12th October 2016 – Voice lesson

In today’s voice lesson with Lynn we started the lesson with the rolled ‘r’ sound in the Scottish accent and how to correctly create it and implement it in spoken dialogue. I am lucky that I can and have always been able to create a rolled ‘r’ sound naturally, having been in cathedral choirs and ensembles when growing up, where this sound was vital when singing anything with an ‘r’ in classical music. However I found it surprisingly difficult to shorten the ‘r’ sound from the usual long rolled sound I would normally produce to the softer and more subtle ‘r’ sound used in the spoken word of the Scottish accent. When Lynn demonstrated and explained she compared it to that of a soft ‘d’ at the forefront of the teeth behind the alvioli ridge (almost like the soft Italian ‘t’/’d’ sound one might create) when speaking the language. While I usually find thinking about the placing of the tongue and technicality behind the accent really helpful and insightful, for some reason it really confused me on the occasion. I think this might be because I have always been told and thought of it as more of a soft ‘l’ sound rather than a ‘d’ and while I appreciate the placement of the tongue is similar and therefore the affect would be the same, it still confused my head a great deal! Lynn gave us a few buzzwords and phrases that demonstrate the use of her technique that we could use to practice creating the sounds in words and help to start make them sound more natural and flowing. The first word was ‘Street’ which we were informed could be broken down and thought of as ‘ST-DEET’, to get the illusion of a soft Scottish ‘r’, while never actually creating the letter in anyway at all. When I thought of it phonetically I found it increasingly difficult to not subconsciously add the uttering of a soft ‘r’ as well which defeated the whole object – however, the more I concentrated and found my own way in to creating the sound and achieving this, the more convincing and flowing the word became and instead of just sounding like I couldn’t pronounce ‘street’, I began sounding like a Scot.

Next we looked at the open ‘l’ sound which is positioned at the back of the throat and creates the sound used in an eastern European accent such as Russian. This is one of my favourite accents to do and so I grasped the concept of it very quickly and found no trouble speaking fluently in this voice. I also shared with others other key sounds and letters to be aware of when trying this accent, such as the ‘z’ sound and the clipped yet wide vowels that are kept t the front of the mouth.

Later in the lesson we concentrated on how pitch and tune can underpin the text and how the actors choices may alter the meaning or imply a certain emotion depending on the rise and tune as well as the emphasis in the phrase. Lynn introduced us to an activity to demonstrate this where we each picked a short phrase out of a hat and then we had to deliver these lines in the most obvious way. She explained that lots of phrases and sentences have a specific tune or pitch that naturally fit it and consequently invite and suggest a specific emotion. For example Hannah had the phrase “Can I help you?”, which we decided had a naturally patronising tune to it and sounds almost overly happy because it uses an over exaggerated rising tune on a relatively high pitch level. I had the phrase “I thought you were going to help” which we found quite comical to work with, as it had so many possibilities as to how to place the intonation and the pitch and tune of the phase. The first idea that came to my head was a very sarcastic/ dry interpretation, which would use a very monotonous shape of tune and the pitch would most likely be a lower mid range note, which would hopefully portray the frustration and annoyance we interpreted. I found this very interesting as the truth is so many of our everyday phrases have preconceived ideas and expectations of the way it should be said or read allowed; for example if someone received a text message and it had a phrase such as that on, our brains would automatically read it in the way they expect someone to say it and then interpret the incentive behind it determined on the expected pitch etc.

We then used our own monologues and picked out specific lines in which we were to experiment with how the meaning changes if we change around the shape of pitch and stress and intonation in general. I worked with Hannah on an extract of a Portia speech I was trying out. There is a particular section where Shakespeare plays around with the word ‘Yours’, saying it over and over in many different contexts, in the space of 2 sentences, and without the correct intonation and emphasis on certain words there is no chance of it being understood! I found that by picking it apart and deciding when the most important references to the word were and why the character was saying this helped a great deal when trying to make sense of it. It also was important to understand that Shakespeare would have written this for comic affect and therefore knew this tongue twister would needed to be played around with in order to get this affect. I found that by starting the tone very light almost as if you were weighing a decision up and as the sentence goes on and the word is repeated the emphasis gets more urgent and accented, as well as building in pitch and intensity, it created the comedic effect of juggling with the same word – whilst still making sense of the text clearly to the audience.

 

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