By: Joe Davis
As voice actors, the way we sound is extremely important. Our voice changes naturally as we age. Dramatic changes in our voice take place during adolescence. Teenage boys experience this as a rise in the male hormone testosterone causes the larynx to get increase in size. The testosterone makes the vocal cords lengthen and thicken. During this growth phase, the changes can often cause the voice to crack. Eventually, a male’s voice becomes deeper and more resonant. Women also experience a lengthening of their vocal cords during adolescence, the but the growth is not as significant and the impact on their voice tends to be much less.
After our teenage years, our voices stay fairly the same usually without significant changes until we reach middle age. Then, the next phase of our voice changes can start to occur. This becomes noticeable usually around age 55. As we age, our vocal folds weaken, the cartilage in the larynx can ossify, we start to lose muscle mass, our mucous membranes get thinner and more dry. Our respiratory system also stops working as efficiently.
As we age, many people will start to experience the following:
- Lower pitch in women
- Higher pitch in men
- Decreased vocal endurance
- Decreased volume and projection of your voice
- Shakiness and tremors in your voice
- Your voice to sounding breathy and hoarse
We have put together some great tips and tricks on how voice over talent can preserve that youthful sound even as we get older.
- Hum into a straw – Begin this exercise with a wider straw and then eventually work your way down to a thinner one, something like a coffee stirrer. Put your mouth over the straw and start with a “hmmmm” sound. Begin to change your pitch while making the “hmmmm” sounds then vary your pitch by sounding like a siren. Practice this exercise for about 10 minutes every day, if your voice starts feeling tired or fatigued then make sure to take a break or come back to it the next day.
- Read aloud – Reading out loud keeps your voice in use which is extremely important for vocal health. Practice voice over scripts, read a news article aloud or try narrating the events around you. These are all excellent ways to make sure your voice is getting regular use.
- Maintain good vocal hygiene – Great dental hygiene is going to help your voice be healthy as well. Brush and floss after every meal. Don’t smoke and avoid yelling or excessive clearing of your throat. When your larynx are already inflamed such as when you have a cold be extra careful with clearing your throat.
- Don’t strain your voice – If you speak at higher or lower pitch than your normal voice, it tends to put strain on your vocal cords. To figure out your natural pitch try saying “mm-hmm” as in you agree. This pitch should be the general one you use when begin a sentence.
- Stay away from acid reflux – When the liquid contents of the stomach back-flows and enters the esophagus this is called Acid reflux. If this happens on a regular basis, it can have a negative impact on your larynx which can in turn cause chronic hoarseness. Things that can cause acid reflux include alcohol, caffeine, acidic or spicy foods. Also eating within three or four hours of bedtime can cause acid reflux.
- Stay physically active – Maintaining regular physical activity does contribute to helping your voice retain a youthful sound. By keeping physically fit, your posture and musculature stay healthy. Both of these help maintain a strong, resonant voice. Regular exercise also helps relieve stress, this is important because chronic stress can lead to tension and fatigue which your voice is impacted by.
- Work with a voice over coach or singing instructor – Working with a professional voice over coach is a great way to learn how to use your voice and keep it in great shape. If you can find a speech language pathologist with training in voice over that is a great combination. They can help evaluate your voice, teach you vocal exercises that are specific for your voice and work with you to put together a voice over workout routine that will help you keep your vocal chords healthy.