Students will demonstrate their ability to alter their vocal dynamic, tempo, and pitch by participating in an improv exercise.
While the students are still chatting after the bell has rung, start speaking in a whisper. Be instructing them to get in order from tallest to shortest. Keep repeating yourself until all the students have heard and are following the instruction.
Step 1: The Wave
Have the line then wrap around to form one big circle. Tell the students that you will give them a word to say and they will be in charge of getting the word around the circle slowly increasing in volume. Say just as the height slowly increases, the first word will start with the smallest person speaking very quietly and grow to the tallest person speaking at the highest volume.
Words to use:
Step 2: Mid-word dynamic
Let the students sit down in the circle. Tell the students to repeat after you and say the last multi-syllable word, “Absolutely.” Ask the students how many syllables are in the word. (4) Tell them that there are countless ways that you can alter the dynamic when performing and it doesn’t always have to be saying the whole monologue, or sentence, or even WORD with one volume. Tell them to repeat the dynamic changes as you say them. Give each of the four syllables a different dynamic in a series of saying the same word.
Then change it to be a phrase such as “I love you.” Do the same exercise.
Ask them if they have ever seen an example of the dynamic changing mid-sentence. Why might one want to change the dynamic while speaking?
Why else is dynamic important in theatre? Think about the physical space that you are sometimes in while performing.
Explain that it is imperative that you learn to project a little more than you would naturally because large auditoriums and theatres often swallow your voice because there is so much space for it to travel. If the audience cannot hear you then it becomes near impossible for them to get the whole story.
Have the students stand back up and tell them to find a new spot in the circle to stand in.
Step 3: Tempo
Tell them that this time they will alter what you give them by tempo. Ask the students who they think in the class talks the fastest. Let that person be the last person in the group. Give them a sentence to start with such as, “Get ‘outta’ my face!” Tell them to start with extremely slow and progressively get to extremely fast.
Let the students critique themselves on whether they think there were any gaps or discrepancies in their progression from slowest to quickest.
Side Coaching: Make sure it doesn’t speed up too quickly in order to make it around the whole circle before the whole sentence has disappeared into oblivion.
Step 4: Pitch
Ask the students: When you think of saying something slow, what pitch is usually associated with slow speech? What about fast?
Siren Warm-up: Have the class do a little vocal warm-up to warm their voices up to do extreme pitch ranges. Tell them to on an “Ooo” sound start with the lowest pitch that they can possibly do and then drag it up the scale to the highest pitch and then gradually back down to the lowest. Encourage them to do this all in one breath. Do it a few times.
Then have the students get in order from who they think can sing the highest and the lowest. Once in order have them go through the circle a couple more times changing the pitch on an “Eee” sound. Switch the order and have the highest note person start with the lowest pitch. Point out how it limits their range because the high person can only speak so low and the low person can only get so high.
Aside from singing, how can pitch be used in performance? (To mock someone, to go with your emotion, comic effect, ex: man getting very high pitched because he is so upset about something or gets kicked in the groin)
Step 5: Improv Bell Game
Ask for two or three volunteers to come up and do an improvised scene. When they are up there have the class give you suggestions for their relationship and location. If needed, you can also give them a purpose for being there. Explain to the class that you will have a bell and as they are going through the scene you will randomly ring the bell and give a suggestion for how to alter a specific person’s voice. They will then repeat the line that they just said with that suggestion and continue speaking that way until further instructed to change. Their voices will be altered using the three viewpoints talked about today; dynamic, tempo, and pitch.
Continue until every student has participated in an improvised scene. For variation you can give the bell to another student to ring and change the voices. Encourage the students to look for how it changes meaning within the scene to then talk about after the performance is over. When finished let students discuss the changes they saw.