Day 1: Vocal Principles

Lesson Title:  Vocal Principles


Daily Objective:

Students will become aware of different vocal principles by analyzing film clips, and understand the vocal principles that they use in their daily lives by dis-cussing the different ways these principles can alter or enhance the meaning of their words.


Materials Needed:

Audio clips from The Dark Knight Rises, Lord of the Rings, Will and Grace, Winnie the Pooh, and Spongebob.


Teaching Presentation:



The journal question is written on the board as students walk in. Give students about five minutes to write about the question as their journal entry. Allow students to ask questions for any clarification.


Journal Entry:

Write about a time when you heard someone talking, but you weren’t able to see them. How did you know how they were feeling/what they were doing?


After students have been given enough time to answer, discuss what they wrote as a class. As students give their answers, write down on the board the different vocal tech-niques that come up. If students don’t mention one, write it on the board and ask stu-dents what it means and for examples. Make sure that all eight of these are mentioned. Talk about different things that each one could indicate (ex: what are some different things that Silence might mean? (maybe that they are mad, or that they are scared, maybe they are creating suspense before they say something important, etc.)).


Vocal Techniques:

Pitch – where the voice lies within the possible range. (high or low)

Tone – the manner of speech or delivery (conversational, nervous, sarcastic, etc.)

Quality/Timbre – the particular type of sound your voice makes (nasal, deep-throated, raspy, etc.)

Volume/Dynamic – Loudness of a given sound. (loud or soft)

Tempo – The speed with which words or sounds are expressed. (fast or slow)

Breath – What does their breath say about what they are doing or how they feel?

Silence – “A sound is only as loud as the silence on either side of it.”

Gesture – Emotion behind the voice when speaking.



Ask the following questions to create a whole class discussion: Does anyone recognize these words from anywhere else? (May need to prompt them a bit… maybe they only recognize some of these? Has anyone played an instrument?) Have you ever thought of your voice as an instrument?



What does it mean if I say that our voices are powerful tools or instruments in conveying
• Who here has ever gotten in a fight with someone while texting/emailing, instant messaging, etc?” Why? Why is it so easy to misunderstand someone when you can’t hear their voice?


• Have you ever said something to someone and regretted how it sounded, or had to say “That’s not what I meant!” Why? Why does our meaning sometimes get lost in what we say?


Ask for students to share examples with their neighbors and then, if they would like to, with the class.



“What power do our voices have?” Ask them to think of only ever being able to speak in a monotone voice at all times. Have them get with a partner. Tell them to have a com-pletely monotone conversation. They can talk about whatever they want, but they have to talk essentially like a robot. (give them ideas, like what they did the past weekend, what their plans are for christmas, what they ate for breakfast that morning, etc.) They’re not allowed to use any inflection in their voices whatsoever- it must always stay the same tone. As they are talking to their partners, ask them to try and show an emotion (how did you feel about what you did this weekend?). They can’t change their voice at all, they can only use their faces, dialogue, or gestures. Then ask them to try to show a different emotion as they continue to talk to their same partner.
After students have been given a moment to talk to one another, ask them the following questions.
What did you notice about that? Was it difficult to talk that way? Was it difficult to try and show emotion when you can’t use your voice?



Ask students to get out their journals again, this is part two of the journal entry. Instruct them to number 1-5, skipping lines. Ask them to spread out around the room where they are far from their neighbors. Act like it is a very difficult quiz that they are about to take. Tell them that they aren’t allowed to cheat and that they must keep their eyes on their own paper.



Tell the students that you are going to play an audio clip for them, and they are sup-posed to write down the name of the person who is speaking.


Pause between each to give students a moment to write it down, but don’t say anything until after they are all done.


1. Bane from The Dark Knight Rises

2. Gollum from Lord of the Rings

3. Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh

4. Spongebob from Spongebob

5. A very clean, short clip of Karen from Will and Grace*


After students have had a chance to guess, go back through and ask the following questions.


– Who is this?

– How do you know?

– What effect is the actor trying to make with this voice?

– Is it working?

Lastly, have students write down (under the name of the person) at least ONE of the voice choices on the board that they think the actor is using.


* I am fully aware that students will likely not know who this is. I expect them to maybe think it is a cartoon voice. I will explain that this is a bonus, that I don’t expect them to know who it is. When I go back through, I will explain that I included this audio clip for a certain reason. (The filmmakers of Finding Nemo called Megan Mulally and wanted her to be a voice actor. They were surprised that the voice she did as Karen wasn’t her real voice and she wasn’t cast when she refused to do it for the movie… her voice was that convincing in eight years on that show. etc.)



After this, point out to them that they already are exposed to memorable voices in the media. They remember distinct voices (for different reasons), and the specific ways people use their voices to effect some type of meaning.



Have students take out their journals a third time. Turn to the pages in their notebooks where they wrote down this script:
A: Hi
B: Hello
A: Do you know what time it is?
B: No, not exactly.
A: Don’t you have a watch?
B: Not on me.
A: Well…
B: Well, what?
A: What did you do last night?
B: What do you mean?
A: What did you do last night?
B: Nothing.
A: Sorry I asked.


Have students get with a partner. Instruct them to read through this script in different ways, depending on which vocal technique I call out. They are going to have a few minutes for each technique, and they are supposed to try as many different ways as possible to change the meaning by changing their voice (within that technique).
• How many ways can you change your voice in each technique?
• How many different ways can you say the lines to change the meaning of the scene?


Go through each of the techniques, give about 2-3 minutes for each.



Reflection. Exit card. Pass out index cards, and have students answer the following.
Of all the times you performed the scene, what worked? What effect did the choices make on the performance/character? Was meaning changed in the scene based on the technique you used?



Students will be assessed on their completion of their journal entries, their participation in class discussions and in partner scenes.