The online education and therapy programme for people who stammer


Module 2: Orchestral Speech:



Answers to some common questions

· How fast should I speak when using Orchestral Speech?

There is no straightforward answer to this. Generally speaking, to successfully get a message across, your speech-rate needs to be in keeping with what is appropriate for the speaking situation. The overall speech rate of people who stammer is often too slow because they frequently get stuck. However, to counteract this they often try to speak individual words too quickly. So their speech-rate ends up being a mixture—alternating between too slow (when they block) and too fast (once they get going again). The most important thing with orchestral speech is develop a more regular rhythm, and this may involve both speeding up (by abandoning the words one is blocking on) and also slowing down (by saying the fluent words more slowly).  Having said that, some people who stammer may be slow at formulating what they want to say, and so they may need to aim for a somewhat slower speech-rate than that used by the people they are speaking to, especially if the subject-matter is complicated. 

Clearly, the faster you speak, the more errors you will make. But, as a key aim behind Orchestral Speech is to make you more accepting of your speech errors, this is not a problem—provided you are not making so many speech errors that it is impossible for people to understand you. There is no point trying to speak faster than the speed at which you are able to formulate what you want to say. If you do, you will just become tense and more disfluent.

So do feel free to experiment with a variety of different speaking rates while using Orchestral Speech, to see what suits you best in the various speaking situations you encounter.

· How much should I practice this technique?

We do not recommend spending too much time practicing these techniques in artificial settings. The key thing is to understand the principles behind them and then to try, when suitable opportunities arise, to apply them in real-life situations. Practicing them at home alone is of limited benefit, as it is generally not an environment where stammering is likely to occur. Although, to begin with it is helpful to get a feel for the technique out by working through the exercises we have described.

· Once I’ve got stuck, Orchestral Speech does not seem to work. What should I do?

The most common time why the technique fails to work is when the person who stammers panics and starts to use force to push through blocks. Once you have started to use force, and become stressed and tense as a result, it can be difficult to get anything to work. You may find that, at such times, you have to have a break from speaking for 10 or 15 minutes to allow your nerves to settle before the technique will work again.

Some stammerers, especially those whose stammering is very severe, have such strongly ingrained habits of using force to push through blocks that the temptation to do so is almost impossible to resist. The way to tackle this problem is to start by employing Orchestral speech in the relatively easy situations first of all. Then, as you get a feel for it, you can go on to expand your use of it into more difficult situations. 

· I am already using a fluency shaping technique to stop me from blocking. Is there any benefit in changing over and using Orchestral Speech instead?

Yes, almost certainly there is benefit in changing to Orchestral Speech. Although there are a variety of fluency shaping techniques that will induce fluency, almost invariably they involve quite a lot more effort  compared to Orchestral Speech, and they tend to make you sound more artificial. The special thing about Orchestral Speech is that it is essentially quite a lazy way of speaking (especially if you are only using it to get started off) – Although it may take a bit of effort to adopt the technique initially (because it is different from your habitual way of speaking), once you get the feel for it, you will realise that you don’t need to try hard at all in order to do it.

Having said that, if you are a very severe stammerer, you may find a simplified form of orchestral speech is more effective to begin with, such as speaking one word or one syllable per beat.

· Orchestral speech works well for me, so is there any need for me to bother to learn The Jump?

Yes, definitely. Remember, Orchestral Speech is just a quick fix. A bit like taking an aspirin for a headache.  In common with all so-called “fluency shaping” techniques, it is essentially a way of avoiding blocking, but it does not provide lasting relief. Indeed, if you avoid blocking too often, you may end up fearing blocks even more.

To reduce your tendency to block and also to reduce the size of your “iceberg” you need to learn to be stop avoiding blocks. And, for this you will need an easy and reliable way  pulling yourself out of them when they occur. The Jump can enable you to quickly and easily get going again. So, The Jump can substantially diminish your fear of blocking and your tendency to avoid blocks. Unlike Orchestral Speech, regular use of The Jump will diminish the iceberg.

· When using Orchestral Speech, is it really always necessary always to pre-formulate what you want to say?

No, it is not necessary. You only need to pre-formulate what you want to say if you want to guarantee that you will be fluent. If you don’t pre-formulate when using Orchestral Speech, although you will stutter less, you are likely to produce “formulation disfluencies”, especially in spontaneous conversation. Although these formulations disfluencies are completely normal (indeed they are usually referred to as “normal disfluencies”), people who stammer tend to produce more of them than non-stammerers. Normally, this is not a problem. However, in situations where you really need to speak as fluently as possible (e.g. when speaking into speech recognition software, or when providing important information in emergency situations, or when asking for something in a language that is unfamiliar to you), you can avoid such disfluencies by pre-formulating.

In fact, people who do not stammer naturally use Orchestral Speech without pre-formulation as their default way of speaking. In other words, they naturally pay more attention to the forward flow than to the accuracy of what they are saying. And they too will often pre-formulate in situations where they really need to be fluent. So, Orchestral Speech without pre-formulation is simply a natural way of speaking for most people most of the time. Ultimately, once stammering is no longer an issue for you, Orchestral Speech without pre-formulation will become your natural way of speaking. However, this will happen spontaneously, as a side-effect of losing your fear of blocking and of speech errors. So, your first priority needs to overcome the fear of blocking and fear of speech errors—and we recommend using The Jump as the best way to achieve this.

It may help to read our article entitled “The uses and abuses of disfluencies” for further clarification.


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