Acting: Discover the “ABCs”
Of Every Script – And Warm Up!
By James Alburger
Want to improve your copy-reading skills? Then discover what I call the ABCs of voice acting. Next, learn to M.O.V.E. with your copy. And before each actual performance, remember to warm up your voice!
Here’s how to put all this together.
LEARN YOUR ABCs
A = Audience: Who are you talking to? It will always be just one person. Define that individual and give him or her a name. Doing this will make your delivery more conversational and believable.
B = Backstory: The backstory is the specific event that took place immediately before the first word of copy. The backstory is the reason your character is saying the words in the script.
If the backstory is not clearly defined in the script – make one up! This is very important because the backstory sets your character’s motivation, attitude and purpose for speaking.
C = Character: Who are YOU as the speaker? Define your character in as much detail as you like. The more details you can come up with, the more believable your character will be to you and your audience.
Every script has a character, regardless of how poorly the script may be written or the script's content. Find that character and give it life.
M.O.V.E. stands for Movement Orchestrates Vocal Expression.
The degree of your physical movement when reading copy can directly affect the expression of your emotion and attitude. Movement includes facial expressions, arms, head and body, and even the posture of your body as you speak.
Make choices regarding your character’s emotions and attitudes concerning the copy - even down to how you feel about a specific word or phrase.
Every emotion has a related tension someplace in your body. Look within yourself to find how you personally feel about the copy. Experience where the tension is and hold it there as you move and speak the words in the script.
You may be amazed at the difference in honesty, sincerity and believability that results from simply moving your body.
FIRST: WARM UP
Dancers, singers and athletes warm up. Voice actors should too! After all, you are using very specific muscles to perform your craft. Keep yourself “toned up” by using warm-up exercises.
Warming up will not only help you speak more clearly, but can also relax you as you enter a studio for your session. Being relaxed is extremely important to being able to quickly find your character.
Stretch your face, relax your neck and shoulders, yawn, or do your favorite tongue twisters.
‘THE CORK’ EXERCISE
My favorite warm-up exercise is what I call “The Cork.” Get a cork from a wine bottle and place the cork between your teeth. (I’d suggest saving the wine for later!)
With the cork between your teeth, read some copy out loud V – E – R – Y S – L – O – W – L – Y.
Over-enunciate every vowel, consonant and syllable in every word, and make sure you clearly speak the ends of words. Be careful to not rush through little words like “a”, “in”, “the”, “if”, and so on.
You’ll find your cheeks, jaw and tongue will start to get tired after just a few minutes - but you’ll also notice that after this exercise you will speak much more clearly without sounding forced.
One of my students uses this exercise by reading traffic signs on his way to the studio. Another keeps his cork on a chain around his neck! This is a good one - use it.
James Alburger is an Emmy Award-winning voice talent, coach, engineer, producer, director, and author of “The Art of Voice Acting.” He and business partner Penny Abshire offer many voice-over services through VoiceActing.com, including workshops and seminars. They are also co-producers of the annual VOICE industry conference.