You have to warm up your voice. Do not skip it! I warm up for at least 30 minutes on narration days. I start with moving the body: head and shoulder rolls, wrist and arm circles (I gesture a lot with fiction), side bends and reaches that get the rib cage moving. I’ll address breathing exercises in a future blog post, but they are a critical part of the warm up process.
From there, I might move on to lip trills and tongue trills (at the roof of the mouth, then with the tip of the tongue at the teeth, then again with the tongue sticking out). Add humming to those trill drills. Remove your mask by moving every muscle in the face, blow out your cheeks, trace your teeth with your tongue, gargle, lift and stretch the soft palate, strike a lion face (From yoga’s lion pose. I highly recommend starting a yoga practice and learning Alexander Technique; these have been crucial tools of mine for work and play for the past twenty years. Will write about the benefits of both in future posts as well).
After trills and face exercises, I might move through the vowels seamlessly; then again with various inflections (Statement. Question? Adamant question?! Demand!). Then I might move to consonants, listening to projection points for each. To keep the humors going, I like to make up tongue twisters on the fly using names of friends. Here are a few:
Bob bid Bilbo Baggins: Build the badlands!
Quit quick kisses, Costa. Kick quick kiss quips!
Mikhael must murmur misfits. Mantic Matt must murder mold. Meal milk meek meat.
Narrow noodles neurally nauseate Nikki. Nikki needed unique new innumerable noodles.
Punk Patrick probably purposely punctuated pit-pat-polly-pack.
Suzie said she’d surely stay sleeping, slumbering on the sloping slide of somnambulistic sleep.
My tongue twisters change according to need. One of the most important things I do is to find and work on my weaknesses. I copy and paste sentences I stumble over into a list. Here’s one from last week:
Daniel was feeling agitated that the detective kept ignoring his questions.
On to relaxing the throat. I try to keep a very open and relaxed throat during a session (insert joke here). This is very similar to the space in the back of the throat created when singing opera or using ujjayi breath in yoga. It is the “ha” position often described as holding an egg in the back of the mouth or fogging up a mirror. There are words you can drill with to work on the position of an open throat for the sake of practice. I make up my own amusing drills to keep the humors going: THE THICK FAT BAT SHAT DARK DRAB CRAP. HA, HA, HA. Say this five times: THE THICK FAT BAT SHAT DARK DRAB CRAP, HA, HA, HA.
If that doesn’t make you smile then I cannot help you. Try Googling “humorless drills.”
Lastly, I always warm up character voices. Locking in and shifting voices is a strong point of mine and there’s a lot to say about it on another day. I need to get back to work.
Warmly, Lesley Ann Fogle
p.s. I haven’t been on Twitter long and would like to connect with people who might be interested in this topic or have things to say that might help unlock more insights into the voice: @LesleyAnnFogle
And if your name starts with an X or Z, I’ll write you a twister.
Lesley Ann Fogle is a Narrator, Voice Artist, and Audio Designer. Visit her website at www.hearnoevil.us