There’s a demon in my booth!
Tips and Tricks - Things I use everyday to help my VO performance.
A few people recently have asked me whether I have a particular method to get into the right frame of mind for my VO work. Initially I found this to be a funny question, a part of what I do now has become instinctual, and I’ve learnt not to doubt myself (too much). But on reflection, I realise there are a few things that I do, on a regular basis, which help me to jump into my VO work headfirst. So I thought I’d share some of them with you.
Now some people swear by them, and some people have never done one, but I love a good vocal warm up. If I want something quick and effective, I love the Activate Your Voice app from Elaine Clark. And if I want something a bit longer, I’ll give myself more time, move through some diction exercises and even get out the old bone prop. (If you don’t know what that is, then go to themorrisonboneprop.com, and if you’re having trouble with diction or enunciation, it’s a game changer). I often like to jump in the booth first thing to get my day started, but this can mean that my voice hasn’t had time to warm up, and relax into place, so a good vocal stretch and warm up helps to focus me, and get me ready for a day of voicing.
But even if I am warmed up, thats not going to help me when a client sends me a script that just isn’t working, for whatever reason. Now a lot of people in this industry have talked about visualisation, so we know it works. But there are two things I do all the time when preparing a job. 1. I picture my audience (yeah no shit Sherlock, I can hear all your eye rolls) but you’d be amazed how many people preach this, but don’t practise it. And when I say picture your audience, I mean really see them. Ask yourself, who are they, where are they? Are they in a crowd, a quiet place, at home or on the street? How old are they, what are they wearing, what do they want? Trust me, all these questions can help to inspire the meaning behind your words.
And 2. I take my audience, whether thats one person, a group, my coworkers in an office or my mates at a gig; and I bring them into the booth with me. Now this is a good exercise in imagination, but it can really help in terms of finding the right style, rhythm or tone of a piece. Sometimes the script might call for a nurturing tone, so hold that audience members hand. Or perhaps its defensive and arrogant, so cross your arms and turn your body away (while keeping you mouth to the mic obviously). Physical changes will have a massive effect on the quality of your reads, so don’t stand there like a robot.
Now there are two very important things that have emerged from my ongoing coaching, which I want to share because they may help you in your everyday practise.
Firstly, you have to learn to silence the demon in your booth. I didn’t realise at first, but there was a tiny little demon living in the corner of my booth. It was a small version of myself, pointing and laughing, telling me I wasn’t good enough, and casting doubts across my choices. Don’t get me wrong, that little demon is still there. But now, I have learnt to acknowledge it, thank it for its negative opinion, and move on. This has done wonders for my confidence, and my abilities. And again, visualisation helps, I actually picture a tiny little me in the corner, and after I ignore him and remind myself I know what I’m doing, he has a lot less to say.
And secondly, one thing that really helped, was creating a vocal key. Now stay with me on this, a vocal key is a shortcut to figuring out the tone or style of a piece of work. For instance:
Now what the vocal key does, is it helps you to narrow down the many possibilities you might be faced with in terms of how you choose to perform a script. As you become more experienced, you refer to the key less and less, because it becomes more instinctive to make those choices, and you begin to learn to interpret the copy itself, which predominantly dictates the style. But it helped me in terms of maintaining the consistency of style that I needed for certain reads, and to identify where my real skills were in certain areas of work. At the end of the vocal key, you end up with styles like the ones below, which help you to remember the placement and tone that you’ve created before.
Now this may not work for you, or you may be beyond this in terms of your progression, but if you’re starting out, and trying to figure out a way of staying consistent, and nailing those styles that you know you’re good at, this can be a game changer.
Hopefully there are a few tips and tricks that you can use to enhance your own performance!
And if you have any of your own or want to share your booth essentials, then comment below or get in touch!
Signing out, SBVO.