Voice Over Education Blog

July 2015

Practice and the Unconscious: What have you practiced today?


We all know the answer to the question, “How do you get to the announce booth at Carnegie Hall?”

Just as with getting to the stage, the answer is, “Practice, practice, practice.”

Edge Studio students are taught not only the importance of vocal practice, but also how to go about it. Yet, it’s still so, so, so easy to overlook your morning practice session, or to give it only lip service (pun sort of intended), or to put it off till tomorrow ... except that tomorrow should already have its own practice session.

It’s important. Really. Without practice, you would be a total mess.

Think back, wayyyy back ... As an infant and toddler, you practiced virtually every waking moment. Without having practiced, you’d still be trying to grasp a cup. You’d step forward and fall flat on your face. And speaking wouldn’t have been in the cards for you, let alone doing VO.

To coordinate movements, the brain needs to have rehearsed them, again and again. Eventually they become automatic, and the brain can focus on other things. Research shows that (whatever Millenials might think), the brain is lousy at multitasking. Maybe it can “multiplex” – focus on various things intermittently – but it’s not so hot at doing different things simultaneously. That’s why, when a task is complex (involving various simultaneous actions), it’s essential that some of those actions be “automated.”

We were recently reminded of this by, of all things, a short article in Road & Track magazine (September 2015, pg 96), about how racing drivers accomplish their role, which is undeniably complex. It involves proprioception: an awareness of where parts of your body are, in relation to other parts and space in general.

As babies, we reach for a toy, learn to gauge the distance, how tightly to grasp it, how and where to lift it, push it, bring it to our mouths, whatever.

How to breathe well, Part Two.


NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. Click here to read part one!

To summarize what we said last week, good breath control is an important skill in voice acting, one that comes more naturally to some people than it does to others. Expert breath control takes an understanding of your body and all the physiology involved, along with observation and practice. Basically the point is to relax, stand correctly, and understand how to use your torso. But (we suppose this is the good news), there is no one “right” approach that is correct for everyone. Ultimately, do what is consistent with actual physiology and produces desired results for you.

Did you miss last week's article? Click here to read last week's article — How to breathe well. It’s easy, and it isn’t.

How to catch a quick breath almost silently

Now that you’re relaxed, and have the most basic understanding of the basics, let’s turn to practical matters – taking a quick, quiet breath during a script.

First, forget the thought of “inhaling.” Instead, we’re just going to let the air “enter” your airways. And for that to happen, the airways must be open. Don’t lower the tongue fully. That opens the front of your mouth, but closes it at back. Instead, keep the tongue loose, letting the air flow around it.

However, don’t even think of air “flow.” Simply “accept” the air. If you open the passages, and lower your jaw (don’t thrust it forward), you’ll acquire a breath without even trying – enough at least to sustain a phrase of moderate length.

How to breathe well. It’s easy, and it isn’t.


NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click here to read part two!

Everybody has to breathe. But some voice actors breathe better than others. Sometimes breaths should be heard, sometimes not. Some clients, in many genres, want breaths removed. For example, an audio book with the breaths removed sounds unreal, even spooky – it’s generally okay to breathe as you normally do. But in a commercial (and many other situations), it’s generally optimal to silence breaths and shorten the resulting pause by half. Software can be used to silence or reduce the loudness of breaths, but unless set properly, the result will sound artificial. How much easier it would be if you could breathe without making a sound in the first place! Can you learn to breathe totally silently?

As trained actors and singers know, proper breathing is a major part of one’s skill. Just as there are coaches for voice over, and voice, and acting, and singing, you can find coaches skilled at teaching breathing. The learning process involves demonstration, and physical conditioning, and awareness, and observation, and practice, and it can go on for many lessons. Many lessons. You won’t learn much in a single article (nor very well just from online videos). But you can learn what the factors are that you'll need to understand. So here goes ...

How to breathe, quick and easy

As we’ve said, breath control isn’t necessarily learned quickly or easily. And in the face of a sensitive VO microphone, a totally silent breath may be impossible. But it is possible to easily take a quick breath, and to breathe more effectively and quietly -- and to manage your breathing -- once you understand the factors involved.

Remembering Stan Freberg: “Are we going to go out on that?”


The United States’ recent celebration of Independence Day was exciting as usual, but also a reminder of the passing of Stan Freberg last April 7, at age 88. Among Freberg’s many contributions to popular culture was a hilarious, Broadway-worthy LP entitled “The History of the United States of America, Volume 1 (the Early Years).” It’s a classic, but hardly his whole legacy. A self-described “guerrilla satirist,” Freberg was influential in the voice acting and advertising communities, in so many ways. He voiced cartoon characters. He lampooned popular culture and political issues on hit 45’s and radio. He was an original practitioner (some say the inventor) of the humorous, even satirical TV commercial, bulldozing ground broken by Bob and Ray. And his humor, timing and voice-acting style influenced the likes of Jim Henson, Harry Shearer, Weird Al Yankovic, Penn Jillette, and George Carlin (and countless personality DJs).

Stan Freberg began his comedic development doing cartoon character voices for Warner Brothers, working with Mel Blanc and other greats. Some readers may recall a largely improvisational hand-puppet program in the very early days of TV, called Time for Beanie. (Not to be confused with the later animated version.) It featured a seasick sea serpent named Cecil. Freberg co-created the show and voiced Cecil and other characters. That’s already impressive for a guy barely out of high school, but had his career ended there, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

Next stop: Hit comedy records.

Remembering Stan Freberg: “Are we going to go out on that?”


The United States’ recent celebration of Independence Day was exciting as usual, but also a reminder of the passing of Stan Freberg last April 7, at age 88. Among Freberg’s many contributions to popular culture was a hilarious, Broadway-worthy LP entitled “The History of the United States of America, Volume 1 (the Early Years).” It’s a classic, but hardly his whole legacy. A self-described “guerrilla satirist,” Freberg was influential in the voice acting and advertising communities, in so many ways. He voiced cartoon characters. He lampooned popular culture and political issues on hit 45’s and radio. He was an original practitioner (some say the inventor) of the humorous, even satirical TV commercial, bulldozing ground broken by Bob and Ray. And his humor, timing and voice-acting style influenced the likes of Jim Henson, Harry Shearer, Weird Al Yankovic, Penn Jillette, and George Carlin (and countless personality DJs).

Stan Freberg began his comedic development doing cartoon character voices for Warner Brothers, working with Mel Blanc and other greats. Some readers may recall a largely improvisational hand-puppet program in the very early days of TV, called Time for Beanie. (Not to be confused with the later animated version.) It featured a seasick sea serpent named Cecil. Freberg co-created the show and voiced Cecil and other characters. That’s already impressive for a guy barely out of high school, but had his career ended there, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

Next stop: Hit comedy records.

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