How to Project Your Voice

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“Project!” What actor hasn’t heard this command exclaimed from the back of the house at one time or another? Keep reading to learn about voice projection and ways to ensure that your every line is heard, loud and clear.

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What is voice projection?

voice projectionSebastian Gauert/Shutterstock

Voice projection is the ability to use your voice loudly, powerfully, and clearly while acting, singing, or speaking. It is an essential tool for performers, especially those who work primarily in the theater.

Why is projecting your voice important for an actor?

actors voice projecting on stageJonas Petrovas/Shutterstock

Projection is important for actors because it:

  • Grabs and keeps the audience’s attention
  • Allows the audience to clearly hear and understand your lines 
  • Helps actors feel more confident in their performances
  • Fills in descriptive gaps for scenes that the audience can’t see

Voice projection tips and techniques

how to voice project in theaterIgor Bulgarin/Shutterstock

1. Know your text: Great moments onstage or onscreen require many components to come together seamlessly—leaving no extra brain space for remembering lines in the middle of a performance. It can be easy to underestimate the connection between speaking volume and confidence in your memorization. The better you know the words on the page, the better you’ll be able to interpret and communicate them in ways that are audible and easily understood. 

2. Understand your space: Will you be acting on-camera, in a large theater, or in an outdoor amphitheater? Each of these spaces carries its own acoustical realities, and having a sense of the sonic “liveness” of your performance area can greatly impact how you’ll choose to speak. An additional piece of information you need to confirm: Will your voice be amplified by means of a microphone? Try to visit the venue ahead of time to get a feel for its acoustics, but if that isn’t possible, be sure to discern these variables during your first rehearsal in the space.

3. Warm up your voice: The need for an effective vocal warmup isn’t exclusive to singers. It’s important for any professional voice-user to make sure their instrument is ready to go before taking to the stage or set. About 30 minutes before your performance, spend 15–20 minutes doing these voice projection exercises: 

  • Stretches: Reach your arms up and over the opposing side to get a solid torso stretch. This will activate your core, which will allow you to better project your voice.
  • Sharp exhales: After taking a deep breath in, release it sharply and quickly 50 times.
  • Elocution: Do elocution exercises, increasing the volume of your voice with each round.
  • Slides: Warm up your vocal folds by going through vocal slides with increasing intervals.
  • Flexes: Try going from low to high and from quiet to loud to achieve your full range.
  • Lip flutters: Make raspberries with your lips to minimize later resistance while projecting your voice.
  • Yawns: Keep your mouth closed and pretend you’re yawning. This exercise helps your jaw be more limber, which will give you a wider range during performance. 

Consider working with a vocal coach to help curate a regimen that’s tailored to your needs and goals. Also, regularly practice diction exercises—you cannot project clearly if you’re tripping over your words. 

4. Breathe deep: You know the drill: “Low, deep breaths.” After a good physical warmup that includes loosening up your body and centering yourself in space, supportive breaths are next on the docket. Remember to connect the breath directly to your sound, avoiding short, shallow inhalations. Video yourself and replay it for observation, taking note of any time your shoulders become actively involved in the breath cycle; steer clear of this “clavicular” way of breathing. 

One of the most common rookie mistakes that hampers voice projection is focusing your breath in your chest. A strong, clear voice comes from your diaphragm—practice these five breath control exercises to ensure you are performing with as much air as you need. 

5. Deliver to the back of the room: Another mistake is trying to deliver your lines to your scene partners. Instead, as you take the first steps to proper voice projection, choose a spot at the very back of the theater or studio and focus on delivering to that distance. Once you confidently feel what it would take for the furthest observer to hear you, modulate as necessary—it’s easier to go big and then rein it in. 

6. Speak authentically: This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s often easier said than done. Explore the ways in which your own natural voice connects to that of the character. How do your character’s movement profile and voice interact? Do any aspects of your vocal delivery seem forced, unnatural, or disconnected? Address these moments and experiment with ways to relate them more readily to your own authentic voice in the moment.

There you have it. Six recommendations for strengthening the resonance of your speaking voice. The next time someone asks you to speak up, remember, the connected voice is the strongest voice.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Adam K. Roberts
Adam K. Roberts is an Austin-based vocal coach, conductor, and artistic director. He is co-founder of TILT Performance Group and Resolution Creative, a faculty member at the Actor’s School and Carol Hickey Acting Studio, and director of music at St. Luke United UMC. His students have performed in principal roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theater, been nominated for the Tony Award, and appeared in film, national tours, and on network television.
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