V.O. Home Workout
STRENGTHEN YOUR ACTING & GET CONTROL OF YOUR MOUTH:
Read out loud!
Don’t wait to find a class to test your abilities and start building your skills. Begin right now for free!
To be competitive as a voice actor, you’ll need to become proficient with diction, speed and sustainability of character. You may be asked to perform paragraphs at a time. You must also be able to deliver the vocal goods without injuring your voice.
A great way to improve your technical readiness for voice acting is to try this exercise: Read an entire page, chapter, even book– out loud.
Just starting out?
Okay, newbie, try reading Dr. Seuss’ “Fox in Socks” out loud. Read it through without a mistake and you get a gold star. How about read it all without a mistake and hold a child’s attention? Good luck! This adorable little book presents the reader a jungle gym for the lips. Taking a run at this simple but challenging book will give a beginner a good idea of what you may need to start working on. But don’t stop there…
If you are getting good, then choose something with some meat that’s fun for you– something well written with good characters and lengthy narration. I like to go with “literature.” Some of my faves include: “A Christmas Carol,” “The Hobbit,” “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Twain, Poe, Rowling, even Shakespeare! Each is a gourmet vocal feast– an Olympic workout. Try it! (I often read to myself while walking my dogs!)
Start simple: Begin by reading the first chapter of your book out loud– all of it, just using your normal voice, and see how that feels. If it didn’t flow the first time, go back and read it again! When you’re comfortable with that, try adding some characters to your read. You don’t need to over do it– less is often more. Your character voices musn’t upstage the story telling!
Feeling good about that? Then try reading the entire book! Yes, ALL OF IT out loud. (Okay, you can take breaks.)
For more advanced copy check the texts I’ve posted on my Practice Outloud page.
Even more challenging:
How about reading aloud a book of poems? Think they are easier to read because there are fewer words? Nope. Reading poetry outloud can give you practice that extends beyond technical proficiency to work your acting ability as well. You cannot read a poem well without a clear lock on an idea contained within the poem.
The clearer your grasp of the core meanings locked within the words– the imagery, the emotion, the vision– the better your performance (the better your acting). And words have a kind of power of their own. By choosing to emphasize one particular word in a sentence, you change its meaning!
There are so many choices and playing with this can be quite fun- or just exhausting! Working this is fundamentally working your acting muscles.
Another advanced variation:
Want to develop or strengthen a particular character or an accent? Read entire chapters in the character or accents you are developing! Work your diction, acting and your character/accent at the same time!
Variation 1: Odd Copy
When working up a new character or exploring your range, try reading from something that is far from what that character would normally say. This may sound really odd to anyone else listening (it is), but don’t do it for laughs. Read it straight ahead. (e.g. read the ingredients of a cereal box or nursery rhymes in an “evil voice.”) Can you sustain the read for five minutes? Ten?
Voice actors are sometimes hired to read copy that may appear absurd or nonsensical or even boring. It is up to you as an actor to imbue the words with meaning, add pre-life, subtext, implication, maybe other flourishes of character– even the silence you add in between words or sentences can have meaning. These may seem silly or a game to do this, but this is actually what you do when hired to voice act.
Cereal box: Get a cereal box and read everything on the box as a character- not just for laughs, but drama, evil, or in an accent, for instance. Try reading it straight. Okay, if you want to go for the funny, do that too!
Newspaper: Read an article out loud switching up the characters, accents, etc. Read obituaries out loud in a character voice.
Nursury Rhymes: Read a children’s book or poem in a variety of voices and accents.
Honestly assessing your performance:
Do you feel you have control over your mouth? Do you “see” the story you are telling in your mind? Do you read with ease or are you struggling and stumbling over words and punctuation? Are you able to confidently and believably act this– that is, bring all the feeling and meaning to the telling of this story– or are you fighting the words or struggling with maintaining character distinction? Are you having fun or sweating bullets?
Remember- voice acting shouldn’t sound like you are “reading.” You are performing this, and it must sound natural, real and relaxed. If you’re not confident, keep it up!
Think you’re pretty good? Can you imagine someone hiring you to do this? Okay, then try reading it for kids or friends or fellow actors. Test the accuracy of your self-assessment.
Reality check: We all start our journeys innocent of where we stand. A true beginner is unaware of their deficiencies of talent or their various blind spots (we all have them!). Gradually (painfully?) you become aware of where you need work, where you are lacking. Further along your climb, you strive to gain conscious control of your talent. You can now execute well, but with conscious effort. Finally, through hard work and luck, you may attain mastery that is an unconscious flow of your hard earned expertise. Your art becomes an intuitive and almost effortless instinctive response. This is the arc of an artist’s journey from neophyte to entrepreneurial pro.
Back to earth: Vocal control is one of the baseline skills a voice actor must possess. This exercise will reveal much about your level of technical readiness and can serve as a fun workout for improving command of your vocal instrument and your ability to act.
More important than technical proficiency or ability, a voice actor needs to love reading, speaking and acting. Practicing out loud- reading words that inspire and move you- will deepen your love of this art form in ways that may surprise you!
Continue on to the Practice Out Loud page for practice copy and monologues!
Many thanks to my friend, the incredible Kath Soucie, for suggesting the idea of reading a book outlout.
Do you have any advice for transitioning from reading in a voice to improvising in a voice?
Improvising is a skill that can be learned. For some it comes easy, for others not. Live performing of any kind will teach aspects of improv or being able to move with the flow of a performance as modified by an audience. But you can also take classes. I go into good detail re: hunting down good instruction on my site.
How do you keep a consistent voice?
It’s not about voice- it’s about character. Character consistency is a matter of your acting- your clarity of idea. The better and more confident you get, the easier it is to hang onto a character even when the emotion gets big. The clarity of your idea is like a gravity that pulls you back, no matter how far out you take it emotionally. Acting experience, study, classes can help develop and focus your control so you can maintain your initial vocal creation.
Do you have any exercises or recommendations for improving breath control and supporting the voice? I’m having trouble with maintaining the strength of my delivery for longer sentences.
I’d recommend a good singing teacher or voice coach or even acting coach.