Talking is natural, right?
So why is it that actors need to train their voices to land a role?
Well, if you’ve looked into how to become an actor before you’ll know why. ‘Project your voice’ is something we’ve all been told at one point or another in our lives. Whether it was at school, in an acting class, or elsewhere it’s a message that can be hard to translate into action.
For many of us, when we try to project our voice all that happens is we end up hoarse and croaky at the end of the day because we’re placing a lot of strain on our vocal cords.
What gets lost in translation is the method for how to project our voices in a way that protects our vocal cords. This method is one of many key performing arts skills and is a good place to start if you’ve ever wondered to yourself ‘I want to become an actor where do I start?’
This method isn’t something you’re just going to pick up one day when you have an epiphany. It’s something that ideally you’ll learn from a voice acting coach or acting course, and can prepare you for voice acting auditions and voice acting jobs.
While most acting jobs won’t require you to pull off extreme vocal acrobatics, ‘project your voice’ and ‘make the words on the page come alive’ are common requests in auditions and acting classes.
If you want to get ahead right now and work on your vocal abilities, why not see if there’s a voice acting tutor in your area with Superprof?
If you’ve ever asked ‘where are there acting classes near me?’ then Superprof could be the solution you’ve been looking for.
Even if you can’t find a private acting tutor nearby to coach your voice acting skills you can choose to take classes online with Superprof, so you can work on your speech from the comfort of your own home.
How can you Warm Up?
Just like with any workout, you’re going to want to warm up before you get started.
While the voice isn’t the same as a bicep, it does require a similar process of warming up before you put it through its paces.
The saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ certainly rings true here.
So how do you warm up your voice before a major speaking role?
Well, there’s no special technique that will guarantee a better performance when you take to the stage, but there are some exercises that can help you get into the zone.
With any job in the entertainment industry where you’re performing in front of a crow, it isn’t the big things you do that make a difference but the small things.
It’s the habits you maintain before a show that can determine how well you perform.
For example, some actors say that all it takes is five minutes of basic warm-up exercises before getting up on stage in order to feel performance-ready.
In her MasterClass, national treasure Helen Mirren speaks of the importance of several vocal exercises to warm up.
- Humming - while it may seem like something you only do when you’re bored, humming to exhale all of the air can help get your nerves out before a big performance. Mirren recommends that you do this up to five times as part of your warm-up.
- Mock Laughing - with your hand on your stomach, take a deep breath in as you expand your stomach and then exhale while making a ‘ha’ sound over and over again. The whole point of this exercise is that it gets you breathing diaphragmatically which can help bring a sense of calm and allow you to better project your voice when the time comes.
- Trills - you know the way you were told to pronounce the Spanish word ‘perro’? Well, try doing that to loosen up your tongue before an audition. Trill your ‘r’s’ by rolling your tongue against the roof of your mouth. If it doesn’t come to you at first, find a YouTube tutorial as they can be very useful for getting an idea of what you should be doing.
- Say ‘onion’ - yes, the exercises are getting a little odd now, but bear with us. For this exercise, Mirren recommends that you say the word ‘onion’ but when you get to the ‘ny’ sound you hold it and bring it down in pitch as if you were listening to a racing car fly around a track.
- Tongue Twister - who doesn’t love a tongue twister? Mirren’s favourite is ‘red leather yellow leather’ but feels free to use your own to loosen the tongue.
- Sign and Yawn - for this exercise, assume the yawn position with your mouth and then begin to sigh as loud as you can and descend in the register as much as possible.
Be sure to read up on the 10 rules of social media for actors, and how to market yourself as an actor on social media since you never know what other useful breathing tips and exercises you might stumble upon online.
What’s the Best Way to Breathe?
You’ll hear the word ‘breathwork’ a lot as an actor, and there’s a good reason for it.
Without actively attempting to improve your breathing technique, you’re going to struggle to read your lines without gasping for air.
At its simplest, breathwork can be standing upright with good posture, taking a deep breath in, and then exhaling as slowly as possible.
With just this breathing technique alone you can learn to control your breathing and make it work for you during line reads.
Plus, if you can breathe deeply in the right moments, you will relax your jaw, voice, and body which generally allows you to work your magic more easily.
If you do this before every audition along with a few of the vocal warmup techniques mentioned above, then you’ll give yourself the best opportunity to flourish when the spotlight shines on you.
With private acting lessons, you might be introduced to several breathing techniques by your tutor.
How can you use your Body to Help your Voice?
There’s more involved with the voice than just the breath and the vocal cords.
As an actor, your body is your medium of expression.
As such, you should look at voice training holistically to include the whole body.
If you’re tense in any part of your body, this could affect your ability to sufficiently project your voice and perform your best.
Here are some key parts of the body and how you can use them to assist with your speech:
If your jaw is tense, your words will barely be able to escape from your mouth.
You need to find a way to release this tension if you are to give it your all in an audition. With a relaxed jaw, it’ll be easier for you to move the tongue around which is crucial for voicing certain sounds.
You can relax the jaw through vocal warm-ups, massing your temples and the sides of your face, and opening your mouth as wide as possible.
Your tongue is one of your biggest assets as an actor.
Without it, you wouldn’t be able to articulate sounds, and that’s no good for a speaking role.
To improve your vocal performance, one of the things you can do is strengthen the tongue to make it easier to maintain a high level of activity throughout a performance.
You can do this by moving the tongue around the mouth and firmly touching various parts such as the gum ridge, the hard palate etc.
The Back and Chest
The back and chest are huge for vocal projection.
Just try speaking up when you’re hunched over and you’ll know what we mean.
The best way to combat this slouching is to push your shoulders back so your chest fills out, and stand up straight slightly tensing your core and glutes to support proper spinal alignment.
You’ll also look the part if you can strut your stuff with good posture.
What are the Best Exercises for Vocal Training?
To leave you with some actionable advice, here are some of the best exercises for vocal training that you can try right now!
Yes, something as simple as just stretching out can be very effective for priming your voice for a speech.
The best stretches are those which open up your chest and rib cage since this will help you walk around with more confidence and take on board enough air to give a powerful vocal performance.
We’ve already discussed the importance of breathing for voice acting, so here are some exercises you can try:
- Lay down - laying on the floor, with your hands on your stomach, and focus on the sensation of the diaphragm rising and falling since this is the type of breathing that’s best for acting.
- Hiss - this is a fun one. Standing up straight, take a deep breath, and then hiss as you slowly exhale all of that air. The goal here is to do it for as long as possible and then next time going even longer.
- Use a straw - if you’re down to get creative, find a straw and practise breathing deeply with it in your mouth. The point here is that you have to focus solely on breathing in and out, so you can get used to the sensation.
For child actors, and anyone wondering how to become a child actor with no experience it’s best to focus on the basics so start out with deep breathing and being active to stay loose.
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