Words Used To Describe Voice In Performance

Here is a list of words I have compiled that will assist students of drama and theatre to describe an actor’s quality of voice or tone in performance. Often as part of their coursework, students need to analyse the play making process of a piece of their own work or evaluate a performance by themselves or others. Questions about the use of voice by performers can also appear in written examinations.

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affectionategrumbleringing
alarminggurglingrough
ambitiousguturalrumbling
ambivalentharshsandy
apathetichighsarcastic
appealinghigh-pitchedscornful
appreciativehoneyedscream
arroganthonkyscreech
articulationhuskysentimental
bangingimpassionedshout
biasedindignantshriek
bitterinformalshrill
bleatinginquisitivesilvery
boomingintonationsincere
breathyirreverentslow-paced
brittlejitterysmall
charmingjovialsmoky
cheerfuljoyfulsoftly
clamorousliltingsoftly spoken
conceitedlowsolemn
coveredlow-pitchedsorrowful
cracklymatter of factsquawk
creakymelodicstrained
croakymockingstress
cynicalmodulatedstrident
deafeningmonotonoussuperior
dictatorialmuttersuperior
directnasalsympathetic
dogmaticnasallytaut
doubtfulnostalgicthick
dulcetoptimisticthin
earsplittingoutragedthoughtful
elatedpacethreatening
emphasispenetratingthroaty
encouragingpessimisticthud
evasivepiercingtimbre
faintpitchtone
fastpleadingtoneless
fast-pacedplummytwang
flatpressedunbiased
flippantprojectionundertone
flutterquietunforgiving
forgivingraspywarm
fruityraucouswhiny
gratingrawwhisper
gravellyreedywobbly
groanremorsefulyell
growlresonant
gruffrighteous

Not sure of the meaning of a word on the list? Look it up in the dictionary.

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6 comments on “Words Used To Describe Voice In Performance

  1. Wonderful list! Thank you for compiling this list. I will use these terms to help students grasp what their voice should reflect on stage.

  2. Thank you kindly for your above list of words describing a vocal performance. I am actually using a few words from this list for the writing of my College English Descriptive Writing Essay. The basis of this Assignment is a vocal rendition of the song, “Nothing Compares 2 You”, written and initially recorded by Prince in 1985 with his group, The Family. Yet, you may best recall it as a 1990 hit by Sinead O’Connor.

    Most Sincerely,

    C. LoxGrant of Massachusetts

  3. List of words now alphabetical by column, repeated words deleted, optimised for mobile view.

  4. Love it, Jeff! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I have my students break it down this way: pitch, rate, volume, and quality. To discover how a voice is dynamically structured, they look at the first three (low and high, fast and slow, loud and soft, all in some combination and range). Then we look at qualities, and those contain any adjective like those in your list. Some of them are partly built from pitch, rate, and volume, but many are influenced by placement, resonance, rhythm, etc. This approach has enabled my students to be remarkable specific in defining what they hear and also clear about the way they might manipulate their voice (or be manipulated by it) in the creation of their characters.

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