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You Can Bank on Your Voice

By: Rodney Saulsberry

Read Rodney's interview here...

Date Created: April 11th 2008
Last Updated: February 26th 2009

This book extract from You Can Bank on Your Voice is an Indezine exclusive with permission from Rodney Saulsberry / Tomdor Publishing.

This is a how-to-book about being successful in the voice-over industry. Rodney breaks it down step by step and tells you what you need to get started in the business. Topics include: how to audition, finding an agent, and making a demo CD. The early chapters are great for the beginner. The rest of the book deals with making lots of money, voice-over techniques, marketing strategies, the home studio, managing your money, vocal exercises, and practice scripts.

Microphone Techniques
Vocal Exercises

Microphone Techniques

The way I approach a microphone in a given session is relative to what I am doing in the session. If I’m trying to bring out the low bass qualities in my voice I will get really close—three to four inches is the most effective distance for my full bass sound. If I want to speak louder, I will stand farther back, maybe seven to nine inches, so I don’t overload or distort the microphone.

Never feel compelled to shout when you want to project. The microphone is there to make you louder so you don’t have to help the process. The microphone should be an extension of you. Your mindset should be: I have my diaphragm, vocal cords, mouth, tongue, lips, voice, and a microphone, now I am ready to perform. When you are one in accord with the microphone, you eliminate the fear of it. You are no longer uptight about stepping up to it. The pressure is off, you can relax.

I think every voice-over actor has a comfort zone in front of the mic, a place where he tends to stand in reference to the mic most of the time. I like to turn my head to the right and work off the right side of the microphone. By working off mic I lessen my chances of popping, which occurs when you blow a burst of air into the mic. The sudden burst causes a sound that generally happens when you use “plosive” words that begin with t, b, or p. Some engineers will put a stocking type device in front of the mic to protect it from plosives. I find this device to be very distracting, which is why I developed my off-mic technique.

The environment in which you record should be lit well enough for you to see your copy clearly and to see the microphone clearly.

I believe the more technique I can provide, the less manipulation and enhancement the engineer has to put on my voice. I prefer the proximity of the microphone to be in a place that doesn’t interfere with my reading of the copy. Because I work everything from the right off-axis of the mic, I place my copy on the upper right hand corner of the music stand. With everything in the proper position, I’m able to execute better.

Another very important aspect of microphone technique is lighting. The environment in which you record should be lit well enough for you to see your copy clearly and to see the microphone clearly. If you can’t see the mic and you are in real close proximity, you could possibly bump into it, which can be painful and expensive if you damage it.

To be successful, you must let your vocal instrument do all the work. Trust your instrument. When I do dark dramatic trailers like Clockers or Tupac Resurrection, I hug the mic and let my lower whispery range come through. When I’m doing a comedy trailer like Friday or All About the Benjamins I stand back from the mic and speak with a smile in my read.

My style of delivery when I speak into the microphone has a lot of air throughout each phrase. Through the years I have perfected this windlike technique to the point where I am in total control of how long or short to make this air sound audible in the microphone.

To become better at using the microphone, you either have to work a lot, practice a lot, or both. If you have good technique, it will enhance your voice-over delivery.


Vocal Exercises

Your vocal cords need exercise to stay in shape. Your diaphragm, which supports your voice, needs exercise. Your lips, your tongue, and the jaw muscles that contort your face and mouth to enunciate and form the vowel sounds to say those multisyllable words need exercise.

I do vocal exercises in my car every day, especially on my way to a voice-over session. One of my favorites is saying “Lips teeth tip of the tongue.”

Another favorite is, “Red leather yellow leather.” The repetition of these lines at varying speeds is a great vocal workout.

I like to do singing vocalizing, too. I find all of these exercises give me a thorough vocal workout. When I get to my session, I am warmed up and ready to work. You should try a lot of vocal exercises to find out which ones work best for you. Here are some others:

  • Tim told Todd today to take two tiny tablets tomorrow.

  • Black licorice Swiss wristwatch.

  • Better buy the bigger brighter rubber baby buggy bumpers.

  • A proper cup of coffee in a copper coffeepot.

If you have any letter combinations with which you have trouble, make up your own tongue twisters and work on them daily. Sometimes it’s hard for me to say the word remember when it pops up in some copy, so I composed this little ditty: Remember Randy remember Rosie remember when Rosie met Randy?

Clench your teeth together and repeat this line without taking a breath for as long as you can. I repeat this over and over until the word remember flows nice and easy off my lips.

I believe that being physically fit will also make you a better voice-over artist. Your normal cardiovascular exercises will give you the stamina to contend with a day of reading copy in studios. Get in shape! Once you are, it makes breathing properly when you do voice-overs easier.

. . . being physically fit will also make you a better voice-over artist.

You must support your voice from the diaphragm. Your normal stomach exercises like “crunches,” are good for strengthening your diaphragm. Breathing is also very important. Here are a few exercises to help you:

  • Inhale and exhale four times slowly through your nose. Your stomach should expand until it ¡s full of the air you just inhaled. Now exhale slowly and gradually pull your stomach in as you exhale. Your stomach should look and feel like it does when you suck in your gut. Repeat. This time inhale and exhale through your mouth.

  • Now add the ah sound. Before you start, inhale through your nose, then start the ah sound. Hold the note as you exhale. Pull your stomach muscles inward to support the voice as you exhale. Repeat this exercise again. This time inhale and exhale through your mouth. Remember, when you inhale you take air in. When you exhale you let air out.

  • When you think that you have trained your diaphragm to support your voice, repeat this line as many times as you can in one breath: Harriet Hubbard helps her husband, Henry Hubbard, hose his dirty Chevy down.

If you practice this technique frequently, you'll be breathing correctly when you do voice-overs in no time flat.

Here are a few more tongue twisters. Vary your speed — fast, medium, slow.

  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pretty pickled peppers.

  • Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pretty pickled peppers?

  • If Peter Piper picked a peck of pretty pickled peppers where's the peck of pretty pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

More tongue twisters, breathing, inflection, and other vocal exercises can be found in Appendix B.


© Rodney Saulsberry / Tomdor Publishing. All rights reserved.

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