I believe there is no such thing as the perfect acting guide. There are many schools of thought, and methods out there that you can dive into. However, to act is to do! So, if you'd like to improve your acting skills, consistent practice and building a routine can be very helpful.
Here are a few TO DO acting tips for you. Needless to say, we've all got our own, individual styles and acting techniques that give us that adrenaline kick. It is absolutely alright for you to keep them in this acting regime.
Warning: Giving personal acting tips isn't the best thing to do, especially if you're not THE director or haven't made your actors/artists comfortable with your directing style and vision.
Having said that, I venture into this abyss. :)
Here are daily tips that you can blend into your routine. They have really made a difference for me. So here we go.
1. Reading Out Loud - Command of the language
A must have skill that gets better with practice. If you've noticed, a lot of times, when reading out loud, we do not sound the same as we do when we are reading in our head. It usually comes out sounding monotonous. That's because you're focusing only on reading, and that's natural.
To think of it, reading out loud or so called 'dramatic reading' is crucial at an audition, it decides whether or not you get the part. That's why read out loud is a skill to develop.
It's more like exploring acting through the voice. Think of yourself as a voice over artist. Pick your favorite script/ novel / article / poem in the language of your choice, and read it out loud. You can record it as well. Try variations and clarity of intentions (what does the narrator intend to do) in your voice. Look for resemblance with the natural tone of conversations (in context to your script).
2. Vocal Warm Up
Voice is energy. When a director mentions 'lift the energy' he/she usually refers to the voice. There is a performance voice that one can build through vocal warm ups and breathing exercises. Vocal warm ups can give your voice a great texture and really open it up. You get better control over pace and, moreover, freedom to try out different character voices. :)
You can choose to learn to sing or get vocal training from a coach. Here is an exercise I recommend.
Take a deep breath pushing all air into your stomach and hold it for about 10 - 20 seconds and let the air out through your mouth. Repeat this 10 times. Try it again, this time let it out with a loud, quick, sharp 'HA'. Do this at least 5 times, followed by the practice of OM. Go on adding layers to this as you wish!
3. Work out! Go Physical first
I admit, this one may not sound directly relevant to acting skills, but it is. The way your body makes you feel can change a lot of your acting. You must have heard this a lot, the body is an actor's too. So you might as well keep it at its optimal best. Try Yoga, dancing, workouts, juts anything that fills you with enthusiasm. It really opens up your body to new possibilities to experiment with your body. Any form of training that you can get your hands on is good enough, even a 30 minute session every day. Do not expect quick results. Remember persistence is the key.
Tadaa!! The thing we love the best. There is a reason why this step isn't the first step in this routine. Because it's a goal. If you begin with it without prepping yourself well, you'll fall in the evil trap of disappointing yourself (there may be exceptions) and trust me, dissuasion is the last thing you'd want in your acting journey. Try preparing and performing a monologue every week or every 2-weeks (for yourself). Pick any monologue, poem or a piece you like and start working on it. Learning lines, understanding characters, motives, voice modulations are some of the steps involved.
This step is a great confidence booster as you get to apply your skills. Also, it keeps you audition-ready all the time. What's more, you can pick a different genre for every week and have fun with it.
5. Building Empathy
Here's a fact, no one is born with an ever-lasting source of empathy. There are many times when you are overloaded with information and you just stop caring. Things don't matter and it almost feels like you are immune to your surroundings. There is nothing wrong with these moments. We're all human.
The phrase ;he's too sensitive, so he's too emotional' may be considered a negative trait by the society, but they are not. An actor/ actress is supposed to be sensitive and empathetic, it's a part of their craft. It's a sought after ability and it can be developed. Here's how!
Find a passion apart from acting. Something that you can go to when you're not acting. It can be your muse. Music, films, meditation, software, marketing, psychology, anything that interests you. Read about it, read about people who practice it, observe them, watch documentaries, find out perspectives, and practice them if you can. There is a vast deal of information available on the internet and now is the time to make the best of it.
Don't overload yourself with multiple things though, because that beats the purpose. If you start caring about the things you aren't directly affiliated to, that's half the job done.
Note: The last step is really hard to achieve. Curiosity is the first step to genuine empathy. And it's about finding commonalities and not differences. You may choose other ways of building empathy. The possibilities are endless.
So go ahead! Explore and develop your acting routine. Make sure you enjoy it because that's what matters the most!