Duo Vocals and Using Your Partner

Part of interpretation is figuring out what to do with your voice.  Duo, like every other event, must have good diction, projection, dynamics, effective use of tone/pitch, and enough variation to keep yourself interesting.  Further, accents can also be employed to add another layer of interpretation.  But these are common to every event--well, maybe not accents!  Duo is unique in that there is a partnership sharing vocals.  Thus, the question must be asked: what special tricks can a Duo do with vocals?

  • Take advantage of your partner's abilities.  Not everyone can whistle, nor sing in tune.  But when two people are involved the odds increase of one of you being capable.  If a script calls for singing, and your Duo partner has been in choir for five years, capitalize on their talents.  Even if singing is not part of the stage direction, if it is appropriate why not utilize their gifts?  This exploitation applies to accents, sound effects, and anything else you can do with your vocal chords to produce noise.
  • Broken speech. An obvious observation of Duo is that two people can play multiple characters while exchanging dialogue (conversations).  What might not be so obvious is that speech does not necessarily have to be one person saying one continuous line.  Characters can cut in to finish.  Maybe a narration can be divided between both of you?  However choppy or smooth your Duo decides, the fact remains that dialogue can be passed between the two of you.  Consider a narration from a disoriented individual.  A Duo could have one partner narrate that part of the story while the other stand with their back towards the audience, OR both partners can deliver the narration; finishing sentences for the other while varying dynamics to create a whirlwind of language.  It could be a vocal symbolism of the disorientation.
  • Vocal effects. Adding sound effects, like an owl hooting as a wood is described, adds texture to a piece.  Duos have the capability to have one narrate while the other act out and/or create sound effects for that narration.  Not to be recommended for extensive use, but a hoot here or there can add flavor to the performance.
  • Layering. Two is stronger than one.  If, for some reason, the Duo could be enhanced through the use of layered voices, this event offers the opportunity to do so.  Again, not to be abused, but if a character's interpretation could be bettered through a booming voice (or perhaps a section of narration would benefit from an enhancement) then all you and your Duo partner need to do is speak lines together.  Speaking together is an instant effect to add power, and then when a voiced is dropped to a whisper a massive effect is created of near silence.  If your Duo decides to layer be sure to practice the timing from entrance to exit of layering; you do not want a round to begin!  Also, match tone/pitch/volume and even all consonant hits to sound as one voice.  Closing your eyes while talking will help focus your ears to whether or not you and your partner match perfectly.  Your Duo could even choose to not quite match to add a level of creepiness to a deserving piece.  Layering works best for narration but can work for characterization if it has been determined BOTH of you are working as one to create the character.  If that is so, then both should do the movements and blocking for that character for consistency; or at the least have the other partner not physically interpreting turn their back towards the audience to give the illusion of one performer.  

These are a few suggestions on methods to fully use your Duo advantages in relation to vocal.  Of course there are more tricks.  Look towards your Duo script and imagine the endless vocalizations you and your partner could dabble.