Pitch Control

An important conveyor of mood and emotion is pitch. In my evaluation sessions, many of my students exhibit misconceptions about how pitch works in script delivery. They pitch up where they should pitch down and vice versa, or they change pitch too little or too much.

Let’s address some fundamental concepts about pitch. Pitching way up at the end of a sentence conveys a question: “Is that person standing over there your guest?” Guest goes up and stays up. On the other hand, a rhetorical question ends in a statement: “Well, now, what do you think of that?” or, “What are we going to do about this?” The pitch is raised on the italicized words only slightly to give the sentence the feel of a statement, not a question. As for all other phrases and clauses, they are delivered as pure statements, one after the other, as this is the way most people talk in everyday spontaneous conversation. These statements end with a down inflection, or a low pitch, which gives the endings a sense of finality.

Animation is all about pitch variation. If a script is delivered with a lot of animation, the pitch goes up and down, often to extremes. If it’s delivered with less animation, as in more subtle, nuanced scripts (in particular, most narrations) there is far less pitch variation. Cartoons, children’s stories, commercials aimed at children, and hard-sell car commercials contain a lot of pitch variation, for example. It is very important that you understand these extremes and everything in between them, as your interpretation will depend on this understanding and application.