Friday, November 14, 2008

Bye Bye to TV Ads?

Are TV ads no longer on retailers' lists? According to Ad Age that's true for some. Well, this is news to me, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Of course, anything that decreases opportunities for voice over talent and on camera talent is not good news. However, maybe more opportunities will appear for commercials that are run exclusively in movie theaters? As a consumer, I'm not sure I enjoy paying good money to go to the movies and then being bombarded by retail ads. (I know, it's a double edged sword, isn't it?)

This is an interesting slant. I have noticed ads in movie theaters for a long time now, but usually they're budget ads for local businesses. Now, national companies are advertising there, too. Hopefully, this will just be an additional area where voice talent and actors will find opportunities to work.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Voice Over Work - Feast or Famine

In the voice over business, it's often feast or famine. You can be incredibly busy with everyone wanting their projects voiced at the same time and/or studio booking requests for same day, same time, different studios - even different cities! Then, during a lull....nada.

Is there a way to deal with this wild swing? As far as the double bookings or projects that all come in on top of each other, well, you've just got to do the best you can with scheduling. Promise everything, but make sure you can deliver everything - on time. That often means working long days in the studio, including weekends to make sure each client is taken care of with the same professionalism and quality of work. I've just come out of a stretch like this over the past several weeks. I worked both Saturday and Sunday two weekends in a row and every week day from early morning until late night to deliver multiple e-learning courses for multiple clients while still doing ISDN and phone patch sessions for new and established clients. But, as you may well know, in this business, you've got to take the work when it's offered because you never know when that lull will come. Given the economic news we've been getting over the past few weeks, that need has been driven home even harder.

How can you prepare for, avoid, or take advantage of the quieter times? Well, sometimes, it's nice just to take a deep breath and relax a little or catch up on your bookkeeping. Sometimes, it's a good time to schedule all those personal "maintenance" things like medical and dental checkups, hair appointments, even a pedicure! You can catch up on all that marketing that's been waiting for your attention. Mail out those CDs, postcards, or email the clients you haven't heard from in awhile. You can also make sure that you're listed with a variety of voice talent web sites and agents across the country. Invariably, I find when some are quiet, others are crazy busy! In short, use your time wisely every day whether you're booked solid or not, and don't put all of your eggs in one basket! (Wrong holiday, huh?) Well, you know what I mean. No moping, wringing hands, or complaining that your agent or voice talent web site isn't keeping you busy. In today's market, we have to find all the possible avenues of connecting with voice over jobs that we can. And when we think we've maxed out, dig for some more!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Voice Overs in the Dark - or at least without power

Well, here I am again after another long absence. Hurricane Ike played a big part in this absence, though. Recently, Hurricane Ike ravaged Galveston and the Bolivar peninsula and on up into Houston and beyond. The little town of Bridge City, Tx, where my parents lived for almost 40 years, that had suffered a great deal of wind damage from Hurricane Rita in 2005 was flooded as never in it's history with the storm surge from Ike which reached up to the ceilings in many homes. There are many people who lost everything. The devastation is immense.

In Houston, many are still without power after 14 days. The beautiful pine and oak trees that fill Houston making it lush and green can also come crashing down damaging power lines and creating a huge job for power companies in removing the debris and repairing or replacing the lines and transformers.

Fortunately, we had a generator to run my studio and although I had no internet service, I was still able to work on a limited basis. My ISDN lines were not affected, so with generator power, I was able to participate in ISDN and phone patch sessions. I managed to find a friend whose power and internet service had been restored to carry my flash drive loaded with audio files to for uploading. I'd also download job and audition scripts to take back to my studio for recording, so some work did continue with determination and creativity.

I really appreciate the fact that our power was restored ahead of the projected schedule, and I feel for the folks who are still without. But my heart aches for those who have overwhelming damage to their homes and worse yet, for those who have lost loved ones.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Great Voice Talent and More - Don LaFontaine

The voice over world was rocked this week with the passing of Don LaFontaine. He was the larger than life voice of thousands of movie trailers, promos, commercials and more.

It's so interesting and fitting that this man has had such an affect on us all. Although I never met him and certainly never worked with him, his passing has truly moved me as it has so many others. I have found myself thinking of him and his family often over the past several weeks and certainly the past several days.

I think much of this feeling of closeness comes from our online community, comradery, and friendship. Never before in this business have so many of us been able to communicate on a daily basis with mentors, peers, and students. We truly feel a part of the big picture, the whole. We're not just voice over artists in one city, small town, or even out in the countryside working from home - a concept unfathomable in this business just a few years ago! Because of the internet, we've been able to join together in this and many other forums to share our knowledge, joys and sorrows. I'm amazed by it and truly grateful for it every day.

Because we all have such access to our peers as well as those we aspire to emulate, it seems that anything is possible. Our dreams are within reach.

Thank you to Don for his generosity of spirit and candor in sharing his knowledge, experience, and humor. We are grateful for his monolithic talent and soul.

May we all infuse every project we work on completely with our own talent, spirit, and humor in his honor and in ours.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Voice Over Coaching

Ahhh, summer…… It’s been an incredibly busy one! Can’t believe it’s almost over, and soon it will be back to school for the kids. There are a few outings left and many things to accomplish before then. Sorry to say, I’ve been neglecting my blog, but I do intend to get back to it. Thank you to all of you who have been reading my “Voice Talent Advice” series, the "How To" pages on my web site, and taking the time to comment, thank me, and/or ask questions. If there are any topics you’d like to have me cover, please feel free to let me know!

Some of you have expressed an interest in voice over coaching. I’ve been tempted to start down that path as well, but just haven’t had time in my schedule to commit to that on any type of regular basis. I have been thinking about it, however. I think I’d prefer to start by offering coaching for voice talent via phone. “Teleclass” is a term that’s been used for group voice over training sessions via the phone. At this point, I think I would rather work one on one with students. This is all in the beginning stages…. I haven’t even come up with a rate, yet. I have been referring people to some of the people I know in the business who I know teach a good class. Rodney Saulsberry is a working professional voice over guy who does great classes!

If you would be interested in private coaching sessions via the phone with me, please feel free to comment here and /or email me at:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Voice Talent Advice - Overview for Beginners

Numerous prospective professional voice talent have contacted me asking for advice on how to get into the business. They ask, “What do I need to do?” Wow, talk about your loaded question! And to seriously address it, requires a long winded answer!

I’ve been a working professional voice talent and actress for 25 years. I have taught classes and workshops on becoming a professional voice talent, although my schedule doesn’t often permit it. Since I’m hearing more and more often from aspiring voice over performers, I thought I’d try to cover some basic topics and offer suggestions and hints from my experience. Although voiceover for commercials, on hold messages, and narrations might seem to be an easy to learn process to some, there are many facets involved in actually becoming a working professional voice talent. And, there are continuous changes!

Years ago, a nice well modulated voice was a requirement – not so, today! Listen to TV commercials and radio commercials. Many producers are going for that “quirky”, “different”, or “real person” sound. So, today, I’d say, the more distinctive your voice is maybe the better. I say maybe because if you’ve got a distinctive voice and live in a major market like New York, L.A. or Chicago, you might find enough work for your “quirky” style to make a living. If you’re in a smaller market, there may not be enough call for an unusual sound to keep you going. If you have a pleasing, non-accented sound, you may be more viable for a broader range of productions. The more versatile you are, typically, the more work you will get. But whatever your voice “type”, there are basics that you need know and practice to become a professional voice talent.

Many voice over performers come to freelance work from radio or television programming or news. DJ’s often have a specific style that is required for radio programming. That style can work against them in the commercial or corporate marketplace. They have to work at getting back to a more “normal” way of speaking – a bit more relaxed with more natural inflections and pauses - more “conversational” if you will.

Often, people will want to become a professional voice talent because they have been told they have a nice voice or a good phone voice. That’s all well and good, and in addition to years of acting experience, that’s one of the things that guided me to looking into becoming a professional voice talent. I thought, yeah, that just might be something worth finding out about. Not having been a DJ or in television news, I had not experienced the broadcast arena. Little did I realize at the time, that becoming a professional voice talent would become my bread and butter! But, the most important thing to remember here is, having a nice voice is not all there is to becoming a successful professional voice talent, the number one thing is how you interpret the copy or in other words, your acting ability.

To learn more about becoming a professional voice talent please read my Voice Talent Advice blogs starting from #1.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #8 - Voice Over Rates – What Should You Charge?

I was recently asked what rates a beginner should charge for voice over services. This is a rather difficult question as there are many schools of thought. When working via the internet, you can find rates anywhere from $15 - $500, $1,000 and up. Some feel like it’s worth it to work cheap in order to at least bring something in and for the experience. Others feel like you’re selling yourself short or even that there must be something “wrong” if you don’t charge enough! On a personal note, I once bid what I thought was the going rate for a project inadvertently overlooking the rate the client had posted (sometimes they’re higher than normal rates!). I was contacted by the casting person later saying that although the client liked my audition, he was afraid that something must be wrong for me to bid lower than their posted rate! I must say, that was the first and only time I heard that, and generally, we worry that the jobs go to the lowest bidder. What I learned from that, of course, was to thoroughly read all of the information given about the job with particular attention to the rate posted by the client! Even if it’s higher than what would be the norm, you won’t find me bidding a cent lower!

Some of the mass voice talent websites have come up with rates based on surveys of talent listed on their sites. Other voice talents base their rates on AFTRA and SAG scale – or their minimum wages. And even so, if you are also working as the engineer, it’s difficult to list flat rates for work without knowing the length of the script, how long it will take to record and edit the audio, the area where the commercial will air, how long the spot will air, how many phone prompts there are, if music and/or sound effects will need to be added, etc. Your voice over rates have to encompass all aspects of the job.

I wouldn’t presume to tell a performer what to charge for his or her voice over services. The best I can advise is to study the rate ranges posted for jobs found via internet sites. Decide if those rates are enough to justify giving your time and talents. And always, ask to see the complete script, find out all of the details of usage and what editing is required by you before giving a firm bid. You also need to clarify how any pickups and/or client changes will be handled after your final recording has been delivered.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #7 – Working Via the Internet From Your Own Home Studio

So, you’d like as broad a marketplace as possible? The internet is obviously the place to be. But you need a web site, right? Not necessarily. Many of the larger voice over web sites you may list with will create a web page for you on their site as part of your listing fee. You can post demos, list experience, vocal quality, etc. and have a web page to direct potential clients to. Eventually, you will want your own web site, but…it’s ok to take one step at a time.

If you want to work via the web, you really need your own studio, though. If you have access to a studio free of charge or very cheap, you could go that route, but most internet work demands a speedy turnaround of auditions and often the finished job as well. Also, there’s not usually a lot of budget left for you to pay studio charges. With more and more professional equipment being made to work with home computers, you can set up quite a nice studio without a huge outlay of cash. You definitely want a good microphone with shock mounts, a preamp, processor, a good recording and editing program, and sound proofing.

When I was setting up my studio, I was fortunate enough to make contact with some very helpful people who were willing to share their advice. There are also books available with information on creating your home studio. You’ll find a listing of helpful professional voice talent how to books and books on creating and tweaking your home studio listed on my website.

Good Luck on Becoming a Voice Over Professional!

I hope I’ve given you something to think about and some useful information to help you on your journey.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #6 - Voice Over Agents

This is basically a reprise of a previous blog with a few additions. I felt it would be easier for those of you who are following my "Voice Talent Advice" segments to have it's title formated the same as the others, and as I mentioned there are a few additions.

A voice talent agent is often necessary for you to work in any given city. Ad agencies and casting directors look to talent agents to provide master demos, recommendations, and voice over auditions for specific projects. Where do you start? How do you find an agent? In addition to asking professional recording studios about local agents, get a list of the AFTRA and SAG franchised voice over talent agents in your area – they are the most reputable as they are bound by agreements to the performers unions. They can't require that you purchase classes or photos from them. They can make lists available to you with the names of photographers and teachers, but they may not provide the services themselves. They are certainly not allowed to require the voice talent or on camera talent that they represent to purchase services such as those in order to be represented. They do not charge you any fees for representation, although many agents do ask you to pay a portion of the expenses incurred for your inclusion on their master demos. Generally, they make money taking a commission on work they get for you.

The biggest agency in town is not necessarily the best place for a newcomer. If the agency handles a large number of working voice over talent, you may not get called for as many auditions. On the other hand, if you go with a smaller voice talent agency with a small voice talent pool, they may not get as many of the calls from the advertising agencies or casting directors. Experiences of other performers you talk to, common sense and your gut feeling will have to prevail. When you interview with an agent, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you! Do your personalities mesh? Do they seem to be genuinely interested in you? How do they market the talent? Are they energetic and enthusiastic?

If you’re going to seek voice over work via the internet, you’ll probably want to list with several voice talent sites which in many ways act as an online voice talent agent. They generally don't negotiate for you or represent you in the traditional role of a real world agent, but they function as a virtual voice talent agent in that they provide a place to list you and your voice talent services. Of course, they are not franchised agents, but more like listing services, and most of them charge a yearly listing fee. Again, if you can check with other talent to see what their experience has been with listing on a particular site, it might be helpful. But keep in mind, that whether they’re getting work or not does not necessarily mean you will have the same experience. As with a regular voice talent agent, some of it comes down to trial and error. You have to test the water to see what and who works best for you. Some sites charge around $200 for a yearly listing including all the bells and whistles – your own web page with space to upload many demos, and some even allow video! There are other sites that charge far less – but may work out better for you! There are some sites that charge much, much more and may not get you any work at all! Know that these listings, like your real world voice over agent, help you get auditions and find work, but you still have to do as much marketing of yourself as possible. Many agents, like the web sites, basically just list you and your demos, but do not promote you specifically. They’re not out there on a daily basis representing just you to potential clients. They’re representing their “pool” of talent. However, a good agent will, of course, recommend you specifically for projects for which you are well suited. Still, you can’t just sit back and wait for that phone to ring!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #5 - Voice Over Demo

So, you’ve been practicing the breathing and warm up techniques. You’ve also been practicing reading aloud anything you can get your hands on, including advertising copy in magazines and newspapers or any radio or tv copy you can find. Is it time to make a demo? Only you can truly answer that question. Do you feel confident? Have you been taking classes or at least practicing reading to others?

When you feel you’re ready to try a voice over demo, find a reputable studio with an engineer who produces a lot of commercial and corporate work. This voice over demo will be your major selling tool and you want to get it right. You want it to be as professional as possible. If you want to rough out a voice over demo on your own recording equipment or on paper beforehand to take with you to the session, that’s fine. It might be helpful for both you and the engineer. But don’t do a first time, beginner, homemade voice over demo and start trying to get an agent with it. Some might listen, but they’re going to send you for a professional voice over demo before they start representing you for voice work. If you’re working on your own in the voice over studio without a coach to direct you, be sure you work with a very experienced engineer and someone with whom you have a good rapport. These guys, who have been engineering for many years, have heard it all and can give you valuable guidance, but, you don’t want to be completely intimidated by them either!

As a beginner, you may just want to make one generic voice over demo to start. Try including a variety of styles that you do well and use commercial and corporate narration scripts if you feel your voice would lend itself well to the corporate world. But the first voice over demo you should create is definitely a commercial voice over demo.

After you have some actual work under your belt and have acquired copies of actual spots you’ve done, you may want to create separate specialized voice over demos which will be edited from actual work. Keep the demo SHORT – 1 to 1 ½ minutes or less. Most directors and producers make a decision in the first few seconds – much as we’d all like to think they listen all the way through to hear all that we can do. That’s assuming, of course, that they even take the time to listen at all. Sorry, it’s a tough world. Unless they’re casting something at that very moment or you have been referred by someone they trust, your CD, cute as the label is, probably won’t get heard if you randomly drop it off or mail it. This is why your marketing efforts will be so important - more about that in another post. As for the snap judgments when agents, casting directors or producers do listen to voice over demos, try it yourself. Visit a voice talent web site and just cruise through the voice over demos. At first, you might listen to each demo all the way through. Then, you’ll find yourself, hearing the first few words, and feeling like you’ve got the essence of that particular voice and you’re ready to move on. Imagine you're in a time crunch and have to find the right voice fast! And imagine you have 20 - 200 demos to listen to! You can see why it's actually very unlikely that your whole demo will be listened to by a producer who is very busy. This is why you will want to put your best stuff first on the demo. By the way, listening to other professional voice talent demos is a great way to learn what you’re going for – and what you want to avoid.

Be sure to find out what the studio will charge for your voice over demo. Some studios offer a special rate to talent producing a voice over demo. Others will not. You will have to pay for studio time, editing, effects, music, and duplication. Studio time varies, but can run around $100 + per hour. Some studios offer “demo packages” where they help you select copy, direct you, and then edit the finished product. These are great if you make sure to find a good one and you’ve got the cash to spend. They’ll run you $1,000 and up! You will probably be recording in the studio for about 1 hour and then the editing process, with the addition of sound effects and music, may take another couple of hours or more. This is why you want to be as prepared as possible! If you find a good voice over coach, it would be helpful to have him or her attend the session to help direct you if you’re working at a local studio who doesn’t offer a demo package. You will need to budget some payment for the coach as well. One of the most excruciating things for a performer can be trying to create that perfect voice over demo. It’s hard to be objective and hard to know what to cut. An experienced “ear” can be a tremendous help.

You’ll want a CD or two of the finished demo at minimum. If you have an agent or are seeking an agent, you’ll need to either drop it by or send a copy to them. Most everyone uses CD’s exclusively these days - either that or an MP3 sent via the internet. Many agents and internet listing services request that you mail a CD as they are concerned about opening attachments. You’ll have to either have professional CD labels made or create your own with special software on your computer. But don’t just take a marker and write your name and number on the CD. You may not have the fanciest label, but it should be a professional looking, easy to read label. You can either have many copies of your CD voice over demo made by a studio or web sites that specialize in making copies of CDs or you can burn them yourself as needed from your master if you have the required computer skills and equipment. You probably don’t need a huge quantity of your voice over demo CDs on hand as you may find the need to “tweak” the voice over demo as soon as you actually do some work or to meet the requirements of your new agent.

Next time, more about voice over agents!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Response to Voice Over Advice Segments

I just had to write today to thank the many voice over talent who have contacted me with their kind words about my blog and web site! It is so good to hear from you that the voice over advice I am offering is helpful to you, and so thoughtful and kind of you to take the time to email me to let me know. I do try to respond to everyone who emails, but I just had to mention it here,too, because it has touched me so.

I'm certainly not the ultimate authority on professional voice talent How To , but I'm happy to share the knowledge that I have acquired over the years as a professional voice over talent. We're all continuously learning more and more about our craft. With the additional technical elements in this day and age of the internet voice over talent and the voice over services we are asked to provide, there's even more to learn and master! I hope my future posts continue offering insights and advice that will prove to be of value to you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #4 - How To Read Copy

Here is another installment in my Voice Over for the Beginner series. Sorry it's been awhile, but I plan to continue with these on a more regular basis now.

How to read Copy. First, read through silently or aloud quietly to get the gist of the spot and find any troublesome words. Look up the correct pronunciation if you’re not sure when practicing at home, or ASK the director if you’re in an actual voice over session. Never be afraid to ask questions especially if you’re voicing something highly technical. It’s better to get the correct pronunciation and mark your copy before the session starts, if possible, rather than stumble over technical or tricky pronunciations as you come to them. Take a few moments to look over the copy as soon as it's given to you, and ask questions before you even go into the booth. This is for any type of copy, but particularly voice over narration copy as it's often much longer than a commercial script for voice over. It is more likely to contain technical or industry specific terms as well.

It probably goes without saying, but to be a successful voice over performer, you have to be an excellent reader. You read in phrases, not single words. The smooth flow of the copy is important. You really have to be on “auto pilot”. I find that if I start thinking about a word I just said, I definitely start to stumble. By the way, it’s a good idea to practice just plowing ahead even if you stumble as it will at least give the engineer an idea of the timing of your reading for commercial copy in particular. They’ll stop you if they want to fix it right then.

For practice, try reading copy giving each sentence different inflections, emphasizing different words each time and with different attitudes. It will help to train your ear and your voice. As you practice, try the copy faster, slower, warmer, put a smile on your face, pretend you’re sharing a secret with a friend, etc. Read it to someone, record it on any type of recording device you might have around. Play it back. Be honest about how it sounds. Try it again – and again.

Once you feel you have a good feel for the copy – try another script. Work with several varied types of scripts each requiring a different vocal quality or attitude. This practice can go on over a period of days, weeks, or months. As a professional, I find I’m constantly learning new things - new ways of interpreting, new ways to use my voice, and certainly, new technical skills!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Voice Over News - Back in the Country

Well, I'm back in the US and hit the ground running last Monday. Sorry the blog has been neglected the past few weeks, but I enjoyed my tour of England and Scotland tremendously!

I didn't think much about the voice over business on the trip except to enjoy all the different accents and colloquialisms and to vow NEVER to attempt any type of British accent for any British clients! There are so many different variations even within the city of London itself, it's hard to imagine where one would begin unless directed to a specific part of London, or other specific dialect. Really fun to hear and learn about, though! That being said, there are some very good English actors who are doing very convincing American dialects on some of my favorite television shows right now.

I'll be getting back to my "How To" blogs for voice over beginners soon. Just trying to catch up with my clients and business this past week. It's often so hard for us to take the time away when we're self employed as voice over talent, but getting totally away is so very, very enjoyable and beneficial to our lives in so many other ways!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #3 - Voice Over Warm Up

Hi there. I thought it was time to add another installment to my series on Voice Over Advice. Last time, I talked about breathing - something seemingly so simple but so important to our voice over work! I hope you've been practicing the techniques of deep breathing from the diaphragm to support your voice and all you do with it.

Today, let's talk about articulation. Even in this time of "real" people and "conversational" delivery in voice over, you have to be able to articulate to be understood. It seems that especially in these kinds of delivery you have to have the articulators warmed up and ready to work in order to give that relaxed delivery and yet, be clear. So, take that deep breath and begin some articulation exercises before you begin reading that copy. Really, you can do any tongue twisters or vocal exercises that use all the muscles of your face, tongue, lips, etc. Rodney Saulsberry has a whole list of clever tongue twisters that he has created. You can also use the old standbys: She Sells Sea Shells..., Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers..., Peter Piper Picked a Peck... etc. Humming to get the sound up in your "mask" and buzzing your lips to get things moving help as well.

I picked up a series of sounds for warm up in college that I don't know who to give credit to. They sound funny, but they do help to get the articulators ready to work. You can find them in the How To section of my website under Preparing for Voice Over.

So, don't skip the warm up. Do it at home before you record an audition or a job. You can do them in the car on the way to a voice over session at another audio studio. But just do them. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Voice Over Websites - What would you change?

Recently, I've received email from voice over talent regarding their performance on the largest voice over talent websites. The voice talent have been both experienced and unexperienced. In answering their concerns and questions I began thinking about the features that would make the ideal voice over website. I'm just talking about the mass listing websites for voice over talent rather than an individual's website for now. Those of us listed on one or more of these sites probably have a list of pros and cons, and I've just been musing about what would make a site really work for the professional voice talent out there. I've had many voice over friends who have tried some of these sites and finally given up because they don't get any work. Keep in mind, these are top notch working professionals! Are the websites running off the pros by trying to even the playing field too much in favor of the beginners? Are beginners lost in the shuffle because they can't compete with the pros?

Who is actually getting the jobs posted on these voice talent websites? Would it be helpful for the sites to post the winning audition, remarks/proposal, and bid? Now, THAT would be interesting! Maybe they could do that without actually listing the talent's name if that is a concern. It would just be really interesting and useful to see how the winning audition, remarks/proposal, and bid compared with what you sent, wouldn't it? You could listen to the winning audition and hear if you just really weren't right for the job - by the way, a great reason for these sites to require the clients to get really specific about what they're looking for rather than just "female middle age" or worse yet, "both" and not even an age range let alone any real description of voice tone and style! You could compare the technical quality of your audition to see if you're up to par, too. You could see the kinds of things written in the remarks or proposal sections of the audition response to see if it really makes any difference what you say. And the bid? Need I say more? Is the lowest bid getting the job? Are people bidding under the bid range the client is posting? Are you overbidding or are you underbidding! No kidding, that can sometimes be a factor!

Wouldn't it be interesting if the mass listing websites for voice talent would actually give this useful information? If listing the talent's name would be a problem, then leave that out. Or the talent listed on the site could agree to allow their winning audition, proposal, and/or bid to be posted. The audition is already won, and it could give some recognition to the winner! There are actually some sites who do this.

Let me know what you think.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #2 - Breathing for Voice Over

Before we discuss how to read copy or a script, you need to learn how to get your voice and articulators warmed up. First, breathe! Practice breathing from your diaphragm - that spot between your chest and abdomen just above your waist. To check yourself, you can lie on your back on the floor, and place the palm of your hand on your middle. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Your chest should not raise, nor should your shoulders tense, but your midsection should expand pushing your hand up. If you have a voice over buddy, you can stand and have her or him stand facing you and place their hands around your sides just above your waist. When you breathe in, expanding your diaphragm, their hands will be pushed apart– your shoulders should not move and your chest shouldn’t move much either. When you blow the air out, their hands will come closer together. Now, you’ve got the idea.

When you’re working as voice talent – all your breath should come from here. The diaphragm is what supports you. In my old cheer leading days, I could cheer all night and not have any problems with my voice the next day because I was not yelling from the throat, but pushing the air from the diaphragm. Now, as a mom in the stands, I have to be careful because I get too caught up in the action and just scream! If you don't support from the diaphragm, you’re going to pinch and squeeze your vocal chords and you will sound pinched and squeezed – and you’ll run out of air and be gasping through the spot.

Practice taking in deep breaths and then releasing them slowly while voicing “Ah” until you run out of air. When you’re actually voicing a script you will need to take short, but deep breaths to keep the copy moving while keeping the sound supported. Warm up by doing this deep breathing exercise, and as a bonus, it's a great relaxation exercise, too!

Next time, I'll talk about articulation exercises.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Voice Talent Advice #1 For the Beginner

This is a voice talent "how to" for those of you out there who are interested in becoming a professional voice over performer. I frequently get emails or calls from prospective professional voice over performers. Some of them have had a little training or experience and others are only thinking about it. Occasionally, even someone who is working and has representation will contact me about certain areas of the business.

Since there is so much to cover and there are so many different aspects of this business of voice over, I'll just try covering one or two things in each post under this heading.

Today, I'm addressing the beginner. I've tried to gather my thoughts in order to address some of the basics of the voice over business, and to at least help point people in the right direction. I haven't written a book (yet), and I haven't had much time to teach classes or workshops although I have taught a few. I've just been a working professional voice over performer and actress for the past 25 years. Although I've read a few books and taken a few classes, most of my advice comes from years of recording in the studios and working and talking with many audio engineers, producers, directors and other voice over talent. This is an organic process.

What has brought you to the voice over business? Some of you have been told you have a nice voice or you sound great on the phone. Wonderful! That, in addition to years of acting experience, is part of what got me moving into the voice over arena, and it's turned out to be my bread and butter. However, having a nice voice (or these days a quirky or interesting voice) is definitely not all there is to becoming a successful professional voice over talent. The number one thing in voice over is the way you interpret the copy or in other words, your acting ability.

Your understanding of what is important in the script, what needs to be emphasized, finessed, or romanced and your ability to bring that to life will propel you toward your goal. So read every piece of advertising you can get your hands on whether it's actual commercial or narration copy or advertising out of a magazine or newspaper. Read it out loud, make it interesting, give it meaning. Read it with different attitudes: excited, happy, seductively, or even flat and bored - but not boring! Listen to commercials on TV (don't fast forward through them!) and radio. Hear what other people are doing out there. Pick and choose what you think works best and might work for you, too.

Next time, I'll discuss your instrument - your voice and how to work with it properly.

Until then - read on!

Friday, February 8, 2008

New Voice Over Booking Check List

Seems I needed a reminder to check my own checklist when it comes to new voice over bookings - even for returning clients! Just wasted some time yesterday searching for music samples for a client to go with a brief voice sample of his new script. I'd worked with him before and assumed (I know, I know) that he'd want to go in the same direction as previously, and in my defense, he hadn't mentioned otherwise. So, back to basics. I will try to always use my list of questions regarding type of recording and voice over style! Some lessons we just have to learn over and over, don't we? It may have something to do with too much multitasking, too...

You know, the more I think of it, it seems that email, although very convenient, can exacerbate the problem of getting a clear communication. In theory, having it in writing would seem to give you a more concrete idea of what your client is after, but many people write such cryptic emails that it's awfully hard to read between the lines. Also, there's often such urgency, that we sometimes tend to jump off the starting line before all the details are in place.

Clarifying whether the narration is for a web site, sales meeting, DVD, in house, etc. and whether the client wants the voice over talent to read more seriously, upbeat, commercially, or dramatically is, obviously, very important even when you THINK you know what they're going for! Asking the client to listen to your voice over demos again and pick the cut that is closest to what they're envisioning is also extremely helpful - as long as you remember to do it! There are some clients who know exactly what they want and can describe it to you in great detail - bless them! (for the most part) There are others who don't know what they want until they've heard you try everything else, and still others who know what they want, but just neglect to share it with you - leaving you to use your mind reading skills! We have to keep our wits about us and keep investigating until we unearth that magic word or sample or link that gives us both that ah ha moment. Then, it's bliss! So, in addition to the titles of voice talent, engineer, booking agent, marketing manager, file clerk, and bookkeeper we need to add detective!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Voice Over News

Wow! Things have really been popping lately! So much has been happening that I haven't had time to blog. If I can't find time to chat......well you know things are busy in the voice over business. Seems like most of the voice talent and voice over producers I've been talking to lately are experiencing the same thing - both female voice talent and male voice talent. Good news for all of us! Hope you've been busy, too!

Along with ISDN commercial voice over sessions, there have been more web narrations and long form e-learning narrations with some on camera work tossed in, as well. I've been traveling to other studios more than usual for narration and commercial work, too. While I certainly enjoy working from my own voice over studio, it is such a treat to just be the voice talent and leave the engineering and editing to someone else!

I'm still continuing on my quest for getting new voice over promotional materials designed. It's taking longer than I anticipated, but it will all work out well in the end and I had to get the new design "just right". We agonize over this stuff, don't we? I've also learned a few new helpful tips for EQing finished voice files from a generous engineer/producer. Still tweaking and getting used to the new Sennheiser MKH 416 mic, which is so sensitive that it required some tweaking of my mic preamp and mixer settings along with increased soundproofing and isolation. It's all been well worth the trouble, though, and the new mic is sounding great both via ISDN with no processing, and when I'm recording, engineering and editing my own voice over files. It's a constant learning process, isn't it?

Oh, still working on that new promo demo, too. Just had to put it on hold over the past few weeks. I hope to get into the studio to work with a super producer on that within the next week or so. By then, I should have the new CD labels and postcards, so perfect timing after all!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Professional Voice Talent Behavior

This is a note about professionalism. As a professional female voice talent for many years who strives to conduct my business in the most professional way possible, I'm always surprised to hear about talent who miss the mark in their professionalism. I worked with a producer the other day who shared a tidbit with me about his experience with an online agent/professional voice talent web site. He was pretty steamed because after he had selected a gen Y talent and actually booked the session, he was then informed that the voice over talent was not available. So, he made a second selection and the same thing happened again. When he questioned the agency as to why they didn't know their talent was unavailable, their excuse was that "well, you know, he's only 20 and didn't let us know......" It made the online agent look pretty incompetent because they didn't know their talent was unavailable (twice!) And I'm sure they turned around and got on the cases of both voice over talents who were unavailable without bothering to let the agent know of their status!

We can all make mistakes and slip up from time to time, but it's so important to stop and think of each and every agent online or in person who represents you and have the business courtesy to let them know when you unavailable. When your agent doesn't know, not only does it make them look bad, but your future bookings may suffer as well. That producer will probably not ask for the voice over services of those two unavailable talents again, and he may not even work with that agent in the future! So, everyone is burned. Professionalism often equates to common courtesy - something that is often lacking in many business situations today. Customer service, knowledgeable response, or even just a response of some type is appreciated on both producers' and professional voice overs' sides of the fence!

On that note, how many times have you emailed an audition or even a voice file for a job to a producer and not received a confirmation that the producer received it? As a professional voice talent, I usually send another email double checking to make sure the file was received - especially in the case of a job. With the way things can get lost in cyberspace, I don't take for granted that I'll receive a bounce back message or an email looking for the spot. Follow up and customer service are as important as being there and being available for the job in the first place!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Happy New Year! Voice Over Goals for 2008

Well, here we are at the beginning of a brand new year. No resolutions, here. Been there, done that! Or didn't do that as the case may be.... But, it is a great time to take stock of where we are and what we want to accomplish in voice over this year.

Upgrading equipment is always a good goal. I got an early start this year with the new Sennheiser mic. I intended to get it sometime this year, but Santa surprised me with it! (I must have been a very good girl.) Anyway, I'm enjoying using it for voice over sessions and getting used to it's idiosyncrasies. It is very directional and very sensitive. It is also very precise, clean, clear, and crisp - and very lightweight! Had to make some modifications to my microphone arm to get it to hold the Sennheiser in position. I like working with the spring loaded microphone arms to easily adjust the mic and move it out of my way when I need to.

Another of my goals is to continue connecting with voice over agents in other parts of the country. I have added some new agents, and I will continue that endeavor throughout the year. I'll also be doing some very large mailings very soon to voice over casting directors and ad agencies. I'm just waiting on some new graphics for updated postcards and CD labels. The time it's taking for the tweaking is making me a little crazy now that the holiday madness is over, but we'll get there eventually. I'm really getting excited about all the updates, new voice over contacts, and the bigger, better voice over jobs they will bring! Cheers to all of us!


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