Pitch Exercises: Improve Your Stress and Intonation in American English with Steps and Glides

Pitch Exercises: Improve Your Stress and Intonation in American English with Steps and Glides


Have you practiced your pitch recently? If not, I encourage you to get started now
so that you can be more easily understood by native English speakers. Learning to change and vary your pitch will
help you pronounce words more accurately, call attention to the most important words
and ideas in your speech, and be able to express different emotions and attitudes through intonation. Welcome back to the English with Kim YouTube
channel, where you’re going to learn what to say, how to say it, and why it matters. If you want more tips to help you communicate
more confidently in English, be sure to hit subscribe for more videos. If you’re completely new to the concept of
pitch, please be sure to check out my video, the Power of Pitch, where I explain a simple
exercise that will help you stretch your vocal cords and be able to get started working on
your pitch. If you’re ready to go deeper, let’s get started
with some pitch exercises. In this video, we’re going to discuss two
types of pitch changes that you’re going to need to master in order to sound more like
an American. We’re going to talk about steps and glides. Depending on the way words and syllables are
linked together in natural speech, you may need to step up and down, or you may need
to glide up and down. A step is a noticeable rise and drop from
one pitch to another. Let’s look at a few examples. Notebook, notebook. You notice I’m stepping down from a higher
pitch to a baseline pitch. Let’s try another. September, september. In this example, we’re stepping up to the
second syllable, which is stressed: sepTEMber. A very, very common phrase I use is United
States: United States. As you notice, we’re stepping up to “states.” A common verb we can use when discussing pitch
is the verb contrast, contrast. As you can hear, I’m stepping up from a lower
pitch to a higher pitch in order to stress the word correctly. Another common longer word that I often use
is communication, communication. I’m stepping up to “ca”: communication. And you’ll also hear some steps in phrases. You’ll actually hear them in entire sentences. So let’s say for example, tables and chairs,
tables and chairs. I’m stepping up to “chairs.” Now, let’s talk about pitch glides. A pitch glide happens when we need to show
a change in tone on a particular word or phrase. Sometimes we change our pitch noticeably on
simple, short, one syllable words, or we may glide between different tones, or we may need
to change our pitch on words that are linked together because of connected speech. You’ll also notice gliding between vowels
and consonant sounds, depending on how these words are linked together. Here are some examples of glides that help
express different emotions and attitudes in English. Oh? Oh. Really? Really. Okay? Okay. Today? Today. What? What?! Huh? Huh. Hmm? Hmm. As you can hear, learning how to glide between
one pitch to another pitch while maintaining that same sound or vowel is really essential
to communicating different emotions and attitudes through your intonation. Let’s talk about a few reasons you may change
your pitch in order to express different emotions and attitudes. You may glide up in order to ask a question
or you may glide down in order to finish a statement. You may have a rise in pitch because you’re
questioning someone or double checking what you heard. You may show excitement and curiosity by a
lot of variation in your pitch throughout the sentence. It’s happy intonation. Some people have certain patterns that you
can hear through their pitch. Someone like me is very expressive and I use
a lot of different pitch while I’m speaking. The idea is that it keeps you listening. Some people may use less pitch variation in
order to show disappointment, disapproval, or annoyance. Be sure to check out my other resources on
intonation in the description below the video. Now, let’s talk about some practice exercises
you can use in order to feel more confident changing your pitch by gliding up and down
or stepping up and down. In order to practice steps between different
levels of pitch. I encourage you to start working with nonsense
sounds like “da-da” or “lo-lo” or any combination of consonants and vowels that you choose. In fact, this can be a great way to combine
your practice of pitch while also working on troublesome consonants or vowel sounds. In the end, they all work together, so it’s
a good idea to challenge yourself to work on some sounds that you find a little bit
difficult. To get started practicing the different steps
up and down between pitch, think about stress patterns. Most of the time when you have a rise in pitch,
it’s because you’re stressing a certain syllable or a certain word. It’s more effective to practice these patterns
so that when you learn a new word, you can associate it with this particular stress pattern. For example, let’s practice two-syllable words
that are stressed on the first syllable: DA-da, DA-da, DA-da. Or, LO-lo, LO-lo, LO-lo. As you can hear, I’m starting at a higher
pitch and stepping down to a lower pitch. Now let’s look at two-syllable words that
are stressed on the second syllable: re-RE, re-RE, re-RE. Soo-SOO, soo-SOO, soo-SOO. As you can hear, I’m stepping up from a lower
pitch to a higher pitch. Now let’s look at a few examples of three
syllable words. Once again, these words may be stressed on
the first, second, or third syllable. It really depends on the word. Let’s practice. DA-da-da, DA-da-da, DA-da-da. Lo-LO-lo, lo-LO-lo, lo-LO-lo. Re-re-RE, re-re-RE, re-re-RE. I hope your ear is starting to detect these
stress patterns and you’re able to associate them with words you may actually use in everyday
speech. Like I said, you can combine any of these
different consonant sounds in order to practice stepping up and down, depending on the way
a word would be stressed. Although this video is specifically focused
on practicing pitch, I want you to remember that you’re going to lengthening that vowel
sound on a stressed syllable in addition to making it higher in pitch. It’s helpful to just practice that kind of
rhythm in order to make it easier when you’re practicing your sentence stress. When you feel more comfortable changing your
pitch on these nonsense sounds, then you can look for a word list of two- and three-syllable
words stressed on different syllables and start practicing with those. The idea is that you want to create pitch
variation between stressed and unstressed or reduced syllables. For more detailed information on word stress
and why it matters, be sure to check out my video on word stress in American English. It’ll be linked in the description below the
video as well as in the cards. Once you feel more confident creating these
steps, it’s time to practice stress in phrases. We have pitch variations in phrases that follow
predictable stress patterns. For example, consider these common expressions:
ins and outs, ups and downs, right and wrong, United States, European Union. As you can hear, there is a noticeable step
from a lower pitch to a higher pitch on those last words and each of those phrases. Because it’s so important to get your pitch
right in order to express yourself clearly in English, be sure to look for these patterns
and practice them. I also have a number of resources that can
help you below the video. In order to practice gliding up and down in
pitch. I encourage you to combine this practice with
working on your vowel sounds. Like I said a moment ago, the vowel sound
is where a lot of the changes happen on stressed syllables. Let’s look at a few examples. Ahh, ahh. Ohh, ohh, Ooh, ooh. Iiii, iiii. Uhh, uhh. Let’s try that one more time. Ahh, ahh. Ohh, ohh, Ooh, ooh. Iiii, iiii. Uhh, uhh. Once you feel more confident gliding up and
down on various vowel sounds, then it’s time to practice with words. I gave a few examples earlier in the video,
but let’s practice a few more now. Okay? Okay. Okay? Okay. No? No. No? No. About? About. About? About. Today? Today. Do? Do. Right? Right. These exercises will help you increase your
sensitivity to how we use pitch in order to communicate our meaning and express different
emotions and attitudes through intonation. You’ll start hearing these pitch changes and
pitch variations and soon be able to start doing them yourself. For more stress and intonation practice, please
be sure to check out my playlist on intonation patterns in American English. It’s linked in the cards in also in the description
below the video. Now it’s your turn! In the comments, let me know how pitch is
used in your native language. wWhat do you find easy or difficult about
pitch in American English? I would love to hear how these exercises have
helped you, so be sure to check back in and leave a comment. Once again, I’m Kim from englishwithkim.com. I’m your guide to the essential conversation
skills you need to sound more natural in English. If you like this video, please be sure to
give it a thumbs up and share it with a friend. Have a good one. Goodbye.

37 comments

  1. Hi Kim. Great video! All your videos are very helpful.. Can ask you a question? Could you please tell me what's the right way to say, "Quiero pasar al nivel avanzado" in English? I don't know how to say that in English. Let's say I'm an Intermediate English learner and I want to say, "quiero pasar o quiero llegar al nivel avanzado" o "quiero saber qué es lo que necesito para poder pasar al nivel avanzado". What would be the best way (the most natural way) to say that in English?

  2. Hey Kim, there has been a confusion troubling me. There are circumstances where the content word is the last word of the statement, and according to the content and structure word law, it's supposed to be stressed. However, statements do have downwards intonation pattern. Aren't they conflicting each other?

  3. You're awesome Kim! Thank you so much for this video, you explain things very easily and your pronunciation is nice…I'm working on improving my stress and intonation and this video is simply perfect! I will recommend your channel to all my friends. Thanks!

  4. Isn't it a lot easier to have a native talk to you, pay attention to the way that person sound and then trying to emulated how that person sounds? (I'm doing exactly that right at this very moment).

  5. Hi, I am Krishna from India. I can read, understand and write but can't speak. So please help, what should I do to speak English.
    Or is it possible that i will speak in English?

  6. I always come back here, it's refreshing. Between I've realized that in my mother language we don't move our mouth or tongue much, which made it hard for me to speak clearly in English. I get it now. Woohooo

  7. Hi Kim. New to your channel and I subscribed. I just want to ask you a help. I want to overcome my tounge and pronunciation and lose my native accent
    Thank you

  8. Thanks do much, sir. I really really like your channel. I just came across your videos and couldn't stop watching them. I wonder why you have not got so much #likes — I am afraid you stop making videos because of it. I love you, sir!

  9. This is so helpful and new to me. For Chinese, it is harder to notice pitch variations when we're listening. Students are taught to speak formally in a standard broadcasting way (or even more robotic). And for those who have learned how stress works, it's easy to simply mix this up with our native tones. Kim, is it right that stress and intonation are not exactly the same? Seems like intonation is more complex and it's more about pitch and fluctuation.

  10. Thanks a lot for your course. I'm so glad to tell you that you're so good at English and keep on helping people around the world to learn English.

  11. This is one of the most helpful videos I have ever seen in my life. It's informative, succinct and actually pinpoints the issue with sounding 'off' when speaking any foreign language. Please please please continue doing those.

  12. Continue to explore what's available to you in your voice with these fun vocal exercises designed for non-native English speakers: https://youtu.be/4ES4EYZL4GY 🎶

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