The #1 best “weird” VO tip

Headed for voiceover success baby!

If you have eyes you have probably guessed the newest fun secret to getting a more relaxed voiceover performance. Yup! It’s lying down. Oh and don’t get me started on how long i spent reading about the grammar rules around lie versus lay. Oh my god. Anyhoo, let’s talk about this one so you have understanding and motivation to use this super-cool technique in your own way. I mean, doesn’t lying down to succeed already sound like a winning proposition? Next I’m going to have to try and come up with a strategy for how eating lots of ice cream helps you gets more voice acting auditions. Ok ok, someone reign me in! This business is just too much fun right? And that’s another strategy RIGHT THERE. A bonus for ya – if you’re not having fun, if you’re feeling the need to be perfect, if you’re “tight”, your voice over auditions will suffer.
Have fun, lots of it, and read on about lying down, the best new cool idea to hit the voice acting stratosphere.

The concept can directly be traced to the same concept in all the relaxation methods out there. Really, it’s the outside-in concept. This means that usually we want to think about something a certain way to achieve certain results, like be happier, or feel confident. But that’s not really how it works. We usually need some outside trigger to help us out and complete the circle. Peter Sellers made this easy to understand in his very own acting technique: He says, “I start with the wig, and i go from there.” Now we know that Daniel Day Lewis and Christian Bale would be shivering in their boots over this, but too bad method men, there’s a new way in town! Peter is essentially saying that changing something on the outside, which is pretty uncomplicated, immediately creates a response for him on the inside. Essentially now his mind easily believes that he IS this character. He saved himself the trouble of digging around in his psyche for an hour trying to find emotional motivation the harder way. He looks in the mirror at this man in this wig and he starts believing something new about himself.
Oh yes, back to the breathing. When we do deep breathing we are essentially slowing down our nervous system and it instantly makes our mind believe we are relaxed. But imagine telling yourself to “calm down.” Never worked when someone else told you to do it either right? You might have even wanted to punch them in the face (no? just me, ok.) But if your body tells you that you ARE calm with actual proof, your brain will follow.

So lying down, yes, will convince your brain, no – trigger your brain into remembering how it feels every single day when this happens. What does it feel? It feels relaxed, like there’s no need to accomplish anything, be anything, no pressure, no perfection. Now is there a better mental state to speak from? I think we can all agree we feel pretty good when we are lying down. It usually means we are about to decompress, or…other stuff. Either way – good things! This means good things coming out of your mouth, good relaxed easygoing vibes. And who wouldn’t want to listen to a person emoting from that state of being? Ok, one caveat here would be if they want a read that’s super energized or assertive. But otherwise this is a great method to try on. Especially for those of you looking to do away with some of that polish in your performance. The students of mine that are the most “perfect” sounding are the ones i assign this exercise to the most. I always have them do homework recording themselves with a before and after read (well, a standing up and lying down read) and the proof is there.

If you want to do a deeper dive into more ways to achieve that CONVERSATIONAL IN VOICEOVER sound, click here.
And otherwise, go lie down you amazing voiceover person with such incredible potential. Just don’t fall asleep, you’ve got work to do 😉

Pronouns and VO

You, I, we….these are words we use pretty much every single day. Which means for the most part they are a GIVEN. They are just a necessary stepping stone to get to the point we are making when we talk with someone. We would never say directly to someone, “Do YOU wanna go for a hike?” It would sound more like this: “Do you wanna go for a HIKE?” We focus on the message, the point, the new information – not the obvious. If someone asks us what kind of burger we like, we don’t respond with “cheeseBURGERS” but rather by emphasizing the NEW part of the information: “CHEESEburgers.”

So next time you see a sentence in your voiceover script containing pronouns, which will be all the time, remember what you really need to emphasize. Don’t let the pronouns steal the spotlight from the actual message.

Bust your limiting beliefs about VO

Forget voiceover, bust your limiting beliefs period, right? Ok, but one thing at a time. Our thoughts become the results in our lives, so it’s important to look at what your thoughts are. Almost as important, if not more so, than your skill. Let’s look at some of the limiting beliefs i have heard from voiceover students, whose very goal is to succeed in voice acting:

There are celebrities booking all the good jobs.
The voiceover market is over saturated.
I don’t have the time or money to learn VO.
I’m not an actor, so I’ll never be good at voice acting.
My voice isn’t interesting enough.
I’m not sure i can do that, eh, I’ll try.

Now, imagine if an Olympic athlete talked this way before a race:

The person next to me has the fastest record in the world, I’ll never beat him/her.

Not helpful right? If you’re making the decision to enter the race, you might as well decide to win it. Otherwise what is the point?

So let’s see how we can simply change the narrative to set us on the right path:

There is so much voice work out there now, especially with the internet creating more and more opportunities every day.
Celebrities only account for 5% of the work out there. It’s the workhorses like me that are needed for so much of the talking!
I can Learn to act. I can learn anything.

Ok, that’s it! It’s not a miracle. It’s not magic. It’s just a choice you make to think in a way that gets you the results you want in your career. Is it possible you are thinking in the negative in case it goes wrong and you are preparing yourself for the disappointment? Perhaps though, by already thinking this way, you are manifesting your own failure. Yes you might fail, but UNTIL THEN, believe that you will succeed. And use the language that supports that.
Thoughts become beliefs, which become feelings, which result in actions, and then Results.

You will be a successful voice actor. You WILL.

What does “conversational” really mean in voiceover?

The idea of sounding conversational has long been important in voiceover work, since long gone are the days of the announcer. It has followed suit pretty similarly with the shift in acting styles in film which went from theatrical to “real.” It’s why i am not one of those “hip artsy types” who just love those black and white “classics.” They feel phony. Ok, back to vo and being conversational. Let’s get to the bottom of that word and the technique that goes along with it.
Conversational means to be talking in a personal, familiar tone with someone, looking them in the eye, actively listening. But most people think the concept stops there. It doesn’t. Not even close.
Think about all the conversations you’ve had in your life. Some were sensitive and serious, some were fun and playful, some were excited, some intense, powerful, etc. Do you see the direction we are headed in? They all meant conversing with someone and truly engaging, but the tone can be completely different for each one.
And this is where script analysis comes in. It’s crucial. So tune in next time. For now, enjoy the variety of your conversations!

Newest creative voiceover tips

It’s been a long time since I’ve written on the subject of voiceover technique.  If you feel like skipping this moment while I muse on how I came to write this particular set of voiceover tips, you can go to the next paragraph and you’re forgiven.  What has happened to me over the years of voiceover coaching is that I have learned so much more about coaching, about how to TEACH.  In the beginning of my career it was all about sharing how much knowledge I had about the various ways to book voiceover jobs, about how to use your inflection, your keywords, your volume, your pacing, etc.  What I have added to my resume since then is the even more important ability to teach.  This concept comes through a bit less powerfully in a blog article to a general audience, but when coaching an individual voice actor it is magic.  We all learn differently because we all think differently.  Some of us need a push to let the emotions out, some of us need our right brain to be taught to because our left has gone on vacation…and now I see that this is truly what teaching is about.  It is as much about teaching to the INDIVIDUAL PERSON as it is about teaching the material.  So here are the interesting teaching moments I have experienced through many individuals who have given me the opportunity to teach them and learn from them in less traditional ways.

I have a student, let’s call him Joe, who struggled with his pacing/pausing.  This is one of the many ways we can communicate  (or fail to) authenticity in a performance.  When we’re excited we talk a little faster, when we are being serious or sincere we go a little slower, etc.  This is what we do in real life and therefore it becomes critical that we use the appropriate pace required of the emotional subtext of the writing.  Pausing is a part of this as well.  We really only pause in real life if it is grammatically necessary (to separate points in communication).  We also pause for dramatic effect, but not that often in everyday conversation.  But oh do you voice actors loooove to pause! It’s fun, indulgent, and dramatic!  It helps you breathe through longer sentences!  But it’s not what you do in real life, so it is going to sound theatrical.  Joe was reading a sentence – “Sometimes you just want a great latte.”  We decided that the main keyword was latte, but great was an important leading word too.  Joe read the sentence and paused after the word Sometimes.  Another time he paused after the word Want.  It was unnecessary, unnatural, and too dramatic for the subject.  I told Joe to think about his keyword “latte” as a restaurant that he was meeting a friend at.  I asked him if he would normally make any stops along the way when driving to the restaurant.  He said “probably not.”  Then guess what Joe?  Don’t make any unnecessary stops on the way to “latte!”  Pausing:  do less of it 🙂

I had another student, Mary, who taught me a great way to think about the process of experimenting and seeing what you can do with a voiceover script and how you can express yourself properly but also creatively through it.  Mary likened it to a child playing in the sandbox.  There’s no way to experience that type of play and discovery without making a mess.  And that’s to be expected.  Recognize that when you are training to be a voice actor, and even if you are already auditioning, that self-censorship destroys the magic.  So many people try to read “perfectly.”  All this does is create tight boundaries around the delivery that leave it flat, colorless, and often without a smile.  Let go, have fun, make a mess, and see how much brighter you sound!  I add to Mary’s analogy that it is like a woman trying to find one tiny thing in her huge purse.  She can’t find it because it’s lost in the cavernous folds of the fabric, shuffling around with a myriad of other objects.  Sometimes you have to turn the purse upside down and dump EVERYTHING out on the table to find what you were looking for.  Back to making a mess.  Shake out your shoulders, smile a bit more, take a risk.  Let it ALL out.  (You can always put back a few things that you didn’t need on take 2.)

My new favorite is from Matthew.  He asked me if it was “ok” to listen to music while recording his voiceover auditions.  OK?  It’s a fantastic idea Matthew, and I’m telling everyone!  So thank you!  The word “ok” also reminded me that there are no HARD rules in this creative world, only “ish” concepts.  Basically, whatever works for you is not only OK, it’s fantastic!  As long as the outcome is authentic.  That’s really the crux of it – there’s nothing natural about saying someone ELSE’s words, so pull whatever tricks you want.  My student Wayne says he grew up in a household full of Scandinavian intellectuals and there was absolutely no emoting.  Wayne could certainly benefit from some music.  Don’t the tears come hardest in the sad scene in the movie when the sad song starts in?

Lastly I want to cover a session I had where my student Liv was just holing back emotionally as well…more so out of inhibitions.  Society tells us to be one thing and then the best voice acting technique asks us to defy that and be everything sometimes.  First I just told Liv it was okay to be expressive, that this was not about sounding perfect in any way, in fact that is what will fail in a performance.  Real life is not perfect so neither is communication.  Get wild, have fun, color outside the lines, stop taking it so seriously – because then you sound SERIOUS!  UPTIGHT!  Nooo!  So Liv, you have permission to do this on your terms.  That was the key for her, just knowing she had permission.  Hmm.  Connected to that idea would be censorship.  She stopped and started a lot during a script.  I reminded her that was her censor-self getting in the way and judging everything and that is a big no for any artistic expression.  BE first, censor later….but I bet you won’t have to at that point – because you gave yourself permission to shine.