Magic Words

I’m going to mention two “Magic words” which are commonly mentioned when talking about voice. Nobody is sure what they mean, and they usually don’t mean the same thing to any two people.

  1. Support: When people talk about support they usually mean some kind of solid column holding the voice up.
  2. Placement: When people talk about placement they usually mean some spot where, if they can just find it, the voice will be safe and will always work. It’s located in a lot of different ways by a lot of different people.

The reason these are “Magic words” is because the voice isn’t a “thing” which can be held up or put somewhere, its a physiological process which takes place under favorable conditions. You can’t treat it as though it were a “thing.”

There’s one more word that is constantly misused:

3. Projection: Actors, especially, are told to “project the voice,” sometimes to a little old lady in Keokuk, wearing sneakers, sitting in the back row of the balcony.

This would be a good idea if sound didn’t “radiate” instead of projecting. Light beams project, but the voice is a different kind of wave, like the waves when you drop a pebble in a pond. You’ll notice the waves move through the water, the water doesn’t move, so they aren’t projecting, they’re radiating in a perfect 360° circle from the source .The only difference between this and the voice is that the voice radiates in a sphere in every direction. Having your mouth open focuses the sound out the front, but it’s also radiating from the rest of you, which is why you can hear someone when they’re facing away from you.

Trying to “project the voice” only leads to forcing to try and get it to “travel.” What really happens is that you make an intense sound, and it radiates farther. Intense sounds are the result of focusing the vowel at the vocal folds and allowing it to pass up and through all the small bones in the front of the face, as we’ve already talked about in Lessons Four, Five, and Six.

Foreman, Edward. Transformative Voice. Pro Musica Press, 1998.

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