Voice Over Education Blog

March 2014

4 Tips to Improve Your Practicing

Practicing. We all know it’s important (even for working pros!). But sometimes it can feel like a chore… and it’s all too easy to let yourself get lost in a sea of cat videos on Youtube instead of hunkering down with a few knotty scripts.

Why is it so hard to focus on practicing? Well, often you’re doing it wrong. Poor practice habits lead to frustration, because you never seem to see the results you want. We all need to know we’re achieving something, right?

Here are a few tips to make sure you’re practicing correctly – and keeping it fun!

1. Record each take and immediately listen back to it. This serves a dual purpose: it helps you get over that “Ugh, is that really what I sound like?” gut response, and it allows you to hear how your interpretation is landing on the listener. Many times you’ll discover that the way it felt in your head is totally different from how it sounded to everyone else! (Confession: this is still true for me. I’ll listen to a take that felt awesome – in control, carefully crafted, etc. – and discover that it sounds horribly over-acted. Meanwhile, the “tossed away/just for fun” take I did earlier and dismissed? Yup, that’s the one I send to the client.) The bonus of recording each take is that at the end of a practice session you can compare your first and last versions and hear the awesome progress.

Open Mouth, Insert Voice

Folks, this is going to be a full-blown rant. Prepare yourselves!

Not too long ago, I went to a recording studio for a regular client. This particular project called for a round-robin recording session of both grown-ups and kids. We were called into the studio in various combinations, which is a nice change. That is, until I got in the booth with one of the grown-ups.

For considerations sake, let’s call him John. John is the type of voice actor we all have worked with before: he can’t keep quiet. Not won’t, can’t. John has this clinical condition that he is so desperate to impress and entertain everybody that he will blurt out a joke or comment in response to anything that anyone says, no matter how banal or cliché. And when some people laugh (I hope they were just trying to be polite) John thinks, "They love me! I’m gonna give 'em more!" And the cycle continues.

What did he say exactly? Once he started his standup routine, I quickly drowned him out, so I honestly don’t remember much, except for one thing: he called New Jersey “the armpit of the universe.” Oh, did I mention that this studio was in New Jersey?

What was that? How do I know he wasn’t from New Jersey? His Australian accent gave him away.

Even if I wasn’t from New Jersey, I still would have been peeved. You just don’t go around putting down people or places, especially when you have the potential to offend the client, the talent, and the owners of the studio.

So what did I do? I kept quiet. As much as I would have liked to put this gentleman in his place, we were in front of new producers, children, and my #1 client. And you know what? He probably would have thought that I was being a jerk. Sigh.

End of rant.

Getting the EDGE in Voice Overs

“Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.”

“They’re taking advantage of newbies.”

“They’re just interested in your money.”

“I wasted more than $1000 on a demo and nobody wants to hire me.”

Spend a day on social media, and you’ll discover that talking about voice over coaching can make certain people a bit … edgy. Usually, they’ve had a bad experience or they know someone who was ripped off.

One aspiring voice talent had studied with the same teacher for years. This coach was supposedly an authority in his field and he acted like one. He was of the “break ‘em-down-and-build-them-up” school. Unfortunately, he was great at the first part and never got to the second.

The day she dared to ask him when she would be ready to audition, he said: “Voice acting is harder than you think. I’ll let you know when you are ready.” He never did. Thousands of dollars and three years later, she still had no demo, no experience and she had lost her confidence and enthusiasm.

Those types of horror stories make me cringe.

Being a coach myself, I don’t shy away from a bit of tough love. Some students believe they’re the best thing since sliced bread, and they deserve a playful kick in the pants. However, students don’t hire a coach to be verbally abused. They want to learn something new.

So, how can you tell a good coach from a rotten apple?

We all know people who have made it in this business and all they can talk about is themselves. While that may be entertaining, I don’t think you should spend your hard-earned money on a narcissist.

A good coach focuses on you.

The Voice Over Performance Formula

Soon after entering the world of voice acting about five years ago, I unfortunately became afflicted with “Gear-it is.” It is a terrible, debilitating disease that has driven many an up-and-coming voice actor to madness. What is truly sad about this disease is that it is easily preventable with the setting of appropriate goals and priorities when starting a voice over career.

Gear-itis generally starts with the first trip to Banjo Center. (Names and locations have been changed to assure anonymity.) The aspiring voice actor purchases a modest microphone (the Acme F100s) and an inexpensive audio interface as recommended by the uninformed frustrated drummer who works days in retail to pay his rent.

Inevitably, after purchasing the Acme F100s, the voice actor reads an obscure blog post from an actor in Sydney, Australia (or Sydney, Nova Scotia -- doesn’t matter), that he or she used to own an Acme F100s, but the new Aardvark TLM 108 kicks the Acme’s butt, and no one should ever consider the F100s.

And another voice actor is infected.

I am still in recovery. I can tell you that an important step in my beating this disease was learning the VOICE OVER PERFORMANCE FORMULA:


I think it would be possible for a talented voice actor to win an audition recorded into the microphone that came with a 40-year-old Realistic tape recorder, if the performance was good enough. Alternatively, a mediocre performance recorded through a Boyman U88 will never land the job.

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