Strike a Chord: Music and Public Speaking

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Backstage, you wait patiently. The minute you hear your name, you take a deep breath and walk onto the stage. Squinting and shielding your eyes from the bright fluorescent lights above, you can see the ocean of smiling faces gazing up at you, anticipating your performance. Your heart skips a few beats and you can feel your palms getting sweaty, but you smile anyway. You turn to the stand in front of you and begin.


The scene I just described probably sounds familiar to public speakers and musicians alike. Whether you were about to raise an instrument or a microphone,  the pre-performance thrill is the same. As a violinist myself, my public speaking journey often reminded me of musical experiences. The two art forms share many remarkable similarities, which we’ll dive into today.


  • Rehearsals and Preparation

Both musical performances and speeches require lots of practice. In music, practicing certain passages of your music over and over can help you memorize the finger patterns. However, when practicing a speech is that memorizing it word-for-word may not always be best. It’s more important to remember the main themes of your speech and practice to see if you can guide yourself through the speech without stumbling.


  • Rhythm and Cadence

Good music and good public speaking both rely on rhythm to allow the audience to fully absorb the work. In music, speeding up or slowing down can drastically change the emotions a piece conjures. One key piece of advice teachers often give their students is to practice a piece slowly before going faster, and this applies to public speaking as well. Always enunciate your words and speak slowly when practicing and your speech, because during the real speech you might get nervous and speak a little bit faster than you normally would. By practicing talking deliberately, you can avoid this problem or at least minimize it.


  • Crescendos and Vocal Variety

Both speeches and musical compositions use crescendos to deliver a point. In music, dramatic sections can be played at a softer volume (shyness, sadness, anticipation) or a louder volume (anger, happiness, excitement). The same thing applies to speeches! In this blog post, I gave you lots of useful tips for incorporating vocal variety into your speeches. By using vocal variety, you can turn the most simple story into a rollercoaster of emotions!


  • Openings and Endings

In music and in public speaking, opening and ending a performance is incredibly important to the audience’s overall impression. In a speech, try to start strong and end strong: pauses are on your side! By saying something attention-grabbing and pausing, or pausing before delivering a final point, you can accentuate your opening or ending thoughts to help the audience take away an important lesson.


  • The Big Day

Musicians and speakers both get nervous before their “big day,” and that’s perfectly okay! Some simple things you can do to curb your nerves before taking the stage include:

  • Take deep, slow breaths and meditate if you can.
  • Relax your entire body – unclench your hands, release your jaw, straighten your legs – get rid of any physical tension in your body.
  • Don’t drink anything caffeinated or eat anything really spicy before your performance.
  • Drink some water and clear your throat.
  • Visualize the ending of your performance: the audience is smiling and applauding, and you are taking a big bow. 

As you saw today, there are incredible parallels between the very unique worlds of music and public speaking. These two experiences almost echo each other, applying the same concepts to different art forms. In the end, music and public speaking share the same basic goal: to move the audience; to make them feel something, believe something,  do something, or reflect on something.

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