In Focus-Magazine

Vocal Strain
Friday, 10.13.2017, 10:00 AM

What does your voice say about you!

By Ginny Kopf

First, let’s chew on this: what message does your diction communicate? Face it, people do judge our intelligence by our diction and our energy level. Sloppy diction can give off laziness or carelessness.  If your diction is crisp and fluent, you come across a crisp thinker, alert, and together. Being trapped in sloppy diction will trap you in the type of roles you can play. Your diction needs to be better than average for all demands of this career. 

This doesn’t happen just by thinking about it. Your mouth needs to get into an aerobic class. Dancers, athletes, musicians, they all drill.  I sometimes hear actors saying that good diction isn’t important anymore, especially for film and T.V. In the aim to be natural and believable, technique has become a dirty word. It’s obvious that over pronunciation sounds ridiculous and stilted. But diction doesn’t mean overworking. It means you work at it until it has a sense of ease and fluency. 

Like the way Baryshnikov worked so hard to make dancing look so easy. This is the magic of acting too. We work endless hours, to appear as if we’ve never rehearsed. Ease in diction can only happen if you’re controlling your mouth, rather than it controlling you. Your tongue is a muscle, like the rest of your muscles it would rather be a couch potato rather than a dancer. If you’re serious about your acting, your workout at the ballet barre should be in reading aloud at least ten minutes a day. Read quickly with agility, without losing clarity or expression. Get the mouth moving! This will help with your cold reading skills and breathe control. If you work out every day you won’t be afraid of text.

You will know you can nail any text they put under your nose, without fear of tripping over your words.

At auditions, directors probably aren’t consciously thinking, “oh, he’s dropping his final consonants, especially t’s and d’s.” They just sense you aren’t right somehow and don’t cast you. What they are reading is your overall vocal image, and what your diction is saying about you is speaking louder than words.  

Ginny Kopf is well known throughout Florida as a voice, speech and dialect coach.  For over 25 years she has been a teacher at Valencia and Seminole Community Colleges, and L.A. Acting Workshop.  She’s given thousands of workshops nationally and has done extensive coaching for Disney and numerous theatres, films and television series.  She holds a Masters Degree in theatre voice, and an MFA in vocal science.  Ginny has written two textbooks, The Dialect Handbook and Accent Reduction Workshop for Professional American Speech (CD set).   Web site: 


Ginny Knopf

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