Who Cares About Good Articulation?

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on May 6, 2014

PicassoGernicaI was on a conference call with a journalism class last month, and a student asked me why studying broadcast voice is important if the new delivery style on the internet is so relaxed.  That started me thinking about how new voiceover artists might think the same thing if they do mostly casual reads for spots.

This thinking took me to an interesting place:  my art history class in college.  Why?  Because any art professor will tell you that abstract artists have to be able to do traditional art before they can blast out of it into an abstract form.

Let’s look at Picasso.  The picture above (Guernica, 1937) is a familiar one from his abstract period.  But would you expect him to be as good at basicR-20120215-0035.jpg drawing as the etching (The Fugal Repast, 1904) on the right?  He had to master that first before he moved to abstract.

How does this relate to voice?  You have to know the basics of articulation before you can relax your voice into a casual one by leaving out some phonemes (sounds).  If you don’t know how to articulate well, you’ll be unclear on what sounds could be omitted.

Here’s an example we can work with: “Last winter it snowed two feet.”  If you know that you should hit all those “t’s” and “d’s” for very clear articulation, then you can select some to omit for a casual sound.  But there’s one sound you can’t omit without losing the meaning of the sentence and possibly making yourself sound illiterate.  Can you guess which one?

The answer is the “d” in “snowed.”  If you omit that one you’ve changed the tense of the verb, and the sentence doesn’t make sense.  That’s an example of why the basics of voice are important for all broadcasters and voiceover artists.

Want to practice better articulation?  Check out this blog post of mine that has good exercises to practice.  You might also want to purchase my mp3, Improving Your Articulation, available on the mp3 page of this site.

The top photograph is by Mario Giambattista and taken from https://flic.kr/p/9mBJAC and the sketch is taken from https://images.nga.gov

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