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Reading at the Speed of...

One key element to success in your voice over business or business of any kind truly comes down to one word: TIME. Learning how to maximize and utilize your time effectively is the most worthwhile skill you can give yourself for personal and professional success. As a voice actor deciding how, when and how long to dedicate to daily auditions, workflow, craftwork (and yes, voice actors, I will keep beating this drum for as long as possible! Make craftwork a daily habit) and business is key. But one thing you might have overlooked is time dedicated to…reading and reading fast!

So today we’re going to discuss the subtle art of the speed read! You know those quick little disclaimers at the end of a commercial or explainer? Patter reading is a tool in the voice over artist’s tool belt utilized quite often. Getting good at those quick reads requires some patience but rest assured, there is plenty of tricks to get you up to speed. Get those tongue twisters at the ready. Let’s dive in.


When a voice actor notices they stumble often while reading, oftentimes, the stumbling gets worse and worse as they get into their heads about the stumbling. When it’s a speed read, the stumbling becomes worse as our critical brain starts to panic about getting through the copy quickly. To avoid the dreaded stumble, use these three tools: make sure you are properly warmed up, fully focused on the job at hand and understand the technique of quick reading.


If you are a person, like a voice actor, who uses their voice often throughout the day (could also be a teacher, leader, trainer, customer service rep, presenter, etc) it is imperative for the longevity of your voice to warm it up. This process doesn’t have to take up very much of your day.

First, is warming up your breath. This might sound a little silly considering our body does this automatically throughout the day. But spending a few moments engaging in your breath gets our body ready to take in more breath that you would usually when speaking for yourself. Remember, we breathe in between thoughts. So if someone else has written words for you, it will often be counter intuitive to your body’s natural breathing inclinations. Also, we need to remind our breath that breathing quietly is better in a recording booth. Now, not inaudibly…that would make your voice over sound more robotic, but gasping air in between sentences sounds like panic in a recording and neither are optimal. Warm up your breathing by slowing breathing in on a count of four, holding your breath for two and breathing out for six.

Second, warm up your voice. Starting on a pitch where your voice is naturally sitting and start on a light hum or ooo. Start moving the pitch slightly higher and lower. This is called a siren. My favorite way to do this exercise is to blow on my lips to help warm up my articulators and relax my face muscles as well.

Finally, warm up your articulators which are your lips and tongue. You can do this by putting a pencil or cork in your mouth and reading aloud, doing tongue twisters, shaking out your bottom jaw, making silly faces and sticking out your tongue.

These are only a few ways to begin to warm up for your day as a professional voice actor, check out YouTube or any major voice over publication for more ways to warm up. Or, get yourself a voice over coach to help find a tailor made warm up specifically for you.


Next is time to focus your mind on the speed reading task at hand. It’s hard to keep your brain fully engaged in what your voice and mouth are doing if you’re thinking about that person who cut you off in traffic or what you want to eat later.

First up, make sure you’ve had plenty of rest. Sleepiness makes reaction time slower. Studies have shown that drowsiness can be as dangerous as being intoxicated and slows down reaction time, thought processes, memory and makes learning difficult.

Next, try to take up a mindfulness practice like mediation. Spending as little as five minutes a day attempting full concentration can help in these efforts. It doesn’t have to be simply sitting down, with you eyes closed in lotus position while you try to force your mind not to think. Mindfulness practices can include walking meditations or work meditations. For example, if you are cooking food, notice every color, scent and hand movement where nothing you’re doing goes on autopilot.

Also, try mental games like counting to 100 but skipping three at a time or spelling words backwards. Or attempt to solve a rubik’s cube. All these small practices help with strengthening your mind’s ability to concentrate.

Finally, make sure your body is properly nourished. Apples are not only good to help the tummy growls from being picked up by the mic and mouth sounds are reduced too, but most importantly, any nourishment helps your brain focus more easily.


And now it’s finally time to read. Now, voice actors, I understand how we get. We love to work. We love to get copy and immediately want to read it at performance speed and emotion. I would encourage you to slow down and have a process for tackling copy first. Otherwise, your critical brain will be on overload making sure it knows how much you’re getting ‘wrong’. To help mitigate this during speed reads, start slowly. First, your eyes process information as quickly as they can. But in order to speed read, if your eyes aren’t used to running at Usain Bolt speeds, the eyes will trip up. Give the eyes as much help as possible by allowing them to retain the words in your short term memory. Start reading at a slow pace and look two to four words ahead. Repeat this slow read two or three times if you’re able to read it fluently without any stumbles. Start increasing the speed to medium slow, medium, medium fast, fast and finally you’ll reach very fast. Time yourself with a metronome when practicing to see how fast you can get. Soon enough, you’ll be able to speed read disclaimers and sound like a computer sped you up. And it’s a whole heck of a lot of fun and impressive for clients.

Now go forth and read with abandon and let me know if you have any tips or tricks to add. I’d love to hear them.

Go play!!

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