Student actors often struggle in creating a character with an original voice. Most of the time, they want to make the character so unique that they do not want it to sound like themselves. In their attempt to create a comedic way of acting, imitate a different accent, and use different types of vocal inflections and intonations, they often fail and go back to sounding like themselves. Don’t worry; there are useful tips to solve this problem.
You may handle a class with students who are having a hard time producing different characters’ voices. You can try setting up some class activities that use masks, puppets, and a variety of props. Using the said props can give them an item where they can put their focus. It provides them with an idea of who they are portraying instead of inventing voices without a solid basis.
In this experiment, you’ll probably find your students imitating some TV characters’ voices, and that is a good thing to start. However, you have to tell them that they need to produce something unique as they shouldn’t be bounded by the typical characters they see on TV.
You can do these activities using the style of Improv, or your students can also suggest some ideas. They can practice during their spare time and then present it to the whole class during class time.
When your students want to explore the voices that they can get out of a mask, practicing with a half mask is a good idea. They should only cover the upper half portion of the face to allow their jaws and mouth to move without limitations.
A Commedia dell ‘Arte half mask is great when they want to explore different characters. This is because these masks possess a variety of features, and they also have this exaggerated features that can bomb your students with a lot of character ideas. Using masks for exploring voices as they no longer have to put effort into their facial expressions. They only need to concentrate on their tone and diction to express what the character feels.
Puppets are unique because they have innate magic in them. No matter how young or old the audience is (and even if they can see the puppeteer clearly), they still get excited seeing and talking to a puppet. Students should use puppets as they can make the puppets say what they can’t say for themselves and get away with it. Aside from that, they don’t get to be the one looking silly—it’s the puppet.
Using these props may need time for creating a group of puppets for the entire class. If your schedule permits, have them generate sock and even paper bag puppets for themselves.
Producing a distinct voice for a character can be a challenge, especially to some students. Therefore you have to find items that they can use to aid them in exploring some vocal works. Practicing with these items can improve your skill in producing different voices for different characters.