How to Resonate

Building resonance is an often-overlooked element to consider when performing poetry, but can be improved through simple techniques.

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Follows: Breathing

As performers, the tool we use above all else is our voice. It’s something we do so naturally. However, for the beginner or the less confident, building resonance can become a point of trouble.

Once proper breathing has been established, you should begin to notice your resonators more clearly. These are often thought of as the speakers that your voice uses, enriching them with warmth and depth.

There are four main areas where resonance occurs: the chest, the nose, the throat, and the mouth itself. Little can be done during active speech for the nose, so much of this article will focus on the remaining three. By way of a brief example of resonance in the nose, imagine the voice of someone with a severe head-cold; that bunged up, flat tone that everyone takes. This is caused by the resonators in the nose being suffocated. To explore this, hold your nostrils closed and try to say the phrase “Many mighty men making much money in the moonshine” with as much force as you can.

Humming is a great way to increase resonance and lets you identify areas that don’t quite flow properly. Simply hum at your natural note. Listen to all the buzzing that occurs around the note and pay close attention to how your chest feels. Next, try to increase the buzzing around your chest, nose, and lips. Once you can fully appreciate that note and its traits, raise the pitch slightly higher and observe the differences. Please remember to breathe!

Personally, I find that as I raise the note I become aware that there is less buzzing present, which means I have areas I need to train.

You can also play with deeper “Oh” sounds, with your mouth open to build chest resonances, or “Ah” sounds, both while trying to maintain the feeling of the breath you take before yawning. You should feel the tensing of your abdominals.

Resonance is further improved by visualising the notes. Picturing the high notes flowing from the top of your head or the low notes from out your gut are proven ways to more consciously connect you with those notes.

Some people become uneasy with resonance. The human voice sounds different outside the body to within and we are not used to hearing the difference. This is why people hate their voice in recordings; it is uncanny to hear a voice so similar to your own but different. It is important to remember that this difference exists. Recording yourself practice or working with a partner with a good ear can make the difference between good practice and great practice.

Developing your vocal resonance improves your projection, diction and vocal dexterity, allowing you to rise from low, distraught growls to bright, summery lyrics. It is an underrated component in the performer’s arsenal, more frequently discussed by singers, but the benefits for poets are obvious and dramatic.


Next: Speaking

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Connor Sansby is a Margate-based writer, editor, poet and publisher through his super-indie Whisky & Beards publishing label.

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