9 Useful Diction Exercises for Every Actor

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

September 21, 2017

It’s a process every actor must go through before stepping onstage  — warm-ups. Diction exercises and vocal exercises are essential for making sure that you’re understood while you’re performing. Sure, “red leather, yellow leather” and “toy boat” are crowd favorites and standbys, but sometimes you’ve gotta dig a little deeper. Below, we’ve listed some fun and effective diction exercises you can try with your cast or by yourself before every rehearsal and performance.

(NOTE: Diction exercises are especially essential when you’re performing a classical piece such as any Greek or Roman, Moliere, or Shakespearean play because the language style they use is vastly different from how we speak today. Use the exercises below to prepare!)

1. “Biscuits”

A box of biscuits,
A box of mixed biscuits,
And a biscuit mixer.

2. “My Dame”

My dame hath a lame tame crane.
My dame hath a crane that is lame.
Oh gentle Jane, doth my dame’s lame tame crane
Leave and come home again?

3. ”Weather”

Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather,
Whether we like it or not.

4. From Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado – “I Am So Proud”

To sit in solemn silence in a dull dark dock
In a pestilential prison with a life long lock
Awaiting the sensation of a short sharp shock
From a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block

5. ”A Minute or Two to Two”

What a to-do to die today, at a minute or two to two;
A thing distinctly hard to say, but harder still to do.
For they’ll beat a tattoo, at twenty to two,
A rat-tat-tat- tat-tat-tat- tat-tat-tattoo.
And a dragon will come when he hears the drum,
At a minute or two to two today, at a minute or two to two.

6. Unvoiced and voiced consonants

Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pah
Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Paw
Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Poo
Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pee
Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pa Ta Ka Pay

Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Bah
Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Baw
Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Boo
Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Bee
Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Ba Da Ga Bay

7. ”Grip-Top Sock”

Give me the gift of a grip-top sock,
A clip drape shipshape tip top sock.
Not your spinslick slapstick slipshod stock,
But a plastic, elastic grip-top sock.
None of your fantastic slack swap slop
From a slap dash flash cash haberdash shop.
Not a knick knack knitlock knockneed knickerbocker sock
With a mock-shot blob-mottled trick-ticker top clock.
Not a supersheet seersucker rucksack sock,
Not a spot-speckled frog-freckled cheap sheik’s sock
Off a hodge-podge moss-blotched scotch-botched block.
Nothing slipshod drip drop flip flop or glip glop
Tip me to a tip top grip top sock.

8. Radio Announcer’s Test #1 (“Penelope Cholmondely”)

Penelope Cholmondely raised her azure eyes from the crabbed scenario. She meandered among the congeries of her memoirs. There was the Kinetic Algernon, a choleric artificer of icons and triptychs, who wanted to write a trilogy. For years she had stifled her risibilities with dour moods. His asthma caused him to sough like the zephyrs among the tamarack.

9. Radio Announcer’s Test #2 (“One Hen”)

One hen
Two ducks
Three squawking geese
Four Limerick oysters
Five corpulent porpoises
Six pair of Don Alverzo’s tweezers
Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array
Eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt
Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates, with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth
Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who stalk about the corners of the cove all at the same time.

FUN FACT: Radio announcer’s tests were created in the 1920s as a way to gauge the vocal skill of a prospective radio announcer. They involve retention, memory, repetition, enunciation, diction, and using every letter in the alphabet.

Need some advice? We’ve got you covered.

Ashleigh Gardner received her AA in Theatre/Drama/Dramatic Arts from Valencia College and her Bachelors Degree in English Literature and Masters Degree in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright, an actor, and PerformerStuff.com’s Editor.