The Vowel Movement Challenge – Vocal Warm-Up Exercises you can do Anywhere!
Transcribed from video: Click here to watch original challenge video in the BVS Community Facebook Group!
So we’re going to have some fun today! The whole idea of these vocal warm-up exercises is for us to get out of our box, to let go of the stuff that holds us back, to go back to the sandbox when we were little kids and nothing really phased us, back when we could be stupid and make goofy faces and we weren’t really judged, or at least we didn’t care about being judged!
We’re going to play a little bit today and we’re going to start with a little exercise that I do every single day.
A little disclaimer before we get into it: I wish I knew who invented this because I heard of this from a friend of a friend of a friend. So if you invented this great vocal exercise, please let me know so that I can give you credit for it! I use this every day and now you guys will be able to use it too.
There’s a whole lesson in my voiceover classes about vocal warm-ups and cool-downs but for this exercise, all you need to know is the alphabet, and in this case the first seven letters of the alphabet, and some vowel sounds. Today is about vowel movement and we’re going to do it in a way that actually helps you to loosen up your face as well. It’s going to help you to articulate better, it’s better for communication, and even if you don’t use it in your voiceover career, it’ll help you if you’re having a conversation with somebody and are trying to get a point across and it’s difficult communicating because you can’t find the words.
This vocal exercise helps to loosen all that stuff up so you’ll be able to communicate more effectively. As I said, I use it every single day, I do it in the car on the way to every session I do and it’s easy to remember. In this case, we’re just going to use the first six letters of the alphabet, later on we’re going to get a little bit more intricate with it, we’re going to start combining letters to use different parts of the tongue and different things but today for the sake of simplicity (and for fun), we’re just going to use the letters A through G. So, you guys ready to start?
The Vocal Warm-Up Exercise!
Okay guys, so, moving your vowels begins with vowel sounds. A, E, I, O, U, and I’m going to add the vowel sound: ‘Ah’ just because it’s used in so many different places in the English language. So: A, E, I, O, Oo, Ah. Now we’re going to combine that with the first seven letters of the alphabet in sequential order. We’re going to start (of course) with the letter A.
So we’ll just start with:
A, E, I, Oh, Oo, Ah.
Now, what you can’t see by reading this is that I’m stretching out different parts of my face to make each sound. This gets uglier and uglier so prepare for that and embrace it! The whole idea of this is just to let everything go so that you can get as ugly as you possibly can and have fun with it too.
Moving into the letter B, the B is going to activate something different in your face, it’s actually going to activate the lips. It’s called a ‘plosive’. The letter B and the letter P are plosives. So those are things that you have to be careful of when you get close to the microphone. If you’re pronouncing a word with B, it could make a popping sound on the microphone so you have to be a little bit careful about that, but the great thing about this exercise is that when you’re saying the letter B you’re actually activating the muscles in the lips. So now you add the vowel sounds to that, and just say
Bay, Bee, Bye, Bo, Boo, Bah.
Then we move on to the letter C (we’re going to do the hard C as opposed to the sss sound. We’re going to use the cuh sound). Put that in with your vowels and we just do:
Cay, kee, kai, ko, coo, cah.
Day, dee, dye, doh, doo, dah.
The letter E which is going to sound exactly like the A, goes sort of silent. But the point is that the letters of the alphabet, the first letters of the alphabet are a vehicle to move your vowels. That’s all they’re there for right now. So, the letter E would sound the same as A:
Eh, Eee, Eye, Oh, Oo, Ah.
Fay, Fee, Fye, Foh, Foo, Fah.
Gay, Gee, Gye, Go, Goo, Gah.
Okay, now that you’re sounding like a babbling baby, I want to add one more little component to that.
I want you to warm up your vocal chords.
This type of vocal exercise is great because it really does warm up your whole face and it warms up your vocal chords and kind of gets you ready for the day. I use it sometimes just to relieve stress. So, start with one of the lowest tones that you can possibly do on the letter A and say ‘Ay, Ee, Aye, Oh, Oo, Ah’. It may sound like you’re throwing up or belching but do it however it feels good to you.
Letter B, try a bit of a different tone: Bay, Bee, Bye, Bo, Boo, Bah. Letter C: Cay, Kee, Kai, Ko, Coo, Cah. You can go down or back up, I choose to go down on the letter D: Day, Dee, Dye, Doh, Doo, Dah. Letter E: Eh, Eee, Eye, Oh, Oo, Ah. Letter F: Fay, Fee, Fye, Foh, Foo, Fah. Letter G: Gay, Gee, Gye, Go, Goo, Gah. Now, you might change the characteristic of the tone too. You can do it in a character voice if that’s fun for you.
The other thing that I would suggest is to differentiate the A from the E: When you get to the E, use a different part of your face. Try for instance to stress your forehead and temples, or any other part of your face by stretching it out a little bit more. Try stretching your eyes even. You’ll notice it gets uglier. Like I said before, don’t worry about looking ugly. That’s the whole point. Voice acting isn’t about what you look like, it’s about what you sound like.
Now, if you have TMJ or some other injury that might hurt if you stretch yourself too far, please be careful about that (or anything going on with your face, any sort of injury etc, just make sure you’re aware of what you’re doing so you don’t injure yourself or rip open something!
Other than that, go for it. Do these vocal warm-up exercises in private just so you get comfortable with them. Do them in front of a mirror so you can see how your face is moving and how things change up. Notice how different muscles are activated in your lips, in your cheeks, in your forehead, in your throat. Just be aware of what’s going on as you’re doing this.
Then, if you’re brave enough, do it in front of a friend.
Do it together and then comment on each other.
Encourage each other to just go nuts.
Encourage each other to take it up a notch, to get out of your box and just try it as if no one were watching.
There’s really no right or wrong way of doing this, what matters most is that you have fun with it. I want you to have fun and get creative. Do it in song form if you want to, do it in character form if you want to. Do anything that really just gets you out of your comfort zone. That’s the goal.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, nothing ever is. Believe me, I make a lot of mistakes and when I started out as a Voice Monkey I was terrified to do this. I’m going to be going ‘Ay, Ee, Aye, Oh, Oo, Ah’ right along with you. So make that stupid face. Go there! Don’t be afraid, let it go and just have fun. Please just have fun. That’s the message of the day. That’s the message of the year.
This was such a great resource for me when I was just starting out here. I explicitly remember enjoying myself despite looking ridiculous. You were right, the sandbox was amazing.
i am implementing this warmup into my daily life. i was taking in so much info when i started my journey, going back for refreshers has been a game changer.
This is such a great warmup! I used it several times while recording some long Safety Training Modules sessions.
I have a lot of fun with this exercise. Every now and then when I do it, I end up almost making a game/song out of it! I even shared the exercise with one of my friends who is a music teacher and she loved it! Thank you Steve for such a fun exercise!
I do this twice a day, to and from work, and I have seen some reactions from other cars and it just makes me laugh! I absolutely love this and live by it!
To the mystery creator of it, and Steve for sharing it, thank you!!!
That’s AMAZING Creg! Thank you for sharing this with us. Have you noticed a difference in your voice over work as a result of the consistent practice?
It’s a fun one FOR SURE! I’ve heard Steve do it for over 20 years and don’t even notice it anymore. Thank you for bringing this exercise back to life! It’s super funny to see people’s reactions.