“To be or not to be. That is the question!” With great voice acting comes great responsibility. Voice acting warm ups are a must-do part of that pledge. To become a successful off-screen character, you need to protect those golden vocal cords at all times. And every famous singer and professional vocal artist has his or her lucky mojo routine.
Is your voice your livelihood? If so, you know clients are hard to come by and trust us when we say that losing your voice is every voice actor’s nightmare. That is especially when you have a recording deadline to meet. In any case, prevention is always better than cure. If you are just treading into the whole new world of voice overs and dubbing, it’s time to establish a warm up routine for yourself. This article will help you get there. We’ll tell you all the secrets to keeping your pipes polished and the science behind them. So hang on tight to your voices!
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How Our Voice Works
Let’s first talk about the voice machine. In order to understand how to best harness the power in your voice, you must first understand the mechanics. Simply put, it is made of three main parts. They are your lungs, your larynx, and your articulators. Each plays an important role to help you form the pitch, clarity, and volume you strive to achieve. They are the foundation of every mimicry and vocal accent. Let’s break it down into simpler parts.
Think of your lungs as the gas pedal for your voice. It’s the air pressure system that fuels sound. When you breathe, diaphragm muscles expand downwards. The lungs produce air that travels up to the trachea (windpipes) then to the vocal cords (larynx). The bigger the air pressure, the more powerful the voice.
The Vocal Cords
Also known as the vocal folds, the voice box or larynx consists of a cover, a vocal ligament, and a body. Shaped in the “V” formation, left and right folds come together. Oscillating in an opening and closing manner, small vibrations are produced. To create different pitches and tones, larynx muscles are manipulated to adjust the length and tension of the vocal folds. The sound is generated as the air continues to travel upwards along the throat to the mouth. It is amplified in volume through the spaces of your throat, mouth and even nose.
As sound travels up to the mouth, the tongue, lips, cheek, and palate forms the shaping mechanism that helps you to enunciate. Sound is filtered as it interacts with the different parts of the mouth to strengthen, weaken and form that clarity that constitutes the pronunciation of words.
The Importance of Voice Acting Warm Ups
Ever gotten woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call only to find your voice croaking weakly and embarrassingly over the receiver? Just like how it’s plain common sense to do warm up stretches before any exercise, the same theory applies to vocal warm ups. This is because speech involves the manipulation of different muscle groups described above.
Advantages to vocal warm ups:
- It strengthens and stretches 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.
- It 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.
When to Warm Up
The two best times to do voice acting warm ups are when you’ve just woken up, and before you are required to perform. Even if you have no projects for the day, it is still a great practice to do your routine once daily. All you need is approximately 10 to 15 minutes per session to shake off the croaky lifelessness of your voice. On top of warming up, sufficient hydration and home remedies can help you preserve that golden voice for lengthier and better performances in the long run. We’ll cover some of these below. But first, let’s start with some voice acting warm ups!
Voice Acting Warm Up Techniques
Now that we’re clear on the anatomical mechanisms of speech, let’s run this systematically. Silly as they are going to sound, we’ve curated a couple of warm up exercises for each part of your vocal pathway. You can run through the entire list, or pick and put together a design of your very own warm up routine from each section. Ready? Let’s start!
Your Lungs – Breathing Exercises
Breathing techniques are important in helping you build momentum for your speech. It also helps to prevent vocal injuries by ensuring that your voice comes from deep within your chest instead of relying solely on your throat. Here are a couple of exercises to get you started.
Warm up #1:
- Lie on your back comfortably with your jaws relaxed and lips closed.
- Take a breath in and exhale while making a low humming sound.
- Make sure the sound comes from deep within your chest instead of your throat.
- After five or so breaths of humming, slowly open your mouth while doing the same thing.
- This will sound like your “Hmmm” is transiting towards an “Ahhhhh”.
- Repeat this transition for another five counts of breath.
Warm up #2:
- Sit upright with a relaxed but good posture.
- Breathe in slowly as deep as you can through your nose and feel your lungs expand.
- Breathe out sharply by pushing air out through your mouth with your abdominal muscles contracting.
- The influx of oxygen will help to relax your mind and open your larynx for better performance.
- As you repeat this exercise, slowly increase the speed of your breaths.
Your Larynx – Pitch Exercises
Speech without pitch is flat, monotonous and uninteresting. These voice acting warm ups will help you to stretch your vocal folds in order to expand your vocal range and warm up different tones in your speech.
Warm up #1:
- We’ll work with vowels in this exercise. Let’s start with the letter “A”.
- Begin comfortably in the lowest pitch you can manage without any strain and say “Ahhh”.
- While holding the voice, slowly increase your pitch upwards comfortably without any strain.
- On repetition, attempt increasing your range by reaching higher and lower pitches slowly.
- Do the same with the pronunciation of other vowels, E, I, O and U.
Warm up #2:
- We’ll use the words “cucumber sandwich”, but you can form your own mouthful of words.
- Say the words with varying pitches to emulate happy, angry, sad, loving, shy and important-sounding tones.
- Experiment with the phrase until you get into the creative mood of pitch forming.
- Feel free to sound as silly as you can be as it will help loosen your mood up for better performance later on.
Your Lips – Clarity and Enunciation Exercises
Your lips help you to pronounce words more clearly. Such include words with the letter B, F, M, P, V, W, and Y. On top of that, it opens and closes to muffle and amplify sound production. Here are a couple of exercises that can help you to improve the resonant focus of your voice.
Warm up #1:
- Relax your lips loosely and take a deep breath.
- Release a steady stream of that breath through your mouth and lips instead of your nose.
- Create a sound with the letter B to produce “Beeeeeee”
- Trail the sound as you continue releasing air from your lips.
- Move up and down pitch scales with the sound non-forcibly.
- Repeat the same steps with the letters F, P then V.
Warm up #2:
- This exercise will also help to loosen your jaw.
- Say “mamamamamama” as long as you can with a breath of air.
- Then try the same with the below:
Your Tongue – Clarity and Enunciation Exercises
Accented or not, the movement of your tongue against your palette helps to form the clarity of your pronunciation. Here are some exercises to loosen up those tongue muscles and have them wagging precisely in no time.
Warm up #1:
- Start by placing your tongue behind your top teeth.
- Create trills by rolling your tongue against the roof of your mouth to produce “Rrrrrrrr” or “Trrrrrrr” sounds.
- Try saying “lalalalalala” as well.
- Repeat this a couple of times.
Warm up # 2:
- Tongue twisters are a whole lot of fun but they also help you to train the agility of your tongue muscles.
- Here are a few famous ones for you to practice. Get more from this link. Take your time and as you warm up, try to pick up the pace without compromising the clarity.
> Betty bought a bit of butter. But the bit of butter betty bought was bitter. So Betty bought another bit of butter. To make her bit of butter better.
> When tweedle beetles battle, with paddles in a puddle, they call it a tweedle beetle puddle paddle battle.
> A skunk sat on a stump. The skunk thought the stump stunk. The stump thought the skunk stunk.
> How much dew could a dewdrop drop if a dewdrop did drop dew?
> Round the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran.
Additional Voice Tips
Every athlete doesn’t stay in shape just by performing. They train, they watch their diet and keep to a healthy lifestyle. Just like Rome, endurance and technique aren’t built in just a day. Similarly, being a voice actor can sometimes require demanding and long hours of practice and work. Here are some quick tips to help you keep your vocal finesse in tip-top shape, all the time.
We don’t mean a sip of water here and there. We mean 6 to 8 glasses of fluids a day. If you’re tired of plain water, try going for warm tea with some honey instead. Herbs such as lavender, peppermint, and chamomile have great antimicrobial properties that can help soothe and prevent any infections while you’re hard at work.
Avoid Clearing Your Voice Unnecessarily
Clearing your voice is actually damaging to your vocal cords. It can aggravate an already strained and sore throat. In addition, it is your body’s reflex to produce more mucus when you do so, which doesn’t help. The act creates abnormal vibrations in your larynx that can tire and make your voice hoarser. Try drinking some warm water instead of clearing your throat or, if necessary, suck on a lozenge.
Listen to Your Body Cues
Some voice over, dubbing or audio ad projects are more demanding. They may require you to use vocal fry or emulate a guttural tone of a character. Several of these mimicry techniques require you to strain your vocal folds unnaturally or produce sounds relying a lot on your throat instead of your chest. When recording such projects, make sure you listen to your body cues. Take frequent breaks in between and make sure you take sips of water. It’s better to take a longer time to perfect your recording than damaging your vocal cords in the long run.
Always Have a Backup
We know clients are hard to come by. And once you have the momentum going, you don’t want to miss deadlines at risk of a bad review. But sometimes, disaster strikes despite our best efforts and we fall ill. In such circumstances, it is always great to have a reliable back-up to help you complete your project in order to meet your deadline. Outsourcing your voice over or audio ad project to a reliable platform with great recommendations and at an affordable rate can be an emergency solution. We all need a little help from time to time.
At the End of the Day
All in a day’s work. The life of a voice actor is not as easy as it seems. If you’re having a bad voice day, get more tips from this article to recover your voice quickly. Voice acting warm ups are crucial to every voice actor and designing one for yourself will give you a boost in confidence and performance. Find one that works for you and begin your routine today!