Voice Actors Guide to Caring for the Throat
Professional singers are often times advised to protect their most prized instrument, their voice. Stars like Mariah Carey have been known to get adequate sleep to safeguard vocal chords. Voiceover actors however will not have to stand on stage to belt out tunes in front of thousands of fans, but your voice is equally important because it is your physical resume. It’s great when a voiceover actor secures ongoing projects but maintaining the health of the voice is important for career longevity. We spoke with J. Michael King, MD also of Peak ENT and Voice Center in Golden, Colorado, to discuss how voiceover actors can preserve their voice.
What are the most common injuries to vocal chords?
Most common would be overuse and/or misuse leading to abnormal straining (muscle tension). In some cases this can lead to vocal fatigue and vocal cord nodules. Nodules are small bumps on both cords, similar to a callus.
How can a voice actor do anything specifically to take care of their voice? Are there any tips you can provide?
Good vocal technique is key. Any professional voice user would be wise to work with a vocal coach or speech pathologist trained in voice specifically. Posture, pitch, breath support, etc. are all key factors that professionals should understand in order to preserve their voices for the long-haul. Resting their voice between performances and not overusing it when it’s not important. Avoid excessive talking or singing, for example, during the “off time” to rest one’s voice is important. Avoid abusive behaviors like smoking and excessive drinking. Alcohol and caffeine in larger quantities can do damage and are known risk factors for reflux that can affect the voice.
Many male voice actors believe smoking and drinking lowers their register and can be beneficial to their career. What advice would you give to those voice actors?
This is risky behavior since both tobacco and alcohol are risk factors for cancer. There are far healthier ways of learning to lower one’s register if that is important (working with a good vocal coach or speech pathologist). Even if someone’s lucky enough not to develop cancer, there are other benign lesions caused by tobacco and alcohol that can cripple one’s voice. Polyps or precancerous plaques, for example, can develop on the cords that impair vocal fold vibration. I would never advise anyone to drink alcohol and/or smoke simply to change pitch.
How can someone naturally lower their register for voiceover jobs that require it?
No secrets, it just takes practice and working with a good coach or speech pathologist to learn how to do it safely. Done incorrectly, this may lead to muscle tension/straining as noted in the first question.
Thank you J. Michael King, MD for providing valuable information for voiceover actors who are serious about maintenance of their voice to secure long-term jobs in the industry.
Have your faced any challenges with your voice in performing work?