Loud and clear please! Projection and articulation in dramatic speech and singing -part 1
Has anyone told you that you’re mumbling, even when you think you’re emoting that monologue better than Laurence Olivier could? Then why the heck is your teacher barking at you to “project” and “articulate”? What the heck do “projection” and “articulation” mean? Why do most children, teens and actually many adults have difficulty with both when speaking dramatically or singing?
First let’s talk about vocal projection. I won’t get technical at all because I find it never helps teach children. Basically there is your “chatting with girls at Starbucks” voice and your “yelling at your sister to get out of the bathroom” voice. Neither is suitable for stage or singing, but the second gives you an example of just how easy it is to project your voice when you put your body to work for you. We all know to use the breath and body for support, but what the heck does it mean? You need to feel it to know. That’s the tricky thing about studying singing and speech; you must remember what it feels like, and then do it again. Um, it’s kind of like learning to burp at command, but way more useful and less gross! 🙂
What to try? Take a passage, lyric, or just a tongue twister, and speak it loudly enough that someone in the next room can hear you. That’s an example of projected speech. Notice what you did to make it happen!
I guarantee that you did these things, without even thinking about it or needing to be told. That’s because the body knows exactly what to do when the intention is really clear!
1) you took a deeper, longer breath;
2) you lifted the torso;
3) maybe you spread your feet apart a little or had a bit of a bend in the knees;
4) you opened your mouth a little more;
5) the pitch of your voice was a little bit higher than in regular speech;
6) you paused to breathe more frequently than you would in “Starbucks voice” so you could sustain the power and emotions.
These body supports are automatic when the intention to be loud enough to be heard in the next room is very clear. Your job is to learn how to apply these supports on purpose for all instances of projected speech and singing.
Dramatic speech and singing simply need the body to do more WORK than we are used to for regular speech. Our mouth and body posture for day-to-day speech is not suitable for stage/singing. It can lead to vocal injury and definitely doesn’t enable you to maximize your resonance and volume. My regular speaking voice is an F3, but when I’m teaching, I’m speaking at B3 if not even middle C. Keeping the pitch higher for projected speech prevents the air from grating in the throat on the way out.
What is the intention to keep in mind for dramatic speech and singing? Your intention is to communicate. Performance is to communicate something meaningful about the human condition to an audience of your peers, to share something special about being alive with a group of your brother and sister humans who want to delight in the wonder of being alive. Lofty intention! What you have to share has important meaning. So let your body help you get it done!
Next we’ll talk about articulation! Stay tuned for part two.
Thanks! Rosanna D’Agnillo