As a voice-over artist, your voice is your instrument. It’s the most important tool you have when you walk into work each morning and it must sound consistent each time you step behind the microphone – which means it’s part of your job to stay in good vocal health. Of course, occasionally we all get sick. We’re only human. But as a voice-over artist, you can’t sound “tired” or “croaky” at 9 am and expect to work as a professional for long. Unfortunately, this truth can often butt heads with your social life.
The thing about having a social life is that sometimes, it’s, well – loud. And I don’t mean loud in the “Hey we’re all 21 and party all the time and stay up until 5 am Ke$ha-style” kind of way. I mean loud in a mature 30-something “my brother’s getting married this weekend and I have five events over the next three days that all involve talking to a lot of people over loud music and also drinking a more-or-less responsible amount of alcohol” kind of way. You want to sing along to the awesome band, you want to talk to every cousin, and you definitely want that third glass of champagne but Lord knows that combination doesn’t mesh well with the 100 pages of audiobook recording you’ll be doing less than 24-hours later. How do you balance attending an event you wouldn’t miss for the world with the fact that Monday morning you need to be behind a microphone at 9 am and speak for four consecutive hours without turning into a teetotalling square that leaves the party early?
You could become a hermit, steaming your vocal cords every morning and night, excelling at your job and climbing to the top of your field…only to realize at 40 that you have no lifelong friends because you’ve spent all your “talking time” reading to strangers behind a microphone and not developing close relationships. That’s a bit extreme, obviously, but honestly it can feel that way at times. To keep your vocal health intact and balance a healthy social life, you must make calculated choices. Because the question at hand is hardly a new one, it’s the age-old debate of work/life balance. And like work/life balance, what’s “right” will vary from voice-over artist to voice-over artist.
But if you need a place to start, here’s what I do:
Seek “Silent Social” Options
This isn’t a complete replacement of your social life, obviously. But I will actively engage a couple nights a week in a silent social activity that allows me to rest my vocal cords while still interacting with others. This can be via social media or text message while you sit at home with a face mask on, resting your voice. Or going to a movie, play, or concert with friends where you can all enjoy the performance together without talking for a few hours.
Buffer Big Outings
When I’ve got a big social gathering that I know will be loud and I don’t want to miss out on any of the fun, I buffer my voice-over schedule as much as I can. Putting a rest or recovery day between the event and your next recording session will help you stress less about having that third glass of champagne because you know you can hydrate, steam and luxuriate over your hot mug of tea all day Sunday while preparing your voice for Monday’s long session behind the mic.
Combat Dehydration and Over-Use
The biggest daily killers of vocal health are dehydration and over-use. Dehydration is exacerbated by caffeine and alcohol intake, as well as smoky environments. But this doesn’t mean you need to stay home from every bar – simply take your vocal strength into account when you’re there. Skip coffee the morning after you’ve had a couple beers, opting for a second glass of water instead. Hydrate before bed after a night out at a particularly loud concert where you sang along happily to every song. And never forget the power of a 10-minute steam the morning after in the shower, over a pot on the stove or with a steamer.
When in studio, always start the day with a good vocal warm-up so you’re not going into a long recording with cold cords. Also make sure to time yourself behind the microphone, taking a break every 50 minutes to finish your water, make another cup of herbal tea, and rest your voice for 10 minutes while relaxing your vocal cords.
Here’s an exercise I love: exhale out of your mouth, puffing out your cheeks and blowing air through your lips like a horse. Doing this for 10-20 breaths each hour is a great way to release any tension building up in the throat that can easily affect how long your voice sounds “good” behind the mic for long reads.
Choose Social Gatherings Wisely
If possible, suggest quieter venues, where you won’t have to talk over loud music or a crowd. This can help you use your voice wisely while still building relationships with friends and loved ones. In boozy environments, volunteer to drive others home and order sparkling water. And if you are stuck in a loud environment, try over-enunciating your words instead of speaking louder. Often this can help make you easier to hear without having to yell or strain your voice.
Treat your vocal health like it’s part of your job…because IT IS. Work/life balance is difficult in any field, and ours is no exception. Make calculated choices to keep your voice in shape so you can have a long and healthy career behind the microphone while not devolving into complete hermitude and foregoing human contact.
Caroline Turner Cole is a storyteller from Dallas, TX. Find out more at www.carolinecolestories.com or follow her on social media @carolinecolestories on Instagram and @ccolestories on Twitter.