This blog serves to give acting ideas and advice to actors of all ages, especially young ones. This blogs author is J.T. Turner, actor, director, teacher and member of AEA, SAG and AFTRA. I hope you find the posts useful, and please pass along the blog address to anyone you think might benefit from it!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The hits keep coming!

 Last Blog, we discussed the key components of the speakers voice. Using the 4 key components of the voice, we can make an interesting and engaging vocal delivery. Often however, a Director will ask you to "hit" a word. This simply means to emphasize a particular word or phrase in the piece you are doing. We do this in a couple of different ways.

First, to emphasize a given word, we often raise the pitch on the word, usually on the first sylable. Here is a short list of things to hit:


2) USUALLY ONE OF THE FIRST WORDS IN A SENTENCE.  "Come on down to Ira Oldsmobile!". "Please help us to make our goals."

3) DESCRIPTIVE AND ACTION WORDS SHOULD BE HIT. " See our beautiful condo units." "Learn to read, faster, louder, and clearer."

4) CLIENT NAMES, PRODUCT NAMES AND SUBJECTS. "Diet Coke, just for the taste of it".

But we can also use de-emphasis, dropping the pitch, to highlight a word of phrase. We often use this concept when asking questions.

"Have you tried Smuckers?" The pitch should go down when we have a word that is the last in a question. This idea can also be applied to lists, since the dropping of pitch will let the listener know there is more to come."They packed fruit, nuts, bread and an apple". We would drop pitch on the first 3 items, but not on the last, as that is the end of the list.

SIDENOTE: Although we often raise a pitch at the end of a question, make sure you do that only when really called for. Otherwise, you will sound like a Valley Girl!  Try reading the T-rex lines, going up at the end of every sentence.

Fun, yes. Annoying in real life though!

Sometimes, for emphasis, we will also make a word stand alone. A short pause before, after, or both before and after gives a word a focus for the listener.

"The best soup in the world.....Campbells.....is now on sale at Market Basket!"

Next blog we will be chatting about a great new book on Shakespeare!

J.T. Turner
The Actors Sensei

Coaching and lessons for actors and speakers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More for the Voice Actor

LaFontaine reached the We are chatting about the voice of the actor, and the arena of voice over work. We have talked about vocal care, now let us look at some of the tools an actor uses

Let me emphasize that the call for most voice work these days is for a natural sound. The call for a bold, deep, announcer type sound is limited, we like to have a more conversational sound from voice actors. And sounding like the guy who announces Monster Truck Rally's is a very, very limited market.

 As a general rule of thumb, a voice has four different components that make each voice distinct. They are also factors that we can adjust to a certain degree in order to vary the sound of our voice. Let's look at the four components.

VOLUME- Of all the components, volume is the easiest to understand, and the easiest to adjust, or at least it should be. Speaking louder or softer is an easy command to respond to. Keep in mind though, that technology can do a lot of adjusting, so don't start shouting into the mic unless the client tells you to.

TEMPO- This is the speed of your speech. Sometimes, especially with commercials, you need to deliver words at a faster tempo, getting more words in per minute. But it can also be used by an actor to adjust the delivery of a piece. Delivering all the words at a plodding pace will get boring fast, so we use tempo to add variety and color to the piece we are recording.

PITCH- Pitch is where in your voice register  you speak. Think of it as the musical level of your voice. A vocal scale runs do-re-me-fa-so-la-te-do. Your voice, without prompting, should find your natural pitch on the first "do". This is your base pitch. You can also find it by humming the first note of "Happy Birthday". From that base, you can delivery words higher or lower depeanding on your intention. The range of your speaking voice is sometimes called your 'dynamic' range. Usually your delivery will hover around your base voice, and will go higher or lower when you want to emphasize a word or section.

TONE- "Watch your tone young man!" The tone of your voice expresses what emotion you are feeling or trying to deliver. When we insult or sneer at someone, they may say they don't like our "tone". A voice actor can then use a tone to give an emotion to the words that are being said. Most of the work for voice actors these days is narration, and we adjust the tone based on what the underlying emotion of a passage is. Angry, enthusiastic, happy, sad all these and more feelings are conveyed via tone.

Next blog looks at ways to emphasize words. Thanks for reading!

J.T. Turner
The Actors Sensei

Sunday, April 11, 2010



Oh Elm, I love you, I love you a lot.
When it comes to my voice, you really are hot.

OK that was a very short ode. And not specific enough for our purposes, so let me explain and expand a bit. And I warn you, this may come off as a commercial endoresement. And I am totally alright with that.

We have touched on vocal care for the actor, singer, speaker, performer. As mentioned in my last post, we should try to avoid tea and coffee with caffiene.It causes a strain on the vocal cords in many people. Similarly, cough drops and lozenges should be used with care, some will just dull the throat, others make you way to juicy for a good sound. Especially avoid menthols ones, which dry out the throat.
Rather, I want you to start using Slippery Elm.

The use of Slippery Elm bark has been shown to be a boon to a tired, dry or sick throat. It is a centuries old remedy for many minor ailments.It is a demulcent, which, according to our friends at Wiki, "A demulcent (derived from the Latin demulcere, "caress") is an agent that forms a soothing film over a mucous membrane, relieving minor pain and inflammation of the membrane.". It is also said to be benefical to digestion. It is one of my favorite products for the voice. I personally use Thayer's Slippery Elm lozenges, which are carried in many drugstores, and online.(or swing by our Studio space, we usually have some for sale.). I also highly recommend a great tea called Throat Coat. Available in many supermarkets in the health food section, and via Amazon, Throat Coat does wonders in keeping your voice protected and at it's best. It, naturally, has Slippery Elm in it, and works wonders.

Other natural substances that actors, singers and speakers use include marshmallow root, licorice root, and something called comfrey, which I won't try as it doesn't sound manly enough. :)

Like all things, don't overdue the use, especially as it can be a mild laxative. ("Places for Act 2... you have to go to the bathroom now???") Keep it for performance days, or days when you throat and voice need a little TLC. And as ever, ask your Doctor about it, especially if you are on any medications.

Next up, more on the voice and voice over work.

J.T. Turner
The Actors Sensei

Monday, April 5, 2010

Vocal care

In the Voice Memos contains a

I want to spend a few blog posts talking about the voice. Many of these posts are from a book coming out later this year, "The Actor's Company Guide to Voice Over Work". Since so many people are interested in this area of performing, I wanted to share some pieces of the book with you.

We will start off with advice everyone can use, that is tips to keep your voice in tip-top shape. Below are some bullet points that will help you keep your pipes in their prime.

WATER- The key to keeping a good, pliant voice is hydration. 8 glasses of water a day is the old standard, new reports seem to indicate that 10 glasses or more a day is better. Naturally this is spread out over the course of the day. Try and always carry water with you, in the car or on the commute, at your desk or in class during the day, and try hydrating at each meal. and in a recording session always have a bottle of ROOM TEMPERATURE water with you.

Bottled water has contaminants

DRY AIR- Hand in hand with hydration, be aware that dry air is a throats enemy. In the summer, air conditioning drys a throat out fast, and in winter, heat can do the same thing. Take in more water if you find yourself in these situations.

AVOID STRAIN- Try to avoide yelling and whispering, they both put equal strain on the voice. Also try not to clear your throat, that actually creates havoc on the vocal cords.And under no circumstances should anyone who is not Aretha Franklin try and sing like Aretha Franklin. That goes double for Freddy Mercury.

WHEN TRAVELING- Airplanes, trains and buses often have dry unhealthy air. Again try and be lubricated when using public transportation. Also check out Ponaris, an oil that will help protect the vocal cords and can act as a decongestant. Ask your doctor, what do I know?

AVOID VOCAL ABUSE- No smoking nor being around smoke, avoid alcohol which impacts vocal cords, and try to get a good nights sleep, especially before a recording or performance. Also many people react badly to caffine, at least vocally, and most others should try and avoid dairy products before you have a gig. Now if you love coffee and tea you don't need to totally give it up, just be aware that use of it before a session may have a negative impact on your vocal quality.Consider a non-caffeine version of coffee or tea.

Next up, and ode to a tree. :)

 J.T. Turner
The Actors Sensei