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VOICE ACTING
Clicks, Pops And Slurps: How To
Minimize Annoying Mouth Noise


By Susan Berkley
Voice Talent & Coach

Mouth noise can be a real occupational hazard for voice talent. Some producers will even stop hiring you if can't get the problem under control. Ouch!

But never fear, there are many things you can do to reduce or eliminate mouth noise. Here's how to get to the root of the problem:

STRESS MAKES DRY MOUTH WORSE

The key to good acting is relaxation, concentration and imagination. But few people know how to really relax on cue. It's important not just for your health but for your art.

When we get nervous, certain stress hormones that effect salivation are liberated in the bloodstream. These hormones can cause your mouth to dry (or to drool, which can be just as bad!)

If chronic dry mouth, or even a mouth that's too wet, is a problem for you and your doctor has given you a clean bill of health, it's probably stress related.

Sure, relaxation techniques can help, but I've found that the most effective, long-lasting way to deal with stress is to gain awareness of the unconscious psychological attitudes that are causing the stress in the first place.

 DRY MOUTH? ADD LEMON JUICE TO WATER

The tartness of lemon stimulates the flow of saliva. And remember to drink plenty of water. Keep sipping that water throughout the day.

Air conditioning and heating systems are dehydrating and you may need even more water than you think!

Keep a humidifier near you while you work so your body can absorb even more humidity. It's great for voice.

CHEW GUM BETWEEN TAKES

Gum stimulates saliva flow. Use sugarless to prevent tooth decay. Just remember to take it out of your mouth before you speak!

FOODS TO AVOID BEFORE SESSIONS

Avoid salty foods, dairy and fried foods before sessions.

Even though you may not add salt to your food, there is a lot of hidden sodium in the average American diet, especially in fast foods, Chinese foods, cold cuts, and processed foods.

Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Bring your lunch to work and read the labels of the food you buy. There are many low sodium alternatives and many cookbooks on the market which focus on low salt/high taste.

TAKING MEDICATIONS?

For dry mouth, allergy medicine is a real culprit, and you may be taking it to combat allergy symptoms this time of year.

Explain the problem to your doctor or pharmacist and see if anything you are taking is exacerbating the problem. Perhaps they can provide an alternative. Mention the problem to your dentist, as well.

Chronic dry mouth can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease, so make sure you get regular check ups.

EXPERIMENT WITH MIC PLACEMENT

The closer you are to the mic, the more mouth noise you'll hear. Try working a little farther away or raising or lowering the mic.

Ideal mic placement is about a hands width away, but you may need to move a little closer or farther away depending on your voice type and the effect you want.

ABOUT SUSAN ...

Susan Berkley is a top voice over artist and founder of The Great Voice Company, devoted to teaching great voices around the world how to become successful voice over talent. She is the telephone voice of AT&T and Citi, author of Speak To Influence: How To Unlock The Hidden Power of Your Voice, and a persuasive speaking expert. A frequent media guest, she has been featured on ABC news, CNBC and in the New York Times. Through her Bootcamps, coaching programs and courses, she shares how to experience and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the voice over lifestyle and create a home-based business. For a free CD, 6 Insider Secrets For Getting Started in Voice Over, plus weekly tips and techniques, visit her website below.
 

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Comments (4)
Bill Smith
5/25/2012 at 4:11 PM
Susan is right on when saying, "Mouth noise can be a real occupational
hazard for voice talent. Some producers will even stop hiring you if
can't get the problem under control. Ouch!"

Good advice, but I am compelled to add a couple tips:

If you just gobbled down a WackyBurger and a Fruity-Doodie Milkshake,
please, before you stand in front of a mike, take the time to thoroughly
brush and floss and gargle! I wear headsets when sound engineering, so
trust me I can hear every lip smack and throat gurgle - and it is SO
annoying that I want to barf.

During the session, hydrate frequently, but ONLY with lukewarm water or
decaf herbal tea. Nothing, please, that contains sugar, which coats the
throat with yuck. No caffeine products, please, because they dehydrate you.

I observe talent waiting for "action" - they are not breathing
from the diaphragm, and their lips are clamped shut. Why? Because they
are anticipating and doing it from nervous energy rather than from
relaxation and focus. So two crappy things happen:

1) The engineer hears that half-hearted launch of the first line.
2) That is accompanied with the annoying lip smack from lips being glued together
with drying spit.

So, actors, breathe openly several times before the
take. (And breathe.... in character with the intentions and emotional
nuances required of the material.) And keep the lips slightly parted.
I sometimes provide clients with lip gloss to reduce the smack volume.

Look, if you are not wearing cans, then ask the sound engineer or
producer for a playback. Listen critically, not just for acting values,
but for where you might have popped a p, or a phrase is just a little
mushy or slurred

Break a leg,
Bill Smith
The Acting Studio
http://gvtg.com/theactingstudio
Maxine Lennon
5/25/2012 at 9:05 AM
Thanks Susan - great tips as always...
Jason Bermingham
5/25/2012 at 8:46 AM
Excellent tips, Susan! I recently started working with the RX2 plug-in, which works wonders for reducing clicks and such on long voice recordings without worsening the overall sound of the recording. For those who would like to take a look, here is the video link (the difference is clearest when wearing headphones): http://youtu.be/qwdECSt3qX4
Ken Budka
5/25/2012 at 12:27 AM
Thank you Susan, I appreciate your insights. This is a pesky problem on occasion that definitely adds to the editing process. Lemon water seems to work best for me and I'll definitely experiment more with mic placement.
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