Vocal Health

Keeping Hydrated and Moisturized for Healthy Voice Over Recording Sessions

Having trouble keeping a consistent sound when recording?

Is your mouth too wet, too dry, sticky or tongue-tied?

Maybe your lips need some TLC, too…

Discover some great tricks to rid yourself of mouth problems when recording voice overs here at VOX Daily.

How Can I Stay Hydrated in the Recording Studio?

Sometimes, the simplest voice over recording task can be the hardest (and most time consuming) to do if your mouth isn’t cooperating with your mind.
While these issues can crop up at the least convenient time, there are preventative measures that you can take to soothe the savage beast ahead of time.

In past posts, we’ve learned that good oral hygiene helps to combat mouth noise. David Houston’s cleaning the instrument articles hit on that topic with a vengeance, including the use of tabasco sauce!

We’ve received tips from others recommending Alkalol (Lora Cain), munching on apples (Julie Williams), sugar-free mints and Cayenne Pepper Tea (Sanda Allyson), avoiding dairy products, nuts, caffeinated beverages, chocolate, consuming a Cinnamon Altoid (Claire Michel), or simply avoiding food all together before a session. The most important thing you can do to prepare is to get a lot of rest and drink water frequently.

A tip Pat Fraley endorses is that instead of taking a glass of water into the studio with you (he figures that if you’re not hydrated by then, it won’t make much of a difference to chug a bottle of Evian in the studio) that you bring a spritzer bottle with some lukewarm water in it, and when you need a bit of moisture, just spritz away!

How To Get Rid of Dry Mouth?

One of the tips was to have water close by and the other was to have an apple on hand for yourself each time you record a voiceover. This tip and many others are covering in VOX Talk Episode 5 as correspondent Julie Williams shared some tips on how to get rid of dry mouth when recording. 

To test this theory myself when recording for a recent podcast, I kept a freshly sliced Granny Smith apple at my desk and ate a couple of slices before I started recording the intro and news.

Some apples are more acidic than others, and from what I understand, Granny Smith, also known as malus sp., is at or very near the top of the list in that department. Logic would lead us to believe that the more acidic an apple, the better job it will do to act as an equalizer to balance wetness or how as the chemists might say, bases (remember acids and bases?). 

I was looking into the effects of dairy. I hear all the time that dairy promotes the production of mucous, so I wanted to check it out. Medical researchers have found that this is simply not true; dairy does not increase mucous production. However, the proteins in dairy bind to the thin layer of mucous already present in your mouth and throat, making it thicker and more noticeable. So, it is still a good idea to avoid dairy within a couple of hours prior to a session, just not for the reason commonly believed.

Jerome Santucci

So far as I can tell, dry mouth and wet mouth are the same thing but bear different names. There are similar clacking noises and saliva sounds associated with both voiceover ‘conditions’.

I have recorded a character on the Cartoon Network for over 8 years that wrecks havoc on my voice from time to time. I never go to a session without Arizona green tea, for me it works better than all other teas. It has a mild bitterness that cuts back on any ‘smacking sound’. Afterwards, (as voice coaches across the globe slap their hands to their foreheads) I always have a glass of hot tea with half a lemon’s juice, a teaspoon of honey, and a half shot of whiskey (which I detest at any other time!). Not very ‘PC’ but it has gotten me back in the recording booth for multi-day sessions!

Kara Edwards

What else are apples good for? Apples also have a soothing, calming aroma so having a bowl of them around is a good idea anyway, not to mention hospitable, particularly if you have other voiceover colleagues over to record during a session. So, now the floor is yours:

Do you subscribe to the Apple a Day theory? If so, which type of apple works best for you? 

Granny Smiths are perfect. Also , water, water, and more water, all the time…..warm water with a little honey and lemon, chamomile tea are also great for everything from pops & clicks to keeping the vocal chords warm, loose, and clear sounding. When I am in a situation where those items are not available, or for a fast fix to dry mouth, I suck on a Weight Watcher’s sugar free candy called “Fruities”. Passion fruit or lemon are the absolute best. I have a supply in my purse and next to my studio mic.

Bobbin Beam

Unfortunately, apples are for everyone as one voice talent shares his experience.

The problem is, I am allergic to apples (and many other fruits). So, I went researching to find out how apples work and what my alternatives are.
It isn’t just the acidity of apples that helps.

Apples also work by lubricating the teeth as you bite through them. Clicks and other sounds can result from the lips catching a bit on the teeth if they are too dry on the outside.

Another way apples help with dry mouth is that they contain pectin, a substance that promotes the production of saliva. Pectin is often used in the food, drug, and cosmetics industries because it is a great thickener/gel former.

You can also get pectin in some throat drops (Halls Fruit Breezers, Luden’s), but you obviously wouldn’t want to record with one in your mouth. And pectin can result in too much saliva production or can thicken saliva too much, so be careful when trying the apple trick… it can backfire.

Water has its problems as well. It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking swigs of water during a session can actually result in a dryer mouth. This can happen when the water washes too much saliva away, resulting in a momentary moisturization followed by a period of dryness. Swigs of water can also result in gurgling noises in the throat and stomach, so sip that water.

Or even better than sipping water is Pat Fraley’s trick (as heard on Avi Melman’s podcast): keep a spray bottle of luke-warm water handy. Spray the inside of your mouth, but also spray the outside of your teeth to lubricate them.

Medically speaking, wet mouth and dry mouth are definitely different (I’ve suffered from both). But you are correct that there are similar clacking noises and saliva sounds associated with both.

Jerome Santucci

While it’s good to know how to hydrate and keep the inside of your mouth cooperating with you, there is another element that we had not yet considered.

How Can I Keep My Lips Moist?

There are times when lips can be the culprit of a voice over disaster too.
Does anyone do anything special to moisturize their lips when recording? Any particular lip balm, cream, or glaze that works with your voice?
It would be interesting to learn if using a product such as lipsol or lip balm would be a benefit or a hindrance to you where recording voice overs are concerned.

Like Jerome, I use the trick I learned from Pat Fraley while studying with him last summer in Los Angeles: a small plastic atomizer spray bottle with room temperature water.

When I’m recording audiobooks or other long-form projects, I spray each time I reach a page turn. Not only does it keep the mouth moist and noise-free, the distinctive sound of the sprayer also helps mark the page turn for editing purposes after the session is done.

Bob Souer

Please leave a comment with your view on applying and incorporating lip balm in your voice over studio.

Cheers,
Stephanie

iStockphoto.com/automatika

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Comments

  • Avatar for Brian in Charlotte
    Brian in Charlotte
    May 10, 2007, 1:15 pm

    VERY helpful topic!
    Here is my routine (a combination of Julie Williams & Pat Fraley). I eat an apple a bit before a session to cleans my mouth with the juices and then I use the spritzer bottle during the session.
    I must say, I was VERY surprised by the results…especially the spray bottle. I also drink about 80oz. of water a day, so that helps with overall hydration but you still need the spritz on hand.

    Reply
  • Avatar for Liz de Nesnera
    Liz de Nesnera
    May 11, 2007, 8:20 am

    You drink 80 oz of water a day, Brian????
    WOW!
    Now there’s dedication to hydration! I have to keep remembering to drink water… somehow it always ends up being coffee! 😉
    Thanks for the tips Steph!
    Liz

    Reply
  • Avatar for Bobbin Beam
    Bobbin Beam
    May 11, 2007, 10:57 am

    The air can be extremely dry at times. I am always mindful of humidity… and depending on whatever combination of circumstances, some days are worse than others for those pesky mouth noises, so I ALWAYS have bottle or a glass of water with me, whether I am recording or not. It’s just become a healthy habit I guess! I also use a combination of mouth moisturizers (Biotene, Thayers Dry Mouth Spray) only when needed, including and especially the very simple solution of the quick spritz of water on the teeth/ and or tongue, and repeat about every page turn or so. (A technique I adapted from Pat Fraley and Hillary Huber)
    I always begin recording with my my mouth wide open, too.
    And finally, I keep a tube of Burt’s Bees Honey Lip Balm next to my pencils, for use as needed.

    Reply
  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    May 11, 2007, 11:53 am

    Hi Brian, Liz and Bobbin,
    Thank you for your comments!
    Bobbin, is there a particular reason why you prefer that lip balm in particular?
    I wonder if certain textures or flavors make for better recordings…
    Anyone have a take on that?
    Stephanie

    Reply
  • Avatar for Sanjo
    Sanjo
    May 11, 2007, 12:35 pm

    Hi,
    I am Sanjo from Nigeria. I find that rubbing a non sticky lip oil does the trick for me. On the other hand the sticky oils can be a pain.
    Note that not too much of it should be applied and should be applied about ten minutes before voicing, so that you are already speaking with it on and you don’t feel awkward.
    Thank you.
    Sanjo!

    Reply
  • Avatar for Bobbin Beam
    Bobbin Beam
    May 11, 2007, 1:46 pm

    Hello again Stephanie,
    I like the Burt’s Bees because it contains all natural ingredients; beeswax, sunflower oil, coconut oil, lanolin, comfrey root, vitamin E honey, rosemary & natural fragrance. It feels soothing and moisturizing to the lips, and goes and feels real thin , not “gloppy or film-y”, like some other products I’ve used , yet it stays on quite a while. It’s just a personal preference, and I enjoy the all-natural aspect, too.:)

    Reply
  • Avatar for Kara Edwards
    Kara Edwards
    May 13, 2007, 9:47 am

    Stephanie,
    Working from home makes it easy to get rid of mouth noise for me- I just brush my teeth before recording. If I’m at a production studio all day, bitter tea and apples are good for me.
    I also never wear lipstick if recording- it is way too sticky! Instead, I use either plain Chapstick or Burt’s Bees like Bobbin. My lips have to stay hydrated, but I want something that soaks in quickly and won’t make any noise.
    While I don’t drink as much water as Brian (though I wish I did! Way to go Brian!), I do tend to drink more before a long recording day. The less sounds of me gulping down drinks in the directors ear, the more polite I feel 🙂
    Thanks!
    Kara

    Reply
  • Avatar for David Bourgeois
    David Bourgeois
    May 14, 2007, 12:24 pm

    First off, if I ever bring 80 Ounce Brian into the studio as a voice talent, I will try to have a restroom added directly to one of our vocal booths!
    Because of the number of students we train, we are fortunate to have a speech language pathologist on our staff.
    All of the above ideas are great. A couple pieces of additional insight:
    Try to keep the water you drink during a session close to room temperature. Overly chilled water can have a short term negative effect on your voice performance ability.
    The effect of a sour agent, i.e. a green apple, can be a tremendous asset in reducing mucosal saliva. This is extremely beneficial in reducing mouth noise. This effect, however, is short lived. We suggest sectioning up a green apple and bringing it to your session. Try to discretely have a bite every five minutes or so.
    Also try to avoid activities that strain your voice. One of the most common is chronic throat clearing. A great way to clear your throat that will not strain your voice is to take a good size sip of water, tuck your chin in tight to your chest, and swallow hard.
    There are also many resources on the web related to this topic. Searching “vocal hygiene” will provide a number of results.
    Regardless of the methods you employ to keep your voice working at it’s best, always keep in mind that voice health is part of your professional responsibility as a voice actor. After all, we are paying you for your voice!

    Reply
  • Avatar for Maggie Bryan
    Maggie Bryan
    November 7, 2009, 2:59 pm

    I really appreciate this article! This subject has been a wall keeping me from going forward. And thank you Claire Michel! – the cinnamon Altoid idea has almost completely eradicated my clicking.
    One question: I have never heard of nuts causing either dehydration or mucus. Are there particular types of nuts that do this, or are they all off limits? Need to know because as a raw vegan, nuts are part of my diet.
    Thanks!
    Maggie

    Reply
  • Avatar for Tim Bentinck
    Tim Bentinck
    March 20, 2010, 8:12 pm

    Great topic, and great suggestions.
    Ok fellow V/Os – what about the old tummy gurgle then, specially when you’re rock ‘n rolling? Sometimes my tummy says, ‘Hey, I’m hungry!’, other times, ‘Hmmmm, that was nice….’
    I’ve done ELT sessions with someone wrapped in a mattress.

    Reply