ASK MARC #2:
How To Cope With Clearing Your
Throat, Write A Bio & Voice Trailers
By Marc Cashman
Voice Actor & Coach
©Marc Cashman 2012
This is a monthly Q&A column on VoiceOverXtra, where I answer a veritable smorgasbord of voice over questions. If you'd like to pop a question to me, please see my contact info below.
Q: I have been in professional acting since 1983. I am currently doing my best to get VO work. When I go into the studio to record I have to clear my throat often. I take a lot of water with me and even try the "A-E-I-O-U" mouth stretching exercises, but still find myself clearing my voice in between recordings.
Would you mind sharing with me what you do to prepare for a recording session? What exercises, readings, etc. you do?
I have also been asked to complete a bio for my VO agent and am not exactly sure what to include. Also, I have a deep smooth voice and would like to do VO for movie trailers as I become more known in the industry.
Any and all help would be greatly appreciated. I have learned that to be the best you have to seek out the best, so I am. Thank you in advance for you imparting of your knowledge and wisdom. - Jon P., Layton, UT
TAKE TIME TO WARM UP
A: Jon, thanks for writing in. Throat clearing is a very stressful occurrence for a voice actor, particularly during an audition or session.
It distracts you from the project at hand, breaks your concentration and flow, and causes a bit of consternation in the engineer (not to mention you and the client) because of the amount of editing he or she will need to do in post-production.
Here’s what I do: Before every audition or session, as I'm driving in my car on the way to the studio, I use the time to warm up.
I'll do various vocal exercises, including singing. These include innumerable ways of articulating consonants and vowels.
I combine every consonant with every long and short vowel, in every key.
READ THE SIGNS
I'll read street signs, billboards, signage - everything I can see to read (or sing) out loud.
I'll gently stretch my mouth, lips, jaw and tongue muscles, and I'll drink plenty of room-temperature water, since air conditioning dries out the nasal and mouth passages, and experts say you should hydrate for at least an hour before a session.
I'll bring water with lemon in it into the booth to help cut down on mouth noise.
I'll even bring small, cut-up pieces of green apple to help with that as well.
WATCH WHAT YOU EAT
I don't eat anything scratchy before a session (some actors eat absolutely nothing), such as dry toast or granola, as those things tend to stick in your esophagus even after you've washed it down.
I definitely avoid dairy, as that causes phlegm to reside all over the place.
And I avoid greasy or spicy foods, as well.
A nice cup of decaffeinated herbal tea with honey and a banana or two for energy usually suffices for me.
TAKE A HOT SHOWER
Another easy and helpful thing you can do before your session is to take a long, hot shower and, in essence, give yourself a healthy dose of steam.
It really helps to clear your nasal passages.
I also use a nasal rinse if my sinus passages are dry.
A DOCTOR CAN HELP
If you still find that you're clearing your throat a lot, you might want to consult with an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT).
An ENT will be able to thoroughly inspect what's going on in your throat and make effective recommendations.
You might also be suffering from post-nasal drip due to allergies, and an ENT can help diagnose that as well and prescribe appropriate medication.
A GENTLE CLEARING
When you do have to clear your throat, do so off-mic and gently.
Gargle a bit with lemon water, and take a few, deep cleansing breaths.
I'll keep my fingers crossed that one of my suggestions, or a combination of them, will work for you.
ON WRITING A BIO
Now, regarding your biography, there are many types of bios out there, depending on whether you're an on-camera actor, stage actor, voice actor, print actor or whatever.
If your agent is asking for one and you're not sure exactly what he wants, rather than trying to read his mind, ask him to provide you with an example of a great bio from another actor at your agency.
That way you'll be able to see the form and structure and know what information you have to have.
If your bio's extensive, you might consider truncating it and placing it on the inside cover of your voice acting demo. Ask your agent if he or she thinks it's a good idea.
EXCLUSIVE TRAILER CLUB
Finally, regarding voicing trailers, the trailer voice acting "club" is one of the most exclusive areas of voice acting in the world.
A few dozen men - and it is almost always only men who are chosen and privileged to do this type of work - do virtually all the trailer work, and it seems you have to have very high-power representation to get your foot in the door.
If this is an area you seriously want to try to break into, I suggest you put together a killer trailer demo.
To be competitive, log onto voicebank.net and listen to the trailer demos online from various voice agencies throughout the country.
HAVE THE RIGHT STUFF?
If you think you can put a demo together as good as the ones on there, go for it!
Then submit it to a top voice agency in one of the top three markets - New York, Chicago or Los Angeles - and see if you get any bites.
They may not usually represent out-of-town actors, but if you're really good, they might make an exception in your case. Good luck, and break a lip!
ABOUT MARC ...
Marc Cashman creates and produces copy and music advertising for radio and television. Winner of over 150 advertising awards, he also instructs voice acting of all levels through his classes, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques in Los Angeles.
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