Warming up is an essential part of the voice actor’s process. No matter the genre or field of VO, a warmed-up actor is a prepared actor. I have found these exercises to be helpful in my work in animation, interactive, and commercial voice-over. The exercises below are best done anywhere you feel comfortable looking silly – I tend to do them while driving in the car to a recording session. Below you’ll find the must-have warm-ups in the same order as the video portion, with timestamps so you can follow along.
Early in the morning or on the way to a session? Don’t forget to breathe. The Yawn-Sigh is the perfect exercise to help slow you down and gently “wake up” your voice. Yawn up and down slowly, while “sighing” out on a soft pitch, then reverse. Do this 3-5 times.
The Lips, The Teeth, And The Tip Of The Tongue (00:59)
Simply repeating these three articulators is a great tongue twister and a reminder of what portions of the speech machine we are warming up. Feel free to gently add in some soft massaging of the jawline to get the blood flowing by slowly moving your fingertips in small circles around your jaw.
Tongue Twisters (01:37)
When you read for a living, tongue twisters are no longer just a playground challenge, they are a rite of passage. Feel free to shake it up every day, but try to give yourself 2-3 minutes of tumultuous tongue twisting a day. Here are a few of my favorites, repeat them aloud:
- Red leather, yellow leather.
- You know New York, you need New York, you know you need unique New York.
- The human torch was denied a bank loan!
Okay, so that last one is from 2004’s Anchorman, and yes, I really do use that. Remember when I said we shouldn’t be afraid to look silly? I meant it!
Finally, as promised, here is the Gilbert & Sullivan piece I used as a tongue twister in the video portion. Remember the first aim of this tongue twister is to hit the consonants clearly, then after a few passes, I like to play with emotion and speed.
To sit in solemn silence on a dull, dark dock in a pestilential prison with a life-long lock awaiting the sensation of a short, sharp shock from a cheap and chippy chopper on a big, black block.
The more fun they are, the more likely you are to do these exercises, so find warm-ups or tongue twisters you love. When in doubt, pick a book and read aloud for an extended period of time. Pick a classic or favorite and read it loudly in an accent or a favorite character impression of your choice – after all who doesn’t want to hear Don Knotts reading The Grapes of Wrath?