Voice-Over Voice Actor

A Peek Into The Secret World Of The Voice Actor

Interested in pursuing a career in VO? Curious what goes on behind the scenes in a business where people talk funny for money? This book offers a fun and comprehensive look at what it takes, what goes on and what it’s like behind the mic from two working pros who started from scratch.

Filtering by Tag: breathing

Take Action #22: Complete Body Warm-Up

1.lie down flat on your back somewhere comfortable yet firm 2. hum/sigh in and out

3. practice panting

4. roll over to one side and then slowly get up to a standing position (make sure you’re not holding your breath!)

5. do some neck rolls - very gently roll your head around in small circles both clockwise and counterclockwise to warm up your neck and throat

6. do some shoulder rolls - gently roll your shoulders forward and backward to loosen and warm up your back and neck

7. shake out your feet/hands - gently get your circulation going by shaking your hands and feet out

8. jump 1-10

9. massage your face - rub your hands together until they’re warm, then massage your face to relax all the bones and muscles there

10. lion/mouse – this is a fun one, which you can do in front of a mirror if it makes you happy. As the lion, stretch and open all the muscles in your face, your eyes your mouth so you look like a scary lion getting ready to bite your head off, then immediately switch to mouse face, where you twist and tighten all the muscles in your face, eyes and mouth so that you are as small and pressed as possible, switch between the two to send blood to those areas and wake them up.

11. tongue extension - stick your tongue out as far as it will stretch, then pull it back in. do this several times. Also try and touch your nose with your tongue. Now your chin. Now your right ear, and now your left (if you have to towel your face off after this one, you’re doing it right).

12. sirens

13. trills

14.P-T-K-T, B-D-G-D

15. tongue twisters (find some of your favorite tongue twisters and practice saying them as quickly as possible) search “tongue twisters” on the Internet and see what comes up (“Peter Piper…” What a to do…” “Unique New York,” “Red leather, Yellow Leather…”).

Now, hopefully, you feel awake, alive and ready to play. You can take as long as you’d like with this warm-up or you can time yourself. For example, if you’re short on time, see if you can get thru the entire warm-up in only 5 minutes. If you have more time, allow your body to warm up a little more slowly, maybe giving yourself a half hour to get through all the exercises. Adjust the warm–up to your specific needs.

Fight sounds, efforts and reactions can be a tricky part of voice-over especially if your voice isn’t warmed up. They’ll turn up almost no matter what type of VO you’re doing, from animation to video games to sometimes even commercials. Take the time to make sure your voice is fully warmed-up and awake before trying this next exercise so that you don’t hurt your vocal cords.

Want to feel ready to tackle auditions, VO sessions or expand your breath control and range? The Warm-Up MP3 or CD - both are available here

Take Action #20: Articulation

1. P-T-K-T (puh-tuh-kuh-tuh) Repeat the sounds P-T-K-T over and over (p-t-k-t-p-t-k-t…) 2. B-D-G-D (buh-duh-guh-duh) Repeat the sounds B-D-G-D over and over (b-d-g-d-b-d-g-d…) 3. P-T-K-T-B-D-G-D (puh-tuh-kuk-tuh-buh-duh-guh-duh) Repeat the sounds P-T-K-T-B-D-G-D over and over (p-t-k-t-b-d-g-d-p-t-k-t-p-t-g-d…) 4. Vary up the pattern a bit to make it harder for yourself. Try also going up and down the scale while doing this articulation exercise 5. After doing this exercise for a bit, try one of your favorite tongue twisters and see if it’s easier.

This exercise will allow your mouth to get warmed up while working on both plosive and non-plosive sounds. Also be aware of your breathing throughout the articulation exercises, so that it also helps you practice breath control.

Take Action #19: Dog Pant

1. Place your hand on your diaphragm. 2. Open your mouth and allow the tongue to relax and hang out of your mouth. 3. As quickly as possible, inhale and exhale, like you’re a dog panting. (of course, if you feel dizzy or lightheaded, stop immediately)

We’ve been focusing on strengthening your diaphragm, but that won’t be the only thing you’ll be using. Your diaphragm will be working in conjunction with your mouth, tongue and mind so they must be ready to go as well. Articulation, or the ability to speak clearly, is a crucial element to a voice actor’s repertoire. Not every character you play will need good articulation (and sometimes you may even be told to articulate less), but it is always better to have it up your sleeve, so that if you’re slurring your speech, it’s a choice rather than an issue.

Take Action #18: Snake Hiss

1. Inhale deeply and then, holding your palm an inch in front of your mouth so you can feel the air, let out a hiss. 2. Hiss for as long as you are comfortable and then take a deep breath. 3. Repeat this 5 times alternating between an “s” hiss and a “z” hiss (which we guess might be called a ‘hizz’).

4. Begin to gradually increase the length of your hiss (or hizz) as you are comfortable. Hissing can strengthen your abdominal muscles and your diaphragm because they are working to maintain one strong continuous flow of air. Another exercise that’ll work your abs is to pant, rapidly, like a dog when it is hot. This exercise will force your diaphragm to rapidly push and pull, which will strengthen it over time, but might tire you out pretty quickly. The benefits are many, though, not the least of which being to help protect your voice when you have to do any shouting or yelling.

Take Action #17: The Count

1-2-3 inhale 1-2-3 hold 1-2-3 exhale 1-2-3 hold 1-2-3-4 inhale 1-2-3-4 hold 1-2-3-4 exhale 1-2-3-4 hold 1-2-3-4-5 inhale 1-2-3-4-5 hold 1-2-3-4-5 exhale 1-2-3-4-5 hold

Having a strong diaphragm will not only help you maintain your breath for longer periods of time, it can also help you yell, scream, shout and make fighting and reaction noises, all of which are likely to come into play in voice acting. Continue exercising and strengthening your diaphragm so that no matter what type of VO job you jump into next, you’ll be that much more ahead of the game.

Certain sounds (“s” and “z”) will naturally help you ‘hold on’ to your voice and increase the amount of time you can breathe in or out. The next exercise will help you to strengthen this ‘muscle.’ Using the “s” or “z” sound, (rather like a snake hissing) try to slow the air down as much as you can while pushing it out. Start by counting to a lower number (say, three) while inhaling, then exhale on the hiss for three as well and up the count as you feel comfortable doing so. Try also adding a count between breathing in and out, so you’re breathing in, holding, then breathing out, holding, then breathing in again, and so on.

Take Action #16: Your Breath

1. Begin by lying flat on the ground and placing your hand on your abdomen just below your ribs.2. Feel the natural rise and fall as you breathe. 3. Notice the natural ‘pause’ between inhale and exhale.

This is how your body breathes without you trying to do anything to control it. As you breathe, there should be four sections to each breath: 1. an inhale, 2. a pause, 3. an exhale, 4. a pause. We usually don’t feel the pauses because they’re short and they happen naturally, but they’re there, all right. This next exercise focuses on lengthening, or expanding, your breath. Begin by inhaling for a three-count, holding for a three-count, exhaling for a three-count and holding for a three-count. Do this until it’s comfortable and then start to increase your count, four-count, five-count, etc. If you start to feel light-headed or dizzy, stop immediately and take a break. See if you can comfortably work up to 5, 6, 7 or even 8, 9, 10.

(Tara once had a voice teacher who could breathe in and out on a thirty-count, which comes with a lot of practice. Being able to hold your breath and control your breathing allows you to play with your voice more, giving you more range and stamina, which could come in handy for things such as recording long passages for audiobooks or characters who really ramble on.)

Breath Control to Tara, come in...

So, I've been doing a lot of really long industrial narration sessions lately. This means pages and pages of technical, verbose writing and lots of talking, talking, talking. I've noticed that with these sessions, since I have elected to sit down to maintain a consistent level of energy throughout, I've gotten really yawn-y. Now at first I assumed that I was yawning cause I'm sitting in a dark-ish booth, droning on and on about a fairly dry subject, and maybe haven't gotten as much sleep the night before as I might have liked. So I started getting curious, and experimenting with switching the time of day the sessions were scheduled. I would do them first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day and even late in the afternoon, all with the same result. About 30 pages in, and I just start yawning away.

Then I realized, you don't just yawn when you're sleepy, yawning is a natural reflex when you aren't getting enough oxygen. Voila! I've started to focus on deeper sustaining breaths and the problem has drastically reduced. I mean after an hour and a half, 100 pages into a long narration, you're bound to have your brain a little muddled, but maintaining strong diaphramatic breathing has made all the difference. Corporate dialogue here I come!

Take Action #3: Breathing is Crucial in Voice-Over

Sure, breathing is important to staying alive, but because we do it all the time, we kind of take it for granted and we sometimes get lazy with it. Breathing is crucial in voice-over. You can't speak without breathing, and you can create powerful (and safer) vocal effects with proper breath control. To increase your breath control try this simple exercise. Start standing. Simply notice your breath. Now, exhale all the air in your lungs and hop/jump up into the air as you inhale as much air as you can. Then as you land begin counting aloud, "one-two-three-four..." up as high as you can on that breath. When you've emptied your lungs of air once more, jump up as you inhale as much as you can, and then land and begin counting out loud again. See if you can't get a few numbers higher than the first time, speaking as you exhale, or "on your breath."

Do this several times. Try to see if you can best your initial count by 10. Do this every day and you should begin to notice that you have better breath control and increased lung capacity. This will help sustain and protect your voice as you speak "on your breath."

** If at any point during this exercise you begin to feel dizzy, or otherwise uncomfortable, stop immediately. As with any other exercise, consult a physician before engaging in a new or unfamiliar activity.