I spent the day in a busy radio newsroom yesterday, keeping an eye on the unfolding Brexit drama. As you’ll know by now, Theresa May lost … her voice. It can happen to any of us – but when you speak for a living it can cost you dearly. So I’ve rounded up some of the latest thinking on caring for your voice, whether for voiceover, public speaking, or wowing will.i.am and co with your singing prowess!
- The top tip to help your voice – hit the bottle. Sadly, we are talking the water bottle. Yeah, I was disappointed too. Estimates vary, but the consensus is 1.5 to 2 litres should do the trick each day. Regrettably, coffee doesn’t count. (A shame, because I love a good single-shot more than life itself). Nor do tea, or fizzy drinks. I’ve found that milk can also clog you up – the problem of what to put on my Weetabix to fuel a morning’s narration is a quandary. Drink water steadily throughout the day, ideally at room temperature. If you’re gulping down a pint of H2O before recording a voiceover, giving a speech in the Commons, or even giving your X Factor audition, you’ve probably left it too late. Not an easy habit to learn, and something I could get better at!
- Know when to shut the heck up. Experts say you should take regular “vocal naps” every day, especially when you’ve been jawing a lot. Most voiceover producers will build in breaks during extended recording sessions, but if you’re a self-directing VO artist, you need to know when to stop. A few minutes breather will leave you ready to hit the studio with fresh vigour.
- Smoking – neither big nor clever. Especially where your voice is concerned. Inhaling smoke is a surefire way to irritate the vocal cords, reducing your performance. Besides, it’ll make the acoustic treatment in your shiny voicebooth stink like hell. And have you seen the price of twenty Embassies these days? Happily, I’ve smoked but one cigar in my entire life. As vices go, there seem to be more exciting options…
- Vocal abuse – Yelling and screeching are obviously bad for voiceover performance, but so is excessive whispering. According to the New York Times, many otolaryngologists advise against it, believing that whispering messes with your larynx more than normal speech. (Your mission for today is to drop the word ‘otolaryngolist’ into conversation.)
- Just like an athlete*, a voice talent needs to warm up before the big event, and cool down afterwards. A bit of gentle stretching will help – you don’t need to go the full Mad Lizzie to feel the benefits later in your voiceover session! A spot of humming will reduce tension in your facial muscles, and another good exercise is practicing elongated ‘zz’ sounds like in buzz, fuzz and jazz…. Nice!
*I promise to never again compare myself to an athlete. Ever.