What makes a voice pleasant to hear

What the voice reveals about us

Voices not only tell a lot about ourselves. They also help us to assess whether we like someone or not.

Heinz Fischer, Eva Glawischnig, Klaus Maria Brandauer and Frank Hoffmann have it, Barack Obama anyway. Fran Drescher, better known as the nanny from the TV series of the same name, rather less: a pleasant voice. But not only with politicians, actresses or radio announcers does the voice contribute to whether we like someone or not. In everyday life, too, it is an essential part of the first impression that a person makes. Not only what he says, but also how, helps us to answer the question: “Do we like this person or not?” But why is that? And why do some people have such terrible voices that we have to turn off the radio immediately?

Authenticity. Everyone has a normal speech situation from birth, which is called indifference in technical jargon. “When someone speaks in their natural voice, it sounds pleasant to us. It looks authentic and natural, ”says speech therapist, voice trainer and presenter Christina Pinzker. So it can also be seen from the voice whether someone feels comfortable in their skin. Nikolaus Riemerschmid, Ö1 broadcasting manager and voice trainer, sees it similarly: “The voice is the seismograph of the psyche. A messed up personality also penetrates to the voice, it sounds pressed. ”Everyone can tell for themselves. When you're angry, angry, or sad, the voice just sounds different. If you have just cried and then pick up the phone, it is difficult to hide your emotional state.

In other ways, too, the voice reveals more about us than we might like: gender, age, milieu and even character. The classic, nasal courtier widow from Döbling speaks and sounds differently than the suburban boy with his down-to-earth accent. Ex- or introvertedness can also be recognized by the voice.

But why is it that we simply cannot hear the voice of some people, even when they are at peace with themselves? Tatjana Lackner, founder of the School of Speech, gives three reasons for this. Either the uncomfortable voice reminds us of someone else we don't particularly like. Or it reminds us of something that we have discovered in ourselves and that also bothers us, for example insecurity. Third possibility: the voice has something we would not allow ourselves to do. “Above all, women who take a lot of self-care out would never allow themselves to create pressure or volume with their voice and they don't like that with others either,” says Lackner.

Beeping voice and dark bass. Generally speaking, women have a somewhat more difficult time with subjective voice rankings. “We perceive deep, dark voices as pleasant because we assume that these people have had life experiences,” says vocal expert Lackner. Excessively high and strict voices are often perceived as hysterical, especially among women. “That has to do with the first experience: with the mother, grandmother or kindergarten aunt. If these are strict, the voice becomes higher. Every high-pitched voice reminds us of it later. Men in particular do not react positively to this, ”says Lackner. Your colleague Pinzker has observed that some women like to speak too high, but without any aggression, but simply to sound as loving as possible. A “Right?” Or “Yell?” Asking for confirmation at the end of the sentence is set to a higher pitch. Speaking too high can be stressful for the vocal cords. Whispering and clearing your throat also strain the vocal cords. On the other hand, humming, preferably in combination with chewing, is a real massage for the vocal folds in the larynx. Calm breathing that flows into the stomach, targeted pauses in speaking and an upright posture are also beneficial for a pleasant voice. “Most people believe that a beautiful voice is related to the nature of the vocal cords, but that is only half the story. A lot happens in the resonance space above the vocal cords in the throat, behind the nose and in the sinuses, ”explains ENT doctor Reinhard Kürsten, whose patients also include opera singers.

However, if you have actually lost your ideal speaking pitch and want to find it again, then voice training is the right choice. “People who speak in front of an auditorium should master their craft, or rather their mouth,” says Lackner.

Which is more likely to apply to politicians or radio speakers. Brian Adams and Rod Stewart, for example, became famous for their broken vocal cords. The assumed life experience and the high recognition value were certainly helpful. Another lady, again from the pop business - Kim Wilde - once said that she only sold records when she had finally ruined her voice with a larynx.

("Die Presse", print edition, July 4th, 2010)