Wednesday, July 27, 2005

ACTING PROBLEM: "I have a squeaky-high pitched voice."

The problem with a squeaky high-pitched voice is not the pitch. The problem is the 'squeak'. In good acting as in good singing, there are tenors and contralto as well as basses and baritones. When your voice 'squeaks' it means your voice is coming either from a tensed chest and/or a tightened voice box. Think of a kid playing with an air-filled balloon but letting the air out only gradually through a pinched release snout. It 'screetches' as the air is expelled. The same phenomenon occurs with 'squeaky-voiced acting'.

The disease is tension; the solution is relaxation.

Where does unwanted tension come from? It arises from several sources: uncomfortableness with emotion or even uncomfortableness with acting: fear of feeling in general and/or expressing that feeling in public. Another possible source is the fear of conflict which lies at the root of all acting scenes. Many of us don't like conflict, or confrontation; or even negotiation. We get tense when dealing with any opposition.

Another possible source of 'squeak': sometimes the actor, while comfortable with conflict, emotion, and public performance, is trying to force air out of the voice box, to "show" that they are feeling more deeply than they are really feeling. They are trying to 'show' the audience what a good actor they are! The actor tenses the chest to "express" a feeling that isn't really there. Or the actor is trying to underline or exaggerate the small amount of honest emotion he or she is really feeling...the attempt to 'indicate' unfelt feeling producing a constriction in the chest and voice box. It is the kind of bad vocal behavior that causes a rasp in the voice; a tickle or slight pain in the throat when speaking in that manner for an extended period of time.

The remedial corrective to any and all of the above: learn proper vocal placement initiating from the diaphragm and up through a relaxed vocal chamber; learn to enjoy conflict (on stage); get comfortable with emotion and public revelation of same; and, finally, when performing, don't 'gild the lily': pretending you are feeling more than you really are. In a good performance, what you are really feel is what you vocally (and overall physically) deliver.


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