Posted by: boromax | April 2, 2020

New Wrinkles Journal #19



Testing, testing.

Check, check, check, check.

1 – 2 – 3 – 4…




One of the most important skills for a performer is elocution.


Elocution is the art and science of speaking or singing clearly, distinctly, and at an appropriate volume level; i.e., so the audience can hear AND understand you.

Elocution is a science because it involves conscious precise control of the technical, physical apparatus of one’s body.

Elocution is an art because it requires development of certain skills and abilities that will take a presentation beyond technically precise to levels of interaction and animation that might be considered entertaining.


Now, of course the visual aspects of a theater performance are highly important.  One does not simply stand or sit stiff as a board in the middle of the stage with zero facial expression and repeat lines.  But neither is the physical expression of one’s presence on stage the only thing that matters.  It takes both – well planned and executed physical movements AND excellent elocution – to create a desirable experience for the audience.

On the other hand, when one is listening to an audio recording – i.e., with no visual references at all – one can still hear the difference between a performance that is (only) technically skillful and one that is (also) soulful, engaging, and interesting.  An excellent performance on stage is both aural and visual; and excellence will always be the result of including authentic heart and soul in the performance.


Some people may be of the opinion that elocution became less important with the advent of the microphone, especially the lavalier.  The idea is that, since the performer’s voice is being amplified, it is no longer necessary for them to concern themselves with the details of elocution.

I believe this is the furthest thing from the truth.  In fact, I contend that microphones (and their accompanying amplification systems) have made it all the more important to pay attention to the art and science of elocution.  The performer is being amplified.  Now even the smallest ‘hiccup’ is loud and proud.  Therefore, performers must be especially careful about the sounds they make.

With that in mind, I am offering the following elements of proper elocution for your consideration and application.


Projection:  This is the practice of training your body to support an ability to send the sound of your voice a greater distance than usual.  This is not loudness, per se.  It is literally causing your voice to be projected further into ‘the house’ so that the patrons in the back rows can hear and understand what you are saying or singing.  In the days before electric amplification, this skill was fundamental to the success of a performer.

I will concede that electric amplification seems to have diminished the need for this skill.  Nevertheless, you still need to speak up and speak out.  The technician running the sound board can adjust the settings so the house will hear you at the right levels.  You should not allow yourself to rely unduly on the false security of artificial amplification.  What if the sound system fails you?  What then, eh?

Diaphragm:  This is actually a sub-note to projection.  Your diaphragm is central to your ability to project.  The proper way to project your voice is NOT to yell.  Yelling will damage your vocal cords.  Instead, use your diaphragm to regulate your breathing so that you can support your voice without yelling.  This is not an anatomy lesson.  If you do not know what or where your diaphragm is, do a little research.


[Personal note:  When I was in the military, we had to develop what was called “command voice” in order to lead drill and ceremony.  In this way, all of the members in formation could hear the commands being given and respond accordingly.  “Command voice” relies on proper use of the diaphragm.]

Enunciation: To enunciate is to speak distinctly with crisp consonants. This seems like an obvious requirement for the audience to understand what you are saying and singing, but you’d be surprised how often performers tend to slur words. When you are on stage, you cannot speak in your normal conversational tone and clarity.  You must adopt a more intentional execution of clear speech.  It will feel like you are exaggerating, but the audience will appreciate your efforts.

A great exercise for practicing enunciation is to say the word ‘enunciate’ repeatedly (the word ‘repeatedly’ is also a good one for this!  And…’vocabulary’!  And…  ‘rudimentary’!).  Also, remember the phrase from “My Fair Lady” when Professor Higgins was teaching Eliza to speak well:  “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”


Inflection: This is the rising and falling patterns in a person’s voice – i.e., pitch and tone –  that provide context for understanding what the speaker means by the words you are hearing them say.  As a performer, you must learn to be thoroughly purposeful about HOW you say or sing the words that are coming out of your mouth. (Thank you, Chris Tucker)

Animation: The rest of your body needs to be in tune with what you are saying and singing.  If you are singing a happy song, move like you are happy.  If you are singing a sad song, allow your body to reflect sadness.  Get your arms and legs involved; your shoulders; your hips; your head.  Move your body (or not) to match your words.


Facial expression:  Believe it or not, the audience can see your face!  It helps to show them appropriate facial expressions; i.e., ones that go with what you are saying and singing.  More important, though, is the fact that your facial expression has a direct impact on how you form your words, and in turn how those words sound.

Heart and soul:  Whatever else you manage to accomplish on a technical physical level, please be sure to pour emotion into your performance.  This is important whether you are all alone singing a solo, or if you are part of a group (even a large group), or if you are onstage remaining silent while others are singing and speaking. Emote!  Tell the story! With your whole being!


These few tips may help you provide a better experience for the audience.  Believe it or not, they will also enhance your own experience as a performer.  Do it.  You’ll feel better.

Elocute, Baby.  It is for the good of one and all.



[Exit Up Right]


  1. Hi Boromax,

    Great terms and points. I often use these tips when teaching or podcasting. We have to keep the voice healthy, right? Thanks,


    On Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 9:01 AM ~ Trivial Music Silliness ~ wrote:

    > boromax posted: “Elocution. Testing, testing. Check, check, check, check. > 1 – 2 – 3 – 4… Hello? Elocution. Ahem. One of the most important skills for > a performer is elocution. Elocution is the art and science of speaking or > singing clearly, distinctly, and at an a” >

    • Yes, indeed. Our voices are important to us regardless, but especially if we use them for more than just daily conversation!

      • It is like any tool we have. We need keep our words sharp, clear, not wasting or abusing them. Make every thing we say count for something.

  2. Yes. We will be held accountable for “every idle word.”

  3. Such helpful information!! We need a whole lot of young people to see and read this!!

    • I couldn’t agree more!

  4. This is wonderful stuff! I remember our Speech and Drama tutor on enunciation: ‘hiT those final consonanTs, darlings!’

    • LOL. Wow. I could see the facial expression and hear the voice in that quote. I think I could even see up the nostrils….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: