I was recently speaking to Guy Michaels and Esther Wane (two excellent folks in the world of voiceover, go check them out), when the topic of posture and voice came up. Now, as a voice person I know how easy it is to get obsessed with the minute details of the larynx and the like … so why of all things do I want to talk about posture?
Because voice over artists tend to have bad posture!
Ok, now that’s out in the open, let’s talk about why.
Often when we speak in real life our bodies tend to want to come towards the person we are speaking to, leading to the head and neck poking out and the shoulders rounding. However, in real life, the person we are speaking to responds to what we are saying, and our bodies register that they are listening to us. A studio with a microphone is an entirely different situation. In the studio there is only you and the microphone. And it is quite easy to start poking the head and neck forward and rounding the shoulders in order to bring yourself (intentionally or unintentionally) closer to the microphone. This is lovingly described by Yvonne Morley as the ski jumper position. Don’t be a ski jumper in the studio!
Why is this not desired?
Because use affects function! If the head and neck are dropped too far forward, the muscles in the head and neck constrict to help hold the head up, and the area around the larynx is compromised. If the shoulders start rounding that can affect breathing, which powers the voice. Now imagine forcing your body to work in that position for many hours without rest. I would call it body abuse.
How can I develop better posture & alignment?
1. Sit or stand in front of your microphone and start registering the relationship between your body and the room. What is the difference in space between the top of your head and the ceiling? Between your right shoulder and the right wall? Left shoulder and left wall? Your feet to the ground? See what you notice, and adjust if something feels off.
2. Step your feet in closer to the microphone if you start to feel yourself becoming a ski jumper. There is absolutely no reason to stand so far away.
3. Lay down on the floor for a few minutes, allowing yourself to release into the ground. Make a mental note of the feeling of your back on the ground. When standing in front of the microphone, keep imagining that sensation on your back, allowing yourself to come into your back body.
4. Try placing your feet one foot forward, one foot back in order not to get stuck in one position and to help stabilize your body over a wider base.
As you develop habits of good posture and alignment, the voice will become freer and more accessible, leading to some damn good studio sessions. I can guarantee it.
For more information:
STAT: The Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique
The VoiceOver Network UK