As actors, we must exercise our voices on a daily basis—just as athletes train and go to the gym! At my acting studio, we teach some very specific kids’ voice exercises in our children’s acting classes. I want to empower my students to use their voices with confidence and clarity. By doing exercises and warmups as often as possible, actors become more versatile and have access to more creative choices when it comes to character development! Here are four exercises child actors can try.
1. Expand your breath capacity.
I teach all of my students to breathe from the lower part of their bellies, taking in what is known as a diaphragmatic breath. It’s important to relax and to breathe deeply, rather than taking a shallow breath from your chest. This will help you to sustain your voice and to project it across a room. Diaphragmatic breathing is essential for all actors and is particularly essential for stage actors and singers.
2. Move those face muscles.
As an actor, it’s important to warmup your face to help your voice. A great way to warmup your face is by doing an activity I call “Big Face/Little Face.” You do this by first, literally, making a big face—by raising your eyebrows, opening your eyes, opening your mouth, and sticking out your tongue as far as you can. Really stretch out that tongue. It’s going to feel a bit silly, but it’s so fun! Then you can scrunch your face up and make a “little face” by closing your eyes and scrunching your nose and lips together. Repeat both of these expressions a few times until your face is warmed up and your tongue has been stretched out!
3. Build range.
One of the most fun ways to expand your range is by singing along with some of your favorite tunes and practicing using different parts of your voice. You can also do something known as “sirening” which is when you hum, starting at the lower part of your voice and “siren” up to the top part of your voice, and then returning to the lower part of your voice (making a sound similar to that of a police car siren). You can “siren” using a variety of voice consonants such as “n” or “v” or “th” (to name a few). You can also do this exercise using vowel sounds.
4. It’s all about diction.
There are also voice exercises that you can do to work on diction! Diction means making sure that you pronounce words clearly—that you make all of the necessary vowel and consonant sounds so that you can be understood by the audience. To improve diction, one thing that I like to do is to actually stick my tongue out while I’m speaking text. First, find a piece of text—any text! Then, stick your tongue out, not all the way, but just between your teeth. Say a sentence, keeping your tongue out, and letting your teeth or lips fall on your tongue for every consonant. Notice how you have to work extra hard to say each word (by the way, it should feel silly and fun—this is just an exercise!) After you’ve done the exercise, immediately, speak the text as you would normally. Feel the difference? Because you had to work a little bit harder to say all of the words with your tongue sticking out, your diction will be much more precise and crisp.
As always, have a blast while you’re learning and growing and being the best actor that you can be!
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