Voice Over Education Blog

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to voice a run-on sentence comfortably in a single breath


So there you are, cruising along in a script, sounding natural and vocally free, and suddenly the Director stops you. You've been narrating in moderate-length phrases, taking breaths just often enough that you can sustain a comfortable delivery, not chopped up by too many breaths, yet not straining to finish a phrase. Now you're told, "Don't breathe during this phrase. Say it as one continuous statement, without pause, and don't rush it. Oh, and keep the easy, natural sound."

How do you deal with that?

Let's back up ... The rule of thumb in voice-over is to phrase the script in ways that don't require you to strain. If you try to extend a phrase too far, yes, you might get the words out, but the listener might hear you straining to find the breath – no matter how expertly you try to hide it. But at the other extreme, that doesn't mean you have to speak always in short choppy phrases. Even in a genre such as video narration, where relatively short phrasing is often the norm (so as to let the video play out and sink in), variety is the spice of authenticity.

Sure, the engineer could edit out a breath, but if the Director wanted to do that, she wouldn't have asked you to take a shot at it. Or she may not have thought about it, or might not realize how easy such an edit usually is.

There might be a good reason for not pausing. For example (admittedly one contrived to avoid embarrassment), suppose the client insists that their advertising slogan not be broken up, and their slogan is:

"The place to go when you just don't have the hang of
hassling with computers and today's high-tech electronics."

(This example is even more challenging because, look at all those H's! An H sound uses more breath than average. See our footnote.*)

The solution?

How to voice a run-on sentence comfortably in a single breath


So there you are, cruising along in a script, sounding natural and vocally free, and suddenly the Director stops you. You've been narrating in moderate-length phrases, taking breaths just often enough that you can sustain a comfortable delivery, not chopped up by too many breaths, yet not straining to finish a phrase. Now you're told, "Don't breathe during this phrase. Say it as one continuous statement, without pause, and don't rush it. Oh, and keep the easy, natural sound."

How do you deal with that?

Let's back up ... The rule of thumb in voice-over is to phrase the script in ways that don't require you to strain. If you try to extend a phrase too far, yes, you might get the words out, but the listener might hear you straining to find the breath – no matter how expertly you try to hide it. But at the other extreme, that doesn't mean you have to speak always in short choppy phrases. Even in a genre such as video narration, where relatively short phrasing is often the norm (so as to let the video play out and sink in), variety is the spice of authenticity.

Sure, the engineer could edit out a breath, but if the Director wanted to do that, she wouldn't have asked you to take a shot at it. Or she may not have thought about it, or might not realize how easy such an edit usually is.

There might be a good reason for not pausing. For example (admittedly one contrived to avoid embarrassment), suppose the client insists that their advertising slogan not be broken up, and their slogan is:

"The place to go when you just don't have the hang of
hassling with computers and today's high-tech electronics."

(This example is even more challenging because, look at all those H's! An H sound uses more breath than average. See our footnote.*)

The solution?

Should you ever volunteer to do voice-over for free?


Here at Edge Studio, we've long made the point that a well-trained voice artist is already experienced when he or she produces a demo and enters the VO job market. Our course plan covers a wide range of script and directorial situation in the student's particular genre(s) or specialty, with comprehensive coaching and realistic performance situations, and what's more, we provide experience in business development and other aspects of our field.

Still, when starting your voice-over career, additional experience is almost always a plus. (In fact, it's a plus throughout your career!)

One way to add to your experience is volunteer work. But should you volunteer to do voice work for free? There are pros and cons, so read on...

Both schools of thought are valid. There are reasons to provide free services, and there are reasons not to.

Why you should not volunteer your services for free.

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."

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