Loud and clear! Projection and articulation in dramatic speech & song – part 2
In my previous entry I wrote briefly about the importance of body and mouth posture in making ourselves heard over a distance, or to a larger group of people. That’s projecting our speech. Projected speech is different than everyday speech. When we take advantage of our natural instincts for engaging the body (imagine banging on the bathroom door and yelling at your sis to get out of there so you’re not late for school!), we can get more power and resonance without straining our little fragile larynx. Singing is different than everyday speech also; it requires the posture of projection as well!
So what the heck is articulation? Basically, young people will often mumble when speaking and cut out consonants like K, N, V and S when singing. The result? If people don’t already know the song you’re singing, they won’t be able to understand the lyrics. Yep, especially if they are over 55. Articulating is basically speaking the consonants clearly enough so people can understand the words. You don’t have to sound like Mary Poppins or Dolores Umbridge; in fact, idiomatic delivery of speech is essential to communicating. Your practice at home is about finding the balance between clarity and natural delivery. They are both needed!
For both singing and dramatic speech, it is essential to phonate in a legato manner, keeping all consonants and vowels connected unless you need to break the phrase. This makes it much easier on your larynx! In studio we will drill exercises to improve this skill–how to keep air flowing through a seemingly closed consonant! This is something we learn together over time. But, what can you do right now on your own?
In my experience, 90% of mechanical issues behind articulation have to do with not opening the mouth enough. For singing and dramatic speech, your mouth must be open at least one finger width high, and hopefully even a bit more. More will feel very odd to students with a significant overbite, but for you, it’s extra important to practice getting the air hole open. Here’s the complex math supporting my theory:
Ahem. Bigger Air Hole (mouth) = Bigger, Clearer Sound.
It’s actually pretty simple. To articulate projected speech, which has more air flowing through the whole package than day-to-day speech, you need to open your mouth a bit more, and there will be more mouth activity required to form consonants than in day to day speech. The mouth flaps a bit more, basically, to articulate projected speech. Remember, goal is communication. Watch yourself in the mirror to remember what the appropriately-sized opening FEELS like.
Modern pop singing is often sung-speech, so pretty understated in delivery. Regardless of this tone, we still need to OPEN THE MOUTH! You can appear to sound understated and super relaxed, intimate, but actually the body is 150% engaged and ready to communicate.
A good exercise for practicing articulation is reading tongue twisters. Here is a link to a sheet of practice exercises: Tongue Twisters Articulation by Rosanna DAgnillo.
Notice what you need to do to prepare the body for this busy mouth work – you’ll see that it’s exactly what is required to project speech! Practice reading these aloud to someone in the next room for maximum effect.
This is a pretty rough idea, but the extra points of finesse and exercises for training natural, articulate delivery I must supervise in studio. For advanced classical singers, this is absolutely key training otherwise valuable air gets wasted and choked on instead of emerging as beatific expression!
Kind regards, Rosanna D’Agnillo