Projection – Voice

Why is it these days everybody wants to use microphones. Even in plays people are asking to use microphones. I am seeing this more and more with school productions. The teachers are wanting to mic up the performers so that they can be heard. I find a couple of problems with this, first of all it can sound really strange when some child’s voice comes booming from the pa and some other child that is not miked sounds meek and insignificant, this is because the school cannot afford to mic each performer. The worse thing that sometimes happens is a Teacher/Director will say to a technician is “can we have a few mics on stands to pick up the kids voices”, now this is not an easy task, and sometimes requires special mics that most venues will not have in stock. And if you use your stock of SM 58’s for the task, as the Teacher/Director knows you have some and they have seen them used everywhere, so you set them up and everybody complains that nobody but the strongest voices can be heard. Or the schools hires a few radio headset microphones, but not enough for all of the main characters, so the headsets get swapped around. Now this can be an okay practise ass long as someone is in charge on the radio systems in the wings, and that is all they do. That way the technician knows that the same cast members will always recieve the same mics. Not like what has happened to me, which the mics were dealt out in any order and I had to sort out on the mixing desk which mics where being used and by who. And also operate the lights as well, since most venues I work at only put one tech on due to the client baulking at the cost of having 2 techs – but that is a story for another day. Of course we try and educate the client in the use of mics and the fact their show might improve if they used more mics. But in drama it boils down to voice projection and the lack of it. Musicals I can sort of understand, you need to get the voice louder rthan the band in most cases, but even in the early days of musicals the performer could sing over the orchestra. So what happened to teaching voice projection as part of the drama course. This will not only help them on stage but will be a useful skill later in life if they have to speak in public or use their voice a lot. Projecting and using your voice are very important skills in theatre. It is no good emoting and acting if no-one can hear what you are saying. So if teachers are going to stage productions they need to work on the projection side as well as the acting side.


4 thoughts on “Projection – Voice

  1. In as much as we are talking about what theatre can offer to new media, of course, other media has given much back to theatre, some of it a touch awkward.

    One of the things that film brought (and later TV) was the close up, intense moment, with voices dropped to barely audible.

    Lovely. Except, try as you might that does not work on stage. You have to project which means you have to stylise the scene. Many directors want that brought to stage and therefore want the technology that makes it possible.

    This is all fine if you have a top class sound system and sound engineers willing to pan the channels so the sound moves with the actor. But schools and small theatre do not have the budget and do not realise that the compromise is less than useful.

    So, yes, you are right, the only solution is the highly technical, ultra modern, super 21st Century method of SPEAKING LOUDER!

    PS: I remember an interview many many years ago with an old music hall artist. (Name sadly escapes me now). He commented that he hated it when the orchestra was in a good mood – their lively playing completely drowned out the singers. Much better at the end of the run when the orchestra were tired and bored.

  2. I think it has to do with two things: drama teachers don’t get trained in sound design/operation/equipment, or at the very best have limited understanding of how it works; and that teachers are often more interested in showcasing the kids using their own aesthetic ideas than in trusting their tech.

    I had similar experiences doing casual tech at a local venue, where the hirer had no concept of the issues behind the tech. I had to operate lighting practically off the cuff, raise and lower sound levels (due to them using a badly taped recording of songs, which they were playing backstage; I was in the bio box), had no FOH staff available and I was the only venue person there, and then complained about my abilities to my employer – despite the fact that she had put her hubby on as ‘backstage’ assistance and he had no clue as to what to do.


  3. I am an alumnus of a college theatre company, and I come back to watch the shows that the newbies are putting on. After the show, I write comments for them. Many times I found myself writing “whisper louder… stage whisper, not regular whisper”. I think people need to pay attention to the sound system. Even television and movies are mixed differently. You will never hear the whispers and the explosions to have such dramatic differences in volume on TV instead of movies. On stage, people simply need to learn to project.

  4. Yeah, I agree–it’s all about technology taking over acting. The ability to be able to act while projecting and making your voice heard (literally and figuratively) is something so important to any actor. A microphone if used at all should enhance that, not replace it. Voice is a key tool for an actor.

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