My Blog Posts

Too much to do, too little time

Too much to do, too little time gets to us all with varying degrees of anxiety, tension and stress which all affects our voice.

All voice over artists understand and practice good vocal warm ups, but these don’t necessarily release the tension and stress within.

One of the best ways to remedy this in regards to our voice is by focussing on our breathing. I am fortunate to have a Mother who is a highly qualified, expertly trained and many years experienced Yoga teacher.  So I asked her to teach me a simple exercise I could do to focus and cleanse my mind and to restore some ‘mindfulness’ before facing my microphone.

Yoga offers many breathing practices and the very first and basic one called ‘The Cleansing Ha-Breath’ is excellent for the voice and also for relieving stress and tension.

 

  1. Stand well, evenly on both feet, head light on your neck. Swallow to relax your throat.
  2. Breathe in through your nose, as deeply as you can and as you do so raise both arms above your head.
  3. Pause with lungs full – then as you fold over forwards from the hips, release your breath with a long and explosive haaaa through a wide open mouth – also bringing your arms down quite forcefully with the body. (If you have a bad back don’t fold over, just keep upright but exhale as you bring your arms down)
  4. Breathe back in through nostrils as you roll back up your spine to be upright.
  5. Do this at least 3 times then to gentle neck roll exercises afterwards.

 

The emphasis is on an explosive ‘H’ sound to make your diaphragm work and then a long ‘aaaaa’ to open the throat, clear lungs of stale air.

We can all get too busy and in our work we focus on the tone of our voice or the character style or the word count in the time frame, the list goes on. To bring it all back to the moment mindfully breathing and releasing our tension before we proceed is the best beginning for a brilliant vocal session.

Words and books

It is an exciting time for books at the moment. There are so many being brought to visual life currently. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, JK Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, and the films of Gone Girl and Fifty Shades of Grey, just for example.

The biggest fear of a reader when watching a beloved book placed on screen is that it won’t be true to the story, there will be exorbitant use of dramatic licence or part of the characters or essence of the book will be lost in visual translation. Or that what you as a reader has conjured up in your mind will be drastically different to the directors, producers or casting minds.

So what is the fear of an audio listener? Does the listener come to your work with any preconceptions or are you in a privileged position having their ears all open to your vocal interpretation?

The emotions and feelings and expression that you can convey with the tones and qualities and intimations of your voice are of vast importance. Audio books are not just mechanical readings, they are also equally not a play, the audiobook is a whole vocal production of its own.

An author who chooses your voice to bring their work to life has to trust you. Trust that you will from the first spoken word create the form and tone and soul of the whole book. They place their carefully crafted masterpiece in your hand (or literally vocal chords) and you as a narrator have to respect this art form and develop it further.

As an audiobook narrator my reading to you is naturally my creative and artistic impression of the work but at the same time one that can create pictures and colours in your mind and psyche. So the narrator and listener have their own collaboration. It is a unique and wonderful art form to use words and voice to bring a whole world to life. If words are the body of an audiobook then the narrator is the heartbeat bringing life. Choosing the right narrator is of supreme importance, not only as an author but as a listener. In the words of Shakespeare hopefully it is a successful ‘marriage of two minds’ for the time you will spend together.

Why I like January

Most people find January a dreary depressing drag. I admit, it is hard work. Dark mornings, wet days and daunting evenings. However, it is the first five weeks of something brand new, the start of the time of promise, opportunity for change and chances to come your way.

I like to hibernate a little in the first few weeks. Use the time to reflect on the previous year, the things I achieved, the happy moments and the chances and opportunites I had and acted upon. I also like to look at the things that perhaps did not go so well and using the magical gift of hindsight ascertain where I could have made things turn out differently. Improve upon my mistakes. I like to set myself a challenge; This year I will achieve …… rather than This year I resolve not to…….

My 5 year old (nearly 6 very important point) asked me this weekend where we came from and who made us. Deep questions. We ended up discussing evolution and I explained that over time things, change, develop, improve hopefully. So applying evolution to our miniscule time on the history of Earth the start of a new year gives us another section in time to evolve, improve and develop. January is the focus point for this, a month not to be wasted in wishing away because of the weather or the dark, it is a month to use its given time to us wisely.

January is a calm month and a positive opportunity to plan. On the come down from all the festivities we can now schedule in happy times, holidays, and most of all things we would like to personally achieve in the coming months ahead. Maybe set a target for every month to achieve or action a particular thing. If you believe in yourself now then that belief and drive will carry you happily further up the year.

So in these January blues there are golden hues. Be grateful for all the love, people and wonderful things you have and have achieved and that you can relax in doing so, whilst also looking forward with hope and anticipation to the great things to come.

I stumbled across an interesting thought the other day;

“Would your 8 year old self be proud of you?”

Why not make January the month to have a little chat with your 8 year old self and perhaps make 2015 the year they would be.

Still feeling blue? Have a read of these 31 tips to help happiness

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2880711/Upgrade-knicker-drawer-smile-strangers-read-child-bedtime-story-31-daily-tips-beat-January-blues.html

Why your voice is the most powerful part of you

Why your voice is the most powerful part of you.

I was very sad yesterday to wake and find a news update on my phone that the beautifully brave and brilliant actress Lynda Bellingham had died. This upset me so much that I found myself crying without realising it. It has touched a nerve with me deeply, not just because I have dear friends who are dealing with cancer and my mum and I have just endured the last 12 months facing Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia, a rare blood cancer, but because it was only last week I watched Lynda speak on This Morning. She spoke with such bravery and honesty but also with warmth, experience and truth. She talked about being an actress and the thing you wish to achieve most in any performance is truth and she felt through her experience during her Cancer this was what she wanted to express. I was deeply moved listening to her speak at the time. Now she is gone, those words she spoke, her voice, still remain.

She laughed and she joked but she also gave gravitas to the importance of how to treat someone with cancer. How not to tell them ‘they look well’ when they clearly are not. Lynda spoke about talking, taking the time to talk to your family. Not just going through your daily duties but actually using your voice and speaking.

I find all the advertising slogans of ‘beating’ cancer ‘standing up’ to cancer and ‘fighting’ cancer abrasive for me. Listening today to the phrase ‘lost her battle with cancer’ makes me angry. They personify cancer as a school bully to whom if you stand up and fight will slink away. This belittles the truth of cancer for me. I understand that for others that idea of ‘battling’ cancer helps them but for me it implies that you have a choice when faced with cancer. It implies that to say that you feel it is all too much and overpowering and that actually you feel very poorly is weak and wrong. Cancer leaves you no choices. It takes away so much from you and those that you love. This was another reason I was so moved by Lynda Bellingham as she decided to take something back and choose not to continue to ‘fight’ the cancer. It was too painful, too unpleasant and she wanted to choose not to suffer this anymore. Her voicing that so publicly was incredibly powerful and moving. That has helped me greatly and will do so moving forwards in caring for my darling mum and also supporting others whom I know are suffering. I hope her using her voice helped many others also.
Lynda’s voice resonated truth for me and I am very grateful to her that she used it.

This has all happened at a time when my own flesh and blood is struggling to use her own voice. My five year old daughter had her tonsils removed last week. She has astounded me in her bravery and I have seen a resilient strength within her that I didn’t know was there yet in someone so young. During her healing time her voice is changing everyday, from nothing, to croaky and now it just sounds poorly. Her presence with me during those times when she was unable to speak, or when it clearly pains her to do so, hammers home how precious the gift is that we have to communicate.

Recently I also had a cold and throat infection. I lost my voice and was unable to work as a voice artist for over two weeks. Granted it gave me positive time to catch up on admin and marketing but in only using texts and emails it highlighted to me the strength of power of the spoken word.

Make sure you talk today. Not just someone else’s words but use your own. Talk to those whom you care for and love. Your voice is the most important part of you that you can give to someone else. Use it wisely, respect it and it will remain long after you are gone.

The importance of a name

The interesting thing when you are an actor is the importance of your name. It is the first thing people see about you and hear you say. If there is another registered spotlight actor with the same name as you, then you have to choose a different name. I read an article in the Lady Magazine yesterday about Benedict Cumberbatch. I was fascinated to learn that in his early acting days he felt that his name would not lend itself to being a great ‘stage name’ so he registered his stage name as Ben Carlton and signed with an agent. After work not particularly rolling in he then switched to his real name and now everyone knows and can remember his distinctive different wonderful to get your mouth around and speak name.

My name is Rachael and albeit you don’t come across lots and lots of Rachael’s I find it interesting how many people struggle to remember it. People commonly revert to calling me Rebecca instead. As for spelling my name, that is always impossible for people to do. I have the added complication of having two of the letters ‘a’ in my name and the way that seems to confuse people is often very amusing. I am often written as Racheal, Rachale, or my personal favourite Racahel. All very exotic sounding.

My maiden name was Mold and I grew up with years and years of teasing and the old school playground song ‘found a peanut, found a peanut, found a peanut yesterday, it was mouldy, it was mouldy…’ being my own personal anthem sang whenever I walked past.

At drama school, I did a Benedict and refused to have Mold as my stage name. The years of teasing had stuck and I wanted rid of it. However I was taught to stand still and tall with my head held high and say my name loud and proud and now I have discovered that what is important in a name is how you say it. It is your verbal handshake in the acting and voice world.

So luckily for me I married a man with a good surname, that is great to say (people still are unable to spell it though!)

So, I am able to say loud and clear and with pride, I am Rachael Beresford, and I’m very pleased to meet you!