Whether you want to improve your voice work, or simply just get started in the voice over industry, it’s definitely a great tool for an actor. Voice work should not be taken lightly as it’s just as much acting as anything else you’ll do. Along with getting work as a voice over artist, working on, and mastering your voice skills will help you in all your other acting performances. Your voice is one of the most valuable instruments and working on strengthening, and improving your range and clarity will help you to book more roles, adapt different characters, as well as increase your earning potential.
So what are some important voice over tips and ways to improve your voice skills?
1. Know your character: One of the most important starting points before trying to work on creating a voice is to know exactly the character you’re supposed to be portraying. For example, before you were to create a voice for an animated character you would be given multiple pictures of the character and you would get an opportunity to talk with the writers before working on carving out a voice that would best suit the character. So, just as you would spend the time, and do your research on your character for an acting role on screen, for voice it is the same. You need to put in the time, to rehearse, study and create all aspects of the character you’re going to be playing.
2. Enunciation is key: Clearly you won’t get the job, or book work if you don’t have the ability to enunciate perfectly. Voice actors have absolute control and precision, and know how to use their instruments. You can’t mumble or muffle over your words. What you say needs to be completely clear, sharp, and articulated. It’s important to work on this by doing cardiovascular exercise regularly so you have stamina and can work your vocal instrument harder when it comes time to recording. Also drinking lots of water and making sure your sinuses are clear leading up to a job is going to be key to make sure that your enunciation is on point when the day of the job comes.
3. Voice work is acting: One of the great misconceptions of a new voice actor will be that voice work is a much easier than acting on screen because all you need is your voice. While it appear to require fewer tools to get into character, you need to be able to channel all the emotion, and feeling of a particular situation and moment into your voice. This will require you to do a lot more than just read from the script. You will need to use your whole body, your imagination, and have a clear understanding of the story and your character in order to accurately portray the voice for that scene. This is actually quite difficult because when you’re acting on screen you have your whole face, body, mannerisms, as well as the tone in your voice to perform with, but when you’re only lending your voice, you have just that one single instrument to get across so many different levels and experiences the character is experiencing in that moment. It’s important that you use your entire body and actually act, and react, with someone in the room while you’re working.
4. Practice by reading out loud often: Obviously the best method for improving your voice skills is going to be to speak and read out loud as often as possible. You can find different passages to read and take on various voices and characters, as well as practice different voice techniques. The best voice actors in the business got to be as good as they are by working on their sound and constantly trying to come up with new tones and characters. So be sure find your own space and work on your voice technique as much as possible.
5. Avoid jewelry and never bring cell phones into the booth: Bringing your phone into the booth will create interface with the audio and potentially ruin your performance, while any dangling jewelry will take from the sound of your performance and disrupt your audio for the editor. So make sure you leave your cell phone outside of the booth and have your body free of any jewelry.
6. Develop accents and a few key voices: Voice work is definitely a time when having the ability to take on different accents will be a huge advantage for you. Even if the accents are made up, through the process you could potentially bring different characters to life. So by improving your ability to take on some of the important accents, you can increase your diversity and marketability for booking voice work. Also, trying to create 3-4 voices that you have stored on the back burner to showcase if somebody asks you if you can do voices is going to be key as well. These are also voices that you can showcase on your demo reel when it comes time to making one.
7. Know your voice type: Before even entering into the voice industry you should access what type of voice you may be. Are you going to be a real voice? A narrator? An announcer? A spokesperson? Or a character voice actor for animation? These are all very important things to take into consideration before proceeding because knowing your type will be exactly what your voice demo should be catered to. For example, if you saw yourself as the perfect voice for late night infomercials, then that would be one of the main selling features on your voice demo reel. Seek out voice workshops in animation, commercial, and or character, to learn what areas of voice work your best suited to, and to gain valuable feedback from voice professionals on your voice and where it is suited to be cast within the film, television, commercial and animaton voice market.
8. Building a voice demo: Even more so than acting on screen, a voice demo is going to be your number one selling feature for booking work. You must provide a voice demo to your Agent in order to be considered and promoted to voice castings. Most work will be booked off your demo reel, so take the time and get feedback from professionals to know what your voice style is; then build a well rounded and professional demo reel. Make sure your demo reel highlights a diverse range of vocal styles that you can use to market your work. Your demo should include a number of professional recordings that showcase your talents in 15 and 30 second spots and titled; Commercial, Character, Narration and Corporate Demo. If you have a special skill such as accents, fluent languages, yodelling, or your a skilled auctioneer, be sure to include those on your demo as well. Where should you get a professional voice demo done? Through voice workshops which are offered at accredited schools, and studios and taught by voice professionals in the industry. Many long time voice casting directors teach voice workshops in Toronto, NY and LA and other markets.
Deciding to pursue voice work is a very important thing for every actor to consider, as it opens up the doors to so much more work at your disposal, and will help to improve your acting performance on the screen. It also gives you another avenue to build a name for yourself and book more work. Many name actors (Kiefer Sutherland in Phone Booth and Scarlett Johansson in Her for example) are lending their voice to take the life of characters, whether it’s in big feature films, sports, car and beer commercials, or for the latest wacky and wild animation film. Voice work is another exciting way to broaden your opportunities off screen!