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!