Voiceover Actors: Try the Chewing Hum Exercise!

April 11th, 2014

lipsHere’s a helpful voiceover exercise:

We call it the “chewing hum.” It can warm up the different areas where your voice will resonate. Once again, when your voice resonates, it bounces around a certain area of your body, whether that’s up in your face, nose or head area, your throat, or your chest or belly.

Here’s what you do:

1. Keep your mouth and lips closed and begin to hum.
2. Start chewing, as if you were eating something tasty, as you keep humming.
3. Now use your hands to feel the vibration in the front of your face, your nose, your cheeks, and gently allow your hands to move to your neck and throat, and perhaps even onto your belly so that you can feel how your voice resonates in different areas of your body.

Now to begin to identify where your voice is resonating, let’s concentrate on specific sounds that tend to resonate in different areas. Certain sounds we create generally vibrate more toward the head, while others, because we use different muscles to make them, may vibrate lower, toward the belly.

If you can learn to control where you choose to place your voice, you can begin to use it in more powerful and interesting ways.

 

 

Reminder: Work on your mic technique!

March 31st, 2014

We are regularly asked about how to use a mic correctly, so here are our guidelines, again. Keep working on it, and soon it will be comfortable and second nature.

 

man an d mike cartooon

Tips for Microphone Technique

The mic can be rather daunting when you first start out in voice-over! Practicing at home with one will help to reduce the newness of it, and the distraction from it.

Here are some tips to get you started.

 

PROXIMITY

Find your own comfort zone, with regard to proximity. Many voice-over artists will angle slight to the right or left of the mic, for two reasons:

1) This can reduce or eliminate pops from plosive sounds like t, b, or p. When you’re in a session, engineers can help by putting a “pop shield,” a stocking device or foam shield, in front of the mic. But if you angle- speak slightly across the mic – you create a similar effect to a pop screen.

2) You will be able to see and read your copy off to the right or left, without the mic being right in front of it.

 

VOLUME

Well, the mic is there to amplify the sound, so you can be as soft or loud as the job requires, but you need to work with the mic to create this. If you are recording yourself, make sure you are getting a solid wave form, and if you are working with an engineer s/he will do this by first getting a good level of your planned volume before recording the take. You can’t speak softly while the engineer gets a good level, and then shout during your take!

Every different session will call for something different in the way of volume . For example, if you want low, deep sounds from your voice it can help to get very close to the to the mic, perhaps two to three inches. If you know you are going to really project, and speak louder, stand back, seven to nine inches from the mic, so your voice doesn’t distort.

Then trust the mic and your own voice and skill. If you need drama and a “dark” interpretation, you might try a whisper, or near-whisper. And if it is comedy, use a little more level and smile the whole time you are speaking. It is amazing that a smile can come right through the microphone to the listener!

 

LIGHTING

You must be able to see well, to read your copy! Make sure you are well prepared with contacts or reading glasses if you need them, and some artists even carry a small clip-on light, which runs on a battery, to attach to the stand holding your copy. Lighting must be ample to reduce the possibility of unnecessary errors when you read. In many studios you can ask to increase the level of light if it isn’t bright enough for you.

 

TECHNIQUE AND SKILL

Do your breathing exercises. Practice reading all kinds of different material at home in front of the mic. Try things and experiment at home to learn what your real strengths are. And stretch yourself to try new things. Try different pitches, different volumes, mimic cartoon characters or famous actors or comics. Read out loud in front of the mic and record it if you can, to listen back – you will learn so much from hearing your own work.

The more you develop and then employ your microphone technique and skill, the less the engineer and producer have to rely on enhancements in the studio. The less they work, the faster and easier the session, and the more likely you are to be re-hired! Plus, comfort and skill with the microphone shows your professionalism, getting the job done well and quickly, which is the producer’s goal!

 

 

 

Merry March Newsletter with Tara & Yuri

March 18th, 2014

Check out our latest newsletter, below. There’s a sign up button over on your right if you’d like to receive it!

Click here to read as a pdf: Merry March newsletter, with Tara and Yuri, March, 2014

I am so very excited that it is March, and not just ’cause that means a Happy Birthday to Sir Yuri, who I am just so happy was born and is in existence. Birthdays in general bring me joy! My own goal this year is to take more time for myself and practice meditation and yoga more frequently (which I am pleased to report I have been implementing). I am doing a personal 365 Project on self love and I even got all woo-woo and did a 10 day International EFT Summit, on energy meridians and moving emotions and limiting beliefs stuck in the body! Hooray for space in life to pursue self-care!

Tara :) (&Yuri)

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!

Click here to read more: Merry March newsletter, with Tara and Yuri, March, 2014

 

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Voice Over Actors: Network, Network, Network

March 5th, 2014

Voice Over Networking

handshakeMany people snidely call this schmooooozing, but the truth is, meeting people and developing relationships is how things get done in the entertainment business. Practicing good solid networking skills can help you move forward quickly and consciously toward the next level of your career.

Networking facilitates your being in the right place at the right time. This is part of the preparation + opportunity (right place at the right time) = success equation. Prepare yourself, and then put yourself in situations where you can mingle and meet people. Sometimes you can target the people you want to work with. But honestly, you never know where a job or an important friendship is going to come from. So don’t limit your interactions.

How do you go about schmoozing? Well, first off, let’s stop calling it that. Let’s opt for networking. The word schmoozing has always carried a negative connotation to us because it implies that you’re forcing yourself onto other people for the sole purpose of getting something from them; and that’s just kind of slimy. That’s probably why a lot of actors have trouble networking – because when it’s called schmoozing, they feel like they’re doing something gross. The less pressure you put on meeting people, the easier it’s going to be, and the better it’ll probably work out.

Where do you go to network? There are a variety of places to go and ways to make connections happen. Search for networking events and social gatherings specifically geared toward voice-over and voice acting or to entertainment in general. These events are often listed in entertainment trade papers and on Web sites, and will certainly be more plentiful in big cities like New York and Los Angeles.

Don’t look just for parties (which are sometimes hard to get into). Find out where the people that you would like to work with hang out, and go there. Get yourself in the same circles they’re in and see what happens. You don’t have to be in a big city to make this work. You can go out with friends who are also working in the business, and meet the people they know. If you don’t know anyone else who’s interested in voice acting or in what you want to be doing, then find them.

Put an ad in a local paper or post it on an online site, somewhere like craigslist, MeeptUp, or Facebook. Set up a gathering for people interested in the same things you’re interested in. Build a support group, if you will. Things happen much faster (and it’s usually more fun) if you’ve got a whole group working at it. Who knows, the group you assemble might end up producing a cartoon together.

If you network well, and don’t put pressure on a specific outcome, it won’t be perceived as schmoozy. Still it’s not always the easiest thing for some people to do. Networking might not come naturally for you, so pay attention to people who are good at it and learn from them. In the end, being yourself is the best thing you can do when you meet and socialize with people professionally. You don’t need to try to act cool so they’ll like you. Remember you have as much to offer them as they have to offer you.

Networking should never be about what you can get from others. Treat them as you would your friends, and be friendly and personable. You just may be someone they will want to befriend and (who knows?) maybe work with one day.

And don’t forget your cards! A networking event is a perfect opportunity to get your business cards into people’s hands. Think of this as sowing seeds.

You may have to plant a few seeds before anything starts growing. You never know which seed will grow and bear fruit, so sprinkle those seeds liberally. The more seeds – um, business cards – you hand out, the better your chances are. And if other people give you their cards, be sure to follow up and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them. Then file the cards away somewhere that you’ll be able to find them again, just in case you want to get in touch. You can use your new postcards to follow up with those new contacts you made while networking.

Enjoy it!

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Book nova plain

 

Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!

 

 

 

 

 

Cold and Flu Season… How Do You Protect Your Voice?

February 17th, 2014

common coldYes, it’s the dreaded bane of voice artists everywhere: the common cold. Common, they may be, but for voice actors it can be devastating. Our voice is our livelihood!

The secret, if you can do it, is to avoid the cold completely. Or stop it in its tracks right at onset. Or limit its virulence and length. How? Paying attention to daily habits can save you a horrible cold, and if you contract one anyway, try these tips and ideas:

1). Drink lots of water. All the time. Every day. Without fail. Got it? In the winter the air inside and out is dryer than usual, so your vocal cords can be stressed with the relatively low humidity. Add to this the fact that we all tend to drink lots of coffee and tea to warm up, which dehydrates you further! So drink eight glasses of water a day.

2) Stay well away from people with colds, wash your hands often, don’t touch your nose or face with your hands until you’ve washed them well. Eat well, sleep well exercise regularly – follow all the obvious “take care of yourself” guidelines you know.

3) First sign of a cold, breathe steam ASAP. Lean over a pot of just-boiled water, with a towel draped over your head, and breathe in the steam through your nose and mouth. This will open up the sinus passages and the moist heat will restore the natural healthy environment of your nose, mouth and throat. A “neti” pot is great to take with you and keep rinsing out your sinuses this way, even in the restroom of the studio or audition hall.

4) Then run for the nutrients and herbs:

OSCILLOCOCCINUM: If you think it might be the flu (body aches as well) take a dose of homeopathic Oscillococcinum (from the health food store) every hour for three doses. Just the first day. Homeopath friends of ours tell us to do this even if you’re not sure it is the flu, as there is no harm done by taking it.

VITAMIN C: Ester C or Calcium Ascorbate is best, as it is easier on the stomach. Some nutritionist suggest as much as 2 grams at a time, and we know people who take 15 grams in a day to fend off a cold. We aren’t nutritionists, so we simply suggest you consult your own practitioner, or read Dr. Weil*, Dr. OZ*, or Dr. Mercola* for recommendations.

VITAMIN D: There is lots of research which confirms Vitamin D as an immunity booster, and the fact is we get less of this vitamin in the winter, due to the reduced amount of sunshine. Again, consult your practitioner or Dr. Mercola* for amounts.

BETA CAROTENE: (which is the vegetable form of Vitamin A): Eat lots of carrots! Seriously, beta carotene is part of the cocktail that helps you fend off a cold.

ZINC LOZENGES: Slowly suck a Zinc lozenge at the first sign of a sore throat or cold. Research suggests zinc inhibits the cold virus.*

OTHER GOOD IDEAS:

Eat lots of garlic and onions; i.e. onion soup with a clove of garlic in it. Onion soup is marvelous for expectoration; it clears mucus from the system.

Avoid sugar and alcohol as they feed the virus and weaken the immune system.

Slippery elm bark is soothing for sore throat, as a tea or in lozenges.

For a cough, try elderberry syrup and peppermint. Some cough syrups at the health food store are made with elderberry, and peppermint is wonderful as a tea.

Also, be sure to cough softly or not at all. Coughing and clearing your throat can strain the vocal cords, which of course can extend the time you voice is not available to you!


So, what’s the all-around best advice for maintaining your voice during this cold and flu season?
Avoid getting them in the first place, and this is best done by always keeping a personal water bottle with you (don’t share it!), and sanitize your hands as often as possible.

Good luck!

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Additional resources:

Voice Over Actors: How Much Does Luck Play in to Success?

January 28th, 2014

 

diceThey say that luck plays a huge part in getting anywhere in this business. Ya just gotta be at the right place at the right time! We agree, but we also have a slightly different definition of luck. Our friend Merriam – you may know her: Merriam-Webster – defines luck as:

1 a: a force that brings good fortune or adversity b: the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual

To take this a step further, instead of luck, we prefer to substitute the word success in Seneca’s definition. We end up with the equation: success = preparation + opportunity. This is much better than relying on luck because you can take action to prepare yourself, and you can take action to create opportunities.

We do our best to be prepared and to create our own opportunities, and that’s when we’ve found success happens most often for us. So what they say is true: luck plays a bit part. But you can get yourself to the right place, and if it’s the right time and you’re prepared, then boom!

But imagine what happens if you manage to get to the right place at the right time and you’re not ready for it: the, uh… opposite of boom.

So remember:

Luck Success = Preparation + Opportunity!

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Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!

 

 

 

 

 

Jaem January Newsletter from Tara & Yuri

January 14th, 2014

Check out our latest newsletter, below. There’s a sign up button over on your right if you’d like to receive it!

 

Click here to read as a pdf: Jaem January with Tara and Yuri, January, 2014

 

Thank goodness for the holidays and the winding down of the year to remind us to check in with ourselves on our life’s journey, and perhaps journey a bit as well. We took the time to travel to Southeast Asia, and do we have fun pix to share! The title of this newsletter is a nod to the Thai word “jaem” which roughly means clear, bright, distinct, or cheerful plus let’s all “jam” in our respective areas as we move forward. What a great way to start a new year! We just finished shooting our steampunk adventure Topsy McGee and Yuri is recording his novella Tough City as an audiobook. Welcome 2014, we are raring and ready for a wonderful new year! May this year be your best year yet!

Tara :) (&Yuri)

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!

 

Click to read more: Jaem January Newsletter from Tara and Yuri, January, 2014

 

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“Jaem January Newsletter from Tara and Yuri,” January, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Voice Actors: Do You Need a Web Site?

December 21st, 2013

Nowadays a Web presence is practically essential for anyone trying to market themselves in this business. It serves as your calling card and news feed, letting people know what you’re up to. As we’ve mentioned, the Web provides a way for new people to find you, and it’s a fantastic place to post your demo reel for quick and easy access by potential employers.

Once you have a Web site set up, you can make a business card that includes your Web address (preferably an address that’s your name, like ArchibaldTuttle.com or TaraPlatt.com, although sometimes, if that’s not an option, you’ll have to get creative: ArchibaldTuttleVO.com or YuriLowenthalIsAVoiceActor.com). Then, whenever you meet people in the VO business, you can give them your card: suddenly all your info is at their fingertips.

Even the most basic Web site should include your name, general contact info (phone number, e-mail, etc.) and/or your representation contact info. In addition it might also include a list of credits and/or upcoming work, and maybe a clip or a demo reel of your voice.

Many actors choose not to have images of themselves on their Web sites if the site is for voice-over only, as one of the great things about voice-over is that it isn’t looks-based (remember our note about packaging). Instead of displaying your photo, you can put up images that showcase either the work you’ve done or the qualities or essence your voice evokes.

Your Web site may feature several different things ranging from your professional acting experience to your personal life. If so, make sure that it’s as easy to navigate to your VO info as possible, so that potential employers don’t get caught up in photos of your latest class reunion when all they’re trying to do is listen to your VO demo. If possible, you might want to have a separate site for your personal stuff so that professionals visiting your VO site don’t see anything that might adversely affect their judgment of you: those photos may be funny to you and your friends, but a casting director might not get the joke.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money, nor do you need to know html programming to set up a decent, effective Web site that you’ll be able to update yourself. Shop around, ask around, and find a Web hosting company that works for you. Check out other actors’ sites, and if you like what you see, shoot some of them an e-mail and ask who’s hosting their Web sites and who did the design (sometimes you’ll find that information at the bottom of the Web page). There are even companies that let you design your own free Web page, and that can help when you’re trying to get started on the cheap. In any case, creating a page is something you can do on your own. And a Web site is a resource that could prove very important. So full steam ahead!

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Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!

 

 

 

 

 

Straw phonation: a great exercise to strengthen the vocal cords!

December 5th, 2013

straw phonationCheck out this cool video on straw phonation from Dr. Ingo Titze.

A respected vocal scientist, Dr. Titze demonstrates vocal exercises that consist of creating sounds into a straw. After a few minutes of these exercises, your voice will feel like it is coming out of your eyes (a buzzy feeling in your face) which he explains is the optimal placement for your voice.

He sings the National Anthem into a straw, which, he explains, helps to strengthen and train the vocal folds for the best transfer of power from the glottis to the lips. He demonstrates the “semi-occluded” phonation which balances the air pressure around the vocal folds: sub-glottal (below) and super-glottal (above). Examples of these semi-occluded phonations are the raspberries and lip buzzing sounds you recognize from our tips and your vocal coach.

Cool, huh? This will all make more sense when you watch the video!

 


Here is an article Dr. Titze
wrote explaining the concept in more depth:

“OVER THE PAST TEN YEARS John Nix and I have been describing vocal exercises that utilize phonation into a straw.1 These exercises are part of a bigger picture of training vocal fold adduction, registration, and epilarynx tube narrowing for the best acoustic power transfer from the glottis to the lips. Use of a thin straw is not the only way to facilitate this power transfer, but a semi-occlusion at the mouth is a requirement. Lip trills, nasals, / u / and / o / vowels, bilabial fricatives, and other semi-occlusions can all be used to meet the objective. 2″
READ MORE

 

By Titze, Ingo: Academic journal article from Journal of Singing, Vol. 66, No. 5
Article details

 

 

 

Networking November Newsletter with Tara & Yuri

November 19th, 2013

Check out our latest newsletter, below. There’s a sign up button over on your right if you’d like to receive it!

Click Here To Read: Networking November Newsletter, 2013

The holidays are just around the corner, and it is the perfect time to get retrospective on your life (things planned, things changed, things ahead)… Shelf Life is coming to a close (pre-order those DVD’s now – you won’t want to miss the bonus eps!) and new things are on the horizon. Remember, an outward network is just as important as your neural network so as you engage with friends and family this holiday season, try to treat yourself to some brain work as well! We are planning to rest and relax (and adventure a bit) for our holiday trip to Southeast Asia. Enjoy getting clear with your plans for the future and relish the holiday season as we dive into a new year!

Tara :) (&Yuri)

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!

 

Click to read more: Networking November with Tara and Yuri, Nov. 2013

 

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Click here to read more “Networking November with Tara and Yuri,” Nov. 2013