Sep 20, 2022
In order to tell a story, you have to understand it. This week, Anne & Erikka discuss how to harness musicality to make the most out of your reads. Singing can teach you a lot about breath control, pacing, and emotional expression. Taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths will keep your air flow strong. This prevents you from breaking up ideas & phrases with pauses which ultimately interrupt the story you are telling. Knowing your voice and its capabilities can inform your daily workflow & schedule. Tune in to learn how you can harness the power of your voice…
>> It’s time to take your business to the next level, the BOSS level! These are the premiere Business Owner Strategies and Successes being utilized by the industry’s top talent today. Rock your business like a BOSS, a VO BOSS! Now let’s welcome your host, Anne Ganguzza.
Anne: Hey everyone. Welcome to the VO BOSS podcast and our balance series. I'm your host Anne Ganguzza, and I am thrilled to have back special guest co-host Erikka J. Erikka J, yay.
Erikka: Hey, Hey Anne. How are you?
Anne: <Laugh> We're kind of singing that.
Erikka: Yes we are.
Anne: You know, you are a singer. And I was thinking about this because I used to play an instrument for many years and I also sang for quite some time. I was an avid choir member and swing choir member as well, kind of like the glee club. And so it's interesting because it affects how I teach voiceover. So I teach voiceover with like conversational melody. And it's very interesting, 'cause I'll talk about, okay, start on your middle C. And then when you're going to inflect important words, that's pretty much just a tiny nuance of a step up. It's not like crazy notes. It's C to a C# or C to a D. And I thought, because you're a singer, we could really have a conversation about how there is a melody to our voice as we are speaking. We're not necessarily singing, but when we're talking and we're communicating, there's absolutely a melody.
Erikka: Absolutely. But you have to keep it in balance. You don't wanna get sing-songy because then it starts to sound like, you know, old school commercials and nobody pays attention. It's not conversational anymore.
Erikka: But yeah, for sure.
Anne: So let me ask you, you were a singer before you were a voice artist?
Anne: So what skills that you developed as a vocalist, how do they help you as a voice artist?
Erikka: Oh man. So definitely for one was breath control.
Anne: That's an important one.
Erikka: When you get those really long run on sentences or those big words, and it's like, we gotta make it work or you gotta read speed through the disclaimers or whatever. I'm like, boom. You know, like <laugh>.
Anne: Look, and you just did a nose breath. I love that. I teach nose breath.
Erikka: Yeah. I don't even do mouth breath. I don't even think it's automatic. Yeah.
Anne: That's awesome. Because, so I talk about nose breath because it helps you to really get a deep diaphragmatic breath.
Anne: And there's nothing more powerful, right, than to deliver words when you're not afraid of running out of breath. Right?
Erikka: Indeed. Yes. Yes. Because your brain is gonna be like, oh my God, I can't breathe, I can't --
Anne: Right. And that's all you can think about. You can't think about the story you're trying to tell when you're exactly gasping for breath. And honestly, I think there's something to be said for understanding the music before you sing it a little bit or kind of understanding the phrasing of the music, because for me, words and stories are broken up into phrases or clauses as my, my English teacher would say. And in those phrases, you don't wanna run outta breath. You don't wanna like stop. Like I am talking to you all staccato, like William Shatner. <Laugh>. You know, you wanna be able to have that -- here, it's a smooth phrase and I'm just talking. And if you guys, the BOSSes out there, you're listening to this right now is we're talking to one another, we're not breathing in the middle of our words. We're breathing either before we say them or at a comma. And if you run outta breath, like that's all you can think about. So you can't have a conversation while you're continually gasping for breath.
Erikka: It's still a balance.
Anne: Yeah. Talk to me about those diaphragmatic breaths for you.
Erikka: So it's definitely, like I said, the support in being able to get through those long phrases, but it's also, like you said, finding the commas and that's not necessarily the commas that are written on the script. And I think that's important to keep in mind. When you're doing a conversational method of speaking, there are gonna be times when maybe, you know, you're in the middle of thinking. Like I just paused right now and I kind of, you know, I might take a natural breath there and that's okay. So it doesn't have to be, I have one breath for the entire sentence. Just now when I'm speaking, you can hear, there are some points where I'm breathing and it's just natural. You wanna keep the natural breath in there, but not the, oh my God, I ran outta breath, and I gotta breathe.
Anne: Oh my God, just, I'm at the end of the, I'm at the end of the sentence now.
Erikka: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So those are incredibly supportive.
Anne: And it's funny because I had to kind of learn how to breathe even better after I had surgery way back in 2012. And it's interesting. That's when I started really doing nose breaths and diaphragmatic breaths, and it's incredible how confident it makes you feel. And so it really allows you to concentrate on the story that you're telling again. And you can deliver those words.
Erikka: Yeah, yeah, I can --
Anne: Just when you want to.
Erikka: I can feel them in my posture. Like it actually, like, I feel like it makes me sit up because it's like, your lungs are full, and it's like, I've telling this story. You know, this is my message. And you shall listen to me. Like it's <laugh>.
Anne: And I think it's very similar to swimmers. Like I used to take swimming lessons and be like, okay, how long can you hold your breath underwater?
Anne: It's a muscle that you can develop. So if you are in your booth, and sometimes you just don't anticipate long, unwieldy sentences. Boo on you, because you should understand at least at some point in your analysis of it, right? I always say go through the script like a first grader so that you kinda have an idea of where those long-winded sentences are and you know where you're going to breathe. You kind of have to plan where you're gonna breathe. So it's not at every single comma, but like you said, it can be in implied commas.
Anne: And those are the only times you should have to breathe. And the cool thing about this is if you do that, if you breathe only like before you read a sentence or after, or at the commas or implied commas, then you have much less editing to do. And those of us, which I think Erikka, you are with me, we do long format narration a lot, it lessens the amount of editing you have to do afterwards.
Erikka: Yeah, absolutely.
Anne: And if you're talking about a piece of copy, that is an hour finished audio, right? And you're just getting rid of the big [air intake] before the sentence, versus trying to place those words in the proper place because you ran outta breath and now you're trying to piece it together so it sounds reasonable, well, that's maybe four or five or six movements, right, or edits in your software, not including the ones that you take in the beginning. So if you take a good breath in the beginning, you just wipe that out. That's one movement or one mouse swipe compared to four or five, when you're trying to rearrange sentences to make 'em sound decent, which they never do because you've pieced them together when you've run outta breath. And when you run outta breath, your inflection is off.
Erikka: Yes. Yes. You're breaking up the story. And like you, you mentioned the swimming analogy. Another thing that like music kind of taught me was budgeting my breath because it could be, I've taken this deep breath. I might have to hold this long note or a high note. You can't like take a breath and then keep holding the note. It kind of, it kills the vibe. It's the same thing with speaking. If you breathe in the wrong place, it doesn't, it just doesn't work.
Anne: Now, I like how you said, hold the note. Like if you get really technical about it, right? Holding the note doesn't necessarily mean that you have sound on the note. Right? So for example, I said, right. And I lengthened that. That's like, I would say an emphasized word, which I attribute to a whole note, right? Versus the words leading up to that important emphasized word, which would be half notes, quarter notes, 16th notes. The ones that aren't as important as the long note that you're holding. <laugh> So I'm just saying that holding the note, you don't always have to have sound.
And what I mean is when you are pausing, notice how I says when you are pausing. Notice how I didn't go when. you are pausing. So you're holding that note and that kind of meshes your words together. That sounds very natural. There's a lot of times when I'll tell people you're on the precipice. Don't cut in between your commas. Don't cut the words off, because what it does is it cuts off the idea of the phrase. Because you don't want it to be here, I am going to talk to you in a very crisp voice. And even though I sound conversational, I'm sounding very articulate. So that holding on the precipice of like, I'm about to, right? I didn't say I am about to. I said, I'm about two. So I held my breath and I think that's important for the natural sounding melody.
Erikka: Absolutely makes you sound more relatable.
Erikka: And like, you're actually a person and you're not talking at people. You're talking with someone. That's the difference.
Anne: Absolutely. Do you have any exercises that you do like that you used to do to warm up when you were singing that are similar for voiceover?
Erikka: I am your classic horrible singer in terms of warming up. We are bad about it. And I'm the first to admit.
Anne: Now why is that? <laugh> 'cause there's --
Erikka: We're just lazy.
Anne: -- so many exercises. Well, there's so many exercises out there, and it's funny because --
Erikka: I know.
Anne: -- it's always like, okay, what should I warm up with? What should I warm up with? And honestly, do I do warmups every single day before I voice something for an audition? I might, if I just got up out of bed. I'm not hydrated or my mouth hasn't moved, you know?
Erikka: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Anne: So, but other than that, it's funny. Sometimes I do a lot of telephony, and little secret, sometimes I warm up with my telephony jobs 'cause they're short.
Anne: You know what I mean? And so honestly I can say those words and those sentences over and over again. And then that helps me to warm up. But I have a great app on my phone called Appcompanist, which my singing instructor Armie -- I'm gonna actually put a link to her 'cause she's amazing -- she got me turned onto that, but that's like, you can sing your scales, and that's helpful to help you get to a vocal placement that you might want to be in.
Erikka: You bring up a good point. That it depends on like what you're about to do, because typically because I know that I'm bad about warming up, and I know some things, like you said, singing scales, like bumblebee to get your, you know, blah, blah, blah, your tongue going too, and then like straw foundation and all those kind of things. Or even just singing a song that you know, is close to your natural range. Like, you don't wanna stretch for really high or really low in your first words of the morning. But if I have something like a quick job, like you said, like telephony or in-store messaging or something, and it's where my voice naturally is when I first wake up, which is kind of lower Viola Davis in the basement, I do start with that work first and work my way up to something that might want more upbeat, more a higher pitch possibly. So I'm very aware of where my natural placement is and maybe what's a stretch for me, and I warm up in that way.
Anne: Well, okay. So here's my question, right? So there's little tricks, I think, 'cause I, of course in the morning I, I have a lower voice and I'm like, oh I wanna do the audition in the lower voice or this is a great gig for me in my lower voice. So if I wanna get to my lower voice again, right, I can sing it down there. And when I sing it down there, I'll just, you know, do a scale, and it'll be up to scale. And then ba ba ba, you know, I'll get down to the scale and I can feel where the voice is in my mouth or my throat or in my chest. And interestingly enough, once I feel where it is, I can then use that as a starting point for --
Erikka: Yes, absolutely.
Anne: -- my conversational, authentic, believable read. And that's how I get vocal placement to kind of change the start of the read. Now, besides that in terms of song, right, and melody, there's also the emotion. Now back in the day when I was playing piano, me and my best friend played piano together. Now she was amazing. She could sight-read and learn and play these incredibly complex classical pieces of music. And it used to always like, competitive Anne, I used to always get like, mm okay, fine. <laugh> But my teacher used to always make me feel better because she said you have the feeling. You have the passion.
And I think that understanding that along with melody, there's passion and nuance and emotion. So if you wanna get yourself to another place, another read along with vocal placement, you can then decide to understand the story and start from a different place in the scene or have a different reaction to it. And that means a different emotion to it. And that's gonna color the melody of the song differently.
Erikka: Yeah. And absolutely like you mentioned kind of knowing where the voice is gonna come from. So as you're doing your script analysis, you can kind of think about where this character, you know, even if it's not character work, it's still a character 'cause you're reading as someone else, other than yourself -- where does that live? If it's very sort of determined and you know, gritty, it might be in your chest. It might even be more down in your gut. Like you said, it might be a little more in the throat if it's kind of mid and if it's, you know, really super upbeat and you're excited and it's like a sales presentation, you might be a little more in the nose or the head. So yeah. Thinking about where that vocal placement is gonna be, that's going to tell the story from that character's point of view, is key.
Anne: Yeah. And I think vocal placement, like singing-wise, for me, gets me to the starting point. Then it becomes the story, and it becomes the emotion and the character, which I'm so glad you brought up character, because character's so important. Now when you sing, did you think you were a character? I mean, that's just a question I have. Were you placing yourself in a scene or is it just the melody of the song carried you?
Erikka: You know, it's very funny you say that because what was always sort of my strong point and what I would talk about in interviews for my musical performances is that I really honed in on the feeling. And I think that was why I was able to translate into voiceover so seamlessly was because I was always coming from the place of story. And if my voice cracked or something, I just kind of, you know, I hated it 'cause I'm like competitive, like you and I'm like, I wanna be perfect, but I'm like, that may have gone with the story. So it was very much from the place of feeling. And my goal was to make you feel this story when I was sang it. I loved making people cry like. <Laugh>
Anne: Right, right, right.
Erikka: I would find a way to connect with the lyrics and the way that singing the notes and the melody from the place of that emotion and not necessarily quite so technical.
Anne: Isn't that awesome? Like the more you really study music and voiceover, and it comes down to what's important? What is it that connects with the people who are listening to you? It ultimately comes out to be the storytelling, the emotion. Because that's what connects us, I think, as humans. And again, those of you out there that are afraid of AI, it's nowhere near coming to that human emotion, which is where we're always gonna win out. And we're always gonna win out for those people who decide that they want to hire that. Right? To connect to an audience.
And so I think we always have that humanity. We have that feeling, that emotion, that nuance, that connects with our audience, and that's what we have to work on, I think, in our voiceover careers, if we want to continue to be successful while we are evolving along with AI voices, which have their place in certain, I think, genres. They're going to have their place. I mean, I say this because I talk to Alexa every day. Do you know what I mean? And I'm okay with Alexa's voice.
Anne: Alexa helps me get things done. And so I really do believe that the market will shift. But we always need to connect with the heart and the emotion. And it's so interesting that you vocally through singing as well as storytelling and voiceover, it all comes down to that.
Erikka: Yeah. You have to make it personal. And that's, you know, kind of what we hear in, in voiceover is you have to connect to the story. And the songs that I found that were my favorite, and that I could tell were the most impactful were the ones where I found a personal connection to it. And I enjoyed like, it felt like a push. Like I literally would feel less anxious because I got that energy outta my body because I was literally like in it. And when you do the same thing, you can do the same thing with these scripts and voiceover, it's going to be more connected. It's going to naturally have a more balanced melody that sounds human because you've connected with it on a human level. So.
Anne: And even though we talk about melody of conversation, there's that uniqueness of you, what you bring to it.
Anne: Even when we talk about character, I think sometimes when I talk to people about character, they think about cartoon characters, right? And they're playing another persona. Well, maybe they are, but there's always an element of you that is brought along with that character. And, and for, let's say more nuanced type of genres like corporate narration, eLearning, you're still a character. You're just maybe not as dramatic. In corporate, you're probably always gonna work for the company. You'll be a representative of the company, and in eLearning you're gonna be a teacher. And so those are characters, and those characters have emotions and feelings, and that's the special part that you and you alone can bring to the party, and to make it so uniquely yours where people say, I need to have an Erikka J to narrate that. I need to have an Anne Ganguzza to teach that. Whatever that is, it's that understanding of a vocal placement with a nuance of emotion and telling a story.
Erikka: Yep. Absolutely.
Anne: So let me ask you a question. Are you still pursuing, singing at all or singing in your voiceover?
Erikka: You know, I've had a couple actually jobs and auditions where I've gotten the opportunity to sing as well. So I like that kind of keeps me fresh, but I haven't been pursuing it as much. I love music. I mean, it is definitely what got me here. My first love from way back when I was tiny, but it got to be a lot of, a lot of work with not a lot of return. <laugh>
Anne: Sure, right. That's tough.
Erikka: Not as much as voiceover, it is. So maybe when my plate lightens up a little bit, I've thought about, you know, eh, maybe we'll, we'll do a little more music again, but for now it's really voiceover is the thing.
Anne: I was like, why don't they bring jingles back? I feel like they're so identifiable.
Erikka: I just did one. I just did one like a week ago.
Anne: Did you?
Erikka: Yeah. It wasn't super corny at all, but yeah, there are very few in far in between, but yeah, I do get a couple.
Anne: <laugh> And I think, you know, in certain genres too, singing can help. Maybe with kids, genres that are, they're talking to kids, there can be more melody in it.
Erikka: Oh yeah. Animation for sure.
Anne: Yeah. You know, there's melody in everything, in the speaking language. And I think a lot of people don't even think of it in terms of melody. They just think of it in terms of reading words. And there's so much more to it, and I can't stress enough the importance of understanding the story before you tell it. A lot of us just pick up a script and we start reading from left to right. And you don't know what the story is when that happens. And so how can you have any connection to it or how can you have any emotion about it if you don't know what it's about? And so I think that's the last layer. So many people they think about melody in terms of it should sound like this.
Erikka: Yeah, exactly.
Anne: But in, in reality, the sound has to be natural. The sound has to come from you organically when you are telling a story, not so much in, it should sound like this, you know?
Anne: Because then it just, what happens is you're spending so much time. I think thinking about what it should sound like, that you take away from the amount of time you have to understand the story and then tell it. 'Cause in order to tell it, you've gotta understand it. In order to understand it. You've gotta read it. Right?
Anne: But not as a take, you gotta read it first, understand it, comprehend it and then tell it back, right? That's how we tell stories. Right? We have experiences and then we recall that experience and we tell it back. So how can you take words off a page if you don't know what they say and tell that story?
Erikka: Yeah. Yeah. And probably reading it at least two or three times. And you know, maybe to yourself, as well as out loud and not performing it so that you are just, again, internalizing that story and really understanding it, having the reading comprehension of it, where sometimes I've noticed that I might switch a word around or I might do a contraction because I'm not even reading it anymore. <laugh> You know, and of course your client will tell you if it's like, oh, we really need it to say can not, and then you'll go back and fix it. But to me that has been a clue that like I'm really into the story. Not like a true misread, like something that's, you know, really integral to the message. But if I'm naturally contracting something, it's like, okay, my brain's on auto pilot. And I really understand what I'm saying. So making sure that you're balancing that melody and rhythm.
Anne: Yeah. I think for me with corporate, I do so much corporate that I've kind of gotten away from the contractualization. Not that I don't wanna do it. It's just simply usually those of the scripts that, and e-learning are usually they go through so many rounds of approvals. That's true. And if it's written one way, I pretty much just voice it. But what I will do yeah. Is if I do feel a contraction will make it sound easier, I will give that as an alternate take.
Anne: Hopefully that just is you, by the way, in case you wanted this, they have it. And then they're like, oh, that Anne, she takes care of us.
Erikka: <Laugh> Exactly.
Anne: She's wonderful. Let's hire her again and again and again.
Erikka: And as corporate is becoming increasingly conversational and they wanna really relate to their employee base, I find that they're more open and amenable to that stuff, but great point that some of this stuff is really locked down because of legal. Um, so yeah.
Anne: Also the thing is with corporate, because again with corporate, just, there's such a vast amount of corporate work. The companies that know how to story tell with their brand will write good scripts. And so you won't have those run on sentences. You won't have things that maybe aren't contractualized that will sound awkward. They hire copywriters that will write something that will sound good when it gets put on production. So.
Erikka: Yep. Agreed.
Anne: Yeah, it's a thing. So there is a thing, guys, BOSSes out there, called melody, and it does affect our performance. And so try not to think so much about the technicality of it, but understanding how technically there are certain things that happen in a conversational melody that in order to sound natural, dictate how we're going to tell that story. So we're not gonna be too high or too dramatic with our changes in notes. We're gonna start in a certain placement and then just concentrate on telling that story. And I think the melody will follow.
Erikka: Indeed. Couldn't have said it better myself. The more that you're naturally connected, that melody is just gonna come out in the way that it should be, because it'll be natural for you.
Anne: Such a cool conversation. I love talking about conversational melody.
Erikka: Love it.
Anne: Yeah. So BOSSes, a good way to really start to understand it is just listen to two people, having a conversation, for example, listen to all the episodes of VO BOSS. And you can really start to break apart what does conversations sound like? And you'll know that unless we're really excited, we don't go very high, and we have all sorts of rhythm besides just the pitch. That's all about rhythm and timing and imperfection, believe it or not. You know, I wish I was speaking Pulitzer Prize-winning sentences, but I don't. And therefore that causes the rhythm and the timing and the pacing and all sorts of things to make it sound just natural and believable. So thanks, Erikka, for a really cool conversation.
Erikka: Thank you, Anne. This is lovely.
Anne: Yeah. Yeah. So BOSSes out there, you can make a huge difference in someone's life for a small, quarterly contribution. And you might think that as a small company, you can't make a huge difference, but you really can. Visit 100voiceswhocare.org to find out more. And of course, a huge shout out to my favorite, favorite networking sponsor, ipDTL. You too can connect and sound like BOSSes. Find out more at ipdtl.com. Thanks so much, BOSSes. Have a wonderful week.
Anne: See you next week. Bye.
>> Join us next week for another edition of VO BOSS with your host Anne Ganguzza. And take your business to the next level. Sign up for our mailing list at voBOSS.com and receive exclusive content, industry revolutionizing tips and strategies, and new ways to rock your business like a BOSS. Redistribution with permission. Coast to coast connectivity via ipDTL.