Using your voice for work can seem like a deceivingly simple task at first. It just means you’re going to be talking into a mic willy-nilly, right? Wrong! Attempting to record indiscriminately without minding proper vocal health could be a vocal cord destroyer like no other. Why don’t you take a look at some of these voice over warm-ups and keep yourself in the zone?
After all, you should think of your voice as your instrument of choice. Only, you can’t change the strings on this guitar after they break! Vocal health should be your #1 priority when it comes to developing and maintaining a long-lasting, productive career in the voice over industry!
In this article, I’ll go over a few pointers with you to help guide you along a safer path:
- We’ll cover how the voice is produced
- We’ll go over some warm-ups you can do easily and safely.
- I’ll give you some tips on where gold-standard pros with healthy voices work, and how they manage their work.
Enough dilly-dallying! Let’s get a move on! Time’s a-wasting’!
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
How do we produce sound?
Sound is produced in our bodies in an area called the vocal tract. It is composed of the nasal and oral cavities, the larynx and the pharynx. You can visualize it as a sort of saxophone or wind instrument. The diaphragm pumps out air from our lungs, which then vibrates depending on the position of our vocal cords. The air then flows onto different points of resonance or resonators.
Easy peasy, right? Our vocal warm-ups, then, are going to be mostly about learning how to take care of our vocal cords. They’re located in our larynx, and the opening between them is called the glottis. The passage of air between this opening (which expands and contracts) can be modulated, which causes different frequencies and pitches. If we strain our vocal cords or use them for prolonged periods, we could incur many serious vocal conditions like:
- Nodules in our vocal cords
- Vocal cord paralysis
- Vocal polyps
Yikes! We definitely want to avoid any of those results, that’s for sure! It takes a remarkable amount of time to get the voice back into shape after you hurt the vocal cords. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep our voice in tip-top shape!
The importance of voice over warm ups
In one of our other articles about voice over warm ups we discussed the need to keep our vocal cords healthy. But it’s not all about avoiding the negative! In fact, you could have quite a few positive results if you start taking care of your cords!
- They strengthens and stretch vocal muscles for a more accurate pitch.
- Loosening up vocal cords can wake up different parts of your voice, helping you reach a wider range of higher and lower tones.
- Blood flow is increased to the lungs, lips, and tongue, making speaking movements more agile.
- They prevents vocal injury especially when you have to use your voice extensively, straining it over long periods of time.
- The routine helps to prevent the possibility of mouth noises, voice cracks, and pronunciation errors.
- It also helps you to unstiffen your performance overall and improves the clarity of your speech.
So, it’s not just about keeping away from potential problems, but about improving your performance, clarity and overall quality as a performer. These voice over warm ups will not only save you a ton of grief but make you sound better! They’re going to be as important to your routine as proper breathing, enunciation, and hydration.
Let’s get into it!
Voice over warm ups: when singing meets speaking
What is this about singing? Aren’t you a voice over artist? Well, it turns out that few know more about vocal health (and issues!) than singers. Their profession also hinges on the correct application of the same principles that are applicable to voice overs; hence, it’d be a good idea to follow their lead, as their profession has been around since age immemorial.
Also, the exercises that are centered around singing will help you improve your pitch, range, and control. All of these things are probably among the most desired traits a voice over artist can have! Imagine the roles you’d be able to get if you could sustain different pitches, modalities, vocal effects, etc.! It means a greater range not just vocally, but in the characters and roles, you can inhabit safely!
So, take a cue from singers, and start doing these pronto!
It may not look very romantic (and you probably don’t want to do it in front of your significant other), but it works. It’s a great way to relax your jaw and throat muscles, two parts of your body that need to be thoroughly relaxed through your vocal performance.
To do this, simply take in air through the nose (with your mouth closed), then exhale through the same place as if you were sighing. This may seem like it’s not doing much, but if you’re breathing correctly (ie: deeply), then you’ll feel it start to work its magic throughout your whole face and throat!
Humming is a type of voice over warm up that you can do safely and for a long time. It’s also something I would totally recommend beginners to do. You don’t have to be a super-pro to get going with these! Just try ’em on for size!
Place the tip of your tongue just behind the bottom of your front teeth and practice the major scale up and down. Try to make the “h” sound into a flowing, smooth “hmmm” with each note. That’ll keep stress away from the vocal cords!
A rrrrrrrrambunctious exercise, for sure! Be wary of trying to do this warm up close to your friends or loved ones, or they’ll think you’re channeling Pepe Le Pew. Regardless of how it makes us look to others, its usefulness cannot be overlooked!
To do this, you need to curl your tongue and roll your Rs as you go up and down your vocal register. Remember not to go too high before you’re nice and warm, though! Otherwise, you could cause some undue strain on your precious cords. Always remember to flow smoothly with the exercises, and you’ll be good!
Pro tip: I’m an Argentinian, and we use a LOT of rolling Rs in our pronunciation. If you ever come this way and have practiced how to say “perro,” I’ll buy you a hot dog!
Note: there may be no hot dogs available.
Relaxing your jaw
Your masseter muscle may be tight and you may not even know it! To loosen it up, try talking with your jaw more open than you normally would. Read your lines in this manner until you start feeling your jaw drop more and more. It’s a great way to assess tension, as well as loosen up whatever jaw stress there might be. Remember to maintain an open-throated position as you do this because you want air to keep flowing smoothly!
Lip Buzz or motorboat
Want to look good to others? Want to impress your friends and family? Then make sure to do this exercise in private, because this is not one to do in public! The lip buzz, while useful, is perhaps where the “say it, don’t spray it” phrase first sprang into existence.
To do it, make sure no one’s in front of you, and make a motorboat sound by vibrating your lips. This will help with proper enunciation, pitch, and vocal collocation. If you want, you can practice scales to give the vocal cords a gentle workout.
Where can I find actual pros?
If you’re new to the game, you may be looking for dyed-in-the-wool professionals who have been doing this for ages. Trust me, if you want to be like Voice Over Pete, you’re going to need your voice over warm ups! It’s always useful to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint!
You can find a lot of voice over pros in freelancing platforms like Fiverr, Workana, Upwork, and PeoplePerHour. If you’re looking to get free tips or consultations, though, you’d probably be better off going to YouTube. Most of these are on these platforms to make money, and their time is valuable. But, chances are you will stumble into a pro that wants to share some of the love and help upcoming talents. Most will swear by some of the vocal warm ups I’ve mentioned above, though. They’ll also extol the virtues of warm teas, water, proper rest and nutrition, and not straining your voice in other ways.
If you want a curated list of pros to see what healthy, awesome voices sound like, I can even do you one better! Check out the vocal talents from our very own Bunny Studio. As we close in on 30,000 voiceover actors and actresses, you can bet we’ve got all bases covered! You’re bound to also find vocal professionals with similar vocal styles to yours. As you mirror the way they sound, you can also start to learn about healthy vocal patterns and maintaining your voice!
You read right, it’s not the end, and why should it be? Voice over warm ups are going to be your weapon against premature vocal aging, stress, and vocal cord disorders. Learn them well, as well as other forms of voice maintenance tools, and you should enjoy a long and prosperous career. Additionally, learn from other pros: what they’re doing, what they’re avoiding, and what their lifestyles are. Learn from the best and incorporate their knowledge into your routine.
If you stay the course, I can guarantee that you’ll break your limits and enjoy ultimate success!