Over the years, I’ve taught a lot about how to use the breath, which always seems odd to me, as it’s something we do all the time?!
Yet something happens when we start to think about how we do it? Why is it some people find it easier than others? Why does it change when I get nervous? Does it need to change?
Sadly, these questions are part of those, how long is a piece of string type questions. As everyone has their own way of doing things. There are so many factors that lead to good, poor, and bad breathing.
You do breathe well…
The best thing is when we sleep at night unless you have a sleeping disorder, you are likely to be breathing well. You are relaxed when you sleep, but that hardly happens when you are awake and upright to the same depth of comfort.
A lot of teachers talk about breathing into the diaphragm. As it’s a nominally involuntary muscle, I prefer to talk about filling up the lungs. That is what we are really doing. Then there are a series of muscles that really get involved in the breathing.
There are 2 main types of breathing that can occur – 1 is optimal and the other isn’t.
Clavicular – not what we want, except in certain situations
This is the most shallow breathing and is often very similar to when we panic or hyperventilate. This can be useful when we may want to get ourselves prepared to raise our emotional state. The kinetic memory is so strong, it knows by doing this, you are likely activating your emotional memories on fear. So the feeling of fear is real, even if the situation isn’t. This isn’t what we want to encourage when starting to do a corporate voice over script.
Diaphragmatic/Intercostal Breathing – the best way to breathe
This is a combination of both of these sets of muscles to gain a more calming and efficient use of your lungs. They talk about this sort of inhalation in yogic approaches to breathing and many other relaxation or meditation practices. There are absolutely loads of videos to help you learn how to take the breath in well. Sadly, it doesn’t show you personally what your bad habits around this may be. That requires more 1 to 1 work. I’ve seen many professional singers/actors show me how they breathe. They don’t realize how they are short-changing their possibilities by not taking a good healthy deep breath.
I’m not going to talk too much about exhaling, as that is where things can get really complicated. This can depend on what you are trying to do with your voice and the dreaded phrase – ‘support’ the voice.
The exhalation is a huge blog post on its own and, once, again, I would say take some singing lessons or voice/speech lessons. I say these areas rather than yoga or any other practices as the intentions with the breath for yoga or any other complementary approaches don’t require the sustainability you may need for the voice when doing voice acting. This is where a technique needs to be learned if you don’t do it naturally. I’ve had to learn it. It does require more energy than our day to day breathing.
Signs the voice isn’t working well for you in louder situations:
- loss of voice after the loud event
- tiredness/pain/scratching/tickling feelings while speaking or after
- hoarseness in the voice
This is why voice artists need to rest their voices, especially, if doing a very shouty gaming recording, as this can strain the voice faster, than doing everyday speech. It is suggested, that you have a voice actor only do 50 mins at a time with a 10 min break where they can be silent and rest the voice.
What to do when ill?
Now, this 1 I’ve heard all sorts of suggestions, but here’s my favourite – rest! That really is the best medicine for a tired or ill voice. So what does that look like when you have to do work – go to bed early, take breaks as much as possible, don’t talk unless absolutely necessary. Re-schedule that voice over job and tell the client straight away you have a cold or whatever. Whatever you do DO NOT WHISPER – this tires the voice out even more, as most people don’t do this with support or it still requires the same energy as being loud, so you really aren’t resting are you?
After that, the list is as long as the friends you have who have theories on how to cure a common cold/flu. Most are mainly placebos and don’t really do much except maybe put more sugar into your system which may give you the spike up, but there is always the spike down as well. Plus, if you have anything sound that’s altered due to the illness and you need to do any retakes later, you will not have a consistent sound for the recording. Thus, you have to start from scratch again.
I love my voice, so I try to be good to it therefore, the plan is it will last me a lifetime!
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