Voice Over Education Blog

January 2016

Super Bowl party? Use “Henny Youngman” vocal care.

With the Super Bowl coming up, it’s possible you’ll be in a loud sports bar or big party where you literally have to shout for hours just to be heard. No doubt you’ve already heard warnings not to abuse your professional instrument. (Some people think referring to your voice as your “instrument” is pedantic and pompous, but your voice is as versatile as any instrument, and more irreplaceable than a Stradivarius, so as a professional voice artist, that’s how you should treat it!)

But do you take those warnings to heart? If not, here’s why you should.

NOTE: This is not advice from a medical professional. We can give you typical guidelines, but not a personal diagnosis. If you have any concern or question regarding the state of your vocal health, please consult your personal physician or an ENT professional promptly.

Some people can shout and talk all day without getting hoarse. Others can’t. Even trained, in-condition voiceover professionals can virtually lose their voice after a long period of intense voice work – for example, as we noted in our article on political commercials (https://www.edgestudio.com/blogs/election-over-long-live-election), the men and women who specialize in that genre can become almost speechless by election day.

It might be that you actually like the effect of having had to shout all evening. Wow, the next day you sound like Sam Elliott or Trace Adkins, right? But what good does that do you? You can’t audition or make a cut for your demo, because 36 hours later or so, you won’t be able to reproduce it. (Although regular daily vocal exercise, and perhaps guidance from a voice teacher, will help you come very close.) And odds are you don’t happen to have a one-off job that next day where a very low voice is called for.

Odds are, it won’t matter much in the long run.

Alan Rickman: It’s not all about his voice

With the recent passing of the actor Alan Rickman, much has been made of his voice. Which is more than the vocal department at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art said he would make of it. Many years later, he told an interviewer that his voice had been “heavily criticized.” In fact, Rickman described one teacher as saying, “Alan, you sound as if your voice is coming out of the back end of a drain pipe.” So it would be tempting to make this article about pursuing your dream, never giving up, and not heeding the opinion of even a prestigious drama school.

But would that be wise?

Yes, and no.

No, in that if three people tell you you’re drunk, you should at least consider switching to soda, and if qualified professionals suggest you should consider a different line of work, maybe you should at least reconsider your game plan.

But we note that Rickman did not say his teachers discouraged him from acting. And his voice has been described more lately as seeming like a cello.

So there’s the “yes.” In fact, many a "yes." Rickman’s acting career provides a wealth of examples to inspire the growing voiceover artist.

To begin with, Rickman started relatively late for an actor. Although he had been interested in acting as a youth, professionally he first tried his hand at graphic design, figuring it would provide a more dependable income. It didn’t, so in his mid-twenties, he got himself accepted by the Royal Academy. Then he spent a dozen years on the boards and British TV repertory.

It was soon apparent that Rickman had more going for him than his voice. It wasn’t just the voice, it was how he used it. That’s another valuable lesson to heed.

How to avoid procrastination -- The answer is finally here. Part Two.

NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. Click here to read part one!

Last week we sorted through some common reasons people have for procrastinating when it comes to furthering – or beginning – their voice-over careers. But recognizing “reasons” for what they may really be – excuses – is only a start to the solution. Here are some practical things you can do, based on way, way too much practical experience.

Procrastination can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you’re not prepared to make your move – particularly if you (and your demo coach) are not able to produce a competitive demo that expresses your particular capabilities, goals and personality – it’s good to wait. A poorly produced or lackluster demo, or one that doesn’t truly represent your current capabilities, can destroy a career before it gets rolling. But meanwhile, keep at the process of developing your skills. Make that first demo a goal. The fact that you’re not ready to record it should not be an excuse to take things easy. After all, having no demo will also keep your career from getting off the ground. That would be bad.

Ready, Set, Ready, Set, R... How to stop procrastinating. Part One of Two.

NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click here to read part two!

Just about everybody procrastinates at something, to one extent or another. Including voice talent at all levels of experience and stages in their careers. What have you been putting off? Do you have good reasons for delaying? Sometimes there are some. But are yours really good reasons, or just excuses? If the former, when does a delay turn bad? And if the latter, how can you get off that dime and start making more dollars?

What are we talking about really?

If you’re experienced talent, maybe you’re putting off freshening your demo or expanding your genre capabilities. Or, you’re coasting on your current client list, you’ve been putting off plans and activities for finding new clients. It would be wise to start. New-client marketing can boost your career, or improve the quality of your client list, or readily fill the hole when a longtime client goes away.

If you’re a budding talent, maybe you’ve put off making your first demo. Have you become a perpetual student? In VO, as we say, “learning never ends.” But learning alone is not a VO career.

Or maybe you’ve pulled the trigger but delayed doing your marketing homework. A voice-over career is (roughly) 20% recording, 80% business activities. Don’t put off the latter. Unless you’re doing the business stuff, you’re either very lucky or probably don’t have a sustaining career.

Or maybe you’re still eyeing the possibility of a voice-over career, but haven’t begun to work with a coach.

Let’s take these in reverse order. What are some excuses, and solutions to them?

EXCUSE: I don’t have time for voice-over training. I have a full-time job and/or other responsibilities.

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