Imagine you have to record a voice over for an explainer video or branded animation. You’re not a voice actor, and you don’t have time to go through voice over training to learn voice over skills. You’re stressed. While your team knows you are inexperienced at voice-acting, they still want to amaze customers and colleagues with the video, placing even more pressure on you.
Contrary to what you may think, you don’t need to do exhaustive voice over training to improve your voice acting skills. Instead, you can learn how to improve your basic voice over skills by heeding the advice of some expert voice over artists.
Improve your voice over skills without voice over training
Warm up your voice to sound clear: sleep, hydrate, hum
Jessica Doyle, a professor and vocal coach for experienced actors, singers, and public speakers, shares three tips to warm up your voice so it performs at its best during recording sessions.
First, sleep well. You need to sleep seven to nine hours in the days leading up to the recording. Vocal folds, the producers of your voice, are muscles that need rest. Sleep deprivation doesn’t let your voice perform at its best. Instead, your sleep-deprived voice may sound croaky or rough.
Second, drink water four hours ahead of your voice over. Drinking water during the set isn’t enough to add life to your voice, as it takes four hours for the water you drink to hydrate your voice.
Third, Doyle suggests humming is a quick and effective way to warm up your voice. Hum through a regular drinking straw, sliding the voice in sirens (from the bottom of the range to the top) and then in smaller hills, slowly. Do this for two to three minutes for a clear, roughness-free voice.
Watch your posture while recording
Your head’s position affects how your voice sounds, so it’s crucial to maintain proper posture while recording. “The head is meant to balance on the spine at the atlanto-occipital joint,” says Jessica Doyle, “which is roughly between the ears.”
She goes on to say if your head placement is excessively forward—like a turtle—or pulled backward—like a wrestler—, your neck will create unnecessary tension in your voice. Neck stress affects vibration. And since the sound waves from voices result from vibration, our voice will tire more quickly.
Correct head placement falls at the middle of the forward and backward extremes. Think of an entirely forward head as a one and a fully pulled back one as a ten. Position your head at the middle, a four, five, or six. “It should feel like a bobblehead,” says Doyle, “where the head glides easily on the spine.”
Perform outside of your comfort zone
Douglas Liantonio, a 15-year veteran of audio engineering and voice acting, encourages people to perform characters outside their comfort zone. You should be scared or reluctant to play your character, he says, because those performances help you break out of your shell and wear your emotions in the booth.
While delivering uncomfortable lines, add emotion to each sentence in a pre-recording take. For example, say “wowwee” several times before recording a line where you should sound excited. After doing these short emotion-centered practices, you’ll be primed for longer periods of voice over recording.
Find and emphasize each sentence’s power word
Power words are the portion of a sentence we consciously or unconsciously emphasize to add meaning or evoke emotion. Vanessa Cuddeford, a former TV news anchor and reporter, suggests looking for and emphasizing the power word of each sentence when recording.
“In everyday conversation,” says Cuddeford, “we use the correct stress without thinking about it. But when we read out loud, we often place stress in unnatural ways.” If you place stress in the wrong power word, your sentences’ message will change.
One of her examples shows the importance of being mindful of the word being emphasized. Read the following sentence seven times, stressing a different word each time—I hit a pothole on my bike. If you put stress on I, the sentence revolves around who hit the pothole. If you stress the word bike, the emphasis is the bike hit a pothole, not a car.
It’s easy to highlight the wrong power word when recording, especially if you haven’t gone through voice over training. To avoid this mistake, find the power word in your sentence before recording and underline it in your script so you remember to emphasize it.
Record your line in three voice tones to find the most energetic
It’s common to sound underpowered during your initial voice overs, so it’s crucial to find your voice’s most expressive side by recording your lines in three versions.
In the first, use a dull, expressionless voice. In the next, speak the same line with your usual energy and standard voice level. Finally, record one last version where you add as much energy as you can, up to the point of sounding crazy. “In most cases,” says Vanessa Cuddeford, you’ll find the “dull” and “normal” versions won’t sound very different from each other. And the “crazy” version won’t sound so crazy after all!”
If you do this exercise, remember your energy during each version and lean towards the crazier side of the spectrum: it’s not as crazy as you think.
Take a hot drink into your recording space to avoid a dry mouth
Martin Talbot, a voice over artist with over a decade of experience, advises taking a hot drink into the recording space. By sipping a hot drink, you’ll avoid missing syllables and rough sounds due to a dry throat and tongue. Hot drinks can maintain and recover your voice’s peak quality.
On one occasion, Martin noticed his voice started to dry out during a voice over for a long YouTube script, leading to coughing between takes. Coughs cause several issues: a rough-sounding voice, slower voice over recording, and extra workload during editing. “Taking a 2-minute break with a warm drink,” says Martin, “allowed me to deliver the last paragraph in one take, saving a lot of time.”
Improve your voice over skills without formal voice over training
Challenge yourself to implement these tips before and during your next voice over session. This expert-backed advice will improve your voice over skills, something you can apply in several situations: recording explainer videos, narrating case studies, or giving life to a fictional character inside Vyond.
In Vyond, an intuitive cloud-based animation software, anyone can create stories aligned with their brand or ideas. Our platform also lets you add self-recorded voice overs, so characters communicate with the viewer at a pace, tone, and style you like. See where your creativity can take you with a free 14-day trial of Vyond.