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Do You Exercise Your Voice Acting Skills?
Try These Four From Patrick Fraley ...
December 14, 2018

By Patrick Fraley
Voice Actor & Trainer

The following few exercises are from my newest book, Patrick Fraley's Complete Book of Voice Over Exercises, which I'm pleased to share with VoiceOverXtra readers. At my latest count, the book features over 250 exercises and the like. Enjoy!

The Anger to Frustration Shift Exercise

Playing "Anger" can be too strident for certain scenes and genres. What can you do? Shift from Anger to Frustration. No one will be the wiser.  

Objective: To practice shifting from anger to frustration.

Materials: The Anger to Frustrations Sentences below, your recording device, and a partner if available.

  1. Perform a line below from the Anger to Frustrations Sentences with anger.
  2. Perform it again, as if frustrated by your circumstance.
  3. Playback or discuss with your partner. Can you hear and feel the difference?
  4. Repeat the exercise with a few more lines.  
A Note On Good Acting: The way to approach anger or frustration or other emotions is not by "presenting them." Good acting is about trying to change the thinking and feelings of the person to whom you are speaking.

For example, if I want to appear angry or frustrated in a scene, I think about "diminishing" or "belittling" the person to whom I'm speaking. The end result is that I "appear" angry or frustrated.  

Anger to Frustrations Sentences
  1. If you insist on wearing that hooker dress, I can't take you to the party.  
  2. I'm twitching my nose like a rabbit? Maybe it's because the ashtray is full of butts!  
  3. No. Agina, it is a non-fat cafe latte grande. No caramel. Thank you.  
  4. Look! You said, "Oriental." It's "Asian." Don't say, "Oriental." Ever.  
  5. You know why they call it a Miracle Push up Bra: You're in Soho, but your boobs are in the Bronx!    
Didn't He Ramble Exercise         

Performers tend to overemphasize or "pound words" for meaning. Here's an exercise that will give you practice in performing dialogue without overemphasizing words and belaboring your dialogue.  

Objective: To practice delivering dialogue with a faster tempo, and not overemphasizing words.

Materials: A recording device

Duration: 10 minutes

  1. Look over the Dialogue Lines below. Get in mind to whom you are talking.
  2. Start recording and burn through the performance of the dialogue line without emphasizing any word more that others.
  3. Repeat with all the lines.  
Note: Make sure you are playing an action. Also, dishonor the punctuation as you "ramble through" the dialogue lines.  

Dialogue Lines:
  1. (snub) Hey, if I wanted a lecture on how to do my job I'd go back to college.
  2. (plead) When a person reaches a certain age, we need a bit of help. All I mean.
  3. (to apologize) Look, I'm not very good at this. Here's candy, flowers and I'm sorry.
  4. (warn) Gotta tell you, sometimes the best way to talk to a kid is to level with them.
  5. (encourage) I know you're a kid, but that doesn't mean it's okay to throw like one.
Do It Wrong Exercise  

Objective: To identify and clarify the wrong way of performing, so that you may focus on finding the right way.

Materials: A recorder device and a partner is you have one.

Duration: About 10 minutes.

  1. Select from the Do It Wrong Lines below.
  2. Perform it "wrong," by considering how other actors will perform it, or by following your impulse based on your intuition.
  3. Consider a more personal choice, one that better fulfills the scene, or, perhaps differently than others will do it, and record the line again.  
Do It Wrong Lines:
  1. (Hick Waiter or Waitress) Right. Like I had a choice: be a movie star or a diner waitress. What's your order?
  2. (Commercial Copy) When the sun crests over the golden wheat in the heat of summer, I know I am home. 
  3. (Smart Aleck) Another chance? That seems fair. I don't think so.
  4. (Science Geek) Hey Belinda! Where ya goin'? Can I come, huh? Please?
  5. (Exiled Princess or Prince) I was not always a traveler. Once I ruled a magnificent kingdom, but that's another story.  
  6. (Tough Soldier) You can kill me, but you'll never stop me.                  
Private, Prison and Personal Exercise         

When you are given the note to speak in a quiet or hushed tone, the question you should ask yourself is, "Why?" There are three basic reasons people are quiet. You don't want to confuse them.
  1. When you are speaking about something "intimate" (Private Read).
  2. When you don't want to be overheard (Prison Read).
  3. When you are talking to someone within two feet. This is the "default" performance for many voice over genres (Personal Read).  
Objective: To help you differentiate between circumstances, which require a hushed tone.

Materials: A recording device, and a partner if handy

Duration: 10-15 minutes  

  1. Guess as to which tone is appropriate in each of the sentences below.
  2. Look over the line, and make your choice between the three ways to approach the line.
  3. Record the line, take a pause and then reveal your choice. Private, Prison, or Personal.  
Private, Prison, Personal Lines:
  1. How does it feel to drench yourself in luxury? Eagle Shampoo. Indulge yourself.
  2. When a man reaches a certain age, well, we occasionally need a bit of help. That's where CompTroll comes in.
  3. Sometimes gas can cause some rather embarrassing circumstances.
  4. Let me tell you a secret: Athena Health Spas are just waiting to pamper you.
  5. Sometimes the best way to tell a kid something that's personal and important, is to level with them. We're here to help.
  6. Coming up with the right words is tough. On one bended knee. Looking up at her. It helps knowing that once that little blue box pops out of your pocket, you don't really need to say much.
Voice actor and voice-over trainer Patrick Fraley holds an MFA from Cornell University in Pro Acting, and is the author of 16 books on voice-over, including Patrick Fraley's Complete Book of Voice Over Exercises. He has supplied voices to more than 5,000 cartoon characters, placing him in the top 10 to be cast in animated TV programs. And he trains voice actors in workshops nationwide and in online Home Study Courses that include personal coaching.

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