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Improve Your Daily Practice Right Now

One of the favorite parts of my work as a voice over coach at Edge Studio is teaching the popular Technique 101 course. Although I’ve been teaching it for awhile now, it remains new as I continue to learn from our students. Every call has a unique group dynamic. Each new collaboration creates a vital Q&A session, but one question is common to all groups: “I can’t wait to try these techniques — what’s the best way to practice? How should I start?”

It’s a terrific question, and the answers to it are as varied as the voice talent themselves. No two voices are alike, and talent come to the challenge from many different backgrounds.

No matter what our path to practice, doing it daily is essential. Many students find it helpful to assign their daily practice exercises to specific categories, breaking the work down into smaller, more manageable chunks.

In my upcoming book, 365 Tools, Tips and Tricks for Voice Over Excellence, I divide training into five sections. Detailed exercises in each section comprise a useful structure for personalizing your daily practice.

  • Vocal Development
  • Voice Over Technique
  • Ear Training
  • Voice Acting
  • Literary Analysis

In the Vocal Development category, we put things like breath awareness and support, creating a daily warm-up, and learning about and practicing vocal health. We work on the quality of our unique instruments.

IVO Technique focuses on things like maintaining a consistent volume, delivery style, and overall timings. We practice easily changing our internal tempos and pitches. We learn to hit words using pitch lift or vowel stretch, and to lift the ends of thoughts by using emphasis. The reading of lists also falls into this practice category, as well as exercises for changing our operative words. And we learn to use word coloring to make our reads yummy.

Ear Training involves listening to recordings – those of other talent and our own – for specific technique and performance elements. In this process, we learn to talk about, repeat and change what we hear. We begin to develop our personal VO aesthetic and move closer to it. As we progress, we learn to adapt to the aesthetic demands of our colleagues and clients, as we become more directable.

The craft of Voice Acting is a requisite in almost every voice over genre. This is because voice over performance takes place in an “imaginary” world. In this section, we explore creating and carrying an emotional message to our listener. We develop presence, and connect breath to thought and action. We increase our concentration, and learn a dynamic physical relaxation. Our conversational delivery style improves through use of tools such as pre-sentencing, specific body language and mental imagery.

In the Literary Analysis category, we practice becoming more fluent and expressive in the languages we voice – whether it’s just one language (English, for example), or more than one (e.g., English and Spanish). I suggest learning one new vocabulary word in each language per day!

We also practice our cold-reading skills. Discover the story in the copy. We identify the beginning, middle and end of the piece. We ask questions. Is there a problem? A solution? Where are the intended emotional changes? What is the point of view? We study the writing styles in different genres of voice over copy, from commercials to audiobooks. We learn to “score” (mark up) the copy and read the scores we create easily and reflexively.

Let’s give it a try. Here’s an example you can use to start or improve your daily practice right now:

Get a sheet of paper and assign all the VO concepts you think you understand, into their applicable categories. For example, if you think you understand (and correctly practice) the technique of hitting an operative word using pitch lift, under the category of VO Technique write “Hitting words using pitch lift.”

Go through all five sections like that. Then assess your work. Is any section light on topics? If so, you need more information in that area. Take a class, or do some research.

Many people find their list is light on vocal development exercises. If that describes you, I highly recommend Patsy Rodenburg’s wonderful book, The Right To Speak. Its second part, Working with the Voice, is a simple, engaging, detailed guide to exploring your instrument. It’s a good place to begin learning to work with your voice daily.

Or maybe all five sections of your list look pretty good, really robust with lots of details under each? Then take the next step. Write out all the exercises you are successfully using now. For example, In the VO Technique category, where you’ve written “Hitting words using pitch lift,” set down the details. How many different exercises do you know for working on this technique? Write out all the steps you follow to practice the technique. Do this for each exercise you use.

Finally, write down any questions you have from this homework and schedule your next private coaching session.

Be sure to keep us posted on your results. We love to hear you!

For more information about coaching with Danielle Quisenberry or any other Edge Studio instructor, please click here or call our office at 888-321-3343.