Vocal Action and Breathe

Vocal Action and Breathe

Vocal Action and Breathe, Voice and SpeechThe way you breathe plays an equally important part in determining the quality of your voice. This is important for both actors and singers. Proper breathing even helps in giving definition to every character you play. You are your own master, inhaling and exhaling effectively at your own free will while emoting, and in the process also activating all the available resonators (some parts of the human body that increase sound vibrations) to further enhance your voice quality.

As an actor, you will have to get really creative at the time of building the character you are playing, to the extent of getting into the skin of that character. You have to be so intimate with the character so as to even know how the character breathes. This will help you fine-tune your breathing with that of the character and the demands of the genre.

Breathing correctly, as mentioned earlier, is important in order to be able to do complete justice to your role or part. Breathing correctly lets you bring to life each character in a different way. It helps you to deliver your lines in an effectively communicative way instead of plainly reciting lines or hamming your way through or playing your part with an empty soul. If you breathe correctly when performing emotional or frenzied roles, you emit energy naturally without having to try hard and making it seem fake. When you have perfected the art of proper breathing and can control it consciously and willfully, you will realize that at the time of delivering lines that need a lot of excited or frenzied emotion, it is your character and not you that is excited or hysterical.

At the time of studying the script, the actor will try to grasp the main qualities of the character. When attempting this, the actor will also try to understand how the character breathes. Just as no two characters walk and move in a same way, no two characters will have the same breathe pattern either. If the actor breathes properly and at a constant rate, his character can breathe differently.

Listening is Important

When you are performing the act of listening, there are many aspects at work – psychological, acoustical, cognitive etc. At the time of communicating, the role of listening is a very important one as it can be an even more active component than speech. In acting, listening is a very important part, as when actors really listen to each other and react, the emotion does not sound scripted but spontaneous, leading to live and active interaction on stage. If active listening suffers, chances are that the delivery will sound mechanical. But then you ask yourself, how can one listen as actively as one did the first time, to the same lines that we have heard a hundred times already? Improvising is the solution. There is always something that can be done differently, like changing intonation, tempo, intensity to make your performance exciting each time.

Exercises on Breathing

The exercise mentioned here might initially tire you. Regular practice will however make you realize that it takes less effort to breathe. You will also learn to use the diaphragm and abdominal muscles effectively when breathing.

In order to know whether you are breathing correctly or not, put one hand on your belly. When inhaling or breathing in, the air you take in should spread upwards making your chest swell. Do not lift your shoulders or push your stomach out. If you have any reason to think that you are not breathing correctly, try the following exercise –

1. Lie down flat on your back. Place your hands on your belly. Take a slow deep breath concentrating on filling up your stomach from the bottom to the top. You are not trying to inhale till you burst. Here you are trying to understand the difference between shallow breathing (that occurs when breathing from the chest) and breathing correctly. Your stomach should rise, and with it your hands, gently, until you feel your chest expanding. This expansion is also to the sides and back.
Then, exhale or breathe out slowly to a count of 5

2. To be able to hold your breath for longer try the following exercise:
Inhale deeply, hold your breath and begin counting out loud – 1,2,3,4, 5, 6, 7… Initially do not try to hold your breath for long periods as you have only begun practicing. You can increase the count gradually until you can manage 25 or more without running out of breath completely.

Exercise for Warming Up the Voice Apparatus

You must remember that the vocal cords are muscles after all and that these can wear out if overworked. You can do the following exercises to loosen muscles around the vocal cords.
1. Beginning with the right hand side of your mouth, pass your tongue across the top teeth making a figure of 8, then to the middle and from there to the bottom teeth before crossing to left hand side of your mouth, then, up, and across the top. Keep your mouth closed for this.

2. Place the tip of your tongue so that it is positioned behind the bottom set of front teeth. Allow your jaw to drop and gently push your tongue out. Repeat a few times.

3. Try opening your mouth as wide as is possible and then close it as tightly as you can.

4. Keep your lips loose and then blow air through them so that they flap, just like horses do

5. Stick out your tongue then roll it round. Try touching the tip of your nose with your tongue or as close as you can get. Try touching your chin with your tongue or as close as you can get. Extend your tongue in the direction of your left ear and then your right

These exercises are just like those meant for the physical body and are designed to free you from limitations, and to increase awareness and accessibility.

Try the following voice exercises in the order they are given and find out if they make a difference to the quality of your voice. Don’t expect immediate miraculous results.

Voice Exercises

1. Inhale (through nose and mouth simultaneously) by pulling in the diaphragm and breathe out like you normally would through the mouth.
2. Begin by inhaling deeply. Then start sighing, and release the air with a light sound that is soft and relaxed.
3. Inhale deeply using the nose and mouth. Make the lips round and expel air gradually through the lips in a silent whistle.
4. Inhale deeply again and at the time of releasing air close the lips so that the sigh turns into a hum.
5. Inhale, and gradually exhale through rounded lips until you feel you have emptied out your lungs. Inhale deeply.
6. Breathe in. Release air through closed lips producing a humming sound. Go up the scale, one note with each breath. Empty the lungs each time.

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