Don't you hate answering the phone when someone just woke you up? You know you're going to sound like you just woke up! Even if you shot right out of bed, in a ninja stance, ready to go...you still sound cold. And that person on the other end knows it. You can't fake getting your voice to sound like its silky best first thing. So what do you do? Well first...I tell them wrong number. Then I get started on warm-ups! Ok and a shower...
There are a lot of styles and schools of thought behind getting your throat ready to blab. One of the most famous, and my personal favorite, is the Announcer's Test. Most people in voice over are familiar with it, so I won't go into the story. But it's worth checking out and having it in your bag-o-tricks. While I don't personally use it that often, I do enjoy breaking it out now and again. It's gets the lips loose, and really gets you to flex some face muscles.
A lot of techniques out there really focus in on the mechanics. Things you can do to shape your face, or open up your muscles, remove mouth noise, blah blah blah...but here's the thing...while those all have a place there is a significant oversight...how do you warm up for the performance?
How many specs do you see on scripts now that say things like "non-announcer, real person, just talking, guy next door voice", etc...??? So much copy now is connecting to the listener on an intimate level. Being real means taking the time to embody the persona of who you're talking to, or who (the character) is actually doing the talking.
I started thinking about the difference between warming up for mechanics vs. for performance while reading Joe Cipriano's book Living On Air. He had a section that talked about exploring his voice during a time when he needed to make a change. The world of promo dramas was not what he was known for, but had the chance to shine at NBC. After working with voice over coach extraordinaire Marice Tobias, she had a brilliant suggestion. When Joe would get ready for NBC promos, his dramatic change would be literal...by wearing all black. This helped put him in the right frame of mind to do the darker drama reads. And he's awesome so there's that (sorry fanboy'd it a little).
So how do you warm up for performance? Here are a few things I have done to get me in the right frame of mind when trying to connect with the copy:
No matter how you approach copy, take the time to learn the character and connect. Warm up the muscles, bite a cork with your front teeth and talk clearly; then embrace the words and embody that person you are trying to become. No mater how great your voice is, if you are still in your pj's at 2pm, you'll sound like you just woke up.
Now go call your mom.
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