Arms up, legs together….and one and two, and one and two, and – wait a minute! Stop with the exercises already. This is a blog on exercising your voice, not your body. That being said, it is a blog on how exercise can affect vocal performance and how the rest of your body supports that undertaking.
As a person who lives by your voice, you may be familiar with vocal warm ups, tongue twisters, the Sweep exercise, the Cork exercise, tongue and jaw exercises. Warming up your vocal instrument is absolutely a must before getting behind a microphone and knocking it out of the proverbial vocal ball park.
What we sometimes neglect to consider is how the rest of the body supports the voice and must be warmed up and rarin’ to go as well. Your face, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands all play a part in an effective and engaging performance.
Gestures, vocal and physical articulation, and breath control all contribute to a praiseworthy performance. The physical tools that you employ during a vocal delivery can enhance your execution and make a measurable difference in the overall undertaking.
Let’s consider a voiceover session. Obviously, the client, director, producer and/or sound engineer can see you during a recording session, IF you’re in a studio. Most of the time, however, no one can see what your body is doing during a session, but physical movement of your body can be detected in your work. You need to add body movement in order to truly deliver the emotion in your presentation. Body movements can enhance your voice and enhance the conversational delivery of a script!
Explore and employ tools that can reduce your body tension prior to recording. One of my favorites was actually suggested by my chiropractor. His term for it – “the ugly face.” This exercise is particularly effective for those of us who carry a lot of tension in our neck and shoulders.
Stand in a doorway with your hands at shoulder level, pushing against the doorjamb. As you push out with your arms and hands, pull your neck back towards your spine, almost as if you were pulling your chin back to your chest. Hold for a count or two, then lift your chin up and extend your neck outward. Look down into your left front pocket. Look down into your right front pocket. Repeat as needed!
Allow your mind, body, and voice to communicate. Learn to recognize thoughts, situations, even relationships that create physical tension for you and then, learn to avoid or deal with them. How many times has someone said to you, “I can hear the stress in your voice.” Don’t let self-consciousness, anxiety or tension affect your sound.
Focus on this tried and true breathing relaxation exercise. Inhale through your nose and hold for a count of four. Exhale for a count of four. Try to increase your inhale and exhales times, but be mindful that becoming dizzy is not the desired after effect.
As a novice yoga student, I’ve recently been introduced to a new breathing technique called Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing. A breathing technique to keep the mind happy and calm, it is also touted to promote focus and energy.
In order to practice the technique, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. Close off the left nostril with the ring finger, and then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern and repeat in reverse.
For increased breath control and improvement of pitch range try the Sweep exercise described in The Art of Voice Acting by James Alburger.Take a deep breath, hold it, then release it in a yawn. Take another deep breath and release this breath while making the lowest “HAAA” sound you can achieve. Gradually increase the pitch of your voice, from low to high.
The CORK exercise is another vocal warm up that helps with articulation. Mentioned in numerous writings regarding voicing, including James Alberger’s The Art of Voice Acting, and made popular by the recent movie, “In A World,” it’s a quick, easy, and fun activity. To measure just how effectively it can boost your enunciation, try this. Record a portion of the copy that you are scheduled to deliver. Put a wine cork between your front teeth like you hold a stubby cigar. Then practice the same copy several times over. Chances are, you will feel the intensity in your mouth and jaw area. Remove the cork and record the piece again. There should be an exponential difference in the overall recording, not to mention how much more smoothly the words roll off of your tongue.
Keep things in perspective! You are not performing a root canal. Let yourself enjoy performing, use your instincts, be spontaneous, move to the rhythm and patterns you hear in the words of the copy. Nerves, butterflies, that rush of adrenaline….the tiny surge of excitement can be great as long as you don’t view it as your personal stop sign to an otherwise praiseworthy performance.
Move your hands and arms…. Count on your fingers… Scrunch up your face!… Hunch your shoulders… Strike a pose.
As long as your head stays on axis with the mic, movement is great!
DON’T be inhibited! Keeping your limbs straight and stiff can definitely affect and be detected in playback.
Try incorporating all or parts of the following warm up routine into your daily schedule.
Face First – Put On a Happy One!
Applying slight pressure, massage your face where the jaw hinges. Loosen up your muscles and your mouth.
With your lips closed and your jaw slightly open, move your jaw slightly to the left and then slightly to the right.
Stick your tongue out. Move it up and down, from side to side. Try to touch your nose with the tip of your tongue.
Roll your neck to the right, then to the left. Finish with a great big yawn. Oxygen to the brain cells and all that.
A great exercise that will warm up your voice is humming. With your lips closed and jaw open, focus on humming that happy, foot-tapping tune.
Take a deep breath while you’re humming and hum from your base pitch to a higher note. Then repeat and hum your way to a lower note.
Tongue twisters are an amazing way to warm up the voice. Some good examples are…
Which witch wishes to switch a witch wristwatch for a Swiss wristwatch?
Not many an anemone is enamored of an enemy anemone.
Around the rugged rocks the ragged rascal ran.
Please pay promptly.
Angela Castonguay is a successful voice-over artist, coach, and author, whose book Feeding Your Voice provides an essential guide to voice care. For more of her work, visit her website angelacastonguay.homestead.com.