Finding the Right Volume – for Actors
by Diane Christiansen Coaching
“Was I too loud?” “Was I too quiet?” “Could they even hear me?” “Was I screaming?”
Have you ever come out of an audition with these thoughts? Every actor has been there at some point, even if they’ve studied with a top rated acting class/coach or gone in for private coaching. There are so many factors in how we speak in our daily lives that it’s difficult for some actors to translate that into a scene. Here are a few tips to finding the right volume.
First, figure out what type of scene you have. Volume levels are different for sitcoms, films, theatre, etc. Extreme dynamics like whispering or yelling will sound completely different for each of these categories. This is why it is important to know the genre of the material you are given. This should give you your first clue to what kind of volume the character would use.
Secondly, discern the setting in which your character is speaking. An argument, for example, is going to sound very different in a character’s own living room than it would at an upscale restaurant or in the middle of warzone. This is the second factor that goes into figuring out your proper volume.
Your third element is your character’s motivations and tactics: what does your character want and how are they trying to get it? What is he or she trying to express? Are they nervous, excited, upset, angry, depressed, shy, happy?
Lastly, you have to take into account the room you are in and how many people are present. Are you at a pre-reading with the casting assistant? Are you being recorded by a casting director? Are you in a larger room with a dozen producers and network executives? Are you on a closed soundstage in Hollywood? Are you in a theatre in New York? Are you on set with a live studio audience in Los Angeles?
This feels like a lot of information to gather but all you have to remember is GEMS: genre, environment, motivation, setting. It only takes a few minutes of looking over a script and evaluating a room to figure out, but it’ll prove what a pro you are!