Voice Over Education Blog

Voiceover

How a radio producer looks at VO talent for radio commercials.


A point we may not make often enough in our Edge-ucation blog is that Edge Studio, in addition to being a leading coaching entity, was originally and still is very much a production studio. From our large multi-booth production facility in Manhattan and in various other locations around the country (along with remote recording), we record for every VO genre. That experience and insight is one of the many reasons we excel at coaching and education, and why we're able to legitimately hire many of our former students.

Like parents thinking of their children, we would hesitate to pick our favorite genre. But if we had to, Radio would surely be on our short list. That means commercials, celebrity interviews, promos, imaging (branding), all that. Some years ago we wrote an article explaining why Radio offers virtually unlimited creative opportunity. It was aimed at various advertisers who bypass the production studio (and producer) to have their spots done by the local radio station. There's a strong case to be made that producing at Edge Studio will make a commercial better, more advertiser-specific, more persuasive and memorable.

But that article is on the Production section of our website, so readers of our Edge-ucation blog might not encounter it. Talent, too, can learn a lot from its perspective. So here it is:

IN VOICE-OVER, RADIO KNOWS NO BOUNDS!

Some people think you can’t do as much with radio voice-overs as you can with visual media such as TV and Internet commercials. They’re wrong. Whereas a visual medium is limited to what you can show, radio is limited to anything you can imagine. And it's helped along by sound effects (SFX) and music.

We love it. Radio is a veritable playground.

The VO Announcer still exists! Should you market it?


Like diners and bowling alleys, some things seem to never need updating. Like the classic VO Announcer style. Yep, it's still used. Just very infrequently. When is the "announcer voice" or its cousin, the "DJ sound" appropriate? And should you include it on your demo? Our answer to that is, "It depends."

By "announcer" voice, we mean the old style of read that was popular into the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Think Laugh-In's Gary Owens (with his finger in his ear), and all the other "voice of God" talent, along with DJs who did voiceovers, such as Dan Ingram and Ted Brown. Also note the distinction between the prototypical "golden-throat announcer" and the stereotypical "DJ." The latter is an artificial voice, often constrained and full of hype, whereas the announcer is simply the deep voice (usually a man, but sometimes a husky-sounding woman, like Sally Kellerman), sounding beautiful, and relatively devoid of emotion.

Where is this called for these days?

Obviously, any script that parodies those days would be a candidate. So would a scene that calls for the voice of authority – especially if things are exaggerated, as they might be in a cartoon. Think William Conrad narrating Rocky and his Friends.

Movie trailers are another genre where a rich, sonorous voice might predominate. In particular, the style of the late Don LaFontaine. On his passing, many in the industry asked, "who will replace him?" As it turned out, the answer has often been "no one." Some movie trailers these days have no narration – just an artful combination of selected scenes, with music. It's unlikely that we'll see a return to the jabbermouth trailer style of the 1960s (where an announcer talked almost incessantly, explaining what the movie was about), but who knows?

Voice-over is a fun business. Listen to these hilarious clips.


We know, we know. Not every voice-over job is fun. 80% of a successful voiceover business is business. And, although some are literally a laugh a minute (e.g., some animation work), many other assignments are mundane standardized work (for example, some tasks in Telephony, or even some types of commercials). And while we might argue that there is "fun" to be found in any job well done, there are variations in that aspect, too – just as there is a difference between manufacturing hundreds of bedroom cabinets vs. handcrafting an elegant dining room table.

But at the end of the day, comes ... the end of the day. Looking back toward morning, and back on your career, isn't it more fun than processing license plate applications at the DMV?

What's more, as promised, are some aspects of the voice-over world that are a LOT more fun than that ...

Voice actors get together. One nice thing about the voice-over industry is that everyone isn't in competition with everyone else. There are so many VO genres (29 or so, depending on how we define them), and so many nuances and specialties within them, that we freely exchange tips and knowledge in good-natured sessions. There are phone-in sessions like Edge Studio's weekly Talk Time!
There are workshops and industry conferences (such as VO Atlanta), and other get-togethers, remotely or in-person. These generally are serious get-togethers where people aim to further their business of VO skills, but there's no denying that they are usually also a lot of fun.

We have audio and video podcasts and blogs. It’s yet another situation where you can indulge in fun conversation. Or at least eavesdrop.

Heck, we even enjoy it when certain voice actors are not so funny. Or didn't mean to be. Ever heard an out-takes reel?

Voice-over is a fun business. Listen to these hilarious clips.


We know, we know. Not every voice-over job is fun. 80% of a successful voiceover business is business. And, although some are literally a laugh a minute (e.g., some animation work), many other assignments are mundane standardized work (for example, some tasks in Telephony, or even some types of commercials). And while we might argue that there is "fun" to be found in any job well done, there are variations in that aspect, too – just as there is a difference between manufacturing hundreds of bedroom cabinets vs. handcrafting an elegant dining room table.

But at the end of the day, comes ... the end of the day. Looking back toward morning, and back on your career, isn't it more fun than processing license plate applications at the DMV?

What's more, as promised, some aspects of the voice-over world are a LOT more fun than that. ...

Voice actors get together. One nice thing about the voice-over industry is that everyone isn't in competition with everyone else. There are so many VO genres (29 or so, depending on how we define them), and so many nuances and specialties within them, that we freely exchange tips and knowledge in good-natured sessions. There are phone-in sessions like Edge Studio's weekly Talk Time!
There are workshops and industry conferences (such as VO Atlanta), and other get-togethers, remotely or in-person. These generally are serious get-togethers where people aim to further their business of VO skills, but there's no denying that they are usually also a lot of fun.

We have audio and video podcasts and blogs. It’s yet another situation where you can indulge in fun conversation. Or at least eavesdrop.

Heck, we even enjoy it when certain voice actors are not so funny. Or didn't mean to be. Ever heard an out-takes reel?

New and important information on VO topics we've covered.


Last summer we updated some of our past articles. Now that the new year is rolling, let's do that again. Here is updated and additional information on home voice-over studio equipment, recording software, hearing and vocal health, and more, including an insight on pencils.

Yes, pencils.

USB mics: Good enough for VO studios? (2 parts beginning Dec 1, 2017)

We compared various USB mics with traditional condensers. But there's more to know about buying and using a mic than that. Here are a couple points we left out, because they weren't directly relevant to the immediate subject. But they are directly relevant to you.

Missing Dick Orkin. He was everywhere, everywhere.


Among the voices lost in 2017 – except as recordings – were June Foray and Dick Orkin. Foray was known to the entire animation and voice industry. And to the multitude of people who didn't know her name, she was known as the voice of as Rocket J. Squirrel, Granny, and countless other characters.

Fewer knew the name Dick Orkin, but the listeners of 1,500 radio stations worldwide knew his voice as that of Chickenman. In addition to creating that and other hilarious radio spoofs, Orkin brought his brand of absurdly silly humor to all sorts of radio advertisers. The hall-of-famer's client list notably included otherwise serious concerns like Time Magazine and "more banks than you can imagine" – companies that until then weren't known to air funny spots. For all his listeners, he was as entertaining as Stan Freberg and Bob and Ray had been, and within our industry he was surely as influential.

Orkin died of a stroke on Christmas Eve at age 84. He had been powering down, but he was still writing and voicing occasional commercials at the tail end of his 69-year career.

Actually, the length of his career depends on when we start counting. Orkin began as a young announcer and News Director in Pennsylvania, but was trained as an actor early on, having attended Yale Drama School. The transitional moment was when he moved to KWY in Cleveland. (Cleveland was an especially funny town in those days, spawning also the likes of Tim Conway and Ernie Anderson) There, Orkin's work included voicing a character named "Amazon Ace" (apparently now lost in history). But it was when his Cleveland boss, Ken Draper, transformed Chicago's WCFL that we can really start counting.

Having brought Orkin to Chicago as Production Director, in 1966 Draper asked him to produce a spoof of the popular Batman TV series. The result instantly became history. (We mean to say, it was an instant hit and enjoys a wide cult following to this day.)

How do these 7 USB mics sound vs. popular non-USB mics? Part 2 of 2.


NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 1!

We always say, learning never ends. That's true of what we know about USB mics. They've gotten better. But are they ready yet for daily use in a professional VO recording studio? As we noted in Part One, in some circumstances, yes -- especially if the owner is just starting on a VO career. With the money you might save, you can invest in things that will have greater benefit to your sound.

But how do they stack up against each other? And can an expert really hear the difference between USB and conventional XLR?

Dan Friedman, one of Edge Studio's home studio consultants, oversaw a USB mic shootout, in which he evaluated USB mics' design and performance, and compared them to some non-USB mics.

Our friends at Sweetwater (a terrific microphone and voice-over equipment retailer) lent us five USB mics for testing (AudioTechnica 2020USBi, Sennheiser MK4 digital, Shure MV51, Blue Raspberry and Miktek ProCast System). In addition, Dan added two more USB mics (Apogee MiC and the Blue Yeti Pro). And for comparison, we also tested three comparably priced XLR (non-USB) Large Diaphragm Condenser (LDC) microphones (XLR BLUE Spark, Rode NT2A, and Studio Projects C1), along with a Sennheiser 416 short shotgun XLR, an industry standard. That's a total of 11 mics. We have 12 audio clips because two of the samples are from the same microphone with different vocal presets.

The XLR mics require an interface, so with them we used the Centrance MicPortPro preamp/interface. We chose the MicPortPro because USB mics are often preferred for travel, and this interface is compact enough for that.

When to call yourself a "voice actor," and why. Part 2 of 2.


NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 1!

As someone who performs voice-overs, what should you call yourself? In our last episode, we discussed various terms: announcer, voice-over, voice-over talent, voice talent, voice-over performer, voice-over artist, voice actor and others.

There is no standard definition for any of these terms, and no hard lines between them. But you should probably settle on calling yourself one or another. Your decision might be based on marketing, or simply on your frame of mind. It's up to you. In most cases, we prefer "voice-actor." Here's why ...

Did you miss last week's article? Click here to read last week's article — Are you a "voice actor," a "voice talent," a "voiceover" or what?.

To begin with, "actors" are what casting professionals generally seek.

Actors are versatile in role-playing, and skilled at expressing emotion. An actor can react to direction constructively, even artfully, adding unique qualities to the production. And except for voice acting and readings and such, an actor works without holding a script. Being able to read as if you're not voicing a script is, overall, what our profession is about – sounding natural, like you're simply talking. Even in a voice booth, talent often does better by not staring at the page.

One popular definition of acting is, "appearing real in an unreal situation." What is more unreal than being alone in a sound booth?

So, why not call yourself an actor?

Are you a "voice actor," a "voice talent," a "voiceover" or what? Part 1 of 2.


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

Some time ago, we discussed the issue of how to spell "voice-over," and concluded that, except maybe for Search Engine Optimization reasons, it doesn't much matter, as long as you're consistent. And that the SEO reasons are diminishing and secondary.

But what about "voice actor" and these similar descriptions of people at the mic? It's more than a question of spelling. Is there a functional and/or industry distinction between a "voice talent," "voice actor," "voice-over artist" and other variations? Does it matter what you call yourself and what you do?

Yes and no.

There's no hard dividing line between any of these terms. Each is just a slightly different shading of the others. Yet, each has certain connotations, which might be important to you and/or to potential clients. Consider it a matter of "positioning," in a marketing sense, or as your personal mindset. Or both.

Announcer. This is on the list because it's the traditional term, still found on many scripts. But, although a traditional "announcer" style involves certain qualities and skills (and is not necessarily bombastic or stylized), it's not what professional casting people generally want today. They usually want more than a perfect voice and clear speech. They want authenticity (which we'll talk more about, below.) Unless your target is broadcasting or stadium PA work and such, calling yourself simply an "announcer" limits your employment opportunities.

Turn print text into VO demo scripts in yet more genres. Part 4 of 4.


NOTE: This is the fourth post in a 4-part series. Click here to start at Part 1! Click here to start at Part 2! Click here to start at Part 3!

In this series, we've looked at the various parts of a print ad, and which of them can be used in a Commercials demo script. Then we looked at the process of cutting a script for time. And last week, we showed how to convert print copy into demo copy for Narration, Explainers and Telephony. Can you also do this for Animation and Games, or Corporate Narration, or even Museum Tours? Let's see ...

This process works for almost any genre. Sometimes the difference is in the type of source material, and what you pull from it. Here are three more, just for example.

Writing Animation and Game characters

SOURCE:

  • Reader's Digest
    http://www.rd.com/jokes/funny-stories/


    “I got asked about punctuality. I went on about how it was good to speak clearly and politely, and it was nice to use proper grammar in speech and writing.”

SCRIPT:

    Ask me anything. I know about periods, and commas, and semicolons. I'm the champion at a madcap dash. You wanna hear me use an exclamation point!?? Yessiree, I know everything there is to know about punctuality.

NOTE: In telling a joke, it's usually best to put the "surprise/payoff" word last. So we moved the reference to "punctuality."

Can you turn print copy into a VO demo script for any genre? Part 3 of 4.


NOTE: This is the third post in a 4-part series. Click here to start at Part 1! Click here to start at Part 2! Click here to read Part 4!

Previously, we demonstrated how to turn a print ad into copy for a radio or TV commercial, and how to cut it down to the mere 5-10 seconds you'd want for your demo. You can start with almost any decent print text, such as a magazine ad, a brochure, information in an encyclopedia, corporate training manual – whatever seems interesting, well suited to you, and right for the genre you're demo-ing. You'll also want to have some variety in your collection of clips.

How can you do this with any genre? How do they differ? Let's take a look at turning various types of print copy into an explainer, corporate presentation, a telephony script, or whatever you need.

First, decide what type of information would be typical of the genre you're aiming at. Then think broadly. What kind of work would you like to do? And what would show you in your best light?

There are two differences between a Commercials demo and most other genres.

VO professionals' tips from Edge Studio's Tips Jar at WoVOCon


Our business is a wonderful combination of communication skills and the arts, with a strong sense of community and professional relationships. True of almost any business, but especially in our line of work, people realize that by helping others, they help themselves.

So at WoVOCon last month, we put out a "Tips Jar," inviting people to contribute whatever gems of advice or inspiration they have for their fellow voice-artists. We were very excited to receive so many VO tips, and here we'll share them ...

While we're at it, a further thank-you. We had a great time at WoVOCon, not the least as we served coffee and tea at the Edge Studio Cafe. In an industry that requires us to spend so much time behind the scenes, we are grateful for opportunities that enable people to step forward and come together.

As we observed awhile back, in our article A Strategic Approach to Voice-over Industry Networking, face-to-face conversation is important for a variety of reasons, including:

  • By connecting with other voice-over talent, you may eventually be referred for a job that another voice actor isn't right for, or doesn't have time for.
  • Almost anyone might have an eventual opportunity.
  • Being at events demonstrates that you’re a committed professional.
  • Visibility makes you more than just another name in their address book.

So you might recognize some of the names, faces and voices of the people below. They're in random order. Help yourself!

From the Edge Studio Voice-Over Tips Jar

Learning never ends: Updates to some of our past articles


The voice-over world is ever-changing. So is the world at large, and it's time we updated some of the things we've written. Some of the news is fun, some of it is just "different." And some might even be a bit disturbing. For example, your receptivity level might vary depending on whether you're retrieving voice mail or getting paid to voice it.

Who voices illegal robocalls? Should you remove certain telemarketers from your list? (3 parts beginning April 17, 2015)

Illegal automated "robocalls" continue to be a "scourge" (the word used by new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai), with 2.4 BILLION robocalls to Americans every MONTH. We still have not found anyone who knows who voices recorded calls that are placed illegally, nor determined whether those voice artists are aware at the time that their performance will be used in violation of FTC rules. But we have found that some of the measures we mentioned do a passable job of minimizing junk calls and annoying rings for consumers. One of our staffers uses NoMoRobo.com, which – when it detects a known robocall -- rings your phone only once. Some slip through, but most are caught. There are also other services and apps of that sort for call block and/or reporting.

In addition, since our original series on this, the FCC has given permission to telephone service providers to integrate such filters into their services if their customer requests. For details, check with your friendly phone company.

On Excellence in voice-over. Do you dare to push yourself?


These days, it seems everyone is a social media journalist, and there are more in the way of impressive wits, commentators and analysts than you may have thought existed. The same with photography – many of our non-professional photographer friends have an excellent photographic “eye.” In fact, there is a lot of excellent work to be found in many endeavors that today’s technology has opened to wide participation.

So it is, too, with voice-over. The technology is widely available, and quality voice artists abound. That’s good, because it strengthens clients’ understanding and appreciation of our work. But there is also an abundance of marginally adequate talent, because our industry requires more than talent and a bit of technology. It requires the ability to apply one’s aptitude, and that requires voice-over education and experience.

Where is the line between adequacy and excellence? Are you excellent enough to make the cut? And can you take pursuit of excellence too far?

What constitutes “excellence” in the voice-over business, anyway? Surprise! It does not mean “perfection.”

In some fields (brain surgery and astronautics come to mind), perfection must be the norm. But who can say absolutely what constitutes a “perfect” vocal performance? Virtually any script is open to interpretation, invention and creative choices. Excellence may therefore be defined as whatever pleases both the client and the listener.

Unfortunately, some clients are too easily pleased. This might be because, in some genres, more time, money or effort put into a production might not yield a comparable increase in sales or results. Or sometimes the client is not a professional producer or judge of talent. Or they’re the boss of an enterprise, focused on other aspects of their business, and don’t give audio scripting and production the respect it deserves.

Are you addicted to voice-over training?


An Edge Studio student of voice-over asked us, “Is it possible to become addicted to training?” Wow, what a good question. We don’t mean, “Are you addicted” in the way that you’d answer “yes, they’re always fun!” This time we mean, are you so addicted to the point that you don’t let go and take the next step, which is to start your VO business?

It would not be professional for us to say, “No, keep taking all the courses you can.” In fact, it would not be correct, and there are a number of reasons why:

As Edge Studio founder David Goldberg told that student:

“Certainly some voice actors become addicted to coaching sessions,” he said. “Coaching at the beginning of your career is absolutely necessary for learning standard industry practices, preparing your personal capabilities, and building your voice-over business. But once you’ve learned, it’s time to cut the link, because voice actors ultimately need to do this on their own.”

Why do some people hang onto coaching too long? And when is the right time to stop for awhile?

Timidity.

Given the word “addicted,” we also spoke with a clinical psychologist, Bennett Pologe, Ph.D. (He is also an actor, currently recording the audiobook version of his book, “Stop Lying: Getting Un-lost and Un-stuck in Your Life.”)

“People cling to lessons, coaches, therapists, et cetera beyond the time when they're still learning,” said Dr. Pologe, “simply because it's a bit scary to go out and be on your own, without a net ... without asking the teacher ‘is that ok?’. That applies to anything, but especially something as personal and difficult to quantify as voice acting.”

Acting classes for voice-overs: Beyond the introduction. Part 2 of 2.


NOTE: This is the second post in a 2-part article. Click here to read part 1!

Are you an established voice artist? Is it time for you to become a voice actor? Even if a lot of the jobs you’ve been doing can be properly described as voice acting, there’s always something more you could learn. The added experience could be helpful. It’s sure to be interesting. And if you choose the right teacher, school or studio, it will ultimately be fun.

How should you go about it?

If you haven’t yet read Part One of this discussion, please do that now. Like most things educational, you learn better if you understand what you’re trying to learn and why. You’ll benefit from getting a proper introduction to acting before you really dive in.

In fact, rather than formally pursuing acting further, you might decide instead to broaden your foundation to include voice and speech training, or singing. Or consider adding another genre to your skillset, or working with a business coach to develop a particular specialty that is not genre-specific. All these skills are useful in expanding your voice-over capabilities.

But let’s assume you’ve had an introduction to acting, or some experience in school , and you want to take it further. What should you look for in an acting curriculum or teacher?

Ask around. The best sources are working actors who know you and have had a variety of experience themselves. By all means, ask your VO coach, vocal coach or other people you work with. Agents are another good source (if you don’t waste their time), even if not your own. Check out your candidates online, and if you can, talk to their more experienced students.

Building your voice-over career is like building your body


So, there we were in a waiting room – waiting – and the choice of reading material was Boring Stuff Monthly and Men’s Health. Already bored, and always seeking to better ourselves personally, we thumbed through Men’s Health. And, glorioski, there among ads for power powders and articles about tightening your whatevers, was an article about improving your performance in voice-over!

Well, not exactly. The article was about body workouts. But although the editors at Men’s Health didn’t know it, their guide was also important to all VO professionals, whatever gender.

The numbered headers are from the article. The rest of the text is ours.

1. Quit obsessing over how you look.

Stop obsessing over how you sound. By and large, casting people and VO clients are not looking for gorgeous voices. To paraphrase the tunafish commercial, “They don’t want people who sound good, they want people who communicate good.” (Pardon our fractured English there.) Your voice should be pleasant (truly obnoxious sounds are rarely desired, even for an obnoxious character), but how you say a line is more important than just how you sound. There is much to be said for technique, but above all, first of all, especially when you’re starting out ... just talk. Don’t feel you have to sound like a voice-over, an actor, a great voice, full voice, or anything that you don’t sound like in everyday conversation. That’s especially important when you’re starting out. But with many people it’s just the opposite. Something in the subconscious makes them come across at least a little bit affected. And they finally learn to ignore that impulse only later in their new career.

The more important obsessions are: Are you understandable? Do you sound motivated? Are you motivating? Do you know what you’re talking about? Are you being natural?

How to use peripheral vision in reading voice-over copy


Did you know that 99% of our vision is peripheral? It is, if we define “peripheral” as the part that we don’t see sharply, the part not captured by the central part of the retina called the “fovea.” The structure of the eye is such that the only truly sharp part would be like a large coin in the middle of a big, wide-screen TV. We see the “big picture” sharply because the eye moves around, incredibly quickly, and the brain pieces the sharp parts together in a way that would make Photoshop jealous. It’s a good thing to know. Because by expanding your peripheral vision, you can expand your ability to read copy, in several ways.

In everyday life, increasing your peripheral vision has been touted as a way to improve many things, from increasing your reading speed to combating the effect of aging on your vision. We’ll leave it to you to peruse such discussions online. Beware, peripheral vision may also be used as a way to sell software for improving it, which we haven’t evaluated and some of which might be rather dubious. (For example, although speed-reading techniques appear to work for some people, they may not work for everyone, or at least not to the same extent.)

But there are some ways to use and enhance your peripheral vision when it comes to VO.

Since we started this discussion in the literal, physiological sense, let’s stick with that. How can you use and even enhance your peripheral vision when reading copy?

Stage, screen and voice acting. How do they differ? Part 1 of 2.


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

Every actor should understand that there are significant differences between acting on stage and acting to camera. And probably every trained actor does. Similarly, there are differences between either of those forms and voice acting – where it’s just you and the microphone.

Those differences are not so widely known, among even experienced actors. Generally speaking, acting for the screen (whether it be silver, TV or computer) is more like voice acting than stage acting is. But among the three, the differences and similarities extend in three directions. Let’s take a look.

Use of voice. A stage actor, whether the theater is large or small, must project to be heard by everyone in the audience. Distance and theater acoustics also require extremely clear enunciation. Suspending disbelief, the audience quickly perceives it as “normal” speech, but it’s anything but, even when speaking in “hushed” tones or using a mic. On-camera, the actor, truly does use a normal speaking voice. In fact, some very accomplished film actors are known for scenes in which they speak more softly than a person normally would. It increases dramatic tension, but if, for example, you were really speaking to someone across the table from you in a noisy diner, you might normally speak a bit louder. In voice acting, generally, you speak exactly as you would in real life, talking to one person standing near you in a quiet room. A "full voice" is sometimes used, but generally, it's limited to animation, or commercial characters and other situations that call for a “cartoony” or stereotyped voice, or a historical representation.

Audiobooks or printed books: One better than the other?


The Audiobooks genre continues to grow by leaps and bounds. While printed book sales recently dropped for several years in a row (they’ve more recently picked up by a few percentage points, but not enough to have fully recovered), and e-book sales have fluctuated in inverse proportion, the audiobook market has been booming. Why? Because busy people like listening to audiobooks of all types – fiction, non-fiction, how-to, whatever. What does that say about us as a society? And does it say anything about our brains?

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) reports that audiobook downloads increased by more than 38% in 2015 -- about 2.9 million downloads. Membership at the audiobook publisher Audible.com grew 40% (year on year). That’s 1.6 billion hours of audio content (vs. 1.2 a year earlier), according to Tracey Markham, Audible’s country manager in an article by CNBC.

Globally, the audiobook industry is valued at 2.8 billion dollars. In 2015, 43,000 new audiobooks were released. Two years earlier, the number was just 20,000.

Distribution follows various models. The publisher of Scholastic Audio has said, “The traditional audio customer will find your titles wherever you offer them.” To target the non-traditional audio user and first-time audiobook customers, publishers have added new models, such as subscriptions, bundling, and sampling.

Splat Fact: Jack Riley was very funny and a very nice guy.


You may know Jack Riley’s voice as the father Stu Pickles on Rugrats and All Grown Up! Or his face as the sour patient Elliot Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show (the 70s one, although Riley also appeared on the later one), or from countless other TV shows, films and commercials. Jack passed away last week, of pneumonia at the age of 80. For decades, his voice was so much a part of the entertainment world; the air will sound a little different without him.

Riley’s career started in Cleveland radio. Well, no, really he started by being drafted into the army, where he toured military bases in comedy shows worldwide. It was after getting out of the army that he became one of the many popular air personalities and funny people that Cleveland radio turned out in those days. (Among them: Alan Freed, Tim Conway, Dick Orkin, and Jim Runyon. Don Imus also passed through.) He and his comedy partner Jeff Baxter peppered their show with sketches and voiced a variety of unusual characters.

When Tim Conway moved to Hollywood, Riley followed in 1965, on the promise that Conway would find him work writing comedy sketches. Soon Riley was finding his own work as an actor, plenty of it, including a semi-regular role on the short-lived sitcom Occasional Wife, and he often appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, sometimes as Lyndon Johnson.

He appeared in 49 episodes of The Bob Newhart Show. Making psychology patients the subject of humor could have been awkward or offensive. But thanks to the direction and the actors’ skill, quirks, and (in the Carlin character’s case), dry, disarming manner, we could laugh without guilt. (Nevertheless, real psychologists of the day noted something wrong with that show: Nobody ever got cured.)

Indeed, Carlin went on to reprise the Carlin character, or someone like him, in the later Newhart show, on St. Elsewhere, and other programs.

“Voice Messages”: Film-in-progress has interesting voice


Every voice, trained or not, is powerful. The voice has been said to be humankind’s most effective tool. Six-time Emmy™ Award winner Martin Zied is making a film about it.

Fascinated by the emotional power and beauty of the human voice since childhood, Zied has worked with a wide range of voices in his career, both as a singer in various choral genres, and as a producer, director and writer. For his film he has interviewed vocal stars and authorities ranging from Linda Ronstadt to otolaryngologist Robert Sataloff. He is currently filming further material, hopefully for release in summer 2017. And let us add – above the fold – that he welcomes financial contributors to the cause.

Zied became enamored of the human voice when, as a third grader, he heard a sixth-grader sing in a school production and was literally moved to tears. Embarrassed at the time, he later realized that it was the sweetness of that tenor voice itself that had had such effect. Most people rarely think about voices (if at all), but from that point, Zied was hooked on voices.

His documentary has a broad field of focus, spanning aspects of singing, speaking, science, sociology and history in examining the human voice’s power and beauty.

“It’s about all the ways in which we use our voice,” says Zied. “We use it to soothe our children, we use it when we’re angry, we use when we would like to be seductive, we use it to sing and entertain. The film also covers the sociology and biology of the voice and how it ages. So there’s a lot of information about why your voice might sound old (so to speak), and ways in which you may be able to maintain a healthy voice throughout your entire life.”

Yet, sometimes even the best and most of care, a voice can falter. Readers may be aware that Linda Ronstadt has lost her singing voice to Parkinson’s Disease. Zied says that eventually she will lose even her ability to speak.

There's audiobook narrators, and then there's Johnny Heller


I love audiobook narrators.

In my voice-over travels, I have never met a more talented, dedicated, caring group of people. They are extremely generous when it comes to sharing their time & insight with authors and fellow narrators. There are online groups dedicated to asking questions both artistic and technical as well as sharing war stories, triumphs, and challenges in the audiobook narrator community. Barely a minute goes by before a post is answered with thought and consideration. It makes me proud to be an audiobook narrator.

And then there’s Johnny Heller.

Johnny, as my mother would put it, is a mensch. And mishpachah.

In other words, he’s a good man and part of my family. Not just the audiobook family or the Edge Studio family, but my Sunday dinner please-don’t-swipe-my-crescent-roll family.

Don’t get me wrong; he’s a feisty son of gun who always speaks his mind and never spares the rod. That makes the audiobook industry love him all the more for his candor, his wisdom, and his unique sense of humor. Among his many contributions (500+ titles narrated, multiple Audies & Earphone Awards, his "For The Hell Of It” blog, and esteemed Edge Studio coach) is his modestly titled “Johnny Heller 2nd Annual Splendiferous Workshop.”

This year’s Johnny Heller 2nd Annual Splendiferous Workshop, or JWASH2 as I like to call it, was held at Chicago’s East/West University on Monday, May 9th. Over 100 aspiring and veteran audiobook narrators gathered to listen to some of the industry's best talent and coaches wax poetic, philosophic, and instructional.

William Schallert: Ordinary voice, extraordinary man


William Schallert passed away last week at age 93. Along with memorable roles as the TV father of Patty Duke and in Star Trek’s “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode, and steady TV, film and stage work over seven decades, he did a lot of voice-over. He was also President of the Screen Actors Guild at a time when the emergence of pay TV began shaking up the industry. He remained active as an actor and union officer into his nineties.

Although he played a goodly share of villains and other characters in comedic and serious roles, employing a range of accents and mannerisms that came to him rather readily, his go-to persona on screen and in the booth was “warm and friendly.” In VO, Bill Schallert was one of the classic yet ordinary “everyday” voices of male authority, a sort of TV father to us all.

“If I could play somebody’s dad,” he later reminisced, “I was home free.” But actually, he was a more complex actor and person than that.

Despite growing up in Los Angeles and being the son of the LA Times’ drama critic, Schallert said he “kind of stumbled into acting” when someone at a party asked him to read for a play. Schallert hadn’t thought he had much potential, as he didn’t resemble leading men like Tyrone Power or Robert Taylor. He was well received in that play (noting that the role was an old man, and that, with a lot of old people in his family, which included a German-accented grandmother and two alcoholics, he had familiar models to draw on). He informally studied acting at UCLA. During the war, stage facilities were scarce, so students worked in a new format -- theater-in-the-round. After WWII, he helped form LA’s Circle Theater, which Schallert later described as a “serious” theater (as opposed to an extension of acting instruction), something rare in LA in those days.

Perform like a pro, in more than your VO performance.


What goes into being a voice-over professional? An obvious answer is, “training in voice-over performance and lots of purposeful practice.” But that’s far from a complete answer. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Being a true pro means performing professionally in every respect, from the way you get work, to the way you bill your services and the way you help your clients all in-between. Professional voice performance is just part of all that.

If you’ve taken even just Edge Studio’s introductory course, you understand that voice-over performance isn’t only a matter of reading well or even good acting. Being a professional actor doesn’t automatically make you a voice-over pro.

VO professionals have specialized knowledge and capabilities. Professionalism entails everything from knowing the specialized jargon of our trade (“give me a pickup at ‘really,’ a wild trio on the call-to-action, and watch the sibilance”) to understanding the importance of enunciation and emotion, and how to achieve them without sounding artificial.

And as we said, that’s just the core.

Professionals are methodical and businesslike in prospecting for jobs. It’s all too easy to take the first jobs you encounter and then coast in that vein. When you’re starting out, it’s great to be working, even if it’s not using your full capabilities. And those relationships might grow. But some peter out, some never having reached a truly professional level, and as a result you find your business in a downward spiral.

Before you leave for a voice-over recording session ...


We recently wrote about what to take to a recording studio session. But except for a pencil, reading glasses and business cards, a lot of it was optional. In many ways, what you do before you leave is more important, and not so easily skipped. One of the most important factors is the avoidance of stress. Having a checklist and a regular regimen can help with that. Here’s a sensible routine to follow.

The night before, have a sensible dinner, with plenty of fluid. Skip alcohol, and especially avoid red wine. Whatever its long-term health effects, in the immediate term it can affect your voice. It could also cause you to wake up with a headache and/or nasal congestion. (Effects of red wine vs. white may vary by person.)

Get to bed on time and have a full night’s sleep.

When you wake, have a glass of water or two, and some more at regular periods. Give it time to hydrate your body, and you won’t be thirsty or waterlogged during the session.

Dress business casual, in soft materials (non-noisy, nothing stiff or crinkly). Polyester sometimes makes noise against itself, so soft cotton is best. Choose quiet, soft-soled shoes, and avoid jangling jewelry.

Read a bit, just a warmup, don’t wear out your voice.

Breakfast should be just enough to tide you over till lunch. But be sure to have it. No grumbling tummy, please! Avoid dairy products, spicy or acidic foods, alcohol and carbonated soda. Coffee and black tea are sometimes of concern. Herbal tea might be best.

Brush your teeth, floss and mouthwash. Shower but avoid perfume or scented deoderant, etc. You’ll be better appreciated (or at least not unfavorably noticed) by those who share the mic or come after you.

Fill your reusable water bottle and close tightly.

Do you have a voice-over studio “go bag”?


You can enjoy a very nice voice-over career without ever leaving your home studio, but plenty of jobs are still recorded at commercial voice-over studios. (We know, because we are one, and our studios are very active.) What should you take to one? Newspeople keep a packed bag by the door in case of far-off breaking news. Voice-over talent should have a bag ready in case of a hurry-up day-trip. Or at least this list...

NOTE: Before taking any medicinal measure, or if you have persistent vocal fatigue, sore throat, dryness, hoarseness or cough, consult your doctor without delay.

Here’s just about everything we can think of that might come in handy at a studio, that might not already be there. You do NOT need to stock up on everything, just use your common sense and what you know about yourself. Above all, Rule Number One is probably “Don’t be late.” So if you don’t have something on this list, don’t waste time trying to find it. Just grab a sharp pencil, the studio’s address and phone number, and go! But hopefully this will help that from ever being an issue.

Studio Go-Bag Contents

Pencil and eraser. These are for markup and script changes. You’ll often need to revise them, so pencil is the way to go. Either bring a bunch of them pre-sharpened, or a mechanical pencil with extra leads. In fact, it’s good to have a spare or two even of those, in case the mechanism fails or the lead is in pieces. A medium-thick lead will hold up better under both kinds of pressure, and might be easier to read. As for the eraser, get a fresh one from time to time (they tend to harden after awhile), to make it erases cleanly.

Pen. For contracts, notes and whatever.

Highlighter. Optional, and not erasable, but some people like to mark scripts this way.

Reading glasses or bifocals. You may need to see the both the copy and the engineer, director or client.

The Language of Dubbing


Dubbing isn’t the most active, populated VO genre, but with the continuing impact of electronic communications, expanding genres, and international markets, it’s more relevant than ever. Or at least, more relevant since the early days of Talkies, when dubbing was its original heyday. Some dubbing terminology dates back that far, some is new. And some (surprise!) have been replaced.

ADR (Automatic Dialog Replacement, Automated Dialog Replacement, Additional Dialog Recording) – The words behind the acronym vary because the objectives and methods vary. But essentially this is the modern version of what was originally called “looping.” A short segment of film (or video) is looped, to repeat again and again. The actor speaks the line until able to say it exactly in synch. Using this technique, only about a dozen lines can be recorded per hour.

Rythmo Band – No, this has nothing do with R&B musicians. It’s a technology where the script and various vocal cues (e.g., laughs, breaths, lip smacks, whatever) scroll in synch with the video. This enables the actor to record many more lines per hour, but takes a lot more time to prepare, so acceptance of this process varies.

Job– This means the same thing in Dubbing as in any genre. But the nature of the jobs varies. Sometimes the original production is in another language. Sometimes it’s because the background was noisy. Or the script was changed, or the actor mumbled, or has the wrong voice or accent, or ... well, there are a lot of opportunities.

Lip flap – Lip movement. When dubbing, your words should match the movements of the original dialog. Sometimes it calls for skillful revision of the script. Sometimes it involves the actor adding various non-verbal sounds such as “um,” or “eh” or a grunt, in a natural-sounding way.

Remembering Stan Freberg: “Are we going to go out on that?”


The United States’ recent celebration of Independence Day was exciting as usual, but also a reminder of the passing of Stan Freberg last April 7, at age 88. Among Freberg’s many contributions to popular culture was a hilarious, Broadway-worthy LP entitled “The History of the United States of America, Volume 1 (the Early Years).” It’s a classic, but hardly his whole legacy. A self-described “guerrilla satirist,” Freberg was influential in the voice acting and advertising communities, in so many ways. He voiced cartoon characters. He lampooned popular culture and political issues on hit 45’s and radio. He was an original practitioner (some say the inventor) of the humorous, even satirical TV commercial, bulldozing ground broken by Bob and Ray. And his humor, timing and voice-acting style influenced the likes of Jim Henson, Harry Shearer, Weird Al Yankovic, Penn Jillette, and George Carlin (and countless personality DJs).

Stan Freberg began his comedic development doing cartoon character voices for Warner Brothers, working with Mel Blanc and other greats. Some readers may recall a largely improvisational hand-puppet program in the very early days of TV, called Time for Beanie. (Not to be confused with the later animated version.) It featured a seasick sea serpent named Cecil. Freberg co-created the show and voiced Cecil and other characters. That’s already impressive for a guy barely out of high school, but had his career ended there, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

Next stop: Hit comedy records.

Focus on the sound, not on the tool: Gate terminology and how to use it.


We recently encountered someone who’s been using gating terminology exactly backwards. Yet, from their perspective they were using it “correctly,” and have been for a number of years. (Luckily, they are an user of audio processing, not a tech coach!) Once we sorted it out, it was interesting to see the logic behind their misunderstanding. It turned out to be a lesson that goes far beyond the mechanics of noise reduction. It reflects a principle of good production overall.

To get everyone up to speed, let’s define what an audio-processing “gate” is:

A gate is an audio-processing tool that eliminates noise between words. It does this by allowing louder sounds (such as your voice) to be heard, and softer sounds to be silenced. Using the gate’s one main adjustment, called a "threshold," you set the level between your softest wanted sound (such as the very end of a word) and the loudest unwanted sound (such as room noise, computer fan, soft breaths, or low-level mouth clicks).

In the case of room tone, your first thought should be to eliminate or reduce any noise from a computer’s fan, ventilation hum, minor hiss, etc. But no room is 100% silent, except for hugely expensive test chambers. Ordinarily, that little bit of remaining background noise is hidden or masked by your voice, or music, etc. ... or at least, the casual listener is distracted from hearing whatever small level of noise exists. But when you are not speaking, such as between sentences, the noise can become apparent, along with those mouth clicks, breaths, etc.

That’s where the gate comes in. If set correctly, it works very nicely.

How to Reach Us

Call us 888-321-3343
Email us training@edgestudio.com

Click for Edge location information...

Meet Your Coaches

Edge Alumni Work Everyday

Get free educational
voice over newsletters!

Get free, educational voice over newsletters

Where should we send them?