You’ve seen swimmers jump up and down at the blocks before a race, runners stretch before hitting the track, and dancers make sure their muscles are warm before rehearsing. Voice actors need the same vocal warm ups before they work and on a regular basis. Vocal warm ups work and strengthen the vocal muscles to protect them and make voices sound better, stronger, and more controlled. As important as it is for a voice actor to practice vocal warm ups before a recording, it is also important to incorporate them into daily practice and routines.
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This post has been updated in August 2021.
What are Vocal Warm Ups?
Vocal warm ups are basically exercise for an actor’s voice. This article offers a good description of what vocal warm ups do. When voice actors use their voices as much as they do, they can overuse muscles and tendons. Overuse can weaken these muscles and tendons to the point of damage. Vocal warmups not only protect the actor’s vocal health, but they also prepare the actor’s voice for the intense vibrations that come along with voice work. Controlled, steady vocal exercises will increase acid in the muscles surrounding your vocal folds, which helps those muscles do their jobs more effectively. This is important because you need your voice actor to be at his or her best when recording your work.
When the muscles and tendons in the throat are strong and actively engaged, they become more pliable and give the actor more range, flexibility, and control in the voice. Regular voice exercises can get these muscles and tendons ready for strenuous voice work. Warming up before a session lets the muscles become active and can help reduce strain during the session. This will help prevent voice damage as well as provide the benefits of more control and depth to the voice. It’s important to allow your voice actors time to warm up as well as encourage them to do so.
If you don’t lift a heavy package correctly, you could hurt your back. If you run a marathon without proper warm ups, you could hurt yourself. For voice actors, the same goes for using their voices. They can incur damage to their voices with improper use and strain it by not warming up. Incorporating a good warm up regimen can keep from getting voice fatigue, hoarseness, or vocal cord lesions and even more serious conditions. It’s like picking up that package incorrectly, you could strain your back or hurt a disk, incurring either soreness that goes away or a chronic issue.
The good thing, vocal warm ups can prevent damage as well as increase effectiveness, use, and control of the voice. If your actors aren’t practicing them already, read on for some great examples and types of vocal warm ups you could suggest they can use.
Types and Examples of Warm Ups for Voice Actors
The more an actor prepares his or her voice for an acting job, the better their voice will be and the more endurance they’ll have. They can avoid strain or hoarseness after a long day of voice overs, which will bode better for work the following day. We all know what it’s like to be hoarse after a long day of talking, and when a job depends on it, it’s best to avoid it if you can. Warm ups and taking care of the voice can prevent hoarseness as well as enhance it.
There is a wide variety of exercises for the voice. Often voice actors choose to practice their voice exercises in the morning. Voiceoverroadmap.com shares some great examples and types of vocal warm ups that actors can easily incorporate into daily practice. Warm ups are an important part of a voice actors work to maintain a good voice, create a stronger and more controlled one, and prevent damage. The good thing is that they don’t need any equipment!
Here are a few types of warm ups with examples of each:
- Lip Rolls and Lip Trills – These exercises help induce blood to flow to the vocal cords, activate the larynx and remove excess tension in the mouth and throat. An example is producing the sound “B” while the mouth is closed. The lips and mouth vibrate and everything relaxes. Humming is another way to do this. It is a very common warm up exercise for voice actors. For trills, actors place the tongue on the roof of their mouth and make a rolling r sound.
- Tongue Twisters – Tongue twisters are great exercises for the tongue and the vocal cords. These vocal warm ups will help your actors with enunciation as well as stamina for speaking and create stronger voice control. A familiar example of a tongue twister is “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.”
- Neck and Shoulder Rolls – These common movements of all athletes are also great for voice actors. Simply by shaking out the neck and shoulders, with some minor stretches and rolls in all directions, they can loosen up the neck, vocal cords, and throat muscles.
- Yoga Facial Work – This includes the lion pose, where the eyes look up and the mouth opens wide with a big exhale. By stretching all of the facial muscles, the voice will be more ready to work.
- Deep Breathing and Panting – Deep breaths will open up the airways, chest and throat. Panting will also help relax the tongue and throat.
- NBC Announcer Test – According to the VoiceActorsNotebook, this test originated in New York in the 1940s. It was a reading test that the network gave to prospective announcers. It is quite a lengthy piece and ideally, it’s read in one breath. This article shares that the prospect would read the script for clarity, enunciation, diction, tonality and expressiveness. It had to be performed perfectly — no stumbles or stammers. Plus, it was to be read with feeling and meaning! You can find the test here to share with your voice actors to practice.
- Facial and Neck Massage – When actors can give their faces and necks a quick massage, it relaxes the face so muscles are ready to work. The throat is more open so sound can travel and project better. It also can simply be relaxing for the actor to help them read/act in a more natural way.
Helping Your Voice Actor Prepare
When you are hiring and working with voice actors, you want to not only have clear expectations and guidelines, but you also want to help them do their best. By knowing more about vocal warm ups and preparation, you can help. Just as you would do some of the things related in this article to get the ideal performance, Guiding Voice Actors – Getting the Performance You Want, like providing a script and sharing examples, you can help with warm ups. Here are some suggestions for doing so:
- Provide the time – If your actor is coming to a studio, provide time to allow for warm ups. Not only will the warm ups get the vocal cords ready, but they can also relax the actor.
- Provide warm up examples – Your actor may not be used to a practice of vocal exercises. Check and see. If they aren’t, you can suggest some of the common exercises above to get them started.
- Encourage warming up – Whether they already do this or are just beginning at your suggestion, be encouraging with warm ups. If you feel strongly about it, check with their agencies to see if you can make it part of the deal.
Can Vocal Warm Ups Improve Voice Acting
As stated, vocal warm ups can get the actor ready to perform and prevent damage, but can they improve their technique? The answer is yes.
When a voice actor opens up his throat, chest, and even head cavities (like sinuses), his voice will sound better. Think about having a cold. Your voice sounds different. So going the other direction, the more open you are, your voice will be that much the clearer and stronger. These vocal warm ups allow the face, throat, and chest to open and improve resonation and vocal sound.
These exercises will also improve breathing techniques. In turn, stronger and more controlled breathing will help in voice over pacing, projection, and overall quality. You don’t want your voice over actor to run out of breath or to sound winded during a long recording. Relating back to the NBC Announcer’s Test, breath control and stamina is very important. Because of how challenging this test is, often actors start out slow and work up to reading it in full in one breath. Once that is accomplished, your voice actors probably won’t run out of breath during a recording.
The stronger and more capable a voice actor’s voice is, the better your recordings can be. With some practice and technique with vocal warm ups, even great voice actors can find improvement.
Finding the Right Voice Actor
Finding the right voice actor can be a challenge. Not only does the actor have to be talented, but also fit the job and style you are looking for. As this article states, there are different types of voice acting along with styles and audiences. While you are looking for just the right voice actor, consider asking about their practice of vocal warm ups.
The bottom line is that many factors make a great voice actor. When an actor takes the time to practice and implement vocal warm ups, it shows he or she is not only well versed in his field but also willing to take the time to improve and stay healthy.
You would be wary of an athlete who doesn’t warm up. You may worry about the risk of injury (short and long term), or you may wonder if you are getting the best performance. The same is true for a voice actor. With warm ups, your actor is offering his or her best self to you. Voice warm ups show a lot about a voice actor.
Find the right voice over artist today with Bunny Studio!