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How To Identify and Treat Physical Tension in Performers

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

August 4, 2006

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As promised, here's Bettye Zoller's full article. Enjoy!

bettye-zoller.jpgWhen I first began to do voiceovers and jingle/studio singing, although I had been a professional stage and cabaret performer for a number of years by then, the studio was frightening, particularly those "stony-faced producers" behind the glass window, staring at me while I performed. In retrospect, I think the scariest thing was that no one ever said, "good job," or applauded with glee at my performances!

It's a fact: Recording studio voices have to have strong egos and believe they're good, because gosh darn it, nobody ever tells you so!!

So, I was nervous, tense, body stiff, and voice not as supple and mellow as it could have been. In fact, I was so so nervous that one knee trembled, the left knee, and standing at the mic in heels, sometimes my left ankle would bend over as my knee shook,causing me to "stumble" at the mic. Now and then, producers would say, "are you ok?" This was when they saw my body jerk with nerves.

With time, I overcame the nervousness, and within the first year doing studio work, became calm and "an old pro at it," but I'll never forget those horrible first months as a studio voice!

When you're tense:

Relax the shoulders and neck. If possible, have someone massage your shoulders gently and, as you inhale air deeply through the mouth, ask that person to stand in front of you and hold your shoulders down so that they don't rise up as you inhale air. Now, exhale the air slowly through your mouth, thinking relaxing thoughts as you do. Do this five times.

The yawn-sigh: Drop your jaw and relax the jaw muscles. You may need to gently massage, with the tips of your fingers, the jaw hinge area in front of your ears. I call this the "village idiot pose." Keep the jaw dropped and just let it hang. Now, starting at the upper part of your vocal pitch range, on an "ah" vowel, do a slide downward to lower pitches on that "ah" while the jaw hangs in that loose pose. No tension should be present. Repeat this about five times. By the way, this is also useful for warming up the vocal folds before performing.

When you smile, you release endorphins. You can "fool your brain" into thinking your happy and relaxed by smiling, physically spreading the lips wide--very wide--into a grin. Do this in your car after you park it outside the studio or do it where no one can see you. Spread your lips wide and do this about ten times. You will feel a mood change! Try it!

There are many other tips and techniques for reducing vocal and body tension far too lengthy to convey here. If you study with a voice coach, ask them for their favorite stress-reducers! In my studio, it's one of the things I work on constantly with my singers and speakers and actors. Your voice coach should address this issue at every session. Remind them to do so if they're not doing this now!

Bettye Zoller
Voice Talent and Singing Coach
Dallas, TX

Related Topics: Dallas, how to


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