Exercises for the Voiceover Actor
Last month, I talked about exercise, the importance of vocal warm-ups, and more. This month, let’s discuss specific breathing and vocal exercises.
Breath Control: I cannot emphasize enough the importance of proper breathing and breath control. There are so many techniques for breathing for different workouts—yoga, Pilates, and many others—it can be confusing.
Proper breath control for a voiceover artist means using your diaphragm. How do you breathe from your diaphragm? You actually use your diaphragm every day—every time you take a breath in and every time you exhale. It is active during inhalation and exhalation. I’m often asked, “How do I know if I am doing it correctly?” Here’s an exercise. Lay on your back on the ground. Then relax and breathe. Put your hand on your abdomen. You should be able to feel your abdomen and hand rise and lower with each breath. You breathe correctly when you are sleeping.
The goal is to have a sufficient amount of air with minimal effort. You want steady inhalation and exhalation, and to breathe from your diaphragm efficiently. Here are a couple of exercises to make sure you are breathing from your diaphragm and also helping with vocal coordination and control.
Hissing Exercise: Hiss first with short bursts. Make sure the body is not collapsing and is moving inward right away, yet that your body is maintaining the expansion. Then go to a long hissing sound. How is your body maintaining expansion? Only at the very end of hissing will your torso go back to original standing position. This is a good exercise to help increase your stamina.
Remember your diaphragm moves up and down like a parachute or umbrella, not in and out.
Vocal Warm-ups: Make sure you’re not holding tension in your throat or in your jaw. Then do a nice, easy massage of your jawbone where you feel any tension—especially where your jawbone hinges—and lightly massage. As you feel it relax and slack a little bit, work your way up and down the jaw line, then bring down the thumb anchored underneath the jaw line, anchor index fingers under your chin and massage gently.
Wake Up Facial Muscles and Tongue Stretches: You may have heard this called “The Lion” in yoga. Stick your tongue out as far as it will go, open your eyes wide, and say a gentle aaaah.
Start with your regular speaking pitch and then build from there. It’s good to start with your resting pitch, or just a nice, easy hum. The way to find your resting pitch is to imagine if someone asked you a question, and you answered ‘hmm, hmm.’ So many of us are used to talking in our throat or the “vocal fry” sound, that we don’t realize what we are doing to our vocal cords.
Start with your regular speaking pitch or a hum and then build from there. Here are some more specific ways.
Kathy Grable is an L.A. voice-over prototype with a warmth and sincerity that reminds listeners of a close friend. You’ve heard her in animated shows like Tom & Jerry, Rocket Power, and Futurama and commercials for Pepsi, Disney, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, and as the Baskin-Robbins “Talking Spoon.” Kathy was also the voice double for Nicole Kidman in the hit film Batman Forever. On-camera, she’s been seen in Mike & Molly, Harry’s Law, Last Man Standing, and The Wedding Band on TBS. She’s a sought-after V/O coach, director, and demo producer. When not performing, Kathy co-owns and operates a company that distributes e-books, comics, audio dramas, and her own podcast, In My Voice, with guests from all aspects of the voiceover world. Find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify, or go to https://anchor.fm/kathy-grable0 for all the episodes.