The Voice Over Mistake Chart
All the little snafus, pet peeves, bloopers, unawarenesses, oversights, “my bads,” mea culpas, foot-in-mouth diseases,
and assorted bad habits you may or may not be aware of that can cost you either a job or repeat business - and will definitely
stunt your career.
So we figured a VOICE OVER MISTAKE CHART would be a good refresher (for you pros) or cheat-sheet (for you newbies) to
ensure your clients are happy with your performance!
Common Voice Over Mistakes
Business Etiquette Mistakes
The BIGGEST mistake voice-talent make is NOT taking their career as seriously as they would another type of career.
For example: Open a restaurant and many voice talent would put more effort into their menu selections rather than they do their demo selections… more into choosing their tablecloth colors than choosing their website colors… and more into marketing their restaurant than marketing their demo.
Why? Whether part-time or full-time, voice over IS a career. Take pride. Check for typos. Follow-up on time. Act professionally. Kick butt and make the world sound better!
- Talent don’t assess which niches of voice over they’re most marketable for (e.g.: audiobooks, commercials,…) and never reach their potential
- Talent make demos before they’re ready
- Talent rely on digital enhancement to sound better on their demos and subsequently misrepresent themselves when marketing
- Talent don’t put enough care into their branding (website, CD graphics, logo,…)
- Talent don’t provide clear/appropriate contact information
- File names for MP3-demos are formatted incorrectly
- Talent don’t call back quickly
- Talent don’t have calendar with them
- Talent don’t have rates readily available
- Talent don’t send out auditions on time
- Talent don’t follow audition guidelines EXACTLY!
At Recording Sessions
- Talent show up late
- Talent aren’t prepared (with pencil, water,…)
- Talent don’t ask expected questions for a session with a difficult script (e.g.: don’t ask pronunciation questions, don’t ask who the listener is)
- Talent corrects/criticizes the copy in front of the client.
- Talent wears too much perfume/cologne and the scent gets stuck in the vocal booth
- Talent doesn’t thank everyone for working with them
Post Recording Sessions
- Talent doesn’t properly invoice, or forgets to invoice... and then gets upset that they weren’t paid!!
- Talent discusses pay in front of the client
Following Direction Mistakes
If you’re normal, you’d like to get more voice over work. One way is to impress producers by taking better direction.
In this section of the Edge Studio “Voice Over Mistake Chart”, we discuss the most common direction-taking mistakes that voice talent make.
After seeing every imaginable mistake (some not even imaginable), we’ve listed the most common ones.
- The BIGGEST mistake voice talent make is forgetting (or not realizing) how CRITICAL it is to do what your customer requests.... rather than doing it your way. Listen, they're paying, and they therefore have every right to be nit-picky. Would you EVER hire back a painter who did it their way, rather than yours?
- A casting professional requests talent to keep in touch via email, but the talent calls instead. Or they specifically says “MP3 submissions by email only”….yet the talent mails a CD
- A casting professional requests a follow up next Monday, but the talent finally calls a week after
- Talent doesn’t follow audition guidelines. For example, the engineer says, "Please slate your first name only, the script title, and read the first three lines of the script." Yet the talent says, “Hi this is Jane Doe from Idaho. I'll now read a passage......"
- Talent doesn’t name their files as requested
- Client requests an MP3, yet the talent emails a WAV
- Talent is told to arrive early to go over the copy with the client before the session, but doesn’t show up until the session is scheduled to begin
- Talent is told to bring a copy of the script with him/her, but doesn’t
- Talent is asked to research pronunciations that he/she may not be familiar with, but doesn’t
At Recording Sessions
- Talent don't take direction (they're not listening, or not writing it down, or they're untrained,...)
- Talent takes direction but messes up something else. For example, a client asks the talent to "Slow the read down". But then, when the talent reads more slowly, they also lose energy. Now the client has 2 bad takes!
- Talent is told to read something very specific but doesn't. For example, a client asks the talent to "Please read the first three words." but the talent reads the entire sentence
Post Recording Sessions
- Talent doesn’t follow directions of how, when, or who to invoice
- Talent requests to hear the final recording, and is told to call back in 3 days, but doesn't for a week. By that time, it takes the engineer MORE time to get them a copy because they need to go back into their archives
- The BIGGEST mistake voice talent make is forgetting to tailor their pitch when auditioning and recording
- When slating a script, talent unintentionally raise their pitch at the end of their slate (known as “up talk”, which sounds like a question) causing a less than confident sound
- Talent use the wrong pitch when self-directing, and subsequently lose auditions and clients
- Talent are unable to remain in the requested pitch range, and continually increase or decrease their pitch range
- Talent use volume instead of pitch to emphasize a key word or product name
- Talent drop pitch at the end of phrases and sentences (dropping ends)
- Talent unintentionally raise their pitch when asked to increase the tempo of their read, or unintentionally lower their pitch when asked to decrease tempo
- Talent forget to mentally conjure up an image of the listener and use an inappropriate pitch range (i.e. too much pitch range on a funeral home web narration, too little pitch range on the One Day Only Blow Out Sale! commercial)
- Talent doesn’t use pitch to add variety and as a result sounds monotone
- Talent cannot match the pitch range of their read from a previous day's recording for continuation of the recording (as in: day 2 of an audiobook, or as in: a line pick-up)
- The BIGGEST mistake is NOT tailoring your pronunciation to the demographic of the listener and the intent of the script. So find out who the script is for, where it will be heard, and for what reason it will be heard.
When Clarity is Necessary, Articulate Clearly
(for language tutorials, museum guided tours, international airline videos, and so on)
- “Internet” and “international” – pronounce the first “t”
example: “Welcome aboard our International flight to...”
- “government” and “environment” – pronounce the “n”
example: “Click to learn more about our government.”
- “mountain” – pronounce the “t”
example: “This is this mountain range known as K2. It peaks over...”
When Informality is Preferable, Speak Colloquially
- “Internet” and “international” – do NOT pronounce the first “t”
example: “Want the fastest Internet? Then you gotta call us at...”
- “government” and “environment” – do NOT pronounce the “n”
example: “Government shmovernment... let’s talk BK’s big beef burger!”
- “mountain” – do NOT pronounce the “t”
example: “Up here in the mountains, we love Coors Beer.”
- “often” – do not pronounce the “t” (you wouldn’t say “soften”, would you?)
- “probably” – pronounce the “ab” in the middle (“probly” is usually too slurred)
- “February” – do not pronounce the “r” in the middle (“FebRUary” is usually too exact)
- “comfortable” – do not pronounce the “or” in the middle (or it will sound too exact)
- “particularly” – pronounce each syllable (rather than "par-tic-ally")
- “where” – do not make the “h” sound at the beginning (that is an “old-school” style)
Don't Sound Like You're Reading
- “the” – pronounce this word with a soft “e” (unless the following word begins with a vowel)
- “a” – pronounce this word with a soft “a" (or it will sound too exact)
You know that completing your voice over job in a timely manner is important..... Yet oddly, speeding through copy usually causes the recording session to take longer.
Sure there are some scripts which require a speedy delivery. But in most instances, slowing yourself down will get the job done faster. Weird? Nope. Read on.
In this section of the Edge Studio “Voice Over Mistake Chart”, we discuss Tempo Mistakes!
- The BIGGEST mistake voice talent have is NOT developing (practicing) a sense of timing
Copy Writer's Intent
- Talent doesn’t consider the tempo that will work best for the listener (e.g.: slow on a relaxation recording, mid-tempo on a telephony recording, fast on a zippy radio commercial)
- Talent doesn’t consider the visual that will work best for the viewer (e.g.: slow on a self-guided tour of a fine art museum, mid-tempo on a travelogue, fast on a zippy promotional video)
- Talent doesn’t consider the intended emotion that will work best for the listener (e.g.: slow on a sentimental script, mid-tempo on a “regular Joe” script, fast on an excited script)
- Talent doesn’t use tempo change to add variety to a read – as we often do in normal conversation
- Talent doesn’t use dramatic pauses to add emphasis to words – as we often do in normal conversation
- Talent doesn’t have a natural sense of script-length. (It’s helpful to look at a script and have a sense of how long it would take to read at a given tempo.)
- Talent doesn’t have a natural recording-tempo-gauge. (It’s helpful to know what tempo to read to hit an intended length. E.G.: When the director says, “Make this line 30-seconds.”, you should be close.)
- Talent doesn’t have a natural playback-tempo-gauge. (It’s helpful to know how long a recording was by listening back. E.G.: You can impress a client by saying, Okay, let me try again- I was over time.”)
- Talent doesn’t have a stopwatch with them at all times (for practice and recording)
- Talent increases tempo when asked to increase their energy. Or the reverse.
- Talent cannot match the tempo of a previous day’s recording for continuation of the recording (as in: day 2 of an audiobook, or as in: a line pick-up).
- Talent rushes the phrase “one of the” (as in, “The Giganotosaurus was one of the tallest dinosaurs.....”. Try reading this and extend the words “one” and “tallest”.)
- Talent rushes key words, such as product names and client names
Setting the wrong tone for a recording is like setting up a lovely candlelit dinner and then having the pizza delivery guy show up with a pie and wings.
You see, emotion is the component of voice over delivery that more talent THINK they’re doing right while directors HEAR that they’re not.
So in this section of the Edge Studio “Voice Over Mistake Chart”, we discuss Tonal Mistakes!
- The BIGGEST mistake voice talent make is NOT matching the appropriate tone to the words in their script.
- Talent sounds contrived because they force the emotion
- Talent sounds stilted because they are stiff
- Talent sounds unnatural because they don’t break down the script into logical tonal sections. (It's helpful to break down the script into sections by tone - e.g. ‘the problem' portion of the script and then the ‘solution' portion.).
Copy Writer's Direction (i.e.: at the studio)
- Talent don't deliver the copy using the emotion that the director requests
- Talent don't mentally conjure up an image of the listener and misses the tonal mark
Self-Produced Direction (i.e.: recording at a home studio)
- Talent don't consider the emotion that will work best for the intended demographic (who they are talking to, why, and where) and subsequently doesn’t tailor their emotion to match the words (e.g.: the difference between a health insurance commercial for young adults in their 20's, adults in their mid-50's, or seniors in their 80's)
- Talent don't vary tone on key words, as we usually do in normal conversation (e.g.: to add enthusiasm to the client name)
- Talent don't continually vary tone to add variety to their delivery, as we usually do in normal conversation (e.g.: "Everyone knows health care is confusing...but Aetna is here to help" changing to a friendlier, more positive tone on the company name.)
- Talent weakens or strengthens their tone when asked to increase or decrease (respectively) their volume or tempo
- Talent cannot match the emotional tone used on a previous day's recording for continuation of the recording (as in: day 2 of an audiobook, or as in: a line pick-up)
- Talent doesn’t “stay in character” as requested by the director
It stems back from yesteryear’s ANNOUNCER voice. That is, loud voice over. But today, low is the new loud. Today, directors
usually request voice talent to use a normal, conversational volume. (They need to request this since MOST talent instinctually
deliver their copy in too loud a volume.) So now, the Edge Studio MISTAKE CHART posts Volume Mistakes!
- The BIGGEST mistake voice talent make is NOT developing a benchmark – one in which they KNOW how loud they’ll sound upon playback, relative to their performance in front of the microphone
- Talent sound stilted because they record too loudly, as if they’re on stage projecting to a room full of listener
- Talent sound unnatural because they unintentionally raise their volume on the first few words of each phrase
- Talent use the wrong volume (usually too loud) when slating their audition and immediately set a bad precedent
- Talent use the wrong volume (usually too loud) when self-directing, and subsequently lose auditions and clients
- Talent is unable to maintain a consistent volume
- Talent use volume instead of pitch and/or elongation to emphasize a key word or product name
- Talent don't mentally conjure up an image of the listener and uses an inappropriate volume for the kind of copy they are reading (i.e. too loud on a funeral home web narration, not loud enough on the One Day Only Blow Out Sale! commercial)
- Talent increases their volume when asked to increase the energy or tempo of their read, or decreases their volume when asked to decrease their energy or tempo
- Talent pushes their volume loud enough to cause “pops” – that is, they overload and subsequently distort plosive sounds
- Talent uses volume instead of pitch, tempo, and tone to add variety
- Talent cannot match the volume of their read from a previous day's recording for continuation of the recording (as in: day 2 of an audiobook, or as in: a line pick-up)