Category Archives: Voiceover Tips

Voiceover Training, Who Needs It?

“I’ve been talking all my life.  How hard can it be to do voiceover?”  Well, that would be like saying, “Listen, Meryl, you can walk and talk, so how hard can it be to act? Why don’t you just read this script and go out and win yourself an Academy Award next week?” “Patrick Chan, you can skate. How about you strap on these new blades and we throw you into the Olympics?”  Ask any performer at the top of his or her game and they’ll tell you, it takes work and dedication and single mindedness. Your body is your instrument. Your voice is your instrument. Your mind is your instrument. You have to stay tuned up. You have to train with a variety of coaches and take as much as you can from each to craft your own style.  Top performers and athletes still train. They still go to workshops. They never stop learning.

Meryl Streep recently completed her new film “August: Osage County”.  Actors who worked with her – and there were big name actors on set – were constantly commenting on how after hours of performing a difficult scene, Meryl kept coming up with new ways to say her lines.  She brought new ideas to every take even after 10 straight hours of filming. That’s a true star and the kind of professional you want to work with.

Voiceover isn’t just talking. It’s acting. It’s a craft. You are performing. You have to be open to trying new ideas, new interpretations all the time.  If you want to voice commercials, take acting classes. If you want to voice for narration, take acting classes. If you want to voice for animation, take acting classes. Take movement classes. Do yoga. How serious are you about your craft? Train. Never stop learning.

Watch for exciting news this Fall as one of Vancouver’s top acting coaches teams up with Soundswrite to present an “Acting for Voiceover” Intensive.

In the meantime…keep living life OUT LOUD!

Build a Home Studio with Blankets

If you want to voice from home but you don’t have the cash to build a sound booth in the corner of your bedroom, try creating a hanging sound booth using acoustic blankets.  This is the coolest idea we’ve seen in a long time and it’s so simple.  Vocal Booth To Go carries this kit and has individual acoustic blankets that you can buy to fit a specific space. You can simply install a  half circle track on your ceiling, clip in an acoustic blanket and TA DA, you have a sound studio of your own. Check out http://www.vocalboothtogo.com. Then all you need is a Yeti USB microphone from Costco.ca (about $100), a pop filter, a laptop and editing software that you can download for about $60 – try Reaper or Audacity – and you’re in business.  You can audition for jobs around the world.  Want to find out how? Join us at our Soundswrite Voiceover Intensive or our Home Studio Setup Courses.  Visit www.soundswrite.ca for more details. Get your gear and get working!

Make a Great Demo!

In the old days, voice demos were about 5 minutes. Now, your demo should be no longer than 2 minutes. We suggest keeping it to a :90 seconds. Bob Bergen, the voice of Porky Pig? His cartoon demo is just :45 seconds!

Casting directors have a short attention span. You have to grab them in the first 5 seconds or you’re toast.  One L.A. casting director we talked to says she plugs all the CD demos into her car on the way home from work.  She gives them all 5 seconds and if she doesn’t like them, she tosses the CD into the backseat, never to be heard again.

Here’s a short list to keep in mind when making your demo:

1) Get a professional to do it. You’ll get great sound and nifty sound effects that will make your demo sing.

2) If you’re a guy, get a girl to slate it. If you’re a girl, get a guy.  Even better if the person has an accent. It catches the attention of the listener.  For your slate, all you have to do is say your name. Or your name and what it is. For example: Pam Jones, commercial demo.

3) Make sure your first couple of pieces show your best work and make sure they are contrasting. If you start with a piece about a giant snake squeezing the life out of someone, then you might follow that up with a funny character spot. Variety is key. 

4) You can do an all ’round demo but you should also have separate demos. We suggest doing a commercial demo, a narration demo and a cartoon demo.

Soundswrite just started producing demos – people kept asking so we finally said “yes.” We only take on two clients per week due to heavy volume in our studio. So give us a call and we can find a demo session at a price that works for you.

Want to hear a sample. Here’s my latest demo:http://voice123.com/pamjones

‘Til next time…Pam

Donating Your Voice Talent

It’s hard when canvassers come to the door asking for donations. We wish we could give to every great cause. But there is something we can all donate to even when money is tight – all you have to do is use our voices. Most major cities in Canada have an office of Accessible Media.  It’s Canada’s broadcast reading service for the visually impaired. It’s a great way to give back and get more experience in a recording booth.  First you audition.  They’ll give you 30 minutes to study a word list as well as one published article.  Then you record with a producer.  You’ll get graded on voice quality, pronunciation, speed, and reading for meaning. If you pass your audition, they’ll set up a schedule for you to come in and read.  They ask for one-two hour session per month but would like you to voice more if you can.

For more info check out: www.ami.ca.  If you’re located outside Canada, drop them an e-mail and ask for suggestions for a similar studio near you!

Cures for Popping and Dropping

We’ve had hundreds of voice talent through our SOUNDSWRITE studio and there are a couple of things that constantly pop up. I use the word “pop” because popping is one of the most common issues that voice talent has. The other issue is dropping. 

Popping:
Even if you have never voiced in a booth, you may have given a speech over a microphone at work, a conference or even at a wedding. Plosives like “b” and ”p” cause air to hit the mic with a bang.  Even with a pop filter on your mic those sneaky buggers can get through.  The quick fix? Scan your script for plosives ahead of time. Underline or highlight them so you know they’re coming, and then smile when you get to them. The moment you smile when you say a word like “ball” or “pickle” it takes the bang out it by softening your lips.  You’re not pushing air through them.

Dropping:
Not reading through to the end of the line is common for new voice talent.  Words that end in “b”, “d”, “g”, “t” and “ing” are often the culprits.  The main problem is that nerves make you voice a line too quickly.
The quick fix is to take a few moments off mic, alone in the hall before your performance and read the piece slowly, forcing yourself to annunciate each word fully.  Then when you speed up, your brain will remember to read to the end of each word.  Trust yourself and trust that your audience WANTS to hear everything you have to say. 

Until next time…

WALLA VOICING FOR FIGHT SCENES

You can’t have a Steven Segal movie without fight scenes. When our SOUNDSWRITE WALLA voicing group provided the WALLA (background voices for movies) session for the film, “Kill Switch”, it felt like each fight went on for at least 20 minutes!  That’s because voicing all those grunts and yells that accompany fight scenes can take a tole on an actor’s voice. If you’re voicing for a computer game, you could be providing exertion sounds for hours at a time!  You not only have to make sure you don’t do any damage (grunt from the diaphragm) but you also have to be able to give the producer variety.  You have to sound like you’re injured, in danger, angry, dying…the list goes on.

The easiest way to vary things up is to think of your vowel sounds.  Try grunting or yelling in different ways using “A”, “E”, “I”, “O”, “U” and “Y”.  Try using “oof”, “auggh,” “hi-yah”, and others.  Bring a list with you so you won’t forget. Do these sounds in different pitches. Stretch them out.  Shorten them. You’ll get different sounds.  Here are some more secret tricks of the WALLA trade: 

* The Barf:  Tense your muscles as if you are going to throw up and then let some sounds out. 

* Pinch it:  Pinch off your yell at the beginning or end.  It will give you a different sound.

* The Heimlich Hit: Do the Heimlich Maneuver on yourself as you make sound.  It will sound like you are being hit.  Vary it up by adding your vowel sounds.

Hope these tips are helpful to add to your voicing techniques arsenal.  If you are interested in learning and practicing WALLA voicing for film, join a SOUNDSWRITE workshop. For more information you can visit the workshops page at: www.soundswrite.ca.