Getting Into Voiceovers- Training

Mar 11, 2014

In the continuing blogs about getting started in voiceovers, today I'll talk about training.

  As with any other profession, training plays a big part in your job as a voice talent. Sure…anyone can ‘read out loud’, but can you tell the difference between someone reading out loud and someone telling a story?  It’s amazing how different it sounds.  A professional voiceover recording is someone telling you a story, with that person being an expert at what you're hearing; because it sounds natural, unrehearsed and it doesn’t sound like their reading, right?  Well…they ARE reading; and they’re probably not an expert in what they’re telling you; in most cases, they probably don’t have the slightest idea what they’re talking about, even though it sounds like they do.  Translating the written word into a voiceover recording is not easy; you have to control your breathing, know where the inflections are, how to sound emotional, natural, authoritative…etc.  There are some great books, training programs, workshops and coaches out there that can help you get going (usually for a fee); all ya gotta do is go out…and do it.  They're not that hard to find.

   To get you started, do a search for some practice scripts or you can pick an advertisement in the newspaper (any advertisement) and TELL a story about the ad; just tell about it, don’t ‘read it’…tell the story.  Tell it in a few different ways:

        Tell it in a non-chalant way…(matter of fact), like in a conversation.

        Say (in an excited way) how it’s the greatest thing in the world; and how you'd be so much better with it.

        Explain it to a person has no idea what you’re talking about.

        Be sarcastic about the ad

        Ponder if this product would benefit you.

   Use hand gestures (you can hear those); smile, you can hear that, too.  Record it if you’re able.  You can use your phone; or, in one of those rare instances- record it on your computer using the mic that came with the computer.  I know I said (in an earlier blog) about not using the mic that came with your computer; but this is for training purposes.  If you do have a professional recording setup (or access to one), use that. This way you’ll be able to save your recordings for comparison.  When you’re done- play it back and listen to what it sounds like.  If you know someone in the business, ask if they’ll critique it for you. 

  While you’re watching tv…LISTEN to the commercials (instead of changing the channel), the same goes with radio.  Do you like documentaries?  LISTEN to the narrator.  Have training seminars at work?  LISTEN to the narrator.  How do they ‘sound’?  They all sound like an expert in what you're hearing, right?  You can sound like that, too; it just takes a little work on your part.

  If you’re looking to do narrations or audiobooks, pick up a book or a magazine article  and ‘tell the story’.  Audiobooks are tougher because you have to be the narrator and the characters.  The narrator voice could be all you…natural sounding, while the character voice has to sound different from the narrators voice and the other characters; sometimes of the opposite gender.  Search out and sample some audiobooks and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.

  For short voice recordings (up to 2:00, or so), you may want to memorize the script; some like to scan it over a few times before recording.  It depends on what works best for you.  For long-form narrations, reading a book (before recording it) might not fit into the time constraints.  Perhaps reading the chapter first, then recording it, might work; again, it depends on what you’re comfortable with.

 Good Practices:

When you’re recording have a bottle of water handy, the mouth tends to dry up pretty fast with all that air going back and forth. 

Things to avoid:

Avoid eating a big meal prior to recording.  Having a full stomach going into a recording session may leave you feeling winded.  For you to speak your diaphragm needs room to move, if you have a full stomach the diaphragm doesn’t have that room and it leaves you feeling a little out of breath when you record.  It also has an effect on the pitch of your voice.  If you have a meal-break in the middle of a session- eat light.

Don't hold a script in your hand; if the paper is rustled the mic will pic it up; it'll also prevent you from using your hands- as a gesture.  Use a stationary object, like a sheetmusic stand.

Carbonated beverages- nothing worse than being halfway through a script and you belch one out; not very professional either.

Dairy products:  They tend to leave a film in your mouth.

Citrus juices:  Have a tendency of constricting the muscles in your mouth; if anything dilute it with water.

Or you can...

 Just use water


by Rich Brennan