The actor’s job is to tell the story of the play to the audience. Proper enunciation is essential for the audience to have any idea of what the actor is saying or singing during a production.
Enunciation is the act of pronouncing words. Good enunciation means your words are clear and distinct. Listeners can understand what you’re saying. Remember that scene in the film version of My Fair Lady where Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle worked on “The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain?” Without proper enunciation, that sentence can be a garbled mess! But by enunciating your words, your audience will easily understand even the most difficult, tongue-twisty lines.
Enunciation starts with proper body alignment. How do you stand? Where do you place your head? Here are 6 tips to help you adjust your body to the best position for proper enunciation.
When you stand up straight, you create a straight line from your diaphragm to your lungs. This makes it so much easier for the sound to come out. Hunching or slouching makes roadblocks in your body, so you have to work that much harder to get out the proper sounds. Why not make it easy on yourself? (Standing up straight also makes you look much taller and more confident on stage!)
To expand upon Tip #1, you need to keep a straight line from your throat to the area just outside of your mouth. Think of sipping your favourite drink– it’s easier to get the liquid through a straight straw than a bendy straw!
Your voice will go where you aim it. Therefore, if you are looking at the floor, your voice will go towards the floor rather than toward your scene partner and the audience.
Focus on keeping your chin up and away from your chest. That will help keep your throat open and your voice moving forward, which will make it much easier for the audience to hear you.
If your shoulders and arms are hunched and stiff, that means you are holding tension in your body. That will make it harder for proper sound to come out.
A favourite team-building exercise is a massage circle. Grab a group of fellow actors; stand in a circle, facing the back of the person in front of you. (NOTE: Make sure this is a group that has worked together before so everyone is comfortable with each other.) Have every person gently massage the back and shoulders of the person in front of them. You can use a variety of movements including backrubs (to warm up the muscles) and chopping motions. (NOTE: Never push directly on anyone’s spine!) Be sure to have the circle switch directions, so each person massages the back and shoulders of the person behind them.
When an actor is nervous, it can be a natural tendency to rush through lines to get them done faster. But this results in garbled speech! Actively think about slowing down your speech. It will feel unnatural at first, but it will sound great to the people who are listening to you! Think about pausing and breathing at punctuation marks when you’re saying your lines. Also, be sure to separate every word so the audience can hear you.
Breathing deeply will force you to slow down and relax, as you draw breath down into your lungs and diaphragm. This will help you to stay calm and speak your lines clearly.
If you watch a powerful singer perform, you’ll see that they are not afraid to open their mouths wide. Many young actors are afraid they’ll look silly if they open their mouths too much, but the opposite is true– you’ll look much sillier if nobody can hear what you’re saying!
Try speaking through a cardboard tube. Your voice probably sounds muffled right? It’s because the tube is narrow the whole way down, and that’s what your mouth looks like when you don’t open up. Now try speaking through a paper cone or a megaphone. As the end opens up, your voice is projected and sounds louder and clearer. Your mouth works just the same way– open it up and let everyone hear that gorgeous sound!