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Breath Support For Voice Over: Simple
Exercises Will Expand Your 'Air Time'

November 19, 2015

By Ann Utterback
Voice Specialist and Author, Broadcast Voice Handbook

Breathing is the energy for speech, and not having good breath support is like driving a car with watered down gasoline. It won’t take you very far. 

Good breath support means you can control your exhalation. You want breath support that will allow you to:
  • talk for a long time on one breath of air, and
  • use that air to indicate emotional changes, and rate and volume variations. 
Breath support also prevents trailing off at the ends of your sentences, which can lead to the dreaded glottal fry.


Let’s begin with a very simplified look at how the lungs work when we breathe. 

When talking about breath support, I like to think of the lungs as balloons. We have the ability to hold the neck of a balloon and let the air out very slowly, or we can release the neck and let the air burst out. 

We do much the same things with our abdominal muscles when we speak as we do with our fingers on that balloon. 

The abdominal muscles allow us to control the release of air. But it takes some skill and training to be able to get that abdominal control of the breath. 


Let’s look at some hardcore exercises that will help create that support.

1. Count Out Loud

The basic exercise I love for building breath support is to take a deep abdominal-diaphragmatic breath, and then on one exhalation, count out loud as high as you can.  You should be able to count to at least 15. 

If you can (or can’t), keep doing this exercise and try to add a number each day. Over time you should be able to get to 25 seconds or higher on one breath.

2. Count Your Pulse Beats

One thing that can sabotage your breath support is for air to escape when it shouldn’t, like before you begin to speak or when you pause. 

Try this exercise. Inhale using abdominal-diaphragmatic breathing. Now, using your pulse as a guide (find this by putting your index and middle fingers on your wrist below your thumb), count out loud for five pulse beats. 

After five, pause for a beat, and then continue to 10, pause, and count to 15. 

You should be able to do this on one breath of air. If you can’t, pay close attention to see if you are exhaling before you begin or at the pauses.


Make these exercises part of your week so that your breath support stays strong. Get serious about breath support!
Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D., is a voice specialist with more than 40 years experience and has helped hundreds of people make the most of their voices, working with broadcasters, voice over artists and podcasters around the world. An author of eight books and over 50 articles on voice, her Broadcast Voice Handbook is a classic textbook offering more advice on how to improve your voice over performance.

Click for: Broadcast Voice Handbook

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Comments (4)
11/21/2015 at 1:31 AM
Thank you for the tips on breath control. I am definitely going to add these exercises to my training routine.
11/20/2015 at 12:25 PM
I will be using these exercises, very helpful. Thank you!
Tracy Elman
11/20/2015 at 5:25 AM
Ann, I have used your ideas you have given me and they are very effective. Thank you for the tips.
Elizabeth Holmes
11/19/2015 at 7:48 PM
Your advice is always so practical and helpful, Ann. THANK YOU, once again, this relevant and useful article!
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