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: diaphragm

“Breathing with your diaphragm” What does that mean?

From Wiki: Thoracic diaphragm: “In the anatomy of mammals, the thoracic diaphragm, or simply the diaphragm, (Ancient Greek: διάφραγμα  diáphragma "partition"), is a sheet of internal skeletal muscle that extends across the bottom of the rib cage. The diaphragm separates the thoracic cavity (heart, lungs & ribs) from the abdominal cavity and performs an important function in respiration.”

As a VO artist you need to know about and use your diaphragm!  It is our big breathing muscle, a dome-shaped muscle at the base of your lungs. This shelf of muscle is controlled by the nervous system; it contracts when we inhale, so that a vacuum is created in our  lungs and air rushes in to fill it. The opposite happens when we exhale; the diaphragm relaxes  and the air in the lungs rushes out.

Breath is the fuel of the voice, whether it is for singing or for voice over work. The stronger the diaphragmatic muscles, the better you can regulate the amount of breath that is pushed over your vocal cords, so improving the control you have over your voice in your sessions.  When the diaphragm is strong you can ensure a steady stream of air for your needs, you can speak longer without needing a breath, and you have more power for volume or attack in your speaking. And the stronger the diaphragm, the less effort all of this is for you!

Here is an exercise to help build the strength of your diaphragm, from our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic!

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 #23: Fight Sounds

1. punch small medium large 2. kick small medium large

3. attack small medium large

4. hit (you’re being hit) small medium large

5. death small medium large

The above is a good example of something you’ll encounter quite a bit in video games because video games are generally chock full of action. Imagine what kind of sounds you’d make in the given situations. Mix it up a little and try a variety of sounds like hy-ah, ki, shah, rah, gar, huh, for example. Try the same sounds with different types of efforts to see how they come out. Experiment with different lengths of efforts. Often in a video game session they will ask for a small, medium and large version of each fight sound. Imagine the difference between getting your earlobe flicked, getting punched in the face and getting decked with a sledgehammer. A good imagination will bring variety and directors really like variety. Give ‘em what they want and they’ll call you again.

Try to make sure you are generating the sound from good diaphragmatic support and not uncomfortably constricting your throat to create the sound. Straining your throat can put a lot of pressure on your vocal cords and could damage your voice.

Another great (and inexpensive) way to practice is to mimic things you hear. Listen to your favorite radio station and simply mimic the DJ’s, the commercial announcers, even the newscasters. Not only will this clue you in to the types of voices that are booking work, but you’ll often come up with new and exciting voices just by trying to mimic someone else’s.

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.