Breathing for Actors

Acting is about communication.One of the key measures of great acting is how well the actor communicates his part to the audience. Audience is derived from the latin word Audire which means to hear. In other words the audience has come to hear what the actor has to say. In order for the actor to communicate his part to the audience he must be clear. One way to be clear is to learn to breathe with the lines

Breathing with the lines. Young actors when they are starting out, do not connect their lines with their breathing. They take a breath and either explode that breath in the first few words, or they explode it in the middle of the sentence or phrase.

What happens?

In both cases the audience will not understand what is being said.

Exploding your breath at the beginning of a sentence or phrase. While rushing into your lines with passion is usually a sign of the sincerity of your acting, it also means the breath does not support the whole phrase or sentence. The last couple of words drop off the audible scale as there is no breath left to support them. Since the last few words of any sentence or phrase are usually the important ones, the meaning is lost. Naturally, as in the waves in the ocean, another swell of breath occurs on the tail end of the previous one and the breathing pattern is repeated, a rush of breath early and the last few words again struggling to be heard. If you listen to how people talk, really talk, how they breathe naturally to support what they are about to say, how they make sure their point is conveyed by supporting all their words with breath, then you will see the difference between false but sincere acting, and real naturalistic acting. It is much like singing, where you need to support your vocals with your breath.

Exploding your breath in the middle of a sentence or phrase. The other issue of a peak in volume in the middle of a sentence or phrase, as opposed to a peak at the beginning, with the corresponding beginnings and ends being inaudible is perhaps more of a perceptual mistake, more linked with a failure to understand the importance of the last few words. Many inexperienced actors have a false perception that in real life people swallow the ends of their phrases, and in cases where people do not expect to be listened to, or they are trying to hide the truth they might just do that, but sitting on a street corner and listening to people as they walk by should alleviate any actor of that misconception. Shakespeare advised listening to and watching real people. In the case of using all of your breath in the middle of a sentence or phrase, the breathing is in the wrong place, supporting the less important middle section, without acknowledging that the end is important, that the end is the target of the writer; or should be.

In both cases, of too much breath at the beginning, and too much breath in the middle, it leads to a cascade of phrases and sentences where the end is always lost. In real life, people usually reach the climax of their line at the end of what they say, not at the beginning and not in the middle. Otherwise communication would be impossible. Learn to build your phrases or sentences with your breathing, and your acting will improve. You could think of your breath as a wind, and you turn that wind into sound. More wind, more sound. Learn to control that wind.



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