To be an exceptional voice actor who stands head and shoulders above the crowd, you’ll need a significant amount of talent, variety, and passion. But what’s even more important than your inherent skill and drive is your dedication to the craft and honing your skills through a substantial amount of practice.
Read on to learn five ways to practice voice acting at home. These exercises and techniques will ensure you can create a diverse and wide range of characters with unique personalities for any voice acting role. It will also relax or strengthen body parts necessary to create and support these voices in a healthy manner that is safe for your voice and will ensure its longevity.
When it comes to voice acting, your voice is crucial, and you want to make sure it properly warmed-up before you explore its possibilities with other exercises. After all, you wouldn’t start belting a song without preparation because you could seriously damage your vocal cords, and voice acting is much the same.
Every voice actor should have their own warm-up routine that gets their body loose and their vocal cords ready for the challenges to come. Some exercises you can start with include:
Helps loosen your body for the session. Focus particularly on side stretches and anything that will stretch out your rib cage.
Relaxes your vocal folds and expands your vocal range. Some examples you can try are humming through a straw or inhaling deeply and making a long “S” sound as you exhale.
Humming and Lip Trills
Great for warming-up your resonators and easing your face muscles. Try to keep your hums and trills loose and gentle for the best results.
A classic way to nail articulation before you start reading or practicing your acting. Start slow and then speed up until you can do them three times fast. Try, “What time does the wristwatch strap shop shut?”
Another good exercise for increasing vocal range. Yawns will also cause you to drop your jaw and soften your palate in addition to regulating air. Try incorporating some yawn-sighs into your regular routine.
Speaking Through the Ages Exercise
A good way to explore your tone and inflection, as well as how to deliver a script or message most appropriately, is to “speak through the ages.”
Many similar exercises will stop at the first age group of children and have their students or pupils run through a script as if they were speaking to a child. After recording the session and listening to it again, you’ll notice choices you made to suit the audience. Perhaps your voice is higher pitched or softer and gentler in tone.
This exercise will take that one step further by progressing throughout the ages. As always, start by reading a script as if your audience is a child. Then read the same script as if you are addressing a teenager, a middle-aged adult, and finally, a senior.
You’ll notice how your tone shifts depending on who you are speaking to and the contents of the script. You might be more relaxed when speaking to the same age-group as yourself, or you might sound more respectful and sincere with a senior.
Not only does this allow you to make realizations about your voice, but it can also help a script you once read in a more monotonous tone come to life with compassion, sincerity, or other emotions that help you connect more rather than just trying to sell what you read.
Book Narration Exercise
This is a fun exercise you can do at home with any book or short story you might have lying around. In addition to television shows and commercials, one of the most prominent voice-acting gigs is audiobook narrations. Now is your chance to put your creativity and voice acting skills to the test.
First, choose a book. Any book. Your best option would be one with at least a few characters so you can get a wide range of voices in on the exercise.
Once you’ve chosen a book, see if you can find a section where multiple characters are conversing, or there is at least one or two noticeable voice shifts over the span of a few pages. This could be from the plain text, which we’ll refer to as “the narrator” and one character; it could also be a dialogue between two characters or any variation you prefer.
Now that you’ve settled on a specific section read it out loud from beginning to end without any acting. You essentially want to read it like a script so you know what you’ll be acting, how many voices you’ll need, and you can get a vague idea of how you’ll want them to sound.
After you can read the section straight through, out loud, and without any mistakes, then you can start adding voices. Try to visualize what these characters look like, their personalities, and how they should sound.
You can continue to play around with your voices as much as you like until you are confident with how they sound. Over time, you can read more and more sections of the book to practice the voices you’ve created and potentially add more as other characters appear.
This is a common acting exercise where you choose one phrase, such as, “Would you like some more coffee?” and you explore that phrase with as many interpretations and voices as you can.
You can use this exercise to help develop a singular character’s voice. It will enable you to explore and learn how this particular character sounds and feels when you use various tones and inflections that reflect their unique personality and set the scene.
This is also great for some creative flow and perhaps discovering new voices by getting out of your comfort zone and trying whatever comes to mind. Alternatively, you could create a list of characters (ex. villain, children’s television show protagonist, temptress) and practice the line as you run through them all.
Remember to record your session and perhaps pick out the voices you liked, which ones you want to tweak or improve on, and which ones didn’t seem to work at all.
Pencil and Paper Exercise
These two exercises will help you overcome some of the most challenging aspects of voice acting, flow, and clarity.
When you’re a voice actor, not only do you need to be able to read a script flawlessly, but it also needs to be clear, and it has to feel natural. These are obstacles that could easily trip up even the most experienced voice actors, especially when introducing nerves to the equation.
Therefore, it is best to practice these exercises in the comfort of your own home to learn how to overcome them.
Let’s start with the pencil exercise. It won’t go down in the books as the most relaxing exercise, but there’s no doubt that if you can speak clearly with a pencil in your mouth, you can do it without one.
To practice this exercise, get any ordinary pencil and place it horizontally in your mouth as far back as possible, then bite down. Now that you’re comfortable read a script two or three times as clearly as possible with the pencil in your mouth. It most certainly will not sound perfect, but that isn’t the point.
The real point of this exercise is how you feel reading the script after you remove the pencil from your mouth. You’ll quickly realize how much clearer your voice sounds without such a debilitating obstacle.
The other exercise you can try is the paper exercise which aims to tame those popping p’s that easily ruin any voice actor’s flow when reading.
For this simple exercise, get a sheet of paper and hold it in front of your mouth. You want it to be fairly close without touching your lips. Now, recite a script with multiple popping p’s or try the tongue twister “Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers.” Keep your paper-holding hand steady, and don’t move it during the exercise.
The goal here is to flow through your P’s and reduce their impact. You might notice at first that the paper pops out significantly at first because of the impact of your P’s. However, with time and practice, you should be able to significantly reduce this distance so that the paper hardly moves when you repeat these phrases.
Are Voice Actors in Demand?
Although the voice acting is a highly respected craft, everyone has to make a living somehow, and no one wants to follow a dead-end career. Which begs the question of whether there is even demand for voice actors nowadays. The answer is yes, depending on your ideal voice acting niche.
For instance, the NYU Dispatch has concluded that, as seen by forecast trends for 2019, “the e-learning market is expected to grow to be worth over $200 billion by 2024.” Therefore, if this prediction is correct, the educational system will need an increasing number of passionate and skilled voice actors willing to breathe life into educational content such as training and explanation videos.
This fact was also supported by Voices, who noted that there would be a noticeable boom in the eLearning industry as demonstrated by a +10.4% increase in eLearning and +13% increase in Internet videos from 2017-2018.
The audiobook industry has also increased substantially, particularly in the past three years. From 2018 to 2019 alone, audiobook sales increased by 16% and generated over $1.2 billion in revenue. And with more publishing companies investing in audiobooks, the higher demand for skilled voice actors to read them.
Ultimately, there will always be competition in the world of voice acting, but there are certainly some categories of the career that are exhibiting a higher demand than others, especially in the years to come.