Nerves. We can all get them from time to time. And as a newcomer in the industry, that need to succeed can be especially distracting and actually get in your way.
So how do you cut through the noise and the pressure, and connect to that deep, calm, centered, confident you? One is through the use and mastery of breath.
Ever caught yourself holding your breath? (Of course, if you weren’t breathing at all you’d pass out!) But when we’re nervous, that fight or flight response can take over, and we start tensing up, and that breathing can become soooooooo shallow.
Start paying attention to how you’re using your breath in daily life. How often do you shut it down? With the stress of an audition, or even coaching sessions when you’re first getting started, how often does your body get tense? That tenseness can lead to tightening of the throat, lack of breath support, and interference with your natural instincts.
Also, a tense voice tends to go up in pitch. How does your voice sound when you’re most relaxed? Like when you first wake up in the morning? In order to be able to connect with your full range, it is essential that we are able to connect to this relaxed, centered and grounded place within us, even when we’re on the spot.
Start practicing some breathing exercises to see how they can help eliminate nerves, ground the voice, and help you nail your reads!
1) Slow down. Simply take a deep breath in, hold it, and then let it out very, very slowly.. (Make sure your breath is coming from deep down. You want to feel it get pulled deep down inside your stomach, your pelvis, and your diaphragm.) Do this several times and see how it changes your perspective. The more you key into this you’ll find it can really help calm you in daily stressful situations, relax the body, and ground you.
2) Try four count breathing. When confronted with stress, one of the best ways to combat the fight or flight syndrome is by re-setting it. Try measuring your breath in four counts. Four counts in, hold for four counts, four counts out, hold for four counts.. Repeat four times a cycle.
3) Try connecting this grounded, relaxed self to your voice. Take a deep full breath in, and when you release it, try a very relaxed mmmmmmm sound upon exhale. Keep your throat nice and relaxed and feel how the sound resonates throughout your head and your body. This can help connect your relaxed state of being to a lovely, full, grounded, and beautifully placed vocal tone.
These exercises can be really great for centering yourself in the big picture, and helping to eliminate the sense of stress and urgency that can come with worrying about making sure you have fabulous results. Being able to relax, enjoy, and remain in the moment is actually key to delivering a great read!
It also helps ground us in our authentic voice, keeping us from sounding too ‘actory’ and artificial. Give them a try and notice how they can change your perspective and your placement, helping to unlock a beautiful range and rooting you in physical and mental relaxation.
Voice Over work at its heart is really Voice Acting. And the very fundamentals of good acting is relaxation and concentration. Having the tools to help you start from that relaxed, centered place can give you the building blocks upon which you will build your technique, discovering a range within you that is always grounded in confidence and authenticity.
Aria McKenna is an award-winning actress who has worked in films, TV, and the stage. She’s also a sought-after voice talent who has worked for major brands like Disney, Chevy, Fiat, Chanel, Yokohama, and more. You can find her work at ariamckenna.com.