The sound of your voice relies on two thin folds of mucous membranes that stretch across the top of your throat in an area known as the larynx, or voice box. These two folds vibrate together and regulate the amount of air that’s being pushed out of your lungs when you make sounds. Ever made a balloon squeal by stretching the stem tight and letting the air escape? The vocal cords work the same way.
Just like an athlete has to warm up their muscles with stretches and exercises prior to playing, voice artists need to warm up and stretch your voice prior to recording. You should make warming up the vocal cords an important part of the process.
One of the simplest ways to warm up the voice is by humming. Just doing simple scales up and down can help to limber up the cords and allow you to hit the higher and lower notes of your voice easier.
While the vocal cords create the tone of your voice, your tongue and mouth muscles (called articulators) help to form the words you speak and should be warmed up as well. A properly warmed up set of articulators allow you to enunciate properly without sounding like you have a mouth full of marbles.
Back when announcers went to school to learn how to be golden-throated pitchmen for cigarettes and household appliances, there existed something called “The Announcer's Test.” And today, it's become my go-to vocal warm up.
The words are gibberish for the most part, and its’ exact origins are lost to the sands of time, but it’s rumored to have originated back in the 1920’s as a test for retention, memory, repetition, enunciation, and diction, while using every letter in the alphabet a variety of times. There are several variations, but this one from the 1940’s used by NBC to test their announcers abilities is the most common example:
Three squawking geese
Four limerick oysters
Five corpulent porpoises
Six pair of Don Alverzo's tweezers
Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array
Eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt
Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic, old men on roller skates with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth
Ten lyrical, spherical diabolical denizens of the deep who haul stall around the corner of the quo of the quay of the quivey, all at the same time.
To do the test correctly, you need to repeat the lines, adding a new line each time.
One hen, two ducks.
One hen, two ducks, three squawking geese...
A couple of years ago, musician and actor Mike Capozzi started “The Announcer’s Test Challenge” for his fellow actor friends. “As an actor, I want to always challenge myself,” he writes in his youtube description. “and this is also my way to encourage and challenge other actors who want to grow because if you’re not working, you’re not growing.“
Click the video for his attempt at the Announcer's Test.
If you’re looking for a good warm up for your voice prior to recording a voiceover, give the announcer’s test a try.
About Rob Marley -
A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, producer and writer, now living in the hill country of Austin Texas.