Rate, Pitch, Tone, Volume

LESSON 1- Rate, Pitch, Tone, Volume


Educational Objective: Students will demonstrate their understanding of vocal rate, pitch, and tone by using the terms to compare and contrast two different voices.



  • Clip from Alvin and the Chipmunks (opening scenes from “Warewolf” episode)
  • Clip of Eeyore (scene from Winnie the Pooh episode where Eeyore loses his tail)
  • Clip from Singing in the Rain (“I can’t make love to a bush!” scene)
  • Clip of Professor Trelawny from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the prophecy)
  • Packages of 3 different colors of stickers
  • 5 posters labelled individually: “Rate” “Pitch” “Diction” “Tone” “Projection”
  • Footloose rap divided up on slips of paper


Pre-Assessment: Have 5 different posters around the room.  Each one is labeled with one of the following words: Rate, Pitch, Diction, Tone, Projection.  At each poster have a set of stickers (red, yellow, green). 


Divide the class into five groups.  Each group needs to be assigned to begin at one of the posters.  Tell the students that if they understand the word on the poster and could explain it to someone else, they get to put a green sticker on the board.  If they’ve heard of it, but are not sure what it means, then they put a yellow.  If they have never heard of the word before, then they put a red.


Each group starts at one poster, but as soon as a student is done then they do not need to wait for their group to move on to the next one.  They need to go to all 5 posters.


After the students are done, have them stand at the poster that they thought they knew the most about.  Have each of these new groups present and explain the word to the class.  This allows you to see where they will need the most help and explanation.  Discuss the words and tell them that today we will be focusing on pitch, rate, and tone.


Hook: Ask “who do you think has the deepest voice in the class?” (this will be fun because in middle school many of them are still having their voices change).  “Who has the highest voice?”  “do you have a friend or relative who has a unique way of speaking?  Someone whom you can identify just by hearing their voice?  Who is it?  What makes their voice unique?  Can you mimic it for us?”


Step: The way we use our voices can tell others a lot about us and can make us stand out against the crowd.  Today we will talk about rate, pitch, tone, and volume. 


Step:  (Have them write these definitions in their journals) Define Rate for them.  Ask the guys, “Boys, which of you have sisters?  Who can do an impersonation of their sister?  (if someone can, let them demonstrate) What happens when two girls start telling a really exciting story?”  (they talk really fast) 


Step: Have the class all turn to their neighbor and mimic excited girls in the hallway. Explain that often the rate at which we speak can indicate our excitement level or our energy.  (You may also have them practice by pretending that they are girls at a One Direction concert.)


Step:  Define Pitch (high and low) and tone (the emotion in the voice).  Tell a partner just one sentence about your morning.  See if you can decide whose voice is deeper.  Ask them which in each partnership is deeper.  Tell the same sentence again to the same partner, but this time use an emotion in your voice too. (In other words have them think about how they feel about their morning.  What is their opinion on how it went and use that opinion to color their tone.)


Step: We are going to practice by comparing and contrasting a few people we are familiar with. Hand out a sheet that has a kind of rating system on it so that they can rate each example on the various things you’ve defined for them.

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks (opening scenes from “Warewolf” episode)
  • Eeyore (scene from Winnie the Pooh episode where Eeyore loses his tail)
  • Singing in the Rain or Guys and Dolls (“I can’t make love to a bush!” scene)
  • Professor Trelawny from Harry Potter 3 (the prophecy)


Step:  “What did you notice about the way these characters spoke?  What if Prof Trelawny had Alvin’s voice pitch and rate?  How would that change her character or the feeling of her line? How would having a voice like Alvin make it even harder to take her seriously?”


Step: We are going to practice.  Cut the following rap into several beats or lines-one on each strip of paper.  At the beginning of each line they should see listed the number for the order that lines go in and at the end of each line include the vocal quality that they should change as they say the line.  (example a strip might read like this: (2) “Ever since the dawn of time” [pitch])  The students should come up with creative ways to say the line using variations of pitch, rate, volume, etc. 


            Footloose rap: Dancing is not a crime./ Ever since the dawn of time, /if anything, everybody had the right to howl at the moon and move all night. / When folks were tribal, back before the Bible,/ they were liable to dance when the crops came in /or they’d pull out all the stops when the earth would spin, /or maybe they had a battle to win, /so they’d go thumping on a tree trunk/, grooving to the free funk, /and just like that in nothing flat /they’d be hands clappin’, toes tappin’, feet flappin’, dogs yappin’, HEY!  /I could-a told ya that would happen. /They would dance every time they had a chance./  Whatever the reason or circumstance./ So if you’ve heard about Adam and Abraham, /you will remember this guy from the book of Samuel./  David, hey, ya know King David? Dave!/  He made a science outta knockin’ down giants./  The bigger they come, the harder they fall. / He didn’t like math or geography,/ but check this out, he loved choreography. / It might sound odd, but David thought it brought him closer to God,/ so he would dance.  /Every time he got the chance…


Step: After 3 or 4 minutes of practice, have them line up in the correct order of the phrases.  Explain that you will be hearing all the lines that they have been working on.  Ask them to pay attention to the changes that they hear in the others’ voices and lines.  Have everyone say their lines using the various pitches and rates they discovered.  Go down the line until you come to the end.  NOTE: In an ideal setting, no one would have the same line as someone else, because we don’t want them to be influenced by what someone else does.  Don’t let them hear the original performance from the soundtrack until after this experience.


Step: Ask them, “Which lines stood out to you? Did you have a favorite?  What kind of pitch or rate did they use? What kind of person did they sound like? Did their rate or tone change the feeling of the line?”


Step If you choose, have the students see or listen to a performance of the actual rap from Footloose.  Have them compare some of the lines they said to how it was performed.  How was the feeling different?


Step: Remind them that the rate and pitch of our voice are very important not only to the feeling of the line, but to the presentation of our characters.


Step:  Give them the homework assignment to go home and take notes on the next thing they watch (TV show, news, movie, etc).  Have them find two different people or characters and compare and contrast their vocal qualities.  Have them copy down the requirements of the assignment from the board.  They will need to turn in a paper that says what they watched, when, and the names of the two people/characters.  They should answer questions like “what did they have in common?  How did they differ?  What did their voices tell you about the person or the person’s emotion?”

NOTE: If a student is worried about having time to watch something on TV or if their parents do not allow them to watch during the week, suggest that they listen to any conversation between two people.  This could be their parents, siblings, teachers in the hall, peers at lunch, church, etc.  They just need to be able to tell us where, when, who, and compare the two voices.