I have the voice of a child. Not in a creepy way, but in a my-voice-is-at-a-really-high-pitch-naturally kind of way. The timbre of my voice has its ups and downs. I’m not the type to play older roles, but I make an awesome princess. I may fear that my speaking gets on the nerves of those I converse with, but I can also do character voices they can only dream of. It’s taken me a long time to become comfortable with the way I sound, and I’m still not completely there…but I have learned a thing or two along my journey, and some of those lessons apply to more than just the voice.
1. Don’t let idiots tell you anything.
One of the biggest mistakes I could ever have made was listening to the opinions of my classmates and taking them to heart. My middle school classmates, high school, maybe a few college (but few and far between) would actually mock the pitch of my voice, and I would often hear that no one would want to listen to me talk, act, present, sing, or even mumble. These are petty remarks, but when you’re a kid with something you’re self conscious about, you listen. This is an old lesson, and it’s a classic one at that, but its message is one that can carry through to other branches of my life. Those people that told me I wouldn’t make a good public speaker are going to be personified in people that tell me I won’t make a good performer, a good chef, a good carpenter, a good whatever I want to be…and they aren’t telling me to help me, no matter their intentions. If I think I can do something in life, I will. The opinions others have on my success are only opinions. They can’t see my future any clearer than I can.
2. You don’t need force to get your point across.
As a girl with a higher pitched voice, if I yell or scream the wrong way it only sounds like a shrill screech. At that point no one is listening to what I’m hollering about; because it’s just an irritating trill that they wish to silence. Deeper voices can pull a powerful strength and put it into the volume of their voice and have it resonate wonderfully. I’ve had to learn how to resonate in other ways. Speaking calmly and quieter than my partner during an argument serves me better than yelling ever could. They are forced to listen to me if they wish to continue to arguing; they have to hear my point in order to rebuke it. If I keep my voice quieter I not only command more attention by avoiding a shrill sound, but I control the volume of my partner to an extent. This applies to life in so many ways. You don’t need force to get what you want. I don’t have to use the power of volume to win an argument, and I don’t need to use extreme power to have my opinion heard. I’ve learned that less is often more. Take that grain of knowledge and look at it in a new perspective.
3. Try everything at least once.
This lesson is inspired by all of the whacky voices and noises I’ve discovered I can make over the years. Just messing around imitating others or sounds I hear in my daily life leaves me with a bunch of cool noises I didn’t own before. Likewise, I’ve found success trying other things in life, if only just once. Drafting a scenic design plot? Totally not my cup of tea. But after trying it once, I learned I do like to draft by hand…just a different sort. Now, I hold the skill of hand drafting a light plot in my back pocket. This lesson applies to countless non-theatre related references as well. If you don’t try any new skills or experiences, you will never develop as a human being. They don’t have to be big–just listen to the ding of the microwave every now and then and see if you can make that noise too. It’s not rocket science, it’s exploration.
This blog post has been inspired by the numerous people that have encouraged me to try voice over acting, and also by the leader of the voice acting workshop at KCACTF that told me my voice wasn’t high enough to work with kids. As someone that’s heard every critique a voice can be given, I’ll take that one in stride…when in doubt, lesson number one always has my back.