Vocal projection is required when delivering speeches or performing in theatrical productions. Group vocal exercises ensure that each participant can express himself articulately and with the full power of his voice. Most people are used to speaking at a conversational volume. Group vocal projection activities will enable participants to be heard in a larger space by an audience and will provide them with feedback as to their improving skills.
The first step toward skilful vocal projection is learning how to breathe properly. Since our lungs are high in our chest, many speakers assume that they should breath from high up as well. This actually prevents lungs from filling to their full capacity, thus losing potential projecting power. Proper breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, engages the diaphragm muscles, which expand and contract the lungs. To practice as a group, first split participants into pairs. Have each participant place one hand on his chest or sternum and the other over his belly button. Instruct everyone to breathe deeply and to expand and contract their bellies, not their chests. This fully engages the diaphragm, allowing more air to enter and exit the lungs. Once each participant has a feel for diaphragmatic breathing, have each partner place a hand on his partner's belly and chest and continue taking deep breaths. This allows participants to see both how breathing affects the body, as well as how it looks when one is breathing properly. Finally, have the participants form a circle to observe each other's breathing, to ensure that every participant is breathing from the diaphragm.
Vocal projection involves resonance within the lungs and chest. To aid people to find their tone and pitch, have everyone stand in a circle. Instruct each participant to place one hand on his chest and begin humming, starting at a low register and slowly moving up the scale. Instruct participants to note when the vibration in their chests increases and to subtly move up and down the scale until the vibration is at its maximum. Have each participant open his mouth to feel the vibration on his tongue, teeth and lips, always moving tonally to keep the vibration at its height. Instruct them to be careful in this exercise; they shouldn't force the sound or push too hard. Allow them to take a break to catch their breath, as needed. Move around the circle and have each participant share his proper vocal tone. Compare how participants sounded before and after finding their strongest vibration tone.
Now that the group has practised breathing and found their most powerful vocal tones, the techniques should be combined to practicing proper vocal projection. Participants should again form a circle. Have each participant place one hand on his belly, in the same location as in the breathing exercise, and take a few breaths in and out to regain the feeling of diaphragmatic breathing. One at a time, going around the circle, have each participant exhale quickly on a sound, such a "Ha." Participants should focus on power coming from their diaphragm movement and not from movement in the chest. Repeat the breath using other letters, such as "Ba," Ca" and "Da." Once every participant has had a chance to practice their projection, split the group into two teams, as far away from each other in the practice space as possible. Have each group use their vocal projection to call to the other side, noting that participants should use their diaphragm and not simply yell from their throat. Remind participants that vocal projection should not be a strain.
Putting It Together
Once the group has gained proficiency in diaphragmatic breathing and has found their individual vocal tones, it is time to engage in more sophisticated projection exercises. Call-and-response exercises allow participants to practice their vocal projection while encouraging group participation. Here is an example script the group leader can use, with participants repeating each line:
That's my car!
Come back with my car!
Have each participant imagine he is speaking to someone on the far side of the room. Finally, practice group vocal projection with tongue twisters to encourage careful diction. Here are some examples:
Unique New York, unique New York
You really need unique New York
The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue
A proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee cup
Rubber baby buggy bumpers
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