The online education and therapy programme for people who stammer


Module 2: Orchestral Speech



Learning to use Orchestral Speech

In Conversational Settings

There are three main reasons to use Orchestral Speech in conversations

1. To get you started off

2. To guarantee that you speak fluently (e.g. in an emergency)

3. To repeat a phrase the listener has failed to understand

We describe below, how to approach each of these situations using Orchestral Speech

Using Orchestral Speech to get you started off

People who stammer often find that the first few words of a conversation are the most difficult to say without stammering. This is problematic because, often, these words play a particularly important role in orienting the listener’s attention. Orchestral Speech is particularly well suited to help you get these first words out, because, in contrast to subsequent words and phrases, you generally have plenty of time to formulate them in advance, especially if you are the person initiating the conversation.

To get some practice at using Orchestral Speech in this way, choose some real-life conversational situations that are relatively un-demanding—like, for example, asking for something in a shop that is not very busy.

Decide exactly what words you are going to use to initiate the conversation and then work out exactly how you want to say those words—in particular, decide on the speed, and on the stress and intonation. (Remember the procedure you used for reading in Practical Exercise 2). Make sure the phrase you plan is relatively short so that it is well within your capacity to remember (it is probably best not to plan more than 10 words). Count down from three to lead into the phrase, and start the first word of the phrase exactly on the fourth beat. For example:

three two one Can I have a box of matches please?

If you are alone beforehand and if you get the opportunity, you can practice saying the words out loud once or twice including the 3,2,1 run-up. Then, when the time comes to say the phrase in real life, keep exactly to the intended timing and intonation (saying the run-up inside your head). Remember, if a word doesn’t come out, or comes out wrong, just give up on that sound and go straight on to the next sound—just like you would if you were singing a line of a song.

You can also use Orchestral Speech to answer the telephone. Have a suitable phrase ready in advance, together with the 3,2,1 run-up. For example:

three two one Hello, this is Paul speaking”

Or, if it is a mobile call and you can already see the name of the caller, then something like…

three two one Hi David

Of course, it’s not necessary to use a 3,2,1, run-up, but it is especially helpful for short utterances. After all, many conversational turns are just one or two words long. An alternative is to start with a few words that are not important, so you have already established a bit of a rhythm before you need to say the important words. For example:

Can I have a box of matches please”

If the listener doesn’t understand what you’ve said, repeat the entire utterance again, right from the start, sticking to exactly the same planned rhythm, timing, and intonation.

Using Orchestral Speech to guarantee that you speak fluently

Normally, in conversational settings, it is not advisable to continue using Orchestral Speech beyond the first (or perhaps second) phrase. If you do, your utterances will sound artificial and labored, and people may perceive that your words are not genuine. Furthermore, as Orchestral Speech is essentially an avoidance technique (inasmuch as you use it to avoid stuttering) it is not advisable to use it anymore than is absolutely necessary.

Nevertheless, there are times when it is appropriate to continue to use Orchestral Speech despite these disadvantages. For example, when speaking into speech recognition software—which simply won’t recognize stuttered speech, or when communicating information in situations where it is important that you get the message across as quickly as possible (such as in a medical emergency). In such circumstances the best approach is to divide up what you have to say into manageable chunks, and formulate each chunk before you launch into it—in other words, using the same approach as described in Practical Reading Exercise 2. If you are worried that you won’t be able to say whatever it is that you need to say, you can always use a simplified form of Orchestral speech, speaking one or two words per beat as described in Practical Reading Exercise 1, or you can even resort to syllable-timed speech (speaking rhythmically, one syllable per beat). Essentially, syllable-timed speech is the most basic form of Orchestral Speech possible. It is the easiest (and most reliable) form of Orchestral Speech to use but also the most artificial sounding.

Using Orchestral Speech to repeat a phrase the listener has failed to understand

Often, during a conversation, it becomes clear that the listener has failed to understand something you have said. When this happens, if it is really necessary to repeat what you have said again, then you can use Orchestral Speech to repeat it. As far as possible, try to stick to using exactly the same phrase you said first time round (provided they are appropriate enough to be able to convey your intended message). However, this time, make sure you divide the phrase up into manageable chunks and make sure each the timing, stress and intonation of each chunk is fully formulated before you launch into it again. Importantly, when you repeat it, Don’t put any more effort into articulating than you did first time round. This use of Orchestral Speech will be described in more detail in Module 3 on Integrating The Jump with Orchestral Speech.

When you have completed  this module, we recommend that you read through the list of Frequently Asked Questions on the following page. And then, finally, please remember to complete the Feedback Questionnaire, on Page 5, before moving on to Module 3—Introducing The Jump.

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