One of the common questions perhaps your peers outside the voice acting sphere would ask you, “What do you do when your voice gets hoarse?” or “Is your voice the same when you have sore throat?” But answering them is just one thing, the real challenge is how you overcome VO burnout/fatigue.
In voice over career, investments are not just about the recording equipments and studio. The real name of the game here is taking care of your ultimate investment asset — your voice.
What is VO Fatigue?
VO fatigue or vocal fatigue is a voice over term that describes strain, tiredness or weakness in your voice resulting from the endless pursuit of voice over success.
Symptoms of Vocal Fatigue
Before it hits you, you already see the fatigue approaching you from afar. And subconsciously, you plan to escape from it through many ways which will be discussed later. Here’s a list of symptoms:
- Sore or itchy throat
- Hoarse voice
- Reduced volume
- Reduced vocal range
- Warm or cold feeling in the throat
- Dryness and viscous saliva
- Dehydration especially in the morning when you wake up
- Muscular tension in the neck and throat
What Causes Voice Actors’ Vocal Fatigue?
Because most voice actors are independent workers and given the highly competitive VO market, you would likely do anything to take on as many voice over jobs as you can. You fear to say no to throat-ripping VO projects like video game voice overs but you not fear to lose your voice.
There’s nothing so wrong about being go-getter; after all, it’s what it takes for every individual to be successful. But this is not totally applicable to a career where the product you sell is sourced from a specific part of your body. Pushing yourselves to the limits of what your voice can do abuses your vocal strength, thus, giving you vocal burnouts that jeopardize more opportunities than you fear losing due to your impulsiveness.
While it’s normal that you are after the unwavering quality of each voice over job that you take, protecting your voice is just as valuable as keeping the consistency in your recordings. If your voice suffers, even if you want to do just as good as your other projects, the quality will inevitably be crippled one way or another.
So how do I avoid burnout from doing too much voice over before it does the major damage?
1. Stay Hydrated
This is the number 1 rule, with or without fatigue. Drink lukewarm water as often as you can to keep your vocal folds lubricated. Herbal tea with honey, lemon juice, and ginger tea are also powerful aid that can keep your chords in good shape. As much as you can control, mitigate intake of alcohol, coffee, and soda as they strip your vocal chords of their natural moisture.
2. Take a break and rest
When we say rest, we meant not just a vocal rest, but a complete break from all strenuous physical and mental activity. This can range from a day to a week or two, it’s totally up to you. Many voice actors practice the good habit of going on a vacation, where they totally forget about their job and engage themselves in mindless activities where they can do nothing but relax.
3. Stay away from noisy places
When you are in a noise environment, you tend to talk above the noise, causing strain on your voice. Take the pressure off your sound and speak gently. Speak in a relaxed, easy, and light tone and pace. Excessive chatting with your friends in the flesh or over the phone consumes your energy and abuses your throat. As much as you can, try to minimize the unnecessary talk especially if you feel like the fatigue is going to hit you anytime soon.
4. Take vocal naps
In the book The Vocal Athlete, speech pathologists Wendy Leborgne and Marci Rosenberg suggest that heavy voice users can benefit from including regular vocal naps throughout the day.
A vocal nap is a short period of voice rest from (5 to 20 minutes). Throughout your day, try to vary your workload so you can find short periods of vocal rest and so that you don’t do all your vocally-intensive work in one short period. Likewise, try to make effective use of break times by resting your voice.
5. Do warm-ups before putting your voice on
Like sports, voice acting needs a warm up. You don’t just run a marathon straight up. Every professional voice user needs to know how to warm-up their voices effectively. A good voice coach can help you develop a warm-up tailored to your needs. Research has shown that voice actors who warm up, report fewer instances of vocal fatigue and recover more quickly from heavy voice use as warm ups increase voice stamina and range.
6. Take a step back from taking throat-ripping projects
You should also assert which voice over genre is suitable for your voice type. Being able to voice a strong character in a video game once does not necessarily mean it suits you. Ask yourself if you are able to style that over and over without voice strain.
7. Save your voice for what really counts
This can be ironic because you are always given tips and advices that you should be consistent with all your auditions and projects. But it’s not wrong to be wise enough to know where to save your vocal strength. If you are just rehearsing on your own, remember you are allowed to use a gentle voice instead of blasting each and every take like it is the final take for your project or an audition in front of your client.
8. Consider consulting a doctor right away
If your vocal fatigue persists for several weeks, it’s a big red flag waving at you to consult a voice therapist or ENT doctor. Underestimating your chronic vocal burnouts can lead to a lot more serious voice problems. Specialist treatment can include medication (e.g. throat sprays, lozenges), surgery, voice therapy, or a combination of these.
9. Do some breathing exercise
We have come across an article in The Voice Realm, How to Reduce Vocal Fatigue where they discussed 3 breathing exercises that can train your lungs absorb and release air that reduces the stress in your vocal folds.
10. Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle
This should be the basic routine to anyone who uses voice for their living. Avoid eating spicy food, sweets and cold. Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke as they irritate the vocal folds. Make it to a certain too that you have good mouth hygiene, and avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol or irritating chemicals.
All these tips to avoid vocal fatigue should be kept in mind and it should be no-brainer that protecting your voice should be on top of everything else in your responsibilities as a voice actor.