Vocal Training, Techniques and Exercises
As an audience member there is nothing worse that trying to understand actors’ words when they are too quiet or garbled. Whether thespians are speaking or singing, they should be enunciating clearly and with a decent volume; otherwise, listeners will have trouble becoming truly engaged in the performance.
Whether you’re an actor or singer, it’s crucial to “warm up” your voice before heading out onto stage. Think of yourself as an athlete—would you run a marathon without getting your leg muscles “in the groove” beforehand? In fact, you should make it a part of your rehearsal process, too.
Note To Directors: It’s a good idea to start every rehearsal with vocal and physical exercises so all players become accustomed to the process.
The following vocal exercises may seem simple, but they have tremendous results when consistently used.
Ma-May-Me-Mow-MooStanding tall with shoulders back and feet shoulder width apart, open your mouth and sing in a deep voice the following syllables:
“Maaaaa… Mayyyyyy… Meeeeeee… Mowwww… Moooooo.”
Put your hand on your stomach and make certain that your abdominal muscles are constricting with each note; if they aren’t, you’re not using your diaphragm and need to pay attention to singing from your belly, not your throat. Allow your air to come from deep within you.
If you want to add variation, try mixing up the first letter, using “P”, “S”, or “B” instead.
This vocal exercise opens you up and gets your voice prepared. It can also be used as a relaxation technique for performers who tend toward anxiety.
Tongue TwistersThe world is filled with plenty of tongue twisters such as the famous:
“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many peppers did Peter Piper pick? A peck!”
While standing with good posture, trying saying some tongue twisters slowly, and then increase the pace with each repetition of the phrases. Speak as clearly as you possibly can, almost overemphasising the sounds in an effort to maintain a high level of vocal clarity.
Tongue twisters also enable performers and their directors or music coaches to pinpoint trouble spots. For instance, some people have difficulty with the “shhhh” sound; others may not be able to pronounce their “r”s well. Once these trouble spots have been observed, they can be tackled on an individual basis.
Without a doubt, this exercise can result in serious bouts of laughter, especially if a group is trying it together. That’s fine, as it adds to the team bonding.
Ha-Ha-HasTo encourage players to speak from deep within their “guts”, not from their esophagi, a good round of “ha-ha-has” is ideal.
Just as was done with Ma-May-Me-Mow-Moo, stand tall and exclaim in several short bursts: “HA!” The louder the “ha”, the better.
This gets the lungs ready for action and can also be used to “break the ice” during those first few rehearsals when everyone’s a little nervous. It can also be turned into a game to see who can say “ha” the loudest.
Incidentally, it’s impossible to conduct this vocal exercise without at least cracking a sliver of a smile.
Remember that regardless of the type of performance in which you’ll be involved—comedy, drama, musical, recital, opera, operetta—you will most likely need to use your voice. And that voice, like any muscle, deserves to be ready when the curtain rises or the rehearsal period begins.