Voice Acting Training Exercises for Beginner Voice-over Actors
When you aim for a voice acting career, voice acting training is not a nice-to-do rather than a must-do. You see, proper training can prove beneficial in a bunch of different ways.
First, you will get to know the right techniques to improve as a voice actor and pursue your voice acting career. Second, and maybe most important, you protect your voice and learn all the ways you can keep it safe while extensively using it at the same time. It’s an ugly truth that lack of experience in voice acting can be really damaging for a voice actor’s voice.
So, keep reading for voice acting training tips and learn how to get better at voice acting. But wait a second. First, to get a full grasp of your voice actor lessons and learn the DOs, you need to take a look at the voice acting DON'TS.
Many voice actors — even with tons of experience — engage in activities and habits that can only prove harmful for their voices. This doesn’t mean that they cannot perform or that they lack talent, but, in the long run, those habits will definitely hurt their voice.
To make sure that your voice stays as healthy as possible for time to come, here’s a list of five DON’Ts you should keep in mind:
1. Too much alcohol and caffeine
Alcohol, much like caffeine, can be responsible for draining your vocal cords as well as your whole system. As a result, your mouth and throat become dry, and your voice can sound tired and hoarse — just like it does after a long night out.
In addition to that, alcohol can irritate your throat’s mucous membranes, which can result in a restricted vocal range and control.
2. Vocal overwork
Think of your voice as a muscle that you should never exhaust. When you’re starting out with voice acting, you will find yourself overworking or taking one project after another just to keep your income consistent and flowing. It’s understandable, but please try to refrain from it.
Using your voice too much can result in damaged vocal cords, an exhausted throat, and too much pain. Nothing is unfixable, and if you ever notice any of these symptoms, you can consult with a physician to figure out what you need to do. However, an overworked voice is hard to manage and work with.
And if sometimes you find yourself swamped with work, make sure you prepare your voice with the proper warm-ups and vocal training exercises (read more below).
3. Clearing your throat
We understand how sometimes, especially after a long recording session, you feel like there’s something in your throat and feel the urge to clear it. However, this can easily kick off an involuntary habit or develop into a nervous tic that you won’t be able to control.
Clearing your throat is unnatural because it creates vibrations that your cords are not designed for. And this can cause a lot of harm in the long run.
4. Mind dehydration
Water’s purpose is exactly that. It works as a natural lubricant for your whole body, and, of course, your vocal cords are included. Drink lots of water, especially before a busy day in the studio, take regular breaks, and take several sips between takes.
Carry a bottle of water with you to produce thin mucus that will help you keep control of your cords and mouth noises.
5. Don’t yell or whisper
Your vocal cords are made for using them wisely and naturally. And the natural way to use your voice is to talk normally. Too much yelling can drain your vocal cords as much as smoking, and you might even develop chronic hoarseness that is too hard to get rid of. The reason? Your vocal cords’ edges bang against each other too much and become swollen.
Additionally, whispering for long periods, even when you’re trying to rest your voice, should also be avoided since it can harm your pipes. And again, this can lead to an unwanted raspy voice effect.
Now that we’ve covered what you must NOT do, let’s take a look at a comprehensive list of the things that you need to do (either from time to time or as part of your routine) to make sure that your voice is always on point and safe.
In a nutshell, here’s a list of the things you should consider doing:
- Do your vocal warm-ups every morning
- Take regular breaks between recording sessions
- Have warm drinks (especially chamomile or peppermint tea with honey)
- Gargle salt water to fight inflammation
- Work with a vocal coach
This is it. These were some simple tricks to keep your voice healthy. However, you might have noticed that the last suggestion is to work with a vocal coach.
Sure, in this article, you will get to know how to train your voice along with some voice training techniques. But they’re for beginners. A vocal coach will help you master voice acting, protect your instrument, and make the best out of it. But more on this later.
Now, it’s time to cut to the chase.
Time to get serious now. Ok, yeah, these exercises might be mostly tailored to a beginner’s needs because experienced voice actors work with their personal coaches all the time, especially in periods that they tend to overwork.
However, the ideas below will get you into the voice training mentality and what it takes if you’re wondering how to become better at voice acting.
1. Start with warm-ups
A day in the life of a voice actor should always start with some basic warm-up exercises. This enables them to both take care of their voice and prepare it so they can achieve better results.
When you wake up, your vocal cords are tight which creates the hoarse-y effect that makes your voice sound tired. Vocal warm-up exercises will help you loosen your vocal cords and fully activate them. Try to do it every day.
After your voice acting business has grown enough, more and more requests will be coming in, so the wisest thing to do would be to also do your warm-up exercises before you start recording.
In other words, make warm-ups part of your voice acting training routine to keep your throat healthy and at its best. Also, don’t forget to relax your mouth area with some basic exercises like tongue trills and lip rolls.
2. Learn how to breath
Think of ads, voice-over artists, or even your favorite animated characters.
Think of Ariel the Little Mermaid (above water), Simba from the Lion King, or movie trailers. And listen closely. No role or voice-over narrator ever breaths — and when they do is part of their performance. So, the better you learn how to control the source of your vocal power (i.e., the lungs), the better voice actor you’ll be.
Start by taking deep breaths to figure out your lungs’ capacity. Learn how to engage your diaphragm and keep track of how much air you exhale when speaking in front of a mic.
Then, take a book and read sections while keeping your tone of voice in mind. Don’t make it robotic. Try to use your voice to express different emotions and monitor how they affect your breathing.
3. Do impressions
If you’ve ever watched voice acting gurus or people who use their voices to make money, you’ve most probably noticed that most of them are able to control their voice so well that they can imitate other celebrities and voice acting styles.
This is not just an attempt to appear relevant or show off their talent rather than proof that they’ve done their research. When making impressions, you get into the mentality of voice acting, see what makes big names actually big, and eventually do better voiceovers.
So, voice actor lesson #3: Make impressions and imitate the way others speak to learn how to do different voices.
4. Practice your cold reading skills
Sometimes, you might have to deliver a voice over without having the time or luxury to study the script extensively beforehand. When you don’t have the ability to review a script before an audition, you need to respond immediately and be your best voice-acting self right on the spot.
This is what we call cold reading. It’s when voice actors need to read and perform with little or no time to study their script, rehearse, and prepare. But beginners usually get nervous, and they end up sounding too flat.
To practice this unique voice acting skill, you need to develop your sight-reading talents that will allow you to read upcoming words in your script while you’re speaking the ones before them. It takes time, though, and the only voice acting training exercise to get better at it is to read books or short stories that you’ve never read before out loud as if you were auditioning.
Don’t forget to color your voice and make it sound natural.
5. Expand your vocal range
Generally, the wider the range you cover, the more voices you will be able to do and the more voice qualities you’ll be able to master. Be diverse and touch different pitches, volumes, tones, or even accents. This is what makes a good actor: variety.
And again, making impressions is key here.
Listen to people from different age groups, regions, and cultures and try to imitate them. Perform with their voices in mind, and don’t worry if you don’t make it right away; you’ll get there.
6. Add emotion
Many believe that acting classes help voice actors amp up their game. And it’s true. And this is why it’s usually part of a structured voice acting training program.
Adding emotion to your voice, even for the simplest project, such as a radio jingle, will instantly make a difference and help you stand out. Because acting unlocks those skills of influence and persuasion.
Play around with your voice and focus on acting out emotions. Start big, and then try to tone it down until you’ve perfectly reached the feeling you want to communicate without being too dramatic.
Successful voice actors don’t stop at their voice. Use your whole body to act if it helps and test different techniques that will help you add the perfect amount of emotion — not too out-there, not too reluctant.
7. Add emphasis and mind your inflection
When starting out your voice acting career, you will sound flat. Then, in an attempt to add some excitement, you will seem like your trying too much. And it makes complete sense.
Adding emphasis is essential when trying to engage listeners. Each sentence serves the story, so you need to make it count. The best way to add emphasis, increase engagement but not make it too cheesy is to mind your inflection.
Inflection is a common term in the voice acting community. Mastering your voice’s inflection means that you can control your pitch perfectly and serve a different purpose at a time. However, inflection also allows you to convey emotions and get your listeners hooked to the story you’re telling.
Think of your normal voice, for example. It sounds different when you’re excited, sad, or angry. This is exactly why you need to develop your inflection skills: to communicate feelings by just changing the way you position your speech.
8. Listen to yourself
You’ve probably read this before. And if you’re searching for voice acting techniques and ways to make it into the voice acting industry, it means that you’re reading a lot. And all articles out there say the same thing: you need to listen to yourself.
Listening to how you sound allows you to listen to your real voice and not to the voice that your inner ear catches. Many people (including you, maybe) hate the way they sound on video or a recording. Well, because they don’t really know how they sound.
Record yourself while doing your exercises and change the way your voice sounds on each exercise. Make your voice deeper and then higher. Feel free to horse around with it, and when you get to listen to your track, see which voice you like the most.
You don’t need any fancy equipment. Use your cellphone as a mic and your earphones to listen to yourself. An objective perception of your voice will allow you to become better at what you do.
After all, this is how your potential customers will listen to you as well.
Conclusion: Voice Acting Training Should Be Fun
Playing with your voice is (and should be) fun.
Reading aloud while being creative with your vocal instrument should give you pleasant feelings of joy if you want to make it in the voice acting market. As a voice-over artist or a voice actor, you will have to be in sync with your voice all the time. You will need to try out different things and approaches, and then even go the extra mile.
This means that, at some point, some expert advice is always welcome.
Sooner or later, you should reach out to a professional vocal coach who will teach you how to better control and protect your voice at work. A vocal coach can only prove an excellent addition to your toolset. Where would Aristotle be without Plato, after all?