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Variance:  Speaking In The Mask

Variance: Speaking In The Mask

Once upon a time in voice pedagogy, singers were instructed to place their sound “in the mask.” The term referred to the zygomatic and frontal bones ie. the cheekbones and forehead. Many singers, myself included, worked to place sound in the mask with varying levels of success. It turns out, sensation is very subjective, and “vocal placement” isn’t a real thing.

That is an interesting factoid and one that keeps returning to my thoughts as we prepare to enter the world in actual masks. Physical masks are an interesting challenge for the articulation and intelligibility of speech. How much effort will it take to articulate a clear /th/ sound in a mask? Or, an /e/ sound? How good does the mask need to be in order to allow this articulation and remain effective? I’m not certain we know yet.

I believe the best we can do at this point is to balance the wearing of the mask (correctly, of course) with the best articulation and breath support we can muster. We may be best served by slowing down our rate of speech to allow for that articulation. Beyond that, we will need to extend to each other some grace when the sound fails to clear the mask.

How are you feeling about re-entry in the coming weeks? I’d love to know.

On Fridays at 12 pm EDT, for the foreseeable future, Gina will host an office hour over Zoom that will also be live on FB. These will be short voice alignment sessions aimed at voice skills building. Come to the Zoom for the session and/or to ask any questions you have about voice function or practice or just join me over FB Live. Register here or watch it live on the GROW Voice FB page. I hope to see you there.

Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay.  She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user.  Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker.  For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit

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