Breathing is primarily an autonomous reflex. However, we can (to a degree) adapt it to suit our activities. Just like actors and singers, voice-over artists are required to follow the phrasing or punctuation of a script – this can often mean consciously controlling how and when to breathe in order to project and sustain the voice during longer sentences.
Below are a few exercises from our voice experts which will assist in extending and controlling the breath!
Awareness of body and breath: Lie in semi-supine position if new to diagrammatic breathing; otherwise, sit or stand with your feet firmly on the floor and body relaxed yet supported. Take a deep, controlled breath in through the mouth for 10 seconds and place your hands on your abdomen – feel the expansion as the diaphragm pushes downwards. Exhale on a count of 10. Repeat 5 times. Now, place your hands on your ribs and repeat the above – feeling the rib cage expand on the in-breath and relax to neutral on the out-breath. Repeat this exercise 5 times.
Diaphragm bounce: Think of the diaphragm as a trampoline. Try silently panting, feeling the diaphragm ‘bounce’ quickly up and down. Continue for up to 1 minute, but don’t go above this!
Reducing audible inhalation: In one breath, count 1-10 out loud in a quick but natural manner – at the end, quickly drop a breath in whilst keeping an open jaw and throat. Count 1 -10 again, but this time take a breath in with a marginally less open jaw. Repeat the exercise whilst gradually closing the jaw until the lips are barely open. Listen throughout for audible inhalation and repeat with a slightly wider jaw if you can hear the breath.
Breath building: Breathe in, feeling the abdomen expand, then breathe out whilst chanting (on the same note) 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 (and so on) until you comfortably run out of air. Do not strain or push the voice. You can also try this exercise in front of a mirror to visually check any tension in the larynx that might be creeping in.
In order to effectively and efficiently use our voices, we need to be aware of and appreciate the demands we place on it. Try to recognise and adjust your behaviour to support vocal longevity by using our seven tips below.
Look out for tension/stress in the shoulders/neck/jaw ache – this will in turn increase an unbalanced tension in the voice. Try to be aware of this when altering your ‘natural’ voice. Massage/stretch the affected area, and yawn-sigh to stretch vocal cords.
Habitual throat clearing/coughing – you could even get family/friends to remind you to do it! Sipping water, dry swallowing, or gentle coughing also works.
Avoid shouting/screaming/prolonged loud talking as this can cause your vocal folds to swell or bleed. If required to do so in the vocal booth, make sure you breathe through the vocalisation, water is to hand, and you stretch the vocal cords as soon as possible.
To avoid tired/sore voice due to prolonged use, take 5 minute vocal breaks as frequently as possible throughout the day; however, do not go on complete voice rest for prolonged periods unless you have a confirmed diagnosis of laryngitis.
Avoid whispering when on any type of vocal rest as this can cause supraglottic hyperfunction – use a ‘soft’ (confidential) voice instead.
Emotional upset can affect laryngeal tension. Look at ways to channel and release any emotional upset. This will vary from person to person but try to find an outlet to suit you (mindfulness is an excellent example).
Warm up your voice daily, even if you are not going into the vocal booth. Vocal cords are muscles and need regular exercise! Incorporating a 5-10 min warm-up into your daily routine will mean you are ‘voice-ready’ for any last-minute bookings.
Making small, yet informed, changes to your lifestyle choices can have significant positive changes on how your voice sounds and feels. Our team of experts in voice, including speech and language therapists and professional voiceover artists, have put together this helpful list of how to improve your vocal health and hygiene. We hope you find it useful!
Increase your water intake. Try taking frequent sips throughout the day, particularly when vocal demands increase – frequency is much more important than volume consumed. When in the vocal booth, sip water at every paragraph.
Reduce/give up smoking or vaping – this includes passive smoking.
Reduce alcohol consumption. Try to alternate alcoholic drinks with water or add non-caffeinated mixers to neat spirits. Alcohol makes the vocal cords and larynx dry and can also irritate the mucous membranes that line the throat.
Avoid spicy food – particularly late at night. If you enjoy spicy foods, consume with water.
Avoid heavy meals just before bedtime . If this is unavoidable, try using an extra pillow to alleviate any potential acid reflux.
Avoid or reduce caffeine. Try swapping to herbal non-mentholated/de-caffeinated substitutes or alternate caffeinated drinks with water. Unfortunately, many fizzy soft drinks also contain caffeine so check the label!
Avoid any menthol sweets. This includes any ‘cough’ or ‘throat’ sweets containing menthol (a known ingredient to strip the vocal cords of vital lubrication). Chewable blackcurrant pastilles are an excellent alternative!
Reduce aerosol spray usage. Increase room ventilation if it’s necessary to use them.
Reduce dairy food (or consume with water) to avoid sticky (noisy) mucous in the mouth/larynx.
Steam to alleviate vocal fatigue/tension (important to steam with water only) and humidify your environment – place a bowl of water by bedside/radiator, or if possible sleep with window marginally open.
The voice-over industry is growing rapidly. As a talent, it can often be an uphill battle to make your voice heard. Working in casting, time constraints often mean talent gets missed. This is what we, at The Voice Distillery, aim to tackle!
Our team consists of professionally-trained voice-over artists, speech and language therapists, academics in voice research, software engineers, and business managers – all of whom have a passion for the human voice and technology. Our vision is to become the most trusted voice casting platform by providing an affordable and educational marketplace for voice-over artists to excel in, and an innovative tech platform which enables content creators to find the perfect voice in record time.
At the moment, we’re very busy behind the scenes developing our technology and we’re in the very early stages of building a roster of voice talent. If you’re a voice-over artist and you’d like to be kept up-to-date on our services, consider signing up to our mailing list by clicking the button below and sending us a bit more information yourself.