Voice and Posture

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

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (A Voiceover Demo Reel)

I can in no way claim to be an expert in the world of voiceover (for that, check out voice-over extraordinaire Nicola Redman). However, I have now spent some time in a studio recording the dulcet tones of my decidedly American accent, and learned more about my own voice in a few hours than I probably did in an entire year getting my masters in voice. Yes, I just wrote that. In any case, a few things you should know before going in and making a demo reel:

1.     Energy! I realize this sounds fairly obvious, but in a voice-over reel you are not seen. All of the normal physical habits you use daily to enhance what you are saying are not part of the audio file, so you must rely only on your voice to do the job. Because of this, vocal energy needs to be at a place that just isn’t used in real life. At times you may feel over the top, but often that is the recording that will sound the most interesting. Experiment to find the sweet spot for your voice.

2.     All ears on you. Perhaps you already know who will be in the studio with you as you record, but be prepared to face more people in the room than you perhaps initially expected. There may be a director, producer, sound engineer and more  all working to create the best reel for you. Besides having a small audience, know that the team will all have their own set of directions to give! Take direction with grace and humility, it’s usually not personal.

3.     Silence. To do your takes you will go into a sound proof booth and be outfitted with headphones so you can be in contact with the team outside of the booth. However, between takes those outside the booth may be discussing things, leaving you in the booth to sit with your own thoughts for a few minutes. And let me tell you, sound deprivation is a known torture device. Be prepared to sit with the silence, or find distraction by re-reading the text before you do another take. Just know they haven’t forgotten about you … as eerie the silence may be.

4.     Chugging water like there’s no tomorrow. When was the last time you spoke for multiple hours straight, out loud, at full vocal energy, with limited breaks? Exactly. Bring your own water and drink it down between takes. The combination of a dehydrated & overused voice is deadly, especially if you are using your voice in a professional context.

5.     Exploration! Making a demo reel can be fun if you allow it to be, and a lot of that comes from exploration of your voice. You will have quite a few takes of each text, so experiment and see what works best. You might just find out something about your own voice that you never knew … 

Where to find more information on the world of voice-over:
The VoiceOver Network UK
Gary Terzza Voice-Over Blog
Voices.com Blog