary ideas and emotions. When
used in the effusive form it is the appropriate voice for the expres-
sion of pathetic, solemn, serious, and tranquil thought; with the
expulsive form, it is appropriate for narrative, descriptive, diadactic,
arifl argumf^ritaiive thougljt, such as makes up the staple of lectures,
sermonH, and political addresses; with the explosive form it is chiefly
used in the expression of ecstatic joy and mirth, which last is es-
pecially illustrated in the ringing laughter of children.

Pure tone is interfered with by any position of the organs of
speech which ohntructH the passage of the sound; such as, not open-
ing the mouth widely enough, and bad habits of the tongue.
Practicing on the vowel elements tends to purity of tone; but per-
haps the most generally available means of culture is for the Elder
to join a (:}\()\r or take IcHsons in singing under a competent teacher
of music; or in lieu of such an opportunity, take every occasion to
sing as best he can alone, always striving for such an adjustment
of the organs as to secure freedom find purity of tone.

"The Orotund \h that fjuality of voico in which the breath is
converted into a full, round, dcfip, r/jusical tone, with resonance in
the upper part of the chent. Jt is distinguished from the pure
tone by a fulness, clearness, strength, smoothness, and sub-sonorous
(|uality resembling the resonance of a musical instrument. In the
orotund, volume and purity of tone to the gi'catest extent of the
one and the highest perfection of the other, are blended in one vast
sphere of sound.

^^'i'his (pjality is possessed naturally by very few. Even
among public speakers it is rarely heard, save in a limited degree.
Actors and orators of eminence and distinction understand and ap-
preciate the volume of th«; orotund nnd have spared no pains to ob-
tain control of it. it is heard in all their utterances of grand,
lofty, and sublime thoughts. 'J'hough rarely possessed it is sus-


ooptiblo of ciiltivHtion, jiiul niaj, by jiulioious pniotico, bojicquirod
by almost every one. ''

So says l*rof. llamill; but it is diOiciilt to ^ivo diiHH'tioiis (ov
])rivaie study; however, it may be said that whatever helps to dc-
velo}) the so-called chest toiu»s in siiigiui]^, dinu'tly serves lo i;ive a
speaker control of the deep, rich voice of Ihc orotund. If the
Khler will constantly be on his _i;uard against hii;h [>ilch as a means
of reacliintj^ liis audience, and depend instead upon 'organ toners,'
low but. intense, he will be unconsciously eultivatini;- this (piality.
All the other (pialitics an^ impuic or (hM'ective and I'onsiMpuMit ly
are valnable only for tlu> purposes of imitation or tlu» t>\pr(>ssion of
exceptiomil emotions. lake wimmIs, llu>se ipialitics so far at least
as the preacher is concerned, will not ikhmI mncli cultivation. They
ij^row up of (hemsclv(>s whei-evi>r llu> [)uri* toiu' (U- orotund is not
j)i-esci-vc(l aiul cultivated.

Force may bc^ deliued as tlie degree of intensity with which
the sound is sent, forth fi-om the vocal organs. It is tlu* carrying
power of Ihe voic(>, and should \)c in(;reased or decreased according
to the seidiimud, e.\pi-essed and the size of the audi(Mun\ Vol mm*
and loudness though not identical with force*, iwv dcpciuhMit upon
it. Volmue relates to the auu)unl of spaci* tilled with the sound;
loudness to the distance at which a sound can he lu>ard. The low,
deep toiH's of the organ till a vast space, though they wi)uld not be
heai'd at a long distance. The high, shrill noti's of the life can be
luMird at a long distance, yet they do m)t have gi'eat vohnne of
sound. A fidl vohime is pi'odiiecd by cnei-gctic or impassicuunl
foi'ce with pure lone or orohnxl in all foi'uis; great loudm^ss by
impassioned foice joined wilh high pitch in connection with pure
tone a.nd orotumi in all i he forms.

"l*erf(!ct command of every degi'ce is iiulispensahle lo e\(>cl-
leiice in expn^Hsion. In Ihe e\pr

Online LibraryNels L. (Nels Lars) NelsonPreaching and public speaking : a manual for the use of preachers of the Gospel and public speakers in general → online text (page 34 of 37)