As an actor, or singer, it is important to develop your articulation. Many emerging performers—especially those without formal training—can struggle to develop these skills; alarmingly, even more performers discredit their importance with the thinking that “these days actors are mic-ed onstage as well as on screen!” But vocal preparation is not about volume: it’s about being understood. If you find yourself performing a text-heavy piece, or a classical work such as Shakespeare, it is vital that you prepare yourself so that an audience can comprehend what you’re saying. On this page, we have compiled some of the very best articulation exercises to help you warm up your body, your voice and to improve your diction. It is good to have a few exercises under your belt, and swap them out regularly for newer (or older) variations.
Start with a good shake-out: loosen your cheeks and your lips, let your face relax and shake your head vigorously. You should sound like a cartoon character shrugging off a bump to the head. As with all physical and vocal warm-ups, if you don’t feel silly performing it you’re probably not doing it right.
Get your hands involved. Massage the cheek muscles (the masseter), the lips and everywhere you dare to go. Holding and stretching the tongue can also be a great way to warm it up. Underneath the tongue is also another tension spot.
Chew imaginary gum. Pop a piece in your mouth and chew as fast as you can, rolling the piece around so that you chew up and down, clockwise and anti-clockwise. Eventually, add more and more ‘gum’ until your mouth feels as though it’s chewing through drying cement.
Draw circles in each cheek with the tip of the tongue. Aim to make the circles as perfect as possible. Once you have completed 10 in one direction draw 10 more circles in the opposite direction. Do the same for the other cheek. You can vary the amount of circles in each cheek, however, try to match the amount on each side. As an added step to this exercise, try writing your name on the inside of each cheek.
Open your mouth as wide as you can: feel the good stretch around your lips, your jaw, even down your neck. Next, scrunch your mouth into as small and tight a shape as you can. Alternate between these two states. (This exercise is sometimes known as “Lion Mouth/Lemon Mouth” or “Lion Mouth/Cat’s Bum” for obvious reasons.)
Drop your jaw and hum. Feel the vibrations around your oral and nasal cavities, through your teeth and your nose. When you’re ready, open your mouth so your “mmm” becomes a “mmmaaaah”. Each time you repeat this process, pick a spot on the wall opposite to where you are standing. Imagine that with each time you open your mouth, you are painting a red dot on that spot on the wall. Enrich and enlarge that red dot with every repetition.
Sing ‘sirens’ by starting at the bottom of your vocal ‘chest’ register and singing as high as your ‘head’ register will allow. Start by humming the sirens, then singing, then adding a “b” sound and then a “d”.
Try the following to improve consonant diction:
Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pah
Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Paw
Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Poo
Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pee
Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pay
Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Bah
Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Baw
Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Boo
Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Bee
Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Bay
Any combination of the above exercises will be beneficial.
la la la la
lala lala lala
lalala lalala lalala
Then change the initial sound L, T, D, K, G etc.
Work your way through the consonants in the alphabet, starting with “ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba”, until you get your way to “za za za za za za za za”.
A bone prop (a small piece of plastic that goes between the teeth) can be a great way to bring further variance and challenge to any of these exercises! If you would like to purchase a bone prop, click here.
Tongue twisters are a great end to any articulation warm-up. If you struggle with some of the harder ones, try visualising them as a story rather than a jumble of difficult words. And always try to learn new ones from any actors you may be working with!
She says she shall sew a sheet.
Red leather, yellow leather.
Felicity works at a facility with fleas.
Unique New York. New York unique.
Lesser leather never weathered lesser wetter weather.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice-cream.
What noise annoys an oyster?
Any noise annoys an oyster!
But a noisy noise annoys an oyster more…
To sit in solemn silence in a dull dark dock,
In a pestilential prison with a life long lock,
Awaiting the sensation of a short sharp shock,
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block.
What a to do to die today,
At a minute or two to two,
A thing distinctly hard to say,
But a harder thing to do.
For they’ll beat a tattoo at two today,
A rat a tat at two,
And the dragoon will come,
When he hears the drum,
At a minute or two to two today,
At a minute or two today.
She stood on the balcony,
Inexplicably mimicking him hiccupping,
And amicably welcoming him home.
A big black bug bit a big black bear and the big black bear bled blue black blood.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers; a peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
In tooting two tutors astute,
Tried to tutor a duke on a flute.
But duets so gruelling,
End only in duelling,
When tutors astute toot the flute.
Amidst the mists and fiercest frosts,
With barest wrists and stoutest boasts,
He thrusts his fists against the post,
And still insists he sees the ghosts.
I have got a date,
I have got a date at a quarter to eight;
I’ll see you at the gate,
So don’t be late.
For your vocal exercises the headings of “Unvoiced” and “Voiced” are a little ambiguous for me. The dictionary tells me:
Unvoiced: made without vibrating your vocal cords
Voiced: made by moving your vocal cords
I end up whispering the unvoiced and making noise for the voiced. Is this correct?
Having a short description on your expectations for unvoiced and voiced along with a vocal example would be exceptional.
Thanks for getting in touch.
The difference between voiced and unvoiced is most easily observed in the difference between ‘S’ and ‘Z’.
To make an elongated ‘S’ sound doesn’t require the vocal cords to engage. When elongating a ‘Z’ sound, your vocal cords will engage, and therefore the sound will be “voiced”. ‘F’ and ‘Th” can also be unvoiced.
Hope that helps.
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I am working on my enunciation.
very helpful thanks
Thanks! This is all very useful and much appreciated!
Also there is this one if i’m correct:
“the sheet is slit,
The slitted sheet is lit
the slitted sheet lit, she split and sit”
I use those for voice acting 🙂
Some very helpful stuff