Monday, November 10, 2014

Top Seven Reasons to Study Voice by Gin Hammond

You may have heard the adage “nobody needs a lawyer…until they need a lawyer.”  It can be the same with vocal coaching.  We get called in to help people who are losing their voices, to fix off-kilter accents, or to enable people to simply be heard.  These sessions can be highly emotional at first, fraught with frustration and a fear of being branded as a “problem actor,” vocally speaking.  With a little vocal training, however, you don’t have to find yourself battling vocal nightmares such as:

1.       PAIN - why would you want to act if it hurts?  Some actors, (and even some directors), falsely believe it is just a part of the job.  In fact, union actors who have to scream in video games are supposed to be provided an extra fee because it is anticipated that the actor will be unable to use his/her voice the following day.  The extra money is lovely, but never risk cannibalizing your voice for one project.  With proper training, you don’t have to.

2.       DAMAGE – If you’re already experiencing acute pain, put yourself on vocal rest immediately and contact an otolaryngologist to rule out the possibility of nodes, polyps, lesions, or other conditions which could permanently damage your voice, lead to chronic pain, or force you to turn down work.

3.       INABILITY TO TAKE DIRECTION – Whether for creative purposes, bottom line issues, or both, theaters often cast actors in multiple roles.  If all your characters sound exactly the same and you are inflexible in your ability to help create the world the director is trying to populate, it may limit your casting.

4.       FEAR OF ACCENTS/DIALECTS –  If I asked you to name your favorite bad accent in a play or movie, which one would you name?  For most people, especially actors, this is easy to do.  Unfortunately, that is one reason the joy of being cast in a show requiring accents can be tempered by stomach-churning self-doubt about convincingly portraying the role(s).  In our increasingly connected world, it is difficult to get away with manufacturing a “general” accent.   But the vast majority of humans have teeth, lips, jaws, tongues, soft palates, and glottises, so it’s really just a matter of playing around with these articulators, and knowing your equipment, so to speak.  One voice class can go a long way towards conquering this kind of fear.  (My favorite bad accent is the “Scottish” one in The Highlander, by the way.  I’m giggling just thinking about it.).

5.       CAN’T BE HEARD – Drawbacks to being inaudible require little explanation, though it bears mentioning  that knowing how to be more relaxed and resonant is the best substitute for straining to achieve more volume.  That, and knowing how to use your transverses abdominus.  Do you?

6.       LIMITED EMOTIONAL RANGE – You may have heard that breath and emotion are connected, but what does that mean?  To quote Saul Kotzubei, master teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework ™, “We can control our breathing to reduce the impact of difficult feelings and experiences. That’s not a bad thing. It’s an important ability we have.   For performers, a problem arises when our ability to manage our difficult experience by controlling our breathing becomes an instant, habitual, and largely unconscious response… It is very hard to express vocally what you cannot experience, and performers often push the voice to compensate. In addition to causing the voice to be disassociated from the truth of the moment, this can also cause vocal strain or fatigue.”  For more on this, go HERE.

7. COST OF MEDICAL TREATMENT – This requires no explanation.  Unless you’re sitting on a big pile of money and have all the time in the world. 

Studying voice can not only address all these concerns, but it can be a liberating way to open up your imagination and have even more fun acting than you ever thought possible.  It can be joyful, it can be challenging, and it can require you to enhance how you synthesize your body, heart, and mind.  It can improve life both on and off the stage.  And it just feels good.

So, which path do you prefer to choose?


Gin Hammond will be teaching a Voice class at Freehold Theatre  in Seattle this coming Winter Quarter. Stay tuned. Winter Quarter registration opens on November 17th!

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