VAM 027 | Vocal Health

VAM 027 | Vocal Health

Welcome to episode 27 of the Voice Acting Mastery podcast with yours truly, Crispin Freeman!

As always, you can listen to the podcast using the player above, or download the mp3 using the link at the bottom of this blog post. The podcast is also available via the iTunes Store online. Just follow this link to view the podcast in iTunes:

http://www.voiceactingmastery.com/podcast

In this episode, I want to talk about Vocal Health. Your voice is your instrument. Your artistry and your livelihood as a voice actor depend on keeping your voice healthy and in good shape. But how much do you really know about how your voice works? What can you do to keep your voice healthy and ready for action and what should you absolutely avoid in order to keep from damaging your voice? Let’s take a look at how to care for the engine that drives your entire voice acting career: your voice.

The topic of Vocal Health can be broken down into three subjects.

  1. Vocal Production
  2. Vocal Maintenance
  3. Vocal Recovery

Vocal Production is the mechanics of how your body produces sound using your throat. Vocal Maintenance refers to the regular regimen of exercises and health practices that will help keep your voice in good shape. Vocal Recovery is when your voice is suffering, either from illness or abuse, and you’d like to do your best to get it healthy again as soon as possible.

I spend a lot of time exploring all three aspects of vocal health including the golden rule:

If anything you’re doing vocally hurts your throat, don’t do it.

Also, I mention two resources to help you with your Vocal Health.

The first is Kristin Linklater’s book, Freeing the Natural Voice, a great book on vocal production.

The other is my favorite tea for helping a hurting voice recover. It’s called Throat Coat.

I hope you enjoy the episode!

Download Voice Acting Mastery Episode #27 HereΒ (MP3)

 

48 Responses to “VAM 027 | Vocal Health”

  1. Tori says:

    First off, happy 1st birthday VAM! Thanks for this podcast! That was some interesting way to think of how you can recover from an ill throat. I actually never knew much about the throat, but now I have something new to research…and how I can properly care for it! Thanks for another great podcast!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Thank you for the wonderful birthday wishes! I recorded the 26th episode and completely forgot that it was the one year anniversary! So glad you enjoy the podcast!

  2. Caitlin says:

    Great episode, especially since I am sick this week. Luckily I have recently started drinking water so I’ll get better sooner. I’m trying to make water something I drink more often than diet soda. I’m just happy that my throat is not suffering from my cold and hopefully I’ll get better before it starts to hurt.

    All of those tips for a healthy voice will be helpful and I’ll be sure to keep them in mind when I practice.

    Besides tea is there any other hot drink you can recommend? I’m not a big fan of hot tea, but if you don’t have any other drinks in mind I can always try it again.

    Also liked the creepy voice for that video game. When I hear you talk I always picture Itachi, but not with that voice πŸ™‚ The voice kind of reminded me of Steve Blum. He’s also very talented and amazing.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Any hot liquid can help soothe one’s throat as long as the drink is not loaded with caffeine. Caffeine can dry out your voice so coffee is not nearly as helpful as an herbal tea. I can’t off the top of my head think of any other hot drinks besides tea and coffee. Hot chocolate also has caffeine and probably isn’t as good as herbal tea.

      Thanks for the comparison to Steve Blum. He’s a great talent and a great friend.

      • Caitlin says:

        Thanks for the advice. I’ll probably give hot tea another try. And no problem, I agree that Steve Blum is really talented too.

        Happy Fourth of July!

  3. Kalyn McCabe says:

    Much needed podcast. Yay! Thanks so much!

    I’ve also heard milk is a no-no because it creates a mucus over your vocal chords, but I don’t believe it’s true. I always eat something like yogurt or cheese before I do some recording, and my voice just glides right out.

    Your opinion on it?

    I read Linklater’s book for a theatre class, and I found it to be really interesting. Super simple read.

    Another thing about creating a voice is that if you can’t go through all the emotional up and downs, it isn’t a voice.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I too have been told that dairy products are a no-no because they will build up phlegm in your body. Dairy in general is not that great for you, but I don’t consume large amounts of dairy products anyway so it usually isn’t a problem. I do like yogurt in the morning and it’s never impeded my ability to do voice over work, so if diary doesn’t bother you, don’t worry about it. I certainly don’t.

  4. Eric Rivera says:

    Excellent. Right when I needed it. That’s good timing.

    But also,

    My speech professor discovered one of the problems with my speaking as my voice is too nasal. He gave me one exercise to fix that, but I was wondering if you had any other suggestions.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Sure. Hold your nose and speak and try not to sound nasal as you do it. Obviously when you make an “n” or an “m” sound, you will sound nasal. Those are nasal consonants. But you should be able to make all the other sounds in the alphabet with your nose pinched shut and sound the same as without your nose pinched shut.

      If your voice is nasal, it means you’re putting too much of your airflow through your nose. Closing off your nose will make you more aware of how much air you are pushing through your nasal cavities and will help train you to redirect the airflow through your mouth instead.

      Out of curiosity, what did your speech professor recommend in terms of exercises?

      • Eric Rivera says:

        Just the one you just said. He said he made it himself, the liar. -_-

      • Eric Rivera says:

        Or did you mean in terms of all the exercises, not just the nasal one?

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          I was primarily interested in his nasal-reduction exercises, but I’d be interested in his other exercises as well.

          I actually came up with the “hold your nose” exercise when I was in high school. Our high school chorus had recorded a version of Mozart’s Requiem and the recording sounded so nasal that I had to figure out how to avoid singing through my nose. I tried holding my nose shut to make sure I wasn’t pushing any air through it and it worked. It’s odd that your coach thinks he invented it.

  5. Angelican Marcos says:

    This is a great podcast about vocal health considering the fact you put two links that are quite useful and i thank you. As i may recall about the green apples to me i love green apples i rather eat those then any other apples. I also love tea any kind doesn’t even matter if i was Alice IN Wonderland i would have a tea party with the Mad Hatter if i could it wouldn’t bother me if he was crazy. And plus i like cats so the Cheshire Cat is also fine with me and plus i like any kind purple color but i mostly like any kind of blue color. I thank you for giving us this information of vocal health it really helped.
    Sincerely,
    Angelican Marcos

  6. Jack says:

    Thank you so much for this podcast. This has given a lot of great info neatly broken down into a clear fromat. I really needed this due to some recent voice problems. I get to use some of these now since I have a bit of a sore throat. Great thing to happen when I said I’d have a line sent to somebody today for their series.

  7. Dave Bisson says:

    Excellent advice. Thanks so much for the wisdom! I recently learned the hard way that us midwesterners can get some pretty nasty allergies in central California (I was doing some sightseeing after attending VOICE 2012 — your presentation was amazing, by the way. You probably hear it a lot, but your genuine desire to teach really shows). I got to talk to & do a workshop with Tony Oliver, and learned about how to really create characters; now, after I’ve maintained a character voice for your recommended 2 hours, I’ll know how to relax in order to (if need be) recover as soon as possible — as well as know to check my larynx to see if I’m tensing or not. Thanks again!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my presentation at VOICE 2012! All of you were such a gracious audience. I was so flattered by everyone’s response to my presentation.

      Thanks again!

  8. John says:

    First off, thanks for posting all these podcasts, they’re really handy!

    I’ve long fancied the idea of doing voiceovers (even if only for my own use) and often play around/practice with it. Something I’ve found to be a real roadblock, though, is lack of scripts to practice to…

    Chris, do you have any recommendations for practice material?

    Thanks!

    • Pat says:

      I like to read comic-books and imagine the appropriate performance coming out of a character’s mouth, and then try to perform it. Without a script I think it has the advantage over mimicking cartoons because you don’t get an initial impression from the voice-actor already doing the character.

      • Crispin Freeman says:

        Making up voices for comic book characters is a great way to practice.

        It is true that it is not good to simply mimic other voice actors or ape their performances slavishly. However, trying to imitate them effectively or trying to do a celebrity voice match can be very rewarding. I’ve made quite a bit of money voice matching celebrities like Orlando Bloom, Ben Stiller and Stephen Colbert. It also helps reveal your own vocal habits that you might not have been aware of.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I assume when you address “Chris” you’re referring to me. My name is actually Crispin, not Christopher just for future reference.

      In terms of practice scripts, a quick google search will give you a plethora of animation scripts to choose from. You can also practice by using comic books and voicing the different characters in the story.

      Hope that helps.

  9. Stephen Hamby says:

    Another great podcast that I bet a lot of voice actors wish they could have heard sooner. I’m reminded of Jessica Cavello from Excel Saga. Her beautifully insane interpretation of Excel required to much time to recover from, and she went on to injure herself. Larissa Wolcott finished out the part in the series, and did quite well, but you can’t help but wonder if those who write these parts ever consider the voice talent. Although, I wouldn’t have changed a word of it. The dialogue flew by so quick you could catch something you missed every time you watched it.

    Film actors need to consider this as well. I bet Christian Bale was rethinking his voice for Batman in The Dark Knight after a few takes. He should have sought the advice of Kevin Conroy.

    Enough of my rambling though.
    Thanks again for another wonderful podcast!

  10. Wendy Mejia says:

    It’s been said, but I’ll say it too, great podcast. I had a question about making a demo. How long should it be or what should it contain? If you haven’t had any work should you even make a demo? I’ve been looking for work here in LA, but all of them want a demo or voice sample and I’m not sure what to do for it.

  11. Nicholas lassonde says:

    what if you get cast as cobra commander in a remake of G.I.Joe? because i practice his voice at least once every month just to see if i can still do it but every time i’m done i end up geting a scrachy throat for a short five minute

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I would do what I said I did in the podcast episode. I told a story about how I tried to play a voice that hurt my throat (the Galactic Emperor from Photon) and then I relaxed and learned how to play the same character without hurting myself (Goblin commander in Battle for Middle Earth II). Was I not clear?

      Did you forget the golden rule I outlined in the episode? If it hurts your throat, don’t do it.

      • Nicholas lassonde says:

        your right i stoped doing voices like that and started working on the more soft dark character voices like toguro, alucard, spike, sesshomaru and itachi since thoughs voices are more suitable for my voice (no strains or pain i do the kaw kuw warm ups and then sing some old clasics to get my voice in tuned) oh and i finde these pod cast very helpful

  12. Pat says:

    As an aside, it fascinated me how you managed to get your goblin voice working without hurting yourself; I think most of us associate any sort of growling noises with automatic voice pain, and it wouldn’t have actually occurred to me that that was possible to do. It must be encouraging for people to realize their range can be greater than they first imagined.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I wasn’t sure I could do that voice without hurting myself either, but I was inspired by Pat Fraley’s Krang from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His Krang was pretty growly and gnarly and he was able to sustain it for an entire season.

      There is almost always a way to relax into a voice so you don’t hurt yourself. It just takes practice and being easy with it.

  13. Josh says:

    Have you heard of Estill voice training system? It’s geared towards singers, but there’s absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be applied to any kind of vocal production. It’s very specific about the anatomy of the different parts of your body that are part of creating sound (not just the vocal folds). It also explains different vocal qualities, such as belt, twang, opera, nasalized twang, etc.

    p.s sorry if you mentioned it in your podcast, I haven’t had a chance to listen yet. πŸ™‚

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I am not familiar with the Estill system. My experience is mostly classical operatic and broadway singing. Is there a website or a book you would recommend to find out more about the Estill system?

  14. Meg says:

    Good morning, Crispin πŸ™‚ I really love this episode, and I truly believe your words that water is always important. I also understand that cough spray is not much healing at all because I had it once and it was bitter directly in the sore area of the throat. I have question, have you ever tried vitamin water zero or smart water before? Thank you for your time and thanks for the podcast πŸ™‚

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast.

      I have tried vitamin water before, but it doesn’t really have any bearing on vocal health. It’s just water with vitamins and flavoring.

  15. Marcy Edwards says:

    There is one other way I know to help treat sore/hurt/congested throats. It is an ancient Chinese secret…okay so maybe it isn’t ancient but it is a Chinese syrup that can be bought at any Chinese Pharmacy. it is called Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. This herbal remedy tastes much better than any cough medicine and has a honey and menthol flavor to it. You can either take it straight as a syrup (and let it slowly flow down your throat before swallowing fully) or stir some in steeping water or tea. And, it is all natural. I found out about this medicine before a class due to a lack of common sense on my part. For more information about said miracle syrup, go to – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nin_Jiom_Pei_Pa_Koa

    Pro tip- Don’t have a metal karaoke sing off two days before voice class πŸ˜€

  16. Brendan says:

    Hey Crispin,

    Great episode! I’ve never given how my voice works much thought; often I’d shout at the dogs or something and I’d be unable to speak properly for several hours or even the whole day afterwards. It got to a point where even breathing in was painful on my throat.

    After the episode I had my hand on my larynx as I spoke normally and realized it was never in a dropped down position which, based on this episode, made me realize I was constantly putting stress on my larynx.

    I’ve had no voice training other than learning how to project my voice in the most rudimentary manner for over the counter sales in my store; its basically shouting but without actually shouting.

    So my question: How can I reduce the stress on my larynx even when talking, and how can I more effectively project my voice without putting added stress on my larynx?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      You’ve already begun the first step, becoming aware of how you are using your voice. Now you need to maintain that awareness so you can catch yourself when you’re allowing your larynx to rise and put tension on your vocal cords.

      The best advice I have for learning how to use your voice without putting stress on it is either to take singing lessons or else theater vocal technique classes like Linklater voice work. Although I haven’t read it, you might want to check out Linklater’s famous book on vocal technique called Freeing the Natural Voice. I’m sure it’s got plenty of wonderful exercises to help you vocalize without straining yourself.

      Hope that helps.

  17. Joseph Pecynski says:

    would electronic cigarettes still be as hard on your voice as normal cigarettes?

  18. Benjamin Garza says:

    Is there a way to easily determine when you’ve caused long-term, or even permanent, damage to your throat. For example, I’m currently resting my voice now, but in the recent past I could feel a pain in my throat when talking with some feeling. Even when reading a simple children’s book I can get a hint of it.

    I’ll fully admit that I believe I caused it through foolishly practicing a role in high tension over the course of a very short time, but it’s been with me, in some way, ever since. I’m curious if this is permanent damage or chalices and if i can remedy it, so to speak.

    Now, I drink several bottles of water on a daily basis, and I typically don’t drink soda or other soft drinks. Quite recently, I readopted the “Throat Coat” suggestion and consume it multiple times a day. Based on your experience, and my lengthy comment, am i doing to right thing to turn around this unknown-to-me issue.

    Thank you SO MUCH for your contributions, Mr. Freeman,

    Benjamin

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I know of no easy way to determine if you’ve caused permanent damage to your throat. My best advice would be to see a throat doctor and have them give you an examination. I am not a doctor and even if I was, I certainly would not be able to diagnose you over e-mail.

      If you are having to drink Throat Coat tea multiple times a day, then I would definitely suggest seeing a doctor. Ideally, Throat Coat tea is only to be used when your voice is temporarily enflamed from an illness or short-term stress. It is not a long term solution to a chronic vocal problem.

      I advise you to see a health professional.

  19. I sometimes have pain in my throat from just talking normally for a while, or when singing for even the lowest amount of time. I sing a lot for fun, but my voice is damaged. At high notes, it becomes all fucked up. The more I rest the higher I can sing again, but I can still do the messed up voice on purpose. It’s really annoying how I can sometimes sing the notes and sometimes can’t because my voice keeps messing up.

    I have tried vocal exercises and singing from my diaphragm, but it doesn’t seem to help much. The thing is, the only way of them examining what’s wrong with my throat is if they put a device in my throat..and that scares me to death. I’m not sure what to do :c.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I am very sorry that you’re having so much vocal distress. However, it is impossible for me to diagnose and offer advice for your situation over the internet.

      It sounds like you have already contacted a voice health expert and they have advised doing some exploration of your larynx area to see what’s going on.

      If you would like to learn to overcome this vocal challenge, you’re going to need the help of vocal health experts. If you do not like the one you have seen, you can always get a second opinion from another doctor. But it sounds like eventually you’re going to have to let someone look at your throat and come up with some sort of therapy and/or remedy.

      Your other option is to do nothing and to keep feeling pain.

      The choice is yours.

  20. Mark Elgie says:

    Hi Crispin,

    I’ve been doing casting call projects on Behind the Voice Actors.com lately. When I’m not doing that and when I’m not working, I’m experimenting with my voice. Some of the voices I have been experimenting with haven’t really hurt my voice per se, but it did cause it to itch. Would this mean that I need to rethink how I approach these particular voices?

    Forgive me if I’m not applying common sense here haha.

    Thanks!

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