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Voice Acting Warm Ups: 17 Exercises to Get You Ready to Go!

Voice Acting Warm Ups: 17 Exercises to Get You Ready to Go!

My voice hasn’t been feeling great lately so I decided to do some research on voice acting warm ups. Here’s what I found.

A lot of the warm ups you’ll find for voiceover and voice acting are also what singers will use to warm up their voices. Your voice is your main tool for doing your work. So you have to keep it healthy.

The goal with warm ups is to get your body ready to perform.

We carry a lot of tension in our necks, shoulders, chest & tummies. So part of what you want to do is focus on relaxing these areas while you do your warm ups. Any tension in these areas will be heard in your voice, as well.

As Morgan Freeman says:

“If you’re looking to improve the sound of your voice, yawn a lot. It relaxes your throat muscles. It relaxes your vocal cords.”

Tip: Don’t be afraid to sound silly while you’re warming up. Have fun with these. They could save your voice and will definitely save your VO career.

Before we get started, here’s an excellent video that you can use for reference for some of the exercises:

1. Warm Up Your Body

If you’ve just woken up or it’s cold outside or you normally work in an airconditioned room, then it would be a good idea to warm up your whole body before going into the recording booth.

Getting your blood and oxygen flowing will warm up your whole body and help you relax more easily. And being relaxed is important for a good performance.

I like to warm up with 10 jumping jacks. Anyone can do them. And you can do them anywhere. (Feel free to do more than 10 if you’re fit but don’t get yourself out of breath. Leave your workout for the gym.)

Next up, do some side stretches. These will open up your rib cage and lungs and help you get more air in them. Just take a deep breath, raise your arms to the sky, breathe out and lean slightly to one side. Hold yourself there for a second and then come back up (on an in-breath) and repeat on the other side.

You can just do this 2 or 3 times.

And then, do a forward stretch. So reach up again, while breathing in. Hold for a second and then exhale and bend forwards. Relax for a bit and then slowly inhale as you come back up to center.

These stretches should be done slowly or you could get dizzy. They’ll warm up your middle which will help your tummy and chest relax and let you take in more air with each breath.

You might not even realize how tense you are and how shallow your breaths are until you do these stretches.

Tip: Try recording something before doing these stretches and then record something afterwards. You should notice a big difference in how much more relaxed you sound and how much easier it is to talk.

2. “Ng” Sirens

I learned this one from Yousician but also found that a lot of pro voice actors that use it. You’ll feel this one in your sinuses.

To get an “ng” sound, focus on the way the back of your mouth closes at the end of words like, “young”, “soung”, “bang” and “fling”. That’s the sound you want to make and hold.

On an out-breath, with your mouth closed, make a “ng” sound. Your mouth can be open or closed.

In the beginning, do this in your normal speaking range. But once you’re comfortable doing that, the idea is to start low in pitch and move up to the top of your range and then down again. So you sound like a “siren”.

3. “Z” Sirens

You’ll feel this one more in the front of your face and mouth.

On an out-breath, with your mouth closed, make a “Z” sound. Your mouth should be slightly open and your teeth should be closed but keep your jaw relaxed.

Start in your normal speaking range and, when you’re comfortable with that, move up and down in pitch like a siren.

4. Lip Sirens

On an out-breath, keep your mouth closed and try to say the letter “B” while keeping your lips relaxed. Your lips should vibrate which creates a bubbling sound.

Start in your normal speaking range and, when you’re comfortable with that, move up and down in pitch like a siren.

This exercise gets your lips warmed up so you don’t “trip over them” while performing.

5. Tongue Sirens

Tongue Sirens are like lip sirens but you’re vibrating your tongue instead, this time.

On an out-breath, with your mouth slightly open but relaxed, try to say the letter “D”. Your tongue should end up vibrating lightly against your palate. (This is also the hard “R” sound in languages like Italian & Portuguese.)

Again, here, you want to start in your normal speaking range and then, when you’re comfortable with that, move into going up and down in pitch, like a siren.

6. “Mmm” Sirens

“M” Sirens are the same as the other siren excercises except that you’re keeping your mouth closed and making an “M” sound.

Bonus: This also gets your sinuses warmed up. This might sound gross but getting your sinuses warmed up is important because it’ll move out mucus that might be collected there, making it difficult to sound good.

On an out-breath, with your mouth closed, make a long “M” sound. Start in your normal speaking range and, when you’re comfortable with that, move up and down in pitch like a siren.

Work on keeping the sound full and consistent.

7. “Nnn” Sirens

This “N” Sirening is similar to the “M” sirening but it warms up higher parts of your sinuses. You’ll feel it more around your nose.

On an out-breath, with your mouth closed, make a long “N” sound. Start in your normal speaking range and, when you’re comfortable with that, move up and down in pitch like a siren.

8. “L” Sirens

“L” Sirens work pretty much the same as “N” and “M” sirens except that you’ll feel them more in the back of your head and in your throat area.

On an out-breath, with your mouth closed, make an “L” sound. Your mouth should be slightly open this time, and your tongue should be gently pressed against the back of your top teeth.

Start in your normal speaking range and, when you’re comfortable with that, move up and down in pitch like a siren.

Once your voice and facial muscles are warmed up, it’s time to work on your enunciation. This is where the fun really begins!

Practice Tongue Twisters

👆 That video is a frigging great example of making something that’s hard to do, look easy. It’s an excerpt from Rodney Saulsberry’s book “Tongue Twisters and Vocal Warm-Ups” which you can get from Audible or from iTunes for around $6.

(Rodney Saulsberry is a 2-time NAACP Image Award Nominee and has rented his voice to Toyota, Colgate, Twix and a bunch of Hollywood movie trailers.)

Here are two of Rodney’s tongue twisters:

9. Bipidy Bumpidy

Bipidy bumpidy ripidy rumpidy
Ripidy bumpidy boo
Bipidy bumpidy ripidy rumpidy
Let’s make it harder to do
Bumzidy rumzidy dumzely clumzely
Hopefully soon we’ll be through
With bipidy bumpidy ripidy rumpidy
Stop when your pink tongue turns blue

and …

10. Why In The World?

Why In The World
Would A Whale Want Water?
When A Whale Wants Water
Will A Well Run Dry?
Why In The World
Would A Wet Whale Want Wet Water?
Will A Wet Whale Want Wet Water
When A Wet Well Runs Dry?

And here are 8 more tongue twisters that I found from a Toastmasters Club article. (Toastmasters is a nonprofit organization that helps people learn to be better at public speaking and communication in general.)

11. Someone Said Something Simple

Someone Said Something Simple
A Simple Something Said To Me
Simply Simple Someone Said
A Simple Something Said To Me

12. Crooked Cookies Cakes And Pies
Crooked Cookies Cakes And Pies
Crush It Crack It Crapper Ties
Crystal Critters Cry Like Mad
Croaking Choking Frogs Are Sad

13. Properly Press The Purple And Black

Properly Press The Purple And Black
Pleated Plaid Pants You Own
Prepare To Put Your Purple And Black
Pleated Plaid Pants On
Properly Press The Purple And Black
Pleated Plaid Pants You Own
Now Properly Dressed In Your Purple And Black
Pleated Plaid Pants Be Gone

14. Thirty-Three Thumb Throbbing Thick Throttle Thinkers

Thirty-three Thumb Throbbing Thick Throttle Thinkers
Thought The Thirsty Throttle Thumper Threw The Throw.

15. Snoring Snails

Snore Snail Snap Snoop
Sneak Snuck Snout Snoot
Snarl Sneer Snipe Snip
Sniff Snuff Snake Snitch

16. Strictly Strong

Strictly Structured Stretch And Stride
Straight Strident Strong With Pride
Struggle Strum Strike And Strung
Street Streak Stream And Strong

17. Three Throw

Thrust Three Threw
Through Thrive Throat
Thrice Thread Throne
Threat Throw Thrash

Bonus: 18. Practice 3-Letter “Non-Words”

Watch that video for a great example of what I’m calling 3-letter “non-words”.

This is a common VO exercise for improving your enunciation. It works by combining vowels and consonants into 3-letter “non-words” that cover just about any kind of sound that you could find in a voiceover script.

So a line like this:


Would be pronounced like this:

Ah-buh-tuh Eh-buh-tuh Eeh-buh-tuh Ob-buh-tuh Ooh-buh-tuh

It’s weird and seems non-sensical but it really does help you to get ready to say just about anything. Give it a shot. (Watch the video for a full list of useful “non-words”.)

Click here for a “warm up lines” article I wrote that has this entire exercise typed out for you.

How To Make Warm Ups Not Suck

Warm ups don’t have to be a pain in the butt. If they are, then you won’t do them. So here’s an idea for making it easy to do warm ups any time, any place.

Open up your favorite recording software (I list the top free ones here) and record yourself going through the exercises in this article.

  1. Announce the exercise.
  2. Record yourself doing it once.
  3. Leave a pause for “future you” to do the exercise 2 or 3 times.
  4. Move on to the next one.

Once you’re done recording that, edit out any mistakes and save your recording on your phone as an MP3. Now whenever you need to warm up, you can just open your phone and do your own tailor-made warm-ups.

(Don’t treat this as a paid gig. Just get it recorded and edit out the most obvious mistakes. The idea is to get this done so you can build warm ups into a daily habit with almost no effort.)

Why Do Warm Ups? 5 Not-So-Obvious Reasons

Obviously, these warm ups all warm up your vocal cords and throat muscles which means that you’ll perform better when it comes time to record.

But they do more than that.

Warm ups also…

  • Wake up your lips. If you’ve ever found yourself fumbling over words because your lips feel heavy and “stupid”, then you need to “wake up” your lips.
  • Wake up your tongue. They’re called tongue twisters for a reason. Your tongue gets all twisted up and you end up sounding silly. And when you’ve just woken up, or you’ve had a quiet day of editing (and not talking), then your tongue could be a bit “sleepy”. Wake it up!
  • Train you to be consistent. When you talk, consistency isn’t necessarily your top concern. You just want to get your message across. But, as a voice actor, you need to have a consistent tone, volume and intensity across takes and sessions. By doing warm ups, you get intimately familiar with your voice and you learn how to produce the same sounds, in the same ways, every single time.
  • Train you to breathe. Sounds dumb but, actually, most people don’t know how to breathe. By doing exercises like tongue twisters and sirening, you’re learning how to control your breath, take deeper breaths, and pause in the right spots so you don’t run out of gas (literally!)
  • Increase your range. This might not be important to you if you’re doing mostly commercial or narration work but, if you’re doing cartoons, or you’re voicing the characters in an audiobook, having a dynamic range will help.

Struggling with a script because you haven’t warmed up is a waste of your time. Warm up and get nail the recording faster.

Where Should I Do These Warm Ups?

You can do these warm ups just about anywhere but if you don’t want to feel embarrassed, then a good spot would be in your recording booth, just before a session.

Another great spot for doing vocal warm ups is in the shower. The steam will naturally warm you up and it’ll also lubricate your vocal cords, making the warm ups even easier to do.

But if you do the warm ups in the shower, just remember to also do a few before recording. Doing warm ups in similar conditions to how you’ll record will help you “feel” your voice and know how far you can push yourself without getting hurt. (And you’ll sound better. You might even do some extra warm ups half way through a long session.)

Side Tip: Doing any kind of warm ups in the shower can give you a false sense for your range because of how extra relaxed and warm you are. So be sure to also warm up under typical recording conditions.

When Should I Do Warm Ups?

You don’t want to do your warm ups first thing in the morning. Like Lili says in that video 👆, your larynx is positioned differently when you’re lying down. So try not to talk for the first 90 minutes after you wake up. After that, do your warm ups and carry on with your day as normal (or hit the booth right after warming up.)

But it’s also a good idea to do them every day, whether or not you’ll be recording that day. By making warm ups a daily habit, you’ll improve your voice over the long term, which will make all your recording sessions go much smoother. (And increase your value as a professional voice actor.)

By the way, another bonus in Lili’s video, is a warm up she recommends by “steaming yourself”. All you do is put some recently boiled water in a small tub, put a towel over your head, and inhale the steam for a while. It’ll lubricate your vocal cords which will help you deliver a smoother performance.

How Long Should I Do The Exercises?

Ideally you should spend at least 10-20 minutes warming up every day. Some pros will spend as much as 30 minutes warming up before hitting “record”.

The goal is to do enough of a warm up that you can perform well but not so much that you hate it and don’t make it a habit.

In the early days of doing voice acting on the side, it can be easy to want to skip doing warm ups because you just don’t have the time. So figure out how to fit in your warm ups throughout the day.

Making your vocal health a habit will help you improve almost effortlessly. And remember to also practice your tongue twisters and 3-letter “non-words” every day so that you’re constantly improving your ability to tackle a new script on the first read.

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