Voice Over Education Blog

September 2017

Improv offers voice-actors more than comedy. It offers reality.

Improvisation training is not essential in developing your voice-acting skills, but can be highly valuable. Just about everyone is familiar with comedy improv, and maybe you've even taken a workshop in it. But do you realize that comedy improv is just part of the improv universe? In fact, various types of improv experience are helpful in many other professions besides acting or comedy. The training and exercises can improve your ability to connect with listeners in any presentation, whether it be a voice script, a business proposal, or university lecture.

Here's a "wavetop level" view of what you can experience in the refreshing, fun, and sometimes scary ocean of improv ...

So far, we've called it a "universe" and an "ocean." Rather than continue with those mixed metaphors, what is "improv" anyway? It's simply two or more people acting without a script, making up the characters, story and dialog as they go. The "acting" can be for an audience, or it can be for each other (as in training or a professional development class). Some improv is done entirely free-form, with maybe just a random seed of an idea (e.g., "at a picnic" or "credit card"). But, especially in training, it can be highly structured, with specific objectives. When there's an audience, the objective is entertainment, but other times the objective is the improv experience itself.

That experience is what's so valuable in voice-over. It actually rewires the brain. The process of working with others, learning to read and anticipate their thoughts and responding with yours, is very much like what we do every day in the real world. And in most VO genres, sounding (and being) real is essential in developing your voice-acting skills.

6 ways to improve your VO performance, away from the mic

If you keep busy at your mic and computer, you may have no reason to leave your studio, other than to go to the kitchen and to sleep for the night. But unless you get out and about from time to time, you could be losing more than muscle tone. That lack of variety could leave you short-sighted, figuratively, and maybe even literally.

Here are six ways you can improve yourself as a voice artist and strengthen your business, while you're away from your mic.

We've all seen articles by "efficiency experts" who say to, oh, buy stamps online instead of at the post office. Heck, these days you could do the same with groceries and half the other stuff you need.

But go there anyway. You can get more than stamps at the post office.

1. Get acting inspiration. In just about any stable crowd, you can find acting inspiration -- because you see and meet other people of every sort.

So if there's a long line of customers when you get to the post office or supermarket or wherever, don't view it as a negative. Use it as an opportunity. Look at each person around you, and imagine what they're thinking. Come up with a word to describe whatever emotion each person seems to be feeling at that time. In fact, do this with everyone you come across. This mental exercise (or let's call it a game) has been proven to be an effective technique in enhancing your ability to empathize (to know what other people are feeling). Empathy is part of a voice actor's stock-in-trade. Imagining and understanding the thoughts of your audience is helpful, especially considering that your audiences are people you can't even hear or see.

2. Get ideas for voice characters. Leave your earbuds at home. Listen to the voices of the people around you. Now and then you'll hear a voice or notice a mannerism you've never encountered before. Maybe someday you can use it.

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