Breathing for voice work

Many voice over artists spend a lot of editing time silencing the breaths from their work – and indeed some types of job may require this – but if you learn to breathe instinctively and quietly you won’t have those big breathy bumps on your waveform. Natural breaths should blend into voiceover unnoticed – and save you hours in editing time.
So how do we achieve this?

It’s not usually necessary to take huge, noisy breaths between sentences. When we talk in real life we don’t feel the need to fill up with air before we start each sentence – it happens naturally. The exception might be for some types of high-energy commercials or gaming scripts where a lot of breath is required to support the voice. But for general narration we can practice taking ‘quiet yet sufficient’ breaths.

It is possible to take in a good amount of air quietly – go on, practice it now!

For most scripts it’s useful to plan where to breathe in advance, in the same way you would when rehearsing a song. And – just like in singing – this allows you to keep a nice rhythm. Planning is helpful because the copy you’re voicing has usually been written by someone else (often someone who hasn’t tried reading it out loud!), so the sentences might be unnatural for you or perhaps longer than in normal conversation. Look at the script for the natural pauses where you can take a nice full breath, and in other places you can plan for shorter, snatch breaths where you need them.

With experience it becomes instinctive, in exactly the same way that you can read a story to a child without practising it first (in voiceover we call this ‘sight reading’). There is, however, one thing that always trips voiceover artists up and that’s incorrect or missing punctuation. Even if you’re only given the script 5 minutes before a recording session it’s very wise to have a quick read through and amend the punctuation so you know where to pause for breath.

And finally, if you find that your microphone is still picking up the big breaths a bit more than you’d like, you can practise backing off the mic just very slightly when you take in a full breath – but only if you have time to get back into the correct position for the next line!

Happy voicing 🙂

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash