Thursday, July 2, 2009

Technique Tip of the Month:Warming Up Your Instrument

Anytime you begin a project, it’s crucial to warm up and get your instrument ready for work. That instrument, of course, is your voice. For many people, recording first thing in the morning or recording late at night may make it difficult to produce a quality sound. Your instrument (your equipment) just may not be at its best at those times of the day. You will be able to determine the time of day when your own voice isn’t ready for optimal use. To help your voice wake up, the best thing to do is to talk. Talk to your dogs, talk to the television, talk to your family, sing while you're in the shower. Talk as much as you need to in order to get the blood flowing to your vocal chords. Most importantly, make sure that you drink plenty of liquids. If you are a coffee drinker, that's fine, but try to get a couple of glasses of water in before you start recording.

Repeating tongue twisters is another great trick to help warm up your voice. When you’re having warm-up sessions, think of yourself as a baseball player who is waiting to go to bat. Baseball players will often practice swings with weights on their bats before they step up to the plate. Swinging the bat with these weights on it makes it seem so much easier when they actually do step up to the plate to take a swing; it makes that bat feel light. Tongue twisters can do the same thing for your mouth while you’re warming up. If you are practicing with and mastering these difficult tongue twisters, by the time you pick up the actual script, the words will come easily and flow off the page. Chances are that whatever you have to read will be easier to get through than the tongue twisters, just as the baseball player's bat is lighter without the weights.

Another thing you can do to warm up is to take your entire script and say it through clenched teeth. Doing this really makes your tongue, throat and jaw muscles work hard to get those words out. The goal of this exercise is to try to enunciate so that people can understand what you’re saying. By attempting to do this through clenched teeth, your mouth is really working hard to clearly pronounce the words. The great thing about this exercise is that you don't even need to have a script to read. You can just walk around your house talking to your kids, your husband, your wife or your dogs through clenched teeth. Just be sure to let them know what you’re doing so that you don't come off looking or sounding angry!

Once you begin recording, deep breathing is essential. People are often tense when they get into the studio. This might be because of nerves, or maybe it's been a stressful morning. Who knows? Just remember: one of the best parts of what we do is that we can start over if we make a mistake! A script recording rarely ever comes out right the first time. We have a job that allows us to make mistakes. The goal is to get the end result sounding right. So relax, take a deep breath and just have fun knowing that even if you do make a mistake, you can start over. After all, the better prepared you are and the more you warm up, the fewer mistakes you will make!

Lisa Foster, Voice-Over Talent, Coach and Producer

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