Vocal Projection and Articulation

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The greatest performance can quickly turn into the worst if it cannot be heard or understood. How often have you thought you were being loud or clear enough only to be told later that you were very mistaken? It has happened to most of us at some point. Either we thought we were using our voices effectively or we did not compensate for that noisy air-conditioning as much as we should have. With so much of Forensics resting on how well your diction and projection are, how can you improve and ensure that you will be heard?

Slow down.

What we think is a normal pace of speaking in Forensics is often too fast. Speaking quickly makes it hard for your audience to process what you are saying, and it also leads to blunders in pronunciation. General rule: speak slower than you do in everyday conversation.

Know your piece.

The more memorized you have your piece, the less likely it is for you to stumble over tricky sections; with every word you fully know the less difficult parts there are for you to think about as you perform.

Warm-up.

You know how when you haven’t spoken in ages and then you try? You get that frog-esque emission from deep in your throat. Not attractive for sure, but it also makes pronunciation difficult. One of the best things to do before a round is to stretch your vocal chords by saying a few tongue teasers. This warms your voice AND works your tongue into getting perfect diction. My favorite? “I am a mother pheasant plucker. I pluck mother pheasants. I am the best mother pheasant plucker who has ever plucked mother pheasants.” This one is not for the kiddies!

Pencil trick.

Long before The Joker turned this popular, the world of theatre and speech had ownership. Loosely bite down on a pencil (like how a dog would hold a stick in its mouth) and make sure you have a good, toothy grip. Start saying your piece while keeping the pencil in your mouth. I dare you. Trying to form any clear sentences with an object intruding in your mouth is challenging, no question. However, if you can pull this trick off you will have impeccable diction.

Funny faces.

If you are practicing in front of a mirror take note of your face as you speak. Try exaggerating your articulation by hitting EVERY consonant and fully forming every vowel sound. If you are shaping your vowels appropriately and hitting every consonant you will look silly and animated. Obviously in competition you need to tone down so you do not look ridiculous, but this practice will get you in the habit of speaking with excellent diction. Believe me. I still get compliments on how clear and articulate my speech is because of this practice. Cell phones may have poor reception but that never stops me from getting my message across.

Go the distance.

I really only know of one way to practice projection and that is to go into a huge space, place someone at the opposite end of you in this area, and practice some lines with them giving you feedback on how well they hear and understand your speech. Some rules to remember are never scream, breath from the diaphragm (place your hand on your tummy and breath deeply to feel that muscle fill up; it provides more oxygen support than your lungs so you can go longer without breathing and actually support your vocals), slow your speech, and remember to articulate! True, you will be performing in a classroom (TYPICALLY, NOT ALWAYS THOUGH) but you never know when white noise will attempt to overpower your piece. It is always better to be slightly too loud that unable to be heard.

Utilize these practice tools and you will never be told you are mumbling again!

This is really good advice. Thanks for taking the time to write this down :^)

Warming up your voice for the first performance of the day is a must! Speak to your team mates, do a practice run, and get your voice working to avoid that early morning croak.

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