Timbre and Shape


Students will demonstrate their knowledge of vocal timbre and shape by passing off an impersonation of someone else.


Materials Needed

Guitar or any other musical instrument


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook


As the students are coming in ask around if any of the students can do an impersonation of someone famous or at least someone that everyone in the class might know. When everyone is there and the bell has rung, invite each student who volunteered to go up and perform their impersonation. Ask the class if they can identify who they are impersonating. It would also be nice for the teacher to have one prepared to perform for a class.



Transition: Tell the students that everyone has a distinct voice and sound. The reason for that is because everyone is built differently. Their mouths are shaped differently, the place where their voice resonates is different, and all sorts of other factors. Today we will be discussing two vocal viewpoints that contribute to creating distinct voices.


Step 1: Physical review/Demonstration

Ask the students to pull out their voice body diagram worksheets from a few days earlier. Ask the students where the empty cavities are within the body. Where are the places in the diagram that have space for air? These are places of resonance. Some of those places are the chest, the neck, the mouth (can be different parts of the mouth) and also the nose. These are the physical parts of resonance.


Bring out your guitar and play them a little song. Ask the students what the physical resonator is on the guitar. Tell them that instruments are just like our voices in that each instrument has different resonators or places where the sound is bouncing around in and through and therefore makes a unique sound. Sound travels in waves and the waves move through the air in that way and through mediums other than air through vibrations. Show them how the string is vibrating when you pluck it. Your vocal chords do the same thing when you speak. They vibrate as air passes through them. Then the resonators in your body are just like the body of the guitar. It is the space or area where the sound waves bounce around in. You can direct your voice to resonate in different areas of your body.


Step 2: Practice

 Have the students practice using their different vocal resonators saying the word, “hello.”

–          Try making your predominant resonator your chest or abdomen.

–          Then instruct the students to try saying the same word with their throat being the main place of resonance. Try the back of the mouth or the front of the mouth. (You can even mention dialects that predominantly use the front or back of the mouth.)

–          Move it to their mouth.

–          Last try it in their noses.


Tie it back to opening exercise of the impersonations and ask the students where they think some of those people portrayed place their voices. (Ex: Rebecca Black – very nasal). To learn how to do an impersonation you need to find where that person’s voice resonate predominantly as well as match pitch, inflection, and even the shape.


Step 3: Shape practice

Have the students stand up with a good posture and write a three syllable gibberish word on the board such as, “ka-bing-zong.” Have them practice saying it how they would regularly say it. (Anne Bogart’s The Viewpoints Book page 107 – Shape exercise)

–          Ask the students to take their word and adjust the vowels and consonants as necessary to produce a word which is made of round shapes. What sounds feel round? Why? Which are clearly not? Now change the syllables into a gibberish word which is linear or jagged in its component shapes.

–          Mix and match as above

–          Think of and say aloud to yourself recognizable words from the English language (or any other language) which are specifically round, soft or fluid in shape, or specifically sharp, spiky, or percussive.


Step 4: Impersonations

Tell the students that they need to pick someone that they would like to impersonate. They should pick someone with a different place of resonance or who has a specific dialect. They can pick someone that they know from school as long as it is not offensive. They will have to take out a piece of paper and write the name of the person they are impersonating, describe the timbre of their voice or where it resonates, and how they have to change the shape of their mouth, jaw, tongue, etc. to make the sound like that person. After they have identified those things, they will have to say something as that person to the teacher to pass it off.


After they have passed it off, collect their papers to grade on completion.


At the end, if there are more students that want to perform their impersonations for the class may do so.



Impersonations and written paper.