• Rob Marley

The Perfect Vocal Warmup: Hot Steam, Cold Read

Now that Summer is over and Mother Nature has started to wrap her icy fingers around the majority of the country, it's time to think about good ways to warm up the vocal cords before recording.

There are as many ways to warm up the voice as there are voice artists. From tongue twisters, to singing scales, to doing that motorboat sound with your lips while humming, Each pro seems to have their own tricks and rituals.

I've stumbled across a technique that really works well for me and serves multiple purposes at the same time.

I picked up a Vicks Personal Steam Inhaler. It's basically a heating element and a funky plastic cone that directs the steam up and out. You pour a few ounces of water in the base, turn it on and in about a minute it's steaming.

You could also do this with a tea kettle. I usually begin my day with a mug of hot tea. I've become a​​ connoisseur of the stuff. One of my kitchen cabinets is filled with all kinds of tea: loose leaf, bagged, Oolong, Lapsang Suchong, Darjeeling, Orange Pekoe, and a bunch of fruity blends that friends have given me as gifts over the years. The warm tea is great on the throat and the steam helps open the sinuses and clear out congestion. Sometimes I will stand over the boiling tea-kettle with a towel over my head just breathing in the steam while doing vocalizations mentioned above - which, of course, is hilarious to my wife.

As most VO's know, one of the cheapest and easiest ways to practice voiceover is to read out loud every day. This really helps to improve your cold-reading skills.

So my trick, now that I have the steam inhaler is to read out loud while breathing in the steam for about 15 minutes. I have a variety of voiceover books on my tablet, so while my face is over the steam, I turn on the e-reader and read out loud. This serves several purposes:

  • The steam helps open the sinuses and loosens any congestion.

  • Reading out loud helps warm up the vocal cords

  • Reading out loud improves your cold-reading skills.

  • I'm reading a book that will help me to be a better voice artist.

Steam therapy is a great way to help alleviate congestion from allergies and colds. Personally, when I'm sick, Hot Toddies are my go-to drink. The steam loosens the gunk in my chest, the honey soothes the throat and the whiskey...well, the whiskey lets me not care so much that I'm sick.

But for non-sick days when there's going to be a lot of time spent in the studio, the "hot steam/ cold read" technique is perfect.


About Rob Marley -

A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, coach, producer and writer, now living in the hill country of Austin Texas.