Finding Speech Reversals

How To Find and Understand Genuine Speech Reversals

By David John Oates
Copyright (C) 2006


OK, you’ve been to the Reverse Speech website and heard some of those examples of Reverse Speech, or you’ve heard it on the radio, seen it on TV or run into rumours on the grapevine. Now you want to try it for yourself. Can you really hear those backward messages in speech? What’s the best approach? How can you learn how to do it?

Well, the first thing you need is the equipment to do it. There are 2 approaches to this. One, find a tape player that plays forwards and reverse. But to save you a whole lot of bother, the only place you can buy them is at unless you’re lucky enough to find a second hand one on ebay.

The second approach, and in the long run the easiest as well, is to use a computer and sound editing software to do it. There are several software programs on the market that will play audio in reverse but the best one, and only one specifically designed for Reverse Speech, is available from

The next thing is to know and understand what you are looking for. When you play tapes of speech in reverse you can get lost in all these unusual sounds. “Words”, or sounds that sound like words, may pop out everywhere. And thus we come to our first lesson and that is the dreaded word – Imagination. Without knowing what you are looking for, or having a basic understanding of the structure of speech reversals, it is possible to imagine anything you want into the gibberish. This article will teach you how to not do that and how to find the very clear genuine speech reversals that occur regularly amongst the gibberish.

One of the very first lessons I teach my students is, “I am not teaching you how to document more, I am teaching you how to document less.” In other words it is quality we are looking for not quantity. I would rather students document 10 reversals in a tape and they all be there instead of 50 reversals and half of them are doubtful.

So what are you looking for? First of all, you are looking for clear grammatically correct sentences of anywhere between 2 and 7-8 words, with 4-5 words being the most common. You want this phrase to be distinct from the surrounding gibberish. In other words, there is a clearly defined ending and beginning to the phrase, often with a small gap in the gibberish before and after the backwards message. You want the backward message to have a distinct sing-song, melodic tone that is quite obvious amongst the usual bland tone of the surrounding gibberish. All the letters must be there, the beginnings and endings of words must be clear and precise and the syllable count of the phrase must be correct. Once you have found the reversal, you must check meticulously that all these factors are present. If they are not, then discard the reversal and move on. An example of Reverse Speech checkpoints can be seen by clicking here.

It’s got to jump out at you after you’ve found it, and have that Wow! Factor to it. There will be no doubt when you find a genuine reversal. You won’t have to strain your ears to hear it, or stretch sounds to make them fit. The reversal will just be there.

Now, as strange as this may sound, sometimes the clearest reversals are the hardest ones for the newcomer to find. The common mistake is to listen too intently to every sound in the gibberish, trying to find a syllable or word here and there that sounds familiar. This approach will lead to projection into gibberish, or imagination. The correct approach is to flow with the backward sounds listening to the rhythm and tone of the gibberish. It’s the shift in tonality that you are looking for. This is what will alert you to the presence of a speech reversal. So, rather than trying to dissect each sound and syllable as you play the tape backwards, you need to sit back, relax and let the reversals find you, rather than you find the reversal. Sometimes you may have to listen for a while before you hear a reversal. But be patient, they will come.

You’ll be listening to the reversed tape and suddenly hear the tone change. It’s then that you go back and check the audio again to hear if there are any words in that tonal shift. Go forwards and backwards over the sound to try and determine what it says. Be strict with what you find now. Now is the time to check every sound – once you have found the reversal and NOT while you are trying to find them. If even one sound doesn’t match what you think the suspected reversal says, then discard it and move onto the next one. Also, don’t go over the same section of track trying to determine what the reversal says anymore than 6 times. If you cant get the reversal after 6 tries then discard it and move on. This approach means you will not document as many reversals as you may like to, but you can be sure that what you have found will be accurate.

In normal relaxed everyday conversations, genuine speech reversals occur approximately once every 15-30 seconds of speech but don’t expect to hear that many when you first start. If you hear one clear and obvious reversal every 2-3 minutes you will be doing very well. And the best place to find them is in casual relaxed conversations. Don’t begin with media broadcasts or prepared speeches as this is worst place of all to find genuine reversals. They can occur as little as one reversal every 5-10 minutes and sometimes you might only find one genuine reversal in a 30 minute political speech. This unfortunately leaves a whole lot of gibberish to project anything into if you don't follow the accepted research procedures and check points. For this reason, we advise newcomers to steer clear of political broadcasts until they have refined their skills with regular speech.

You will also notice a distinct difference between the backward sounds of normal conversation compared to media broadcasts. Media broadcasts tend to be very bland and emotionless backwards, whereas normal conversation in reverse is full of rapidly varying sounds, tonal fluctuations and emotions. That’s where the reversals are!

Some researchers and new students, when they are first starting, only listen to the tape backwards at first waiting for the reversals to “jump out at them”. This is good way to get started and it also reduces bias. Without knowing what is being said in the forwards you are less likely to project or imagine into the gibberish. 

Now, once you have found your reversal the next step is to determine what it means. Hence we come to the corner foundation stone of Reverse Speech theory, and that is the principal of speech complementarity. By that, I simply mean that the forwards and reverse speech relate to each other. In more than 90% of all cases there will be a direct relationship between the forwards and reverse speech. The reversal can confirm what is being said forwards, it can say the opposite thing or it can reveal more information behind what is being said in forwards. So in order to understand the reversal you must look at what is being said forward. If you are finding many examples of alleged Reverse Speech that DON’T meet this rule of speech complementarity then you need to suspect your findings and make sure they meet all the requirements for a genuine reversal as detailed earlier in this article.

Finally, the best way of all to learn Reverse Speech is to take professional Reverse Speech training. Classes can be conducted on line, via correspondence, or in live classes held in San Diego and various Australian States. Live classes in Europe should begin towards the end of 2006. Click here for more information on Reverse Speech training courses.


Listen to a radio interview David did with Jeff Rense about this issue of genuine compared to imagined reversals - click here


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David John Oates
Founder and Developer of Reverse Speech Technologies
PO Box 678, Noarlunga Centre, SA 5168. Australia
phone: 08 83824372 - international: 61 8 83824372

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