09. Voice training

Is having a good voice a must to work in radio? It is preferred, but some anchors with a hoarse voice still shine, because they know how to work it. Put a very good instrument in the hands of a bad musician and he will play badly. Should you put a bad instrument in the hands of a gifted one, you will get magic, rhythm and sound. In radio you have to write for your own voice. This is the hardest path to figure out

Try and listen to your neighbors : some of them speak fast, others slowly. It’s our singularity as human beings. In radio you have to find your happy medium.

First rule : talk to someone

You’re not spouting a public speech from a podium, you’re talking to somebody. Don’t keep your eyes on the paper, look at the engineer. He’s your first listener and your friend. He can tell you to slow down. In radio you speak more slowly than in real life.

Second rule : write to talk

The musicality of the oral language is not found in our written language. As you’re writing, whisper your sentences. You’ll see that you’ll find an easy-flowing style that will be close to the way you talk. It will help you avoid stumbling over your words and stuttering when you’re talking on the mic.

Third rule : get your voice out

When faced with a mic, the first few times people will be shy. They’ll read their script as they’d read it for themselves, speaking in a monotonous tone. Remove the script and ask the person to say again what they wrote. You’ll see the difference straight away: they’re using their natural voice. Getting your voice out doesn’t mean shouting, it’s finding the happy medium between your natural voice and the tone you should use to read the news.

Fourth rule : train

There are technique to improve your diction, like reading your script while holding a pencil between your teeth. It helps articulate and muscle your lips. Listen to recordings of your voice and examine it. You can ask help from an actor, a colleague, your editor-in-chief… Radio is teamwork, everybody must help one another out to improve.

Fifth rule : put the words in your mouth

This is the cardinal rule, and it applies both to beginners and professional journalists. Before going on air, read your script out loud. This way you’ll warm up your mouth and your vocal chords. When you’re on air, it will be so well imprinted in your head that the words will flow. Some anchors massage their mouth before getting inside the studio and drink some water to avoid having dust in the throat. Radio is like sports : do some warm up and stretching before getting in the arena.

Sixth rule : don’t eat the mic

Between the mic and your mouth there must be a good 20 centimeters. Free one of your ears from the headphones so as to listen to yourself speak as in real life. The other one is used to receive orders and check that your voice comes out right.