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arTICulate! Exercise Your Tongue
& Jaw Before Voice-Over Sessions
By Connie Terwilliger
Voice Actor and Instructor
When reading voice-over scripts, these “ailments” are bound to strike from time to time:
  • Immovable Jaw
  • Idle Tongue
  • Lazy Lips
  • Too Much Speed!
What to do? Exercise your way back to clear articulation. Better yet, do these vocal warm-ups before turning on the mic. The more you loosen up before a session, the easier it will be.
  • Spread the lips in a smile for “eeeee”, open them for “aaahh”, and close them for “ooooo”. Repeat.
  • Rapidly say “fud-dud-dud-dah” several times. Now say “ira-ira-ira-ira-ira-ira”.
  • Make believe you are a truck. Trill your tongue. Be a rattlesnake.
Say each of the following words five times, trying to keep the tongue forward, just behind the upper front teeth. Listen for brightness and liveliness of tone:
  • tea
  • tick
  • tail
  • nape
  • deal
  • dish
  • thick
  • table
A stiff upper lip is one cause of miss-articulation.
Say the words "pit-pat-pit-pat-pit-pat" many times. Try to pronounce the “P’s” and “T’s” very clearly.
Now pick up the speed. Don't loose the 'P' and the 'T'!
Say the following words while exaggerating your jaw opening:
  • hack
  • yacht
  • dot
  • paw
  • yard
  • dart
  • tab
  • tot
  • dark
  • hah
  • tat
  • lad
Repeat each of the following word groupings clearly, over and over. Start slowly at first. As your articulators become more nimble and relaxed you will be able to pick up speed without stumbling.
  • Good Blood, Bad Blood
  • Bad Blood, Good Blood
  • Red Leather, Yellow Leather
  • Buttah, Guttah Guttah, Buttah
  • The Leaf Police Dismisses Us
Do any sort of tongue twister that comes to mind. Many of the following are familiar. Some came from the Speech 101, Voice and Diction Class at San Diego City College, in San Diego. Some are from Beverly Bremers Voiceover Workouts. Others are from actual scripts.
Some seem simple. Some will be the bane of your existence.
Just remember to warm up your articulators before jumping in on them!
Rubber baby buggy bumpers
She sells sea shells by the sea shore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells,
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
Five fresh fish specials daily
Unique New York
Six stick shifts stuck shut.
Another long block of non-stop rock
The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick
I slit the sheet,
the sheet I slit;
and on the slitted sheet I sit.
A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk,
but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.
A Tudor who tooted a flute
Tried to tutor two tooters to toot.
Said the two to their tutor,
Is it harder to toot –
Or to tutor two tooters to toot?
I’m not the pheasant plucker,
I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate.
I am only plucking pheasants
‘cause the pheasant plucker’s running late.
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
Connie Terwilliger is a veteran voice-over talent, coach, spokesperson and actor based in San Diego. She is also a producer/writer, and teaches a college-level course on voice-overs in San Diego.
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