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How can I improve my acting?

I am attending High School, and am involved in all the school productions, but I feel like I need to find other ways to improve my acting, and to achieve better physical, and vocal control. What are some good ways to improve in those areas, and how can I find more ways to improve? #acting #theatre #film-acting #musical-theatre #voice-acting #live-theatre #improv-acting #movie-theatres

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Kenneth’s Answer

Hi Dublin,

There are many, many ways to improve acting. I am only going to talk about one way, so please don't think this is the best or only way to improve. It's just a way I've used and found to be very helpful.

[Freeing the Natural Voice](https://www.amazon.com/Freeing-Natural-Voice-Practice-Language/dp/0896762505) is a book by Kristin Linklater. I have found this book to be very helpful for both vocal and physical control. The book focuses on relaxing muscles that we tend to store tension in so we can let our voice out unimpeded and so we can have better control over our physical actions. The book has many exercises in it, but also explains the theory and science behind the exercises. Many of the exercises seem like meditation--and in a way they are, but they also help a lot with acting!

If you cannot afford the book or would prefer to not purchase it, I'll describe some of the exercises I found most helpful. Remember while doing these that the goal is to loosen muscles that you tend to hold tension in. For instance many (myself included) tend to hold tension in our jaw to suppress tear or other emotive responses that we view as weak. That tension can hinder the vibrations of your voice cutting off both volume and natural expression. It also hinders you from acting as a more emotional character who might have a looser jaw. There is also a lot of imagery in these exercises because imagery is often the best way to help us use or relax muscles that we're not used to controlling. So when I talk about imagining something it's simply to help you find the correct muscle. Anyway, here's some of the exercises:

Actor's Neutral
This is your base position that you'll start a variety of exercises from. It's also just a good neutral position to have when acting. Stand with your feet about shoulder length apart toes pointing straight forward (if you're like me, pointing your toes forward can feel really weird so getting someone to make sure they're straight might be helpful). Make sure your knees are not locked--have the bent slightly. Let your arms hang at your side and let your mouth rest slightly open. Make sure your pelvis is not tucked back, but directly beneath you to support your upper body fully. If I have a hard time keeping my pelvis forward I like to imagine that I have a really *really* heavy dinosaur tail and the imaginary weight helps me realize how my pelvis should sit. This stance uses the skeleton to support your body as much as possible. Different stances tend to rely on our muscles to hold us up more and thus make it impossible to relax those muscles while standing.

Roll Down
Start in Actor's Neutral. Then imagine that there's a very heavy weight tied to a string that's attached to your chin. *Very slowly* let that weight pull your chin down to your chest. Then proceed curling your back feeling as each vertebrae bends off of the one below it. As you go--still very slowly--feel any places where you have muscle tension and take a second to try to release it. Taking a deep breath and exhaling it all slowly tends to help with this. Remember, you're knees don't have to be locked, so as you bend further down don't be afraid to bend them either. When you've bent all the way down take some time to just relax--but remember to breath even though it's hard when bending over. Then slowly, start to unbend and feel as each of your vertebrae stacks back on top of the last. As you get up to the top and your head straightens imagine that you're now an inch or two taller than you've ever been.

Total Relaxation
This one is really simple. Lie down on the floor. Imagine that there is an extremely heavy force of gravity pulling your skin and your muscles and causing them to melt off your skeleton and into the floor. Then, take some time to mentally go through all the areas of your body and find muscles that are still tense. When you find one take a deep breath and then slowly exhale the tension out of that muscle. All of this is done while lying on the floor.

Jaw Massage
Stand in actor's neutral. Open your jaw as wide as it can go, hold it for a few seconds, and let it close. Repeat that a few times. Then, using the palms of your hand massage your jaw starting just below your ears. Rub in little circles getting bigger and bigger as you work your way down to your mouth. Then, still using your palm, smooth the muscles down starting below your ears and making straight lines down to your mouth. Mix and match these until you feel your jaw is loose. Note that it is important to use your palm instead of your fingers. The jaw muscle is actually many small muscles and if you use your fingers you can potentially get your finger between some of these fine muscles and hurt them--so use your palm.

I hope this helps. If you like those exercises then I'd highly recommend getting the book I mentioned as it has tons of other helpful exercises.

Regards,
Kenneth
Thank you comment icon Thank you! This is very helpful. I am excited to try the different exercises! Dublin
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Erynn’s Answer

From a musical/singing perspective, I am a vocal coach part time and the number 1 thing that I teach my students is breath support. I definitely recommend trying various breathing techniques to ensure your air is working at is maximum efficiency for you. You can find several on YouTube. Beyond that, if you have songs that you are struggling with, sing them without words, just on the tune by "flipping your lips". You have to use a lot of air to ensure your lips keep flipping. Once you find the right amount of air, never sing with less than that.
Definitely also recommend you practice sight singing as that is key as you continue your musical journey. In addition, practice all different kinds of music to ensure you are well rounded, classical, musical theater, gospel, art songs, etc.
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