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Archived book reviews


Finding Your Voice

Barbara Houseman
Nick Hern Books, 2002


Review by: Rosemarie Morgan-Watson, SLT

It is hard to find a thorough, practical book on voice work that is not too technical for the average actor. Barbara Houseman, who is both a voice teacher and theatre director and who worked for six years in the voice department at the Royal Shakespeare Company, has written one.

Finding Your Voice is a sensible DIY voice book that is also sensitive and understanding of the actor's needs. It puts the whole voice package together - from body work, breathing and taking breath into sound, to resonance, range and articulation. It even seeks to define the vexed question of 'support' as ' the way the out-breath is handled to provide power for the voice' and 'centring and grounding' as 'finding support through resting and letting go, rather than through holding and fixing' - which are as sensible definitions as any I've heard.

The book is clearly presented, with the major topics each given a separate section and is illustrated throughout by jolly little illustrations to make each exercise clearer. The exercises use a blend of imagery backed up by anatomical precision.

Finding Your Voice takes a clear, no-nonsense approach and there are useful tips and comments in little boxes and notes at the bottom of pages leading you to books or websites. Each chapter's topic is introduced and summed up at the end and the exercises put into warm-up order and timed with page references to enable them to be re-read in full.

There is a very useful quick-reference section at the back with full warm-ups offered for different situations and needs, a section on vocal health and a useful 'trouble-shooting' section. Here you can look up topics such as 'voice too quiet' or 'voice too loud' and find explanations, remedies and references-back to exercises and discussions.

It is very hard to work on the voice from a book but Barbara Houseman has found a way to make it approachable and wholly possible - she calls it 'a step-by-step guide for actors'. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in spending a few minutes each day finding their 'own' voice.



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