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VOCAL HEALTH
Before Voicing - WARM UP Your Voice.
After Voicing - WARM DOWN. Here's How ...
February 23, 2015

By Dory Rigopoulos Kafoure, M.A., CCC-SLP      
Speech Pathologist / Voice Coach / Singing Rehab Specialist   

Did you know that voice over actors are VOCAL ATHLETES? You use your voice more and in more varied ways than the typical everyday speaker.

Think of it this way: An athlete would not think of running a race before warming up his muscles to protect him from injury and allow him to perform at his best. 

Warming up the voice is the same idea.

The other important point that we most often overlook is to ‘warm-down’ - often known as cool-down.

After the athlete runs that race he doesn’t just sit down. He walks to prevent muscles from cramping and allow his heart to return to a resting heartbeat.

Warming down the voice follows the same premise. After a great deal of talking, singing or making vocally demanding sounds the muscles of the voice as well as secondary muscles need to release and return to neutral. 

If the muscles don’t return to neutral they tend to retain some of the intensity of the effort that was used and the speaker may begin to compensate with this new state of normal ensuing a road of bad habits.  

VOCAL WARM-UP

A warm-up should include breathing and loosening up the body along with variation of pitch and loudness.

To make it easy, you can do some of these in the shower or driving in the car. This only takes 5 minutes.

Breathing
  • Do some gentle shoulder rolls and side neck stretches.
  • Reach for the ceiling one arm at a time to open the ribcage. Bend forward with arms down, pausing at different levels as you roll back up to inhale and exhale. Feel the ribs move out to the side and to the back.
  • Let your lips flap loosely like a horse. If you increase the speed the lip flaps will turn into lip trills. You can vary lip trills by gliding up and down in pitch or by varying volume on one pitch.
Flexibility
  • To limber up your voice use ‘v’ or ‘ng’ (like ‘ing’) to glide up and down in pitch.
  • As you ascend in pitch don’t push. Think ‘soft’ the higher you go. 
  • You can also hum using glides or simple songs. Just be sure you have relaxed your jaw and have a space between your back molars. This is so the tongue stays relaxed and doesn’t pull to the back of the throat.
Volume Level
  • For varying loudness use an ‘ee’ sound. Pick a comfortable note. Start off at a soft to medium loudness, increase to medium loud and then back to soft. 
  • Saying, "m-hmm” will put you at your typical speaking pitch. Take the pitch a little higher and lower from your baseline and repeat.
  • Again, when you get louder don’t squeeze at the throat. Use your abdominals.    
Limbering Up the Face
  • Tongue twisters work well to limber up your tongue and lips.
  • Quickly repeat ‘pah-tah-kah’ for 10 seconds keeping facial muscles loose. 
  • Lick your lips in a circle or roll your tongue forward with your tongue tip lying behind the bottom teeth. 
  • Hum while pretending to chew using exaggerated movements to relax mouth muscles.  
VOCAL WARM-DOWN

A warm-down should begin where you ended vocally and return to natural relaxed speech:

Speaking or Singing
  • If you’re a speaker, then start a little higher than your regular speaking voice and glide down gently on ‘ooh’.
  • If you’re a singer, then start on the pitches you ended on and glide down on ‘ooh’. 
  • Follow with several rounds of counting out loud 1-10 or days of the week
  • Repeat some of the lip trills, tongue stretches and chewing while humming from the warm-ups.
Also, do an awareness scan of your body and see what feels out of balance. If it’s breathing, do some slow breathing. If your body is tense, then shake your arms or legs.      

ESTABLISH YOUR BASELINE

Finally, establish a baseline for your voice. Why is that useful?

Once you discover your best voice ‘warm-up’ you will know what is normal for your voice on a good day.

For example, if you warm up your voice every day and today your voice sounds different, you can start troubleshooting and resolve the problem before your gig. 
----------------------
ABOUT DORY 
Dory Rigopoulos Kafoure is a speech pathologist, voice coach and singing rehab specialist who helps actors and voice actors with articulation (diction), breathing techniques, accent reduction and voice improvement. Working in this field for 34 years, she is licensed and has a Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), and has done extra study and certification in the areas of voice "which is my passion and specialty." With basic training in articulation, language, voice and stuttering, she is a Lessac Voice and Body Kinisensics Practitioner, clinically trained in LMRVT (for resonant voice) and LSVT (for Parkinson's voice), trained in Estill Voice Treatment, and is currently learning Vibrant Voice Technique.


Email: vocalbest@aol.com
Web:
www.DoryTheVoiceCoach.com

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Comments (4)
Lenka
3/2/2015 at 3:21 PM
Thanks Dory,
Your article is now taped to the wall in front of my mic!

Lenka
Mike Sessums
3/1/2015 at 9:50 PM
These excellent exercises should be very useful. It has been a while since my last voice training and his was a good refresher. Thank you!
Sean Daeley
2/24/2015 at 1:53 AM
Thank you so much for this, Dory! It's a very common question that a lot of VO's of all levels struggle with.

I am incredibly happy with Elaine Clarke's Voice One vocal warm up app (only 99 cents!) that I found out about through her guest appearance at a VO peeps meet up group. It incorporates many of the principles you describe, and I've noticed a definite improvement in my vocal strength and delivery. Hopes someone finds that, and your article useful!

Warmest Regards,
Sean
Yvonne
2/23/2015 at 11:27 AM
So glad to meet you through this very useful article, Dory. You've reminded me to resurrect my discipline of daily tongue twisters - and I'll have to print out and routinely use your prescription for warm up & down. Thanks! V
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