The Voice Over Vocal Care Chart
Here’s your very own vocal-care guide full of effective tips essential to performing at your professional best. Along with the added bonus of improving your health, these tips are very voice over-specific.
The point is this: Your voice is your livelihood so figure out what works BEFORE you’re in a booth dealing with a producer on the job!
Daily Voice Care
- Stay hydrated! Drink water throughout the day.
- Avoid straining your voice by not yelling or whispering.
- Speak in your natural register. Say “uh huh” a few times. Wherever this falls in your voice is your natural register.
- In the summer, be extra aware of hydration because:
- We sweat more
- Air conditioners pump out VERY dry air
- In the winter, be extra aware of any source of dry heat, as it will dry out your voice. Pay extra attention to hydration and try a cold-air humidifier to condition your voice.
- Avoid clearing your throat - that little "hem-hem" really irritates the throat, which causes the body to produce a protective coating of mucus, which makes you have to clear your throat even more!
- When traveling, be sure to stay especially hydrated. The air in airplanes and buses is very dry!
- Try Ponaris to counteract the effect of these environments – it’s an oil for the nostrils that acts as a decongestant and nasal lubricant.
Getting Sick Before A Recording Session?
- Cough drops – be careful what kind of cough drops you buy. Most contain Menthol, which will actually DRY OUT your throat!
- Instead, try Slippery Elm Lozenges, a natural demulcent that acts like the mucus your body normally produces to coat and protect your throat. Find them at any holistic food or drug store.
- Sore throat? Try gargling with warm salt water…or drink some warm/hot water with honey and a squeeze of lemon. Works every time!
- Allergies? Experiment with different anti-histamines. But many will severely dry out your vocal cords. If you can’t find a good balance, at least up your fluids intake to counteract the effect of the anti-histamine!
- Avoid whispering! It only irritates your throat more!
- Drink more fluids when you have a cold.
- Try to avoid excess coughing or straining your voice throughout the day.
- Use a Neti pot to clear out lingering post-nasal drip, allergens, pollen and to irrigate the sinuses. They look like little tea pots, and deliver about a cup’s worth of saline solution up the nasal passage, over the septum and out through the other nasal passage using low pressure.
- Or try: NeilMed’s NasaFlo Sinus Rinse, which works on the same principle but is essentially a large squeeze bottle that provides the positive pressure necessary for proper irrigation.
Other Vocal Conditions
- Acid reflux irritates, fatigues, and can even damage the vocal cords. See a doctor if your voice fatigues unusually quickly or if you exhibit any of the other symptoms of acid reflux. Some quick that can help:
- Avoid spicy or acidic foods, caffeine, and alcohol
- Don’t eat or drink anything 4 hours before you go to sleep
- Sleep on a wedge that props your body up on a slight angle
- Try over-the-counter remedies, but if symptoms persist, see your doctor.
- The licorice in Throat Coat Tea neutralizes excess acid
- Laryngitis is typically a viral infection, not a bacterial one, which means it can’t be treated with antibiotics. Sit tight, up the fluids, and nix on the excess talking.
- Vocal nodes, better known among singers, are also a common ailment among speakers who regularly strain their voices or use their voices incorrectly. Regularly checking in with a doctor who specializes in voice care can help avoid this and other vocal problems!
Day Before A Recording Session
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Smoke + Yelling + Alcohol the night before= dehydrated, fatigued voice and other potential downers to your morning after that do NOT make for ideal performance conditions.
- PS – sometimes it doesn’t take a lot of any of the above - some voice artists are especially sensitive to the tannins in red wine, which can affect their voice for up to 12 hours after consuming it! Know your voice and know what affects it!
Morning Of A Recording Session
- Seriously, try to avoid caffeine at least a few hours before the session.
- Drink at least two big glasses of water. Hydration doesn’t happen instantaneously, so drink BEFORE you get dry.
- Give yourself plenty of time to get to your session. Running late is stressful, and stress can definitely have adverse affects on your voice.
- Before a session, avoid foods and liquids to which your voice is sensitive. This will take a little experimenting, so don’t go testing it the day of a recording! Some common offenders:
- Caffeine - coffee AND black tea! Try herbal teas like Chamomile, African Red tea, Mint, or even just hot/warm water with honey and lemon!
- Dairy Products – They can make the voice goopy.
- Acidic Food – a squeeze of lemon in your tea is fine and actually helps to break down excess gunk in your throat, but anything very acidic can make you extra gunky!
- Alcoholic Beverages –some people are more sensitive to the dehydrating affects of certain types of alcohol than others.
During A Recording Session
- Take a bottle of ROOM TEMPERATURE water into the booth with you. Cold water will cause your vocal cords to constrict and tense up.
- Dry mouth? Take a sip of water or request a break for one of the hydrating remedies above.
- Some other ideas:
- Try an oral moisturizer, such as Colgate’s “Optimoist”
- Dental gum, like Biotene, can help relieve dry mouth
- Various companies make products known as “bottled spit.” They come in small aerosol containers and coat the throat.
- If you feel your voice getting sticky, wet, or overly clicky, you can:
- Take a sip of water, swish it around your mouth, and run your tongue all the way around the front of your upper and lower teeth, and then the back of your upper and lower teeth.
- Eat a granny smith apple or a piece of bread
- Sip warm water with a squeeze of lemon
- Rinse with a mouthwash (Scope doesn’t sting as much as Listerine)
How To Get Through Long Recording Sessions
E.g.: audiobooks, tutorials, long prompt systems,...
- Take a BIG bottle of room-temperature water into the booth with you, drink often!
- Starting to sound breathy? You’re fatiguing. Request a break, drink some room-temperature water or herbal tea, take a stretch and do some gentle vocal slides or lip trills.
- Having good breath support is especially important for audiobooks as it helps reduce vocal fatigue. Take deeper breaths from your diaphragm instead of gasping for shallow breaths and utilize good posture.