Finding work as an actor can be a challenge when you are starting. Adding voice acting to your repertoire can be a wonderful way to expand your career and your audience. Like the actors that start as models, building your skills as a voice actor can improve your visibility, bring in an income and improve your acting skills over time.
Treat the Voice Like Any Other Muscle
The mechanism that allows you to phonate is quite involved. To become a consistent voice actor, you need to produce a consistent, healthy sound. Abusing the voice at extreme highs, lows, volume, or level of stridency can do long-term damage, so get in the habit of warming up the voice as you would warm up your body before a hard workout.
Start with deep breathing. Early in the day, try to keep your speaking voice elevated and light to avoid putting stress on the voice. If you drink very hot coffee first thing in the day, make sure you also have some cool water to balance the temperature around the voice. No, coffee doesn’t pass over the vocal folds. However, those folds live in a tough neighborhood. In addition to a warm-up, plan a cool down or some time of silence at the end of a hard day of acting.
Keep A Journal
If you notice some days when your voice is husky or more gravelly than others, consider keeping a journal of what you eat and drink. Many actors and singers find that some foods and beverages can lower the voice and roughen the tone, such as
- red wine
- ice cream
Of course, if you are known for a low voice, you may find that a glass of beer before bed can make your morning voice acting gig much more marketable.
Get Training and Care
To keep your voice healthy for years to come, work with a coach or teacher to increase the quality of your diction. A coach can also help you build your repertoire of accents.
If you notice that your voice is tired at the end of the day, talk to your GP about a referral to an ENT specialist. The vocal folds can be damaged by
- coughing or sneezing
- laughing loudly
- shouting or screaming
These injuries can initially show up as a blood blister. When the blister breaks, you may get an ulcer. When the ulcer heals, you may have a scar. Eventually, these scars can build up into nodes and cost you vocal flexibility. Addressing the problem before the scars build-up can protect your voice for a lifetime.
Build Your Acting Chops
The key to how to get into voice acting is to start as an actor. The voice of an actor tells the story as much as the seen aspects of a movie or a play. Remember Tony Perkins at the end of “Psycho”? The words are chilling, but it’s the tone of “she wouldn’t even harm a fly” that gives us the shivers.
As you focus more on your voice acting skills, make sure you are reading great literature out loud. If you need to work on accents, choose prose and play excerpts to suit. Ask your coach for suggestions. Get in the habit of listening to your favorite actors without looking at the video. Notice how they create a response in you with their tone, style, and phrasing.
In addition to listening to your favorite actors, make sure you are also listening to yourself. Record yourself as you work on
- diction quality
- tone variety
Keep a journal of how you felt when you started making the recording, then listen to the recording to see if you were able to share the energy and emotions you were feeling at the start.
Voice actors often have to convey a sense of great positivity, particularly those who work on commercials. If your personality is less than relentlessly positive, you may need to do some “pumping up” exercises to get rolling. Practice breathing exercises, posture routines, and other activities to elevate your mood before you start.