Voice training for radio
Simply put, a good performance doesn’t sound like one at all. It sounds natural. Unfortunately, many people believe that to be credible they have to sound like someone else. Someone important. And so they lower their voice and puff up. Others repeat the monotone delivery of Grade 7 public speaking. And still others hyperventilate and choke as soon as the mic is turned on. Performance training is vital before performance producing.
What are your aims?
- To get people to listen
- To communicate your message
- To bring a script to life
- To speak so that you are understood
- And to sound as if you are talking to a person - not reading a script
How do you start?
- Read your script before you broadcast
- Mark up your script, re-write if necessary
- Check pronunciation of difficult words
- Get to the studio in good time – never run
How do you prepare to read?
- Sit with the mike around 12” away
- Sit up straight
- Have water nearby
- No alcohol before you broadcast
- Get your breathing right
How do you read?
- Speak clearly – no mumbling
- Concentrate on pronouncing the first and last letters of each word
- Speak slightly slower than normal
- Try and vary your pitch and tone
- Sound like you are interested
- Emotion and enthusiasm help
- Use pauses but not heavy breaths
- The words you emphasize should help, not hinder, comprehension
- Listen and learn
Further Thoughts On Using Your Voice
A fundamental principle in radio presentation is the harmonious blend of sound elements with your voice. Whichever radio format you are presenting, it is important to remember:
Voice is the best tool that radio has to keep its listeners tuned in.
Who are we speaking to?
Knowledge of one's listeners is crucial. It allows you to understand the tone to use when speaking to them and to know which topics will interest them. Knowing your audience facilitates contact and determines the kind of relationship that you can develop with the listeners. Your station may have done an audience survey in the past. It is recommended reading to gain a proper understanding of your audience.
Elements of a good radio voice
To master one's rhythm is to speak at a proper speed, taking time for pauses and to catch one's breath. Proper rhythm allows you to read a long paper in a consistent fashion, with no difference in speed between the beginning and the end. Proper rhythm will prevent you from losing your breath before you have finished reading a story.
If you often feel out of breath while reading a text, review your sentences to make sure they aren't too long. If you find it difficult to find a proper rhythm, imagine you are talking to a friend and start from there.
For listeners to understand you fully, good pronunciation is essential. Words must be pronounced fully and properly. Do not cut words short. Radio pronunciation is not informal speaking - all words must be pronounced fully. Proper pronunciation means proper articulation. Pay attention to how you articulate when you speak.
Using your voice
Since there are no images in radio, voice is the main instrument used to convey emotion. Speakers must learn to convey the emotions of the text with their voice. An obituary is certainly not read using the same tone as the coverage of an anniversary. Use the proper tone at the proper moment. Try and make your voice musical by using inflection.
Voice conveys emotion. Listen to a friend over the phone. You can normally tell how the person is feeling - good or bad. Listeners should be able to perceive the emotions of the text through your voice. Apart from having a pleasant voice, you must learn to make it express emotion.
When reading for radio, your voice must fluctuate. There are moments when one's tone must be higher and other moments when it should be lower. Certain words deserve more emphasis than others. For instance, the beginning and ending of a news story will not be read with the same intensity as the middle of the story.
Breathing, pauses and emphasis
Breathing is the spoken word equivalent of punctuation. Short breaths, for instance, represent commas. Longer and deeper breaths should serve as periods or full stops. They serve to mark the end of a phrase or the end of an idea. When scripting for radio, it is always useful to mark longer pauses in your text. You can use a slash (/) symbol for pauses and underlines (-) for emphasis.
When speaking, avoid silence. Your listeners may not understand what is happening and may choose to change the station. Do not panic if you stumble on a word, just breathe, re-read the word and keep on going as if nothing had happened. Always be ready in case the next planned audio is not available because, for instance, a mistake has been made somewhere along the line.
Based on Gaber, I. (n.d.) Handbook for the URN Advanced Radio Journalism Course on Political Reporting. Uganda Radio Network (accessed on 8 October 2008 at http://www.iwpr.net/pdf/urn_hbook_01.pdf)