Film & TV

11 Articulation Exercises for Actors: Practice Breath Control and Tongue Twisters

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 19, 2019 • 3 min read

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An actor’s voice is their instrument, and in order to be understood an actor must pronounce words clearly. Articulation an essential skill for actors to master.

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What Is Articulation?

Articulation is the physical act of clear vocal expression. You articulate sounds with your lips, teeth, tongue, jaw, and palate and use your mouth to vary those sounds in tone, volume, pitch, and quality.

What Is the Difference Between Articulation and Enunciation?

There is an important difference between articulation and enunciation:

  • To articulate refers to the clarity and expressiveness with which you speak
  • To enunciate refers to the physical sounds you make when you speak to convey that clarity and expressiveness

Why Are Articulation Exercises Important?

Good articulation requires trained vocal cords. Voice training and doing vocal warm-ups will help you:

  • Articulate. Clear articulation requires such deliberate actions as pausing slightly before you utter hard consonants, such as “t” or “b”. Enunciation exercises help you differentiate your vowel sounds and make the beginning and end of each word distinct and crisp.
  • Train your mouth. The simplest thing to improve the clarity of your speech is to make sure your mouth is open wide enough for the sound to come out clearly. It might feel awkward at first, but exercises will help you train your mouth to open wider when speaking.
  • Speak up. Increasing the volume of your speech not only ensures the audience will hear you but also naturally slows your speech and improves your articulation. Vocal exercises train your vocal cords to speak louder for longer periods of time.
  • Inflect your speech. Exercising your vocal cords will help you avoid speaking in a monotone. Infuse your utterances with the natural rising and falling pitch of sentences: Up at the end of a question, down at the end of a statement.
  • Breathe from your diaphragm. Exercises help improve your breathing capacity and control, provide support for your voice, and enable you to speak more clearly over a broad vocal range.
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What Should You Do Before Beginning Articulation Exercises?

Before you begin working on diction exercises, give yourself a five-minute facial massage to loosen up the new muscles that you will be using.

  • Focus specifically on massaging the hinge of your jaw, as that’s generally a very tense place.
  • Massage your lips as well, and do some tongue circles, both inside your mouth and around the outside.

2 Breathing Exercises for Better Articulation

Articulation begins with proper breath control. Keep your posture in mind before starting the warm-up exercises. Stand up straight: this positively impacts your ability to sustain longer vocal expressions.

Follow these two exercises to warm up for articulation:

  1. The “Hum.” Inhale. Begin to hum while slowly exhaling all of your air. Do this five times.
  2. The “Ha.” Stand and place your hands on your abdomen. Breathe in by expanding your stomach outward; you are now breathing from your diaphragm. Repeat ”ha” with each exhale, pushing in your abdomen with every syllable. Repeat.

11 Tongue Twisters to Practice Articulation

Tongue twisters are a good way to practice clear articulation. Start slowly and build up speed. Memorize them and repeat them.

  1. High roller, low roller, lower roller.
  2. I need a box of biscuits, a box of mixed biscuits, and a biscuit mixer.
  3. He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.
  4. The jolly collie swallowed a lollipop.
  5. The sick sister's zither ceaseth; therefore she sufficeth us.
  6. Friday's Five Fresh Fish Specials.
  7. Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.
  8. Twixt this and six thick thistle sticks.
  9. Red leather, yellow leather.
  10. She sells seashells by the seashore, and the shells she sells are seashells.
  11. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers; A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked; If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

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Want to Become a Better Actor?

Whether you’re treading the boards or prepping for your next big role in a film or television series, making it in show business requires plenty of practice and a healthy dose of patience. No one knows this better than Natalie Portman, who began acting professionally at 12 and won an Oscar before she turned 30. In Natalie Portman’s MasterClass on acting, the self-taught actor reveals her personal techniques for creating compelling, complex characters.

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