For the Aspiring Voice Talent
It seems at least once a week that I get someone calling to inquire about the possibilities of “breaking in” to the voice over business. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“Hello. I’ve been told by so many people that, with voice like mine, I should be doing professional voice over work.”
I try to compliment them on the unusually nice tone of their voice. And then the real dialogue begins. Sometimes the individual has actually gone so far as to do a bit of research into the field. But many times the fact that they’ve received compliments on their voice is the only thing guiding them into this.
So, here some key points for the aspiring voice artist to consider.
1) Working as a professional voice talent has little to do with the quality of your voice.
Surprisingly, the quality and timbre of the voice is not usually why we cast a talent. It is far more important what a voice artist knows about interpreting a script. Of course, a voice talent is expected to have complete control over the fundamentals of good and proper speech, but far beyond that is their ability to reveal the true essence and spirit of a script. What is the underlying message, the sub-text of a script, that is going to be communicated by the way every word is sculpted into the perfect delivery?
2) Get a good idea of what other voice professionals are doing.
Listen to the demos of top professional voice talents. Be honest about your ability to deliver a variety of scripts with the same impact that they have demonstrated. After all, this is a highly competitive field, and if you intend to compete, you’d better know that you have a skill that differentiates you in the marketplace. (You can listen to dozens of demos from top national voice talents on our website) –http://tanglewoodproductions.com/index.php?page=voice_over
3) Get some acting lessons.
Yes, acting. The job of delivering a good performance from a written script is truly the job of an actor. Unless your skills as an actor are highly tuned, you may be missing the nuances which allow you to speak to your audience effectively. After all, even in the business world, our audiences are very discriminating about the way they listen to a message. We don’t talk about banks like we do about restaurants; and we don’t listen to messages about pet food like we listen to a pitch for a high-tech gadget. Your effectiveness will be judged on how you are able to generate an emotional response from your listeners.
4) Record yourself.
If you have what it takes to be in the world of voice over then you have pretty good ears. Recording yourself and doing some critical listening to your own performance will probably tell you lots about your performance and give you instant feedback on things you need to attend to.
5) Practice, practice, practice.
Just like any artistic endeavor, it takes an enormous amount of practice to develop consistent skills. Your ability to meet the demands of your clients depends on how much skill you bring to the job. You want to be able to “switch gears” into an entirely different type of delivery without having to think too much about it. The more skill you have at that, the more your clients will be impressed.
6) Have something to show.
I am always amazed when I run into an individual who tells me they are a voice talent and, when asked for their demo, they say, “Oh, I’ve never actually gotten around to making one.”
If you’re a professional – at anything – you have samples of what you do to show to your potential customers.
Your demo should give people a quick idea of the scope of your work and your ability to adapt to the needs of any script. Variety is key. In the shortest time possible (1-2 minutes) you need to demonstrate how many different styles you have. Remember that a good demo is like a good audition. You’re looking to impress the listener with the quality of your work and your ability to deliver exactly what they are looking for.
What’s In A Demo?
At Tanglewood, we have chosen to provide our clients with three different types of voice demos: commercial, narrative, and character. Since these are three types of work that are very distinct, we feel it helps our clients find what they’re looking for.
Commercial demos, in addition to interpretive skills, also show how a talent deals with time constraints. Most commercial work is done in a specific amount of time, usually thirty or sixty seconds. So you’ll find that most commercial samples have a sense for making the most out of that short time.
Narrative work, however, is much less affected by time. Storytelling is key and being descriptive is important, many times to enhance a visual image as in a travelogue or a facility tour.
Of course, character work is a land of its own. I like to say that a character demo requires the voice actor to create a sense of changing costumes. The character they are creating is larger than life; beyond the normal parameters of the everyday person we expect to meet. Your character demo is only limited by your ability to “shift gears” in the extreme.
The items I’ve touched on here provide only a point of departure to help you with your initial steps to approach the business of voice over. As you become more involved you’ll find that, like most endeavors, it will take years of exploration to create the depth of proficiency you (and your prospective clients) are after. Enjoy the process. Working as a professional voice talent is demanding, but it’s fun, creative, and can be lucrative to the highly skilled artist. I wish you all success in honing your personal skills.
© 2010 Michael Eardley