Voice Over Education Blog

Edge Studio Education

Play The Long Game, But Play It Smart

Although I am a dual citizen of the US and Canada who has spent many years living in both countries, throughout my entire voiceover career I have been based in Toronto, a place that can be considered both a regional market AND a major market from a US perspective: 

  • Toronto is a major market because it is a massive city in itself, with a population of over 6 million people. 
  • It can also be seen as a regional market, because it is not a major city in the United States.
  • It IS a major market because one is able to maintain a career here as a union voice actor working with casting agents and the big studios, the same agents and studios that union talent in New York or Los Angeles work with. 
  • Yet it can also be seen as a regional market because there are many successful voice actors based here who do work almost exclusively for the US and other international markets. My work is about half and half.

My point is, you absolutely and most certainly do not have to be in NYC, LA, Atlanta, or Chicago to be a successful voice over artist. One of the biggest promo guys I know is based in Pittsburgh. Sorry Steelers fans, but in the voice over world, it doesn’t get much further off the beaten path than that.

My Top 3 Tips for Voice Over Auditions

I have a confession to make.   Early on in my voice over career, opening my email and seeing an audition request in my in-box would fill me with equal measures of excitement...and panic.  Yep,  just a little bit of panic.  Because while I was excited for the opportunity to potentially book a job,  I was also anxious about that opportunity because I lacked confidence.

So there I was, a trained voice actor and I was actually getting the opportunity to audition and book gigs so why wasn’t I just plain excited?

Here’s what I eventually discovered.  I realized that I did not have a consistent audition strategy.

The voice over industry is becoming increasingly competitive.  A client may receive hundreds of submissions for any given audition and quite honestly, many of those auditions won’t even be listened to all the way through.

So how does a voice actor stack the deck in their favor and make sure that their audition stands out and stays top of mind with the client?

It’s about having an audition game plan that allows the actor to consistently create their best reads.  Here are my top 3 tips for creating your own audition strategy:

1) Make a really good first impression

Learning to Speak Naturally

In the modern voice over world, speaking naturally, or “conversationally” is the key to booking any job. The days of the old-school announcers are over, and if you can’t deliver a read that is smooth and natural, you will probably not get hired. This is something that we have to work on with most of our students. Even some seasoned pros still have trouble delivering a read that is free of extra, weird pauses. People tend… to read their copy...like...THIS! As if the script had commas all over the place and choosing odd words to emphasize. It doesn’t sound very natural, and will turn off any casting professional. Don’t get me wrong, I love William Shatner; he’s a national treasure. But you don’t want to sound like him in your voice over submissions.  If you find yourself delivering these weird, choppy reads, you need to ask yourself: do I speak like this in real life? The answer is probably not. When we speak to each other, we tend to do so naturally, without pauses, moving smoothly from one thought to another. So why do so many voice actors fall into this trap? What can you do in order to smooth out your reads and sound more “natural?”

 I too struggle with reading naturally, but through private coaching I’ve been able to work out some of my own issues and improve my reads. Here are a couple of tips that I learned working with some of our coaches that you can keep in mind on your next audition:

Building the Foundation of Your Voice Over Career

Voice over is an exciting, dynamic, and ever evolving industry filled with opportunities for all kinds of actors and talent. While some voice actors may be a jack of all trades, others may find that a specific genre of voice over offers them a unique niche market where they can excel. But, if you are just starting out, how will you know what genre to focus on for your training? There are so many voice over genres to choose from, including audiobooks, commercials, animation, narration (which has a seemingly endless amount of sub-genres), promos, and the list goes on. Should you make an animation demo? Or would you be more successful if you start in narration?

The Proper Way to Use Our Free Resources

Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of voice actors; casting them for paid work, directing them for clients, and helping them get more work. And of all the resources Edge Studio provides to the voiceover community, there are three that consistently help all levels of voice actors the most.

But we often see people using these resources incorrectly, as a shortcut to become successful. These shortcuts will actually hinder your career, and blow up in your face down the road. It’s important to understand that we provide these free resources as a supplement to your education, not the solution to immediate success, allowing you to hone your voice over skills on your own time.

So, I thought I’d share my thoughts on some and outline the best way to use these resources. That way, you will get the most out of Edge Studio’s free resources.

Here are my top three that I recommend to every student I work with:

The Benefits of Remote Training in the VO Industry

Learn why Edge Studio CEO David Goldberg says training remotely is actually BETTER than training in-person

The unique thing about being a voice actor is that typically, no one sees you.  In other words, voice actors, directors, and clients usually work together remotely. You, as the voice actor, record from your home studio while a producer patches in to direct you.  So training remotely is better practice for the real world and provides significantly more applicable training.

Sometimes voice over students claim that coaching by telephone or Skype will be less effective than working with a coach face-to-face in a studio. Well for those students, it’s even more critical that they learn how to be directed remotely so they’re adequately prepared for when they’re hired and directed remotely. After all, in the modern voice over marketplace, the vast majority of jobs will be recorded remotely.  

It’s simple: turn on your speakerphone and set it beside you. Or use Skype or Zoom or whichever software your coach prefers.  Yeah face-to-face is nice; but if you travel to your coach you will both still be looking at your scripts rather than each other the whole time anyway. So avoid the commuting time (psssst, use that extra time for extra practicing!) and avoid any commuting costs (and use that extra money for more coaching, or better marketing, or new equipment, or for a celebratory meal out when you book your first job!).

An Introduction to the Art of Audiobook Narration Or: This Ain’t Easy

So, you want to be an audiobook narrator?
In the voice-over world, few genres make greater demands of your time or your talent.  On the plus side, few genres are growing at such an explosive rate. Audiobook narration is and remains a great place for new voices to find work. As the industry has grown, actors, authors and publishers have continually joined forces to create innovations in production, quality and opportunity.

There can be no question that opportunities abound for the gifted actor willing to make the effort. This is due to three factors:

Don't have a Commercial Demo? We can help!

Don’t have a Commercial demo? Whatever VO genre you specialize in, you probably should.

Commercials offers a wide range of opportunity. In comparison, if you want to work in, say, video games, there are only so many producers to pitch. But commercials are widely produced, in many forms – with clients ranging from local radio/TV stations and cable providers, to ad agencies of all sorts and sizes, marketing departments and individual retailers. Plus, the vast majority of commercials are voiced by regular VO professionals, as opposed to celebrities.

When you do land one, it can be very lucrative through ongoing residuals, repeat projects, or both. And who wouldn’t like to to be heard by friends and clients on a national spot, getting paid well, to boot?

Almost no other genre spans such a wide range of topics, styles, and types of scripts. Even if you don’t specialize in commercials, your demo portfolio will greatly benefit by showcasing your ability to do them.  

Your first priority should be an effective delivery. It is important for clients to know that you understand their goal is selling. Your ability to understand the mission suggests that you have a businesslike attitude. That’s valued by producers in every genre.

When to choose an acting teacher. And how. Part 1 of 2.

NOTE: This is the first post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 2!

As we’ve written before, much of voice-over involves acting. Feeling at ease as a voice actor helps with all sorts of things in a voice-over performance — from sounding genuine, to widening your range of voicing techniques. So, when and how should you find yourself an acting teacher or class?

When? If you’ve just gotta act, you’ll know when the time is right.

Otherwise, if you’re aiming at a voice-over career, first focus on that.

Learn and hone VO skills. That will help assure you won’t later have to unlearn acting habits that may be wrong for voice-over. It will also leave you more time for creating your demo and building your business. And it will give you the perspective necessary for choosing the sort of acting course you want to follow.

But let’s assume you’re well along in that, and the time is right — you want to learn more about acting, or maybe your VO coach has suggested it. What now?

Some types of acting relate more directly to voice-over. In particular, screen acting is more like working at the mic than stage acting is. But even more important – as far as actor training is concerned – is how you relate to the acting course, and how the teacher’s approach to acting relates to you. Furthermore, acting experience provides you with more than "just" a performance technique. Acting also teaches you confidence, range, and powers of observation. All these things are important in voice acting.

So, for the rest of this article, we’re talking about Acting with a capital A, not just acting for VO.

The world is full of real characters. How many are in your VO toolkit?

You’re at the mic, and the Director says, “Do this as someone else – weird but likable.” Or whatever. What do you do? We’ve written previously about the value of developing characters ahead of time, and this situation is one reason to do that.

But where do you find fresh, interesting character voices? The answer is, “all around you!” Here are a few suggestions:


Here’s a great excuse to take time away from your busy day. Sample reality and news shows. Hopefully you’ll even enjoy them. The subject matter maybe mundane, but these are a great source of real voices from around the country and around the world. With so many programs these days being about life in the back country, you’ll hear a lot of prototypes of that sort. But don’t focus only there. Check out more “typical” people, too. Listen for how one person in the same scene differs from another. How are they similar?

Beware that some reality shows are actually more or less scripted, and, regardless, some of the “characters” you encounter might not actually be from the area depicted. But even if what they say is scripted, their accent probably isn’t. And even if their accent is a hodge-podge of various locales, it’s a character, and that’s what you’re looking for.

Should you remove some telemarketers from your list? How to identify scripts you might want no part of - PART TWO

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

“This is Rachel at Cardholder Services” or “Bob from Home Security.” Don’t you just love jumping out of the shower or leaving the dinner table to answer calls like that? The recordings may have been innocently voiced years ago, but due to changes in phone technology, the illegal use of such come-ons has mushroomed in the past several years. Maybe there are only a few companies or individuals behind these billions of calls, but clearly they have spawned imitators, and we wouldn’t be surprised if some naive legitimate companies figure, “Hey, let’s try this ourselves.”

Last week we gave background on this subject. Now here are some questions to ask if you are offered what might be a telephony script.

Some robocalling is legal, depending on the type of call, type of caller, type of recipient, and so on.

When the rules are followed, telemarketing is an honorable and even valuable practice. But if you have qualms about your voice being possibly unappreciated by consumers, these yellow flags might be at least reason to ask some preliminary questions ...

What do the watchdogs say? As standard procedure whenever you’re concerned about a prospective client’s reputation, check for actions against them on the FTC.gov website, the BBB, and other state and local consumer protection agencies.

Is it a “broadcast” phone script? That is, does the script speak to a random listener , with no hint of an existing relationship? For example, if it starts, “Attention, seniors ...” or “Are you a business owner?” you might conclude that it’s not directed to a specific customer with whom the caller has an existing relationship, or even knows much about, if anything.

What’s your image of Imaging?

In a world where “real” voices are paramount, where being “vocally free” is prized, what does a VO pro make of promo, trailers and imaging work? Isn’t it the domain of the big voice, the DJ sound, and distinctive affectation?

It was. Not so much anymore. Even in imaging.

First, let’s all get up to speed with some definitions.

• Promos are the “commercials” that broadcast stations and networks (TV, radio, cable, satellite, web, etc.) run to advertise their own programming.
• Imaging is what the advertising community calls “branding.” It refers to a station or network IDs, audio billboards, logos, and other productions that identify the station or network and define its “position” in the programming marketplace. (For example, “This is CNN,” or “All hits on the Big 102!”)
• Affiliate promos are related to both imaging and promos, in that they are promotions produced by networks for their affiliated stations’ use. Each station receives a localized version (e.g., with a specific channel number and names of local newscasters).
• Trailers promote movies. Even when a movie promotion is run on television or included on a DVD, etc., it’s still called a trailer, even when it’s more like an ad or commercial. (No matter -- the word is an anachronism anyway.) Increasingly, in theaters trailers don’t have a voice over at all. In other media, voice is necessary.

Clear enough, right? But how does, say, an imaging job differ from a promo job?

How Many Types of eLearning Are There?

One of the first things to learn about elearning (aka “eLearning” or “e-learning”) is that there is no such thing. Or rather, there’s no one such thing as “elearning.”

People apply the term to all sorts of video and audio recordings (any electronic media) where
education or training, or even selling, is involved. So when you say you specialize in “eLearning,” it’s a bit like saying you do “voice over” -- first you need to be sure the person you’re talking to knows what it is … then you need to say what kind. Which means you should know the same!

This understanding will influence how and where you prospect for job leads.

Again, it’s similar to saying you do voice-overs: That’s not the most effective opener with the average prospective client (who may or may not have hired VO talent before). A better introduction is along the lines of, “I help you communicate more effectively.” By understanding the various elearning types, audiences and objectives, you’ll be better able to speak convincingly about the benefits of your VO services.

First, be aware that eLearning spans a wide variety of subjects. In fact, it could involve any subject. For example:

    To Documentaries, Bring Truth

    “The events shown in this program depict authenticated facts.”

    “Everything in this story is true. Only the names and locations are changed.”

    “Scenes have been re-created by actors, based on the actual events.”

    “Bunnies are cute.”

    Truth is powerful, and seldom needs much elaboration. Lies are more typically embellished.

    The documentary industry has long struggled to define what actually constitutes truth in showing a non-fiction story. Meanwhile as a documentary narrator, you have your own truth-handling issues. Whether a documentary is objective or pushing an agenda, above all, it needs to be credible. The quality of its narration plays an important role in that perception. Your narration should generate trust. Often, the less obtrusive your performance, the more truthful it will seem to the viewer.

    Here’s a Truth in Documentaries pledge to consider as you work in this genre.

    I will be genuine. Love to over-act? Maybe animation is the genre for you. Like flamboyance and improvisation? Consider certain types of commercials. Want to be the focus of storytelling? Audiobooks. But in a documentary, stick to the script, understand what you’re saying, and trust in the subtle power of thoughtful understatement. Know what’s in the script, and simply tell what you know. Most documentary producers will love you for it.

    I will let the visuals do the shouting. Pictures are powerful. Unlike some other genres, there’s seldom any need to artificially pump things up with false emotion, aka over-acting. In fact, documentary producers and propagandists have long known that the perceived truth often is found between the words.

    Got your demo?

    Tell someone in the entertainment or production business that you’re a voice artist, and the next words you’ll hear are, “Got your demo?” Among knowledgeable people in a position to hire you, it happens close to 100% of the time.

    This scenario used to be sort of frustrating for talent. After all, few voice artists could carry a tape, cassette or CD everywhere they went, let alone afford to hand them out like Halloween candy.

    How lucky we are nowadays. You can simply give someone your business card, which should have a simple URL for reaching your demo(s) online.

    That’s if you have a demo. If you don’t, the request for one can feel more frustrating than ever. But fight the urge to produce a demo before you’re ready.

    Buck up, suck it up and stick to your plan to record a professional grade demo. Instead of hearing demo requests as a frustration, hear them as an opportunity to aim for. Now.

    The window of opportunity is a fairly narrow one, because when you are ready to produce your demo, that’s the time to do it. Releasing a not-ready-for-prime-time demo can kill a budding career, but not producing it when you are ready is obviously also not career enhancing.

    Industrial and Corporate Videos - Part Two: How to make yourself more interesting.

    NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. To read part one, click here.

    Last week, we began listing some tips for voicing corporate and industrial videos. Most of them were functional. This week’s tip is a bit more subtle, but just as important:

    Don’t bore the viewer!

    Use emotion.

    Why is that so important in Industrial and Corporate? This genre is a challenging mix of documentary narration on the one hand, and e-learning or commercials on the other. That is, a person might assume that the viewer has chosen to watch a TV program about sea turtles, and in a sea turtle documentary the video provides drama. So the narrator should be relatively subdued and refrain from over-acting. In contrast, who knows if a student wants to watch an e-learning video about economics? Hopefully the e-learning program has been well designed to capture the student’s interest, and its narrator can work with that. And at the low-interest extreme, there are most commercials -- we all know how disinterested people are in most of them. So sometimes in a commercial you’re even supposed to go over the top!

    Industrial and Corporate Videos - Part One: How to make yourself more valuable.

    NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click for Part Two

    When you tell someone what you do -- that is, once they understand what “voice over” means -- does it go something like this?

    “So, was that you in the _______ commercial?”

    “No, that was Benjamin Bratt. Anyway, I don’t do commercials. That’s only 5% of the voice over market. I’m a narrator.”

    “I see. Like last week on Nature?”

    “No, that was F. Murray Abraham.”

    “Then what do you narrate?”

    “Maybe you caught my video on the importance of choosing the correct plastic beads for an industrial extrusion process?”

    “Was that the one with John Cleese?”

    “No, although he does do corporate training videos.”

    Sigh. Industrial and Corporate Videos are one (or two) of the biggest, most active genres.

    Consider: worldwide, people view 1.12 billion hours of live (and recorded live) business online video content yearly, a number that’s expected to double by 2016. Most or all of that is probably “unproduced” video (like filming a stage play, not like producing a movie), so it has little to do with voice over. But the number gives you the sense of scale. Produced video is expanding, too, and as companies become more experienced in video use, their practices get more sophisticated.

    Industrial and Corporate are also among the most interesting genres -- you’re almost always learning something. But they are relatively unsung, and your friends are unlikely to hear your work.

    How do you read for Commercials? (Part Two)

    NOTE: This is the second post in a two-part article. To read Part One, click here.

    In Part One, I observed that there is no one way to read a commercial, because there is no one type of commercial. And if there were a “standard way,” that would make commercials pretty boring, wouldn’t it?

    But there are some standards that talent in this genre should understand, and generally adhere to. Among them is the recognition that a commercial’s ultimate goal is to sell something. Add to that the probability that the listener doesn’t want to be sold; in fact, the listener probably doesn’t even want to hear the commercial and may be listening with half an ear at best.

    As we continue our list from last week, that’s where your special skills come in.

    Clients know what they want. And they don’t. When casting a commercial, there will usually have been some discussion of what sort of voice to use. Male, female, younger, older, gruff, sweet, resemblance to a celebrity, English accent, whatever. Despite the now long established trend to casting “real person” voices, sometimes the client will expect a goldenthroat. Everybody involved in the casting decision will have an sound in their head. Thing is, they haven’t yet heard you. Often the talent who gets the job is the one who shows them a quality they hadn’t anticipated, one that will enhance the message, flatter the product, and help make the commercial stand out. Good producers and successful talent recognize this fact.

    How Do You Read Commercials? (Part 1)

    NOTE: This is the first post in a two-part article. Click for Part Two!

    Once upon a time when I was finishing a day of freelance copywriting at a major ad agency, one of the Creative Directors popped into my office and asked, “How do you write for radio?”

    Bear in mind that this was a head honcho, so you’d think he’d know. But his bailiwick was mainly print advertising. He was right to ask, because commercials are different. And as I told him, there is no one way to write for them.

    There’s no one right way to read them, either. There are all sorts of commercials, all sorts of objectives, and all sorts of clients. The only common denominator is this: the client’s objective is to always to sell something. It might be a product, or a service, or an idea. It might be simply to make the listener feel good about the brand, or it might be to generate a phone order as you speak. But ultimately, as one venerable ad agency has put it, “It’s not creative unless it sells.”

    This can make the Commercials genre experience quite different from many other genres. For example, in Narration, you can reasonably assume that the listener/viewer wants to learn about the love life of wildebeest. In Audiobooks, the customer may even have paid to hear what you have to say. In Telephony, you’re rendering a service to the caller (and if it’s an on-hold message, at that moment your message doesn’t have so much competition for the listener’s attention). And so on.

    Whereas in Commercials, as we all know, the listener has no built-in incentive to pay attention, has lots of other options, and usually doesn’t care a whit about the product you’re selling.

    Have You Toured the Audio Tours Genre Lately

    The Audio Tours genre is a very interesting subject and a potentially rewarding specialty, especially considering that it’s a bigger field than many people realize.

    Many people think of it only in terms of museum tours. That’s obviously a huge segment, but there are many other kinds of audio tours, too. All the following settings, and more, have audio tour potential:

    * Museums and other exhibitions -- Might as well start with the obvious. Like Audiobooks, this genre, too, can be tremendously satisfying. If you have special or extensive knowledge in the subject that’s on exhibit, here is a great way to apply what you know, while providing extra value to your client. Or, if like most curious people you’re a “knowledge generalist,” voicing audio tours gives you an opportunity to learn while you earn. In either case, it’s also satisfying to know that you’re providing a meaningful service to people who take the tour. And while the articles you describe will be the star of the show, the overall goal of any audio tour is to be entertaining. You will be an important contributor to that.

    * Tourist locations -- Not every museum has walls. Historic sites feature “progressive tours” that the visitor listens to while moving from place to place. The site could be a group of historic structures, a battlefield, an archaeological dig, anything. In these situations, an audio tour is more convenient and more personal than a guidebook. And you will help make it more interesting.

    * Campus tours -- How many prospective students and their families visit college campuses every year? There are only so many administrators and/or student guides to show them around. Recorded audio tours fill this major gap. Life decisions may be affected by the quality of your work.

    Why is Audiobook Narration So Popular?

    In some countries, much more than maybe in the US, it’s considered gauche at a social occasion to ask a stranger, “What do you do?” But at a meet-and-greet of voice over professionals, it’s understandably standard procedure.

    Very often among emerging talent these days, the answer is, “Audiobooks.”

    Why is Audiobook narration so popular among new voice over talent?

    After all, it’s a very unusual genre. Sessions are long, requiring vocal stamina and consistency. Pay is usually by the finished hour, meaning if you don’t work efficiently (or have a poor client), the hourly pay can wind up kind of low. And if you’re working at home, it requires long periods of suitable recording conditions. Depending on your client’s needs, it might also require some special audio editing and even processing skills. That’s all in addition to requiring performance skills specific to the genre.

    So why is Audiobook narration popular?

    That’s like asking why the New York and Boston marathons are so popular. Some things in life inspire tremendous enthusiasm and dedication in a huge number of people, while other people are happy to spectate.

    And to admire.

    That is part of the answer. Each of the 30 or so VO genres requires commendable qualities in a voice artist, but imagine how it must feel to do an admirable job as the voice of Ishmael in Moby Dick. As rewarding as it may be to make money by saying, “To continue in English, press 1,” or “Now on sale at BigBox,” there is some extra social reward in performing a book. It has the power to make your voice ... well ... immortal.

    10 Ways To Animate Your Animation Pitch or What Animation Voice Over Is Really About

    In the recent Edge Studio Weekly Script Reading Contest that ended on Friday, April 18, we were surprised to hear a lot of entrants making sound effects with their mouth. For example, the sound of hitting the ground when falling, or the noise of footsteps. That, of course, is not what voice over work in the Animation genre is about. Unless you’re directed otherwise, sound effects should be left to the engineer.

    It is about screaming “Yipes” (or whatever) when you are falling, or the huffing and puffing while making those footsteps. An animation pro (like Edge Studio coaches Jay Snyder and Noelle Romano) can integrate a series of such verbalizations as if they actually were running into a hippopotamus, reversing course, scampering up a tree and falling from its tippy-est branch into the hippo’s mouth. And out again.

    But knowing a vocally-produced sound effect from a character’s vocalization is a relatively little thing. Once you’re hip to the difference, you know it for a lifetime. Other animation skills, such as dubbing a foreign-language cartoon (Automated Dialogue Replacement or ADR) are also relatively easy to learn. And while becoming skilled at making those incidental vocalizations (the huffing, puffing, etc., which often are not specifically scripted) takes some practice, with experience, practice and planning you’ll be doing that, too, like an old pro.

    But to become that Old Pro, you need to land some animation jobs, right? What’s the key to landing them?

    Stand out.

    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.

    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.

    Defining your Voice Over “Type” and Finding your Niche

    Over the past year, a friend of mine has been investing in the stock market. He’s been doing quite well – because he has a pretty simple rule: he only buys stock when he understands exactly what the company does, and how their product is useful in the real world. If the company’s product description is vague (what is “consulting,” really?), he stays away.

    This got me thinking about the relationship between voice actors and potential clients. Are we losing clients by being too vague with our own “product description”?

    Successful marketing is all about convincing a client that what you offer is a perfect match for what they need. Yet, in fear of missing out on opportunities, we try to be all things to all people. We present ourselves as generic “all-purpose” voices. The result is that our marketing is equally generic … and clients can’t easily tell that we have the specific skills they want.

    Consider, for example, how the audition sites Voice123.com and Voices.com have been fine-tuning their search parameters: actors who upload genre-specific demos and tag them with client-friendly keywords are rewarded with more auditions and higher rankings in client searches. In other words, if your narration demo is simply tagged “narration,” it won’t show up in as many search results as a demo that is tagged “corporate, warm, trustworthy.” If the system can’t tell what you offer, it won’t know what auditions to put in your inbox! Beef up your profile with specifics on your vocal age range, styles (perky mom, corporate trainer, casual best friend), and tones (friendly, sympathetic, wry, sincere, etc.). These same descriptors need to be on your website, and ideally will be reflected in the overall look of your logo and website design.

    Details Define Da Game

    I recently had my eyes opened -- to roughly the size of a high-quality porcelain 6½-inch diameter Micasa Infinity Band saucer.

    This socket-popping moment came after a lunch meeting with the senior sound designer at a major game developer in the Seattle area.

    Our discussion involved putting on a workshop for students interested in performing characters for Animation/Games. We figured it should also describe how casting for these projects have evolved over time.

    It’s become a challenging field for all involved, including its voice actors. For starters, this particular company hires only union talent, which right there narrows the field to actors with a certain degree of experience, training and skill.

    Add to THAT the trend of using famous names and celebrities to voice high-profile games, and the competition gets kicked up yet another notch.

    Today’s goal in game casting? It’s to convincingly portray “reality” in fantasy … be it the way game players interact with each other, or the characters’ cinematic dialogue, or shredding your larynx to emit battle cries, exertion sounds, and death by falling, explosion and the ever popular incineration.

    The degree to which game developers go in achieving such realism is staggering. In just ONE weapon alone, there can be as many as a thousand individual sounds. Each bullet fired needs to sound different from the one before it. Sound designers also manipulate how that particular gun sounds from three feet away, after you’ve handed it to your buddy in the game. And how it sounds in various sized rooms, and outdoors.

    That’s just for ONE weapon.

    I also learned there’s an approach called the “Super Session” -- where a talent spends up to six hours in the booth, rather than two separate four-hour sessions.

    Know Your Voice

    In a recent ”Talk Time” discussion, one of the participants asked, "I keep hearing 'know your voice.' What does that mean?” I thought it was a terrific question, so I'd like to offer some thoughts on it. ”Know your voice” can be interpreted several ways, and they’re all valid.

    For me, the most obvious interpretation involves being familiar with your range across the different vocal components (such as volume, tempo and pitch), and being able to control it.

    Another take on it could be that of identifying where in the industry your voice and delivery have the most natural fit.

    A third interpretation could include having an understanding of how your voice typically affects listeners; what others sense in your voice when you speak.

    In any case, our ultimate goal in voice over is to connect with the audience by delivering memorable, meaningful reads with natural personality, conversational ease, and appropriate emotion and energy. We tend to achieve this -- with the least effort -- when we are confident and comfortable.

    So where do consistent confidence and comfort come from? Knowing your voice.

    To start getting acquainted with your vocal range, there are some basic exercises and activities that you can do. For example, with volume, tempo, and pitch, most people can pretty easily identify three different levels they have:

    VOLUME: 1-quiet, 2-normal, 3-loud

    TEMPO: 1-slow, 2-normal, 3-fast

    PITCH (that is, the contrast between the low and high pitches you use): 1-little change (monotone), 2-normal, 3-a lot of change

    Getting Rid of the Ghosts of Christmas Past

    It seems that each year it’s hard to believe that Christmas has come and gone. Whether you celebrate or not, this time of year is a turning event for many. It is the time we create goals and reflect on the past.

    Instead of talking about the future today, I’d like to reflect on the past. My incredible assistant, and fellow voice talent, John Harris, suggested this topic, and I think it is most fitting. Many of us dwell on what isn’t, instead of focusing on what could be. It’s so easy for us as a society to blame, make excuses and focus on the negatives that set us back. I tend to focus on the positive, and this isn’t always easy. There is always something or someone getting in the way of your success. Most importantly, you!

    I encourage you to reflect on what you’ve done this year to create success for yourself, and to flesh out what has held you back. Many of us hold finances accountable for slow progression. Whether it’s investing in coaching, demos, equipment, marketing or branding, we are all forced to put significant money and a ton of time into our craft. There are many out there who truly can’t afford to invest further to obtain more productive results, and so they stop investing. But isn’t that the same as saying, “I can’t afford the schooling to be a lawyer, so I’m just gonna wing it?” It’s interesting that if we pursue a conventional career or trade, we make whatever efforts are needed, so we can accomplish the degree or certification that allows us to draw an income from that profession ... yet with Voice Acting, people assume that all they need is a voice and some equipment, and they will just make it work.

    A Holiday Message

    Happy Holidays!

    It’s been an exciting year. With the voice over industry booming, will you find time to enjoy the holiday season? Probably yes, because the end of December and early January are normally (or shall we say “traditionally”?) a little slower.

    But just because incoming work slows down a little bit, there is no reason your work should slow down. Use this time to build your VO business in so many ways:

    * Work on training

    * Practice, practice, practice (and listen, listen, listen)

    * Evaluate/update your demos

    * Learn more about your software and enhance your editing skills

    * Improve your studio’s sound quality

    * Train your ears by listening to other voice over performers

    * Develop your self-promotion

    So enjoy the season, and if incoming auditions and projects slow down, consider it a good thing. Don’t be concerned – the VO industry picks up in mid-January.

    We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season, and terrific success in 2014!

    Season’s Greetings,

    David Goldberg

    Chief Edge Officer

    For more information about David Goldberg or any other Edge Studio instructor, please call our office at 888-321-3343 or click here.

    Losing a Voice-Over Job – Making the Proverbial Lemonade Out of a Sour Experience

    Job Loss Gumbo


    • 1 Project
    • 1 Director
    • 5 Clients
    • 1 Talent
    • 1 Engineer
    • 1 Amateur script

    The results of this recipe always change – so you must prepare yourself and be willing to accept the outcome. Luckily, the outcome of a job loss can actually be successful. (Which is good, because I much prefer writing recipes for success.)

    At the time it may be hard to see how job growth can emerge from a voice actor’s worst nightmare, but really there is no other good way to take on this experience.

    Let me assure you that it’s not a matter of “if” you lose a job; it’s a matter of “when.” How you handle the outcome either makes you or breaks you. I can give you story after story of talent, from newbies to pros, losing projects. Some people let it get the better of them. I’m hoping to help you get through this experience. The most important thing is to realize you are not alone.

    The bottom line is that we CAN’T please everyone. We never will. We are not perfect, and as hard as you may try, you never will be. If you enter this craft, you enter it with the need to either please or be appreciated, so when you are not able to accomplish this, it can really make you second guess whether you are cut out for this industry or not.

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