Karen’s narration of this entry
It was such a gorgeous day yesterday that Drew and I wanted to go swimming. We called our gym, hoping that the outdoor pool might be open. Most outdoor swimming pools closed Labor Day weekend, and the gym pool was no exception.
I have always loved swimming, especially outdoors in the sunshine. Not only is swimming fantastic physical exercise, but it’s also a wonderful meditative activity. I can’t think about too much other than the present moment if I want to keep track of my lap count! Since voiceover is always on my mind, it’s no surprise that I began thinking of parallels between swimming and voice-over during a recent swim.
Sunny summer day at the swimming pool at Lifetime Fitness, Duluth GA
If I don’t warm up with some stretches before I get in the water, I will find it a greater struggle to get from one end of the pool to the other. In addition, muscles that I didn’t know I had — like around my collarbone — will wait a day before complaining about my lack of preparation.
Warm-up is also necessary before voicing copy. If I don’t warm up my vocal chords with some cold reading or tongue twisters, my voice will not be at my natural pitch and will gravel out in the lower range.
Build and maintain stamina
When I started swimming again, I was breathing hard and completely worn out by the time I finished one pool length. Like other things, I’ve found that the more you do, the more you can do. If I stop swimming for a week, I lose some of my endurance and have to work up to my previous level.
The same is true with voice-over. I need stamina to narrate long scripts or audiobooks. If I don’t practice everyday, including while on vacation, I can tell that I’m breathing heavier when I return to the recording booth. Yes, this is another plug for daily voice-over practice because it will help you with your breath control.
Isolate the sound
I am easily bothered by noise, and I hate hearing all of the shrill shrieking of kids at the pool, especially when we swim in the indoor pool at our gym. I was shocked to discover from a friend that you can listen to music under water! After she told me about it, Drew searched for products and found the H2O Audio Waterproof Case that houses my iPod Shuffle. The Shuffle housing has changed swimming for me forever! Now I listen to music as I swim, which helps me concentrate on my exercise rather than other people. I’ve also thought that I may use my swimming time to catch up on voiceover podcasts.
Like me, my Neumann TLM 103 microphone is very sensitive to unwanted noises. Due to my house’s location, I had serious and continuous interruption from a wide variety of outside noises when I was recording. As a result, I had to take extreme measures and add a room to my house for my voiceover studio. My studio is custom-built for recording with special soundproofing measures. The room has no windows, 2 layers of ceilings with added insulation, 2 sets of doors at each entrance with barrier space and 2 layers of 5/8″-thick drywall covering the walls. I installed a WhisperRoom sound isolation booth inside my new room, which raises me up from the floor and provides greater soundproofing. By investing in the construction of my soundproof studio, I am able to concentrate on what’s important — my script interpretation and vocal delivery. I’m not distracted by external noises like lawnmowers because I don’t hear them. While you may not need to build a special room for your voiceover business, you do need to isolate the sound to produce a recording as pure and clear as a chlorinated pool.
Focus on your goals
The endless repetition of swimming from one end of the pool to the other is far from exciting. On a day-to-day basis, it can seem like I’m doing the same thing for no reason. I can talk myself out of going to the gym for any number of reasons like weather, errands, or a desire to relax. However, I am working to make swimming a natural part of my daily routine. I have big health and fitness goals I want to reach, and exercise will help me get there. It’s important to do something I like. I create little goals each swimming session, like swimming more laps or improving my speed. I can’t see much incremental improvement, but I do notice improvement over time.
The voiceover audition process is equivalent to swimming laps. It can seem monotonous to perform endless auditions and win few, if any, of them. On a daily basis, it may even seem like your voice-over career is standing still. As with exercise, it can be so easy to become frustrated with gradual, incremental change. I’ve learned that feelings of frustration or disappointment only block me from moving forward.
I’ve also learned the hard way that every time you criticize yourself or bemoan your current status, it’s an act of self-negation and stops the good from coming to you. If you constantly focus on what you DON’T have, the Universe has no choice but to keep serving up more of the same to you. It’s therefore ultra important to maintain a positive, “keep-the-faith” outlook, and keep doing things you like. If the auditions aren’t working well at the moment, turn to some other aspect of your business where you can exert positive energy such as contacting prospects and clients or creating your own work. By always focusing on what you WANT, you will get a steady stream of inspired ideas for action that will bring you closer to your goals.
Monitor your form
One reason that I like swimming in the sunshine is because the sun casts strong shadows. By observing the shadows of my hands as they enter the water, I’m reminded to keep my fingers together.
Along with a shower and brushing my teeth, part of my morning routine includes narrating a daily spiritual guide and recording it into my digital voice recorder. Nobody hears this recording except me. It’s just one of the ways that I practice and monitor my narration form, which makes me better when I’m in my recording booth. I also record my sessions with my coach (with her permission) so that I can listen to the playback and hear how I modified my approach based on direction.
Make course corrections
One afternoon at the outdoor pool, I noticed it was difficult to swim a straight line from one end of the pool to another. I first thought I was tired, or maybe I couldn’t see due to the sun in my face. I soon realized the problem was the water current. You see those 2 big water slides in my picture? When they are running, a steady flow of water rushes from them, and an erratic flow of people of different sizes come through them, causing splashes of various sizes. The lap lanes nearest the water slides have the greatest fluctuations in current. I could either keep fighting against the current or make a course correction and have a more enjoyable time. In this case, a course correction might mean moving to another lane, going to the indoor pool, or waiting until the lifeguard break when the water slides don’t run.
Your voice-over career will also require you to constantly observe current conditions and make course corrections. We wish it could be a straight and quick line from never voicing the first word to being the rich and famous voice actor beloved by millions of adoring fans.
However, our paths rarely follow a straight and simple line. You may have identified a niche where you want to work, only to learn that the target market is difficult to contact. Sometimes the market doesn’t want your voice in a particular area like commercials; it wants you for something else like phone systems. Don’t fall in the trap of condemning your past action as a failure; just gently think of your next action as a course correction. Being flexible and open to opportunity allows the Universe to act on your behalf and fulfill your dreams in a way you didn’t expect.
Balance your life
Voice-over is a huge part of my life, but it’s not the only thing in my life. When I swim — especially outside on a sunny day — I’m reminded of the big, beautiful world that awaits me outside my house and away from my computer. I’m also proud of myself for taking action on fitness goals. I need my health as a foundation for everything else in my life, including my voice-over career. Even superstar swimmer Michael Phelps made time to do other things, like go to school.
Some days, I work 10 hours in my studio, barely taking time for anything like eating lunch or retrieving the mail from the mailbox. I’ve read messages from other talent for whom 15-hour days seem to be normal. Honestly, I don’t want to be someone who consistently works 15-hour days. My life would be completely off kilter, and my voice would reflect the stress and strain. I’m more relaxed and productive in my reads by making voice-over work ONE of the things in my day instead of the ONLY thing in my day.
Although fall is upon us, I’m happy that I can continue to swim at my gym’s indoor pool. In addition to getting good exercise, I find that I get creative ideas for my voiceover business in the process. I’ve read that something about the ions in the water increases creativity….but that’s probably another topic for another day! Does your exercise routine help you improve in your voice-over career? I’d love to read your comments on this subject on the blog.
One of my readers pointed out to me today that I actually discuss 7 parallels to swimming in my article as opposed to the 6 shown in the title. As a voice talent, I always deliver more than I promised!
Dan Nims says
Thank you, Karen, for such an insightful essay. It all makes perfect sense. (Now I’m going to break my morning routine by climbing on our treadmill. Even if I only start with a quarter mile, it’s more than I did yesterday. And I will find doing more tomorrow that much easier)
Best wishes to you and your family!