Facial Resonance and Twang Part 2

In Part 1of Facial Resonance and Twang, we enhanced resonance awareness by focusing on vibrations in the nose. In this step, we'll focus our awareness in our mouths, and feel the sensations in the bones of the face and skull.

To begin, take the vibrant, buzzy quality of the /m/ consonant, and open it up into an "uh" vowel (IPA [ʌ]). Do this repeatedly, lingering on an /m/ to begin with, and then popping from /m/ into uh with a series of "muh-muh-muh-muh-muh"s (5 in a row works wonderfully). [mmmmmmmmʌ-mʌ-mʌ-mʌ-mʌː] Work your way up by semitones, feeling how the buzziness from your nose translates into a different kind of buzziness that goes through your mouth.

At this stage, it's very possible that you're making a nasal vowel, that is the sound of the "uh" [ʌ] vowel is going through your nose and mouth. Though ideally we want the sound to travel more through your mouth than your nose, for this exercise it isn't that important. If you can think of the sound popping out your mouth, rather than honking out your nose, you're likely to be able to get the sound/feeling you want.

Warming Your Hands, Warming Your Face

Now, I'd like you to cup your hands in front of your face, palms facing your face as if your have covered your face with your hands and then pulled your hands away from your face about 4 to 6 inches. Your hands are now a reflector for the vibrations that will come from your voice through your face. Starting at a comfortable mid-range pitch, sustain an /m/ for a 2 or 3 seconds, and then open up to "uh" [ʌ] for 5 seconds or so. Again, work your way up in pitch through your voice range, focusing on the sensation of vibrations in your face and the feeling of buzziness that you're catching in your hands. Move your hands around slowly, as if you were reflecting the buzz onto the surface of your face; bask in the glow of your voice. See if you can lift your soft palate gently as you open onto "uh" [ʌ] so that you enhance the mouth quality of the sound (rather than it being stuck in your nose).

Finally, focus on breath in your belly and release little touches of sound on "huh" [hʌ], letting the sound me more like a sigh than a sustained pitch. Be sure to focus the sound in the middle of your voice, so it vibrates your face and neck, rather than your chest. Think of making little question inflections on your "huh" and then answer your questions with a statement of face "huh". Keep trying to find a sense of ease while trying to maintain the sensation of vibration that you've discovered up to this point.


Next Step: Articulation of L and N on the Gum Ridge

Eric Armstrong is the voiceguy. Eric is a dialect, voice, speech and text coach based in Toronto, Canada, where he normally teaches full-time at York University’s Dept. of Theatre. Eric has been teaching voice for the actor full-time since 1994, and has taught in Canada and the US, at the University of Windsor, Brandeis University, Roosevelt University, Canada's National Voice Intensive and York University. He has worked for nationally and internationally recognized companies such as Crow’s Theatre, Volcano, SoulPepper, & Canadian Stage in Toronto, and The Court Theatre and Steppenwolf in Chicago. Eric holds a BFA from Concordia University (Montreal) in Theatre Performance, and an MFA from York University (Toronto) in Acting. His mentors were David Smukler (York, Canada’s National Voice Intensive) and Andrew Wade (Royal Shakespeare Company). He has also studied at the Drama Studio, London, and Il Stage Internazzionale di Commedia dell’Arte in Reggio Emilia, Italy. He’s a long time member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association, where he has served on the board, as a conference planner, photo editor for the Voice and Speech Review, Founding Director of Technology and Internet Services, and has written numerous peer-reviewed articles, essays and reviews for the VASTA Newsletter, the VASTA Voice, and The Voice and Speech Review.

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