Have you heard others refer to the vocal inflections of another? Sometimes mocking the stereotypical shape of someone’s vocal pitches when strung in a line? A good example of how inflection works is if the pitch at the end of a sentence can be heard of as a question, instead of an answer, then the pitch likely goes upward in shape. This abstract construct is a bit hard to grasp but we hear it every day, all day. Let’s dig in.
Inflection is important in our everyday lives because we subconsciously pick up on social cues that are built into the inflection of our sentences. A sentence’s meaning can be completely flipped or misconstrued based on where the pitches rise and fall within the context of one another.
Vocabulary states “Inflection most often refers to the pitch and tone patterns in a person's speech: where the voice rises and falls. But inflection also describes a departure from a normal or straight course. When you change, or bend, the course of a soccer ball by bouncing it off another person, that's an example of inflection.”
“Inflection is related to pitch, in that it’s the rise and fall of your pitch. This adds to your vocal variety and can be used to emphasise what you are saying. However, as the comedian Adam Hill’s once said, “We Australians tend to go up at the end of every ↑sentence. As if we are too insecure of making an actual ↑statement. So we have to make it sound like it’s an actual ↑question. As we secretly need your ↑approval.” Don’t do that, as it gets quite annoying.”
You may have heard some of your friends mimic certain inflections. This can range from sounding unintelligent to unsure to downright guilty. The “Valley Girl” voice falls in the category “also known as “The high rising terminal (HRT), also known as upspeak, uptalk, rising inflection, upward inflection, or high rising intonation (HRI), is a feature of some variants of English where declarative sentence clauses end with a rising-pitch intonation, until the end of the sentence where a falling-pitch is applied.”
Stack Exchange expresses “Inflection can mean ‘modulation of the voice; in speaking or singing: a change in the pitch or tone of the voice’ (OED). However, linguistically an inflection is a word ending that indicates the role of the word in a sentence, so it’s best to avoid using it in the other sense when talking about language. Intonation is the contrastive use of pitch in speech. The word used to describe the linguistic use of pitch, loudness, tempo and rhythm is prosody.”
So, why is it important to be conscious of your inflections while singing? This is one of the aspects in your arsenal that is a heavyweight when it comes to the expression of what lies beneath the layers of your lyrics. Don’t let these little details get lost on you. It will all come out loud and clear in the recordings and all of the hard work you’ve done on refining your voice will pay off.