Tag Archives: cartoon voice

Voiceover Student Blog #1

So you want to be a voiceover professional?

Me too! Hi I’m Jason. I’m a client of Lesley’s, and I’m going to be filling in for a while writing this blog. I’m here to tell you all about my experience working with Lesley, and what it’s like to get into the voice over industry from day one.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always done funny voices. Usually when telling jokes or goofing around with my friends. I also love listening to audio books. So when I started reading chapter books aloud to my kids (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc.) I tried to read them the way they would sound as audio books. After a few years of doing that nearly every night, I started to think that maybe I could do it professionally.

When I truly decided to get into voiceover, the first thing I did was what we all do now when we need info, I Googled it. All of the results had three pieces of advice in common:

  1. Listen to the professionals.
  2. Practice and develop your ability.
  3. Find a good voice over coach.

After another Google Search, I found Lesley . She works with clients from across the country  (via Skype) but luckily for me, we live in the same city so I scheduled an appointment with her via email.

My first session with her was a real eye-opener. I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and friendly approach that Lesley brings as a part of her coaching style. We started by getting to know each other.

We talked about the different areas where people can do voicework professionally such as animation, video games, commercials, audio books, and more. Then specifically the areas in which I would be interested working.

After discussing career options, we went through some exercises. Obviously each client is different in their experience, skill level, and in the areas where they need improvement. Lesley’s abilities as a coach are grounded in her professional experience as a casting director. She knows what to listen for in a successful audition, so she can help you sound your best.

We started as many voice coaches do, with breathing exercises. Its amazing how little we think about something we literally do every second of our lives. I was surprised by how much of good voice work is physical. Controlling your diaphragm, and making the most of the fuel you’re taking in to power your instrument.

Then we moved on to articulation, think of your lips, your jaw, and your tongue as the parts of a machine. They all have to work in harmony to produce the desired sound. As is the case with any physical activity, its always best to stretch before you begin. So to wrap things up, we did some tongue twisters.

After warming up, we moved on to inflectional changes. Many people don’t realize just how much of “voice acting” is actual “acting.” This was the exercise I found the most interesting: Try saying the word “Yes” 3 times each to indicate certainty, indecision, and sarcasm. Try saying the word “No” 3 times to each to indicate certainty, indecision, surprise, annoyance, and delight. Say the sentence “I’ll be there” 3 times each to indicate determination, pleased agreement, surprised, and annoyance. We did more, but you get the idea.

Then I asked her about about demos. I was relieved when Lesley told me that her advice was to wait, work on improving your abilities, and then make a few short recordings targeted specifically at the kind of jobs you’re hoping to get. One of the things I read when researching Voice coaches was that if a potential voice coach wants you to spend money right away making a demo with them, you should treat it as a red flag.

The average casting director makes their decision within 10 seconds of listening to your voice. So you don’t need to do one long recording showcasing all of your different abilities. Just do a quick example of a car commercial. Do a short political ad, etc. Lesley shared some great resources with me, like websites that have a library of scripts from previous advertising campaigns.

Finally, I was given homework. Lesley gave me a guide for how to create character voices. It begins with a voice… Any voice. The next step is to put that Voice through a series of filters. Make it go as high or as low, as loud or soft as you can. Use your teeth nose lips and tongue to change the voice.

I scheduled my next appointment with her and went home to download some scripts and start practicing!

I’ll be back next week to tell you about what I’ve learned, and what comes next

So you want to voice cartoon characters in animation?

It’s rare that a prospective voiceover student calls me saying, “I want to use my regular old speaking voice in commercials….can i can i?” It’s not a crazy request, but when we are talking hopes and dreams here, most people want to use the craziest and most repressed parts of their personalities and channel it through a cartoon character in some sort of animation project. I don’t blame them. Who doesn’t want to “play” in some way? It’s the human condition. Our soul needs to be fully expressed or it gets itchy or moldy or something inside, right?

I was reading a Voices.com blog featuring voice over experts which put the focus on this as they interviewed voice coach Sunday Muse. Sunday had some great points about teaching kids (or anyone, really) how to bring a character to life. She makes a point about “becoming the character” which is really the essence of success here. If you are just “doing” a voice it is empty, no different from “reading” any script. To truly bring it to life means to start imagining yourself AS this character, not “voicing” it. Sunday refers to an expression the character has on its face at some point. She asks the student what it feels like on their own face, telling them to imitate it. As we all know, your physical expressions always manifest into the sounds your voice makes. It is all connected. Sunday acknowledges this by bringing it into the body as well. She asks the student directly, “what is the character doing right now?” They are shoveling? Do it then, she requests of them. This “active” talking brings them into the moment in a concrete way and instantly gives energy and authenticity to the actual voice over. Think about it, if you are going for an energetic read, your hands in your pockets is not really going to let that energy out very well. Simultaneously, if you are going for a warm and sincere read, your arms flailing around in front of you will distract from the soothing tone. It all connects. Your voice lives inside your body and they can’t really tell two different stories at once. One last thing I’d like to point out about Sunday’s perspective is regarding script analysis. This is something I talk about till I’m blue in the face. If you don’t know what you’re talking about you are reading lines and nothing more. The way Sunday poses it is similar, but it’s always nice to hear someone else beat the same dead horse with different words from your own! She notices kids reading, just reading, going line by line by line. She hears it as flat, like a song with one note. No one likes a song with one note, as they are pretty boring. For a character voice over who is telling a story, or for any story at all to be of interest, it needs variation, all kinds of notes, crescendos, and emotional weight.

This next article I reviewed on voiceover animation discusses character voice strategy from two perspectives, a casting director at Nickelodeon, and a cartoon voice actor. The casting director, Sarah Noonan, points out that being truly aware of the voice style the project is asking for is crucial. Many people refer to the generic cartoon voice when they think of doing a voice for animation, but it’s not the case every time. Some projects these days look to natural voices to create an interesting complement and/or “relatability” to these characters on screen. Listening is a HUGE part of booking any job. Listen to exactly what the writer, producer, or director is telling you she wants, or be the one who misses out. You are a voiceover puppet initially, there to do exactly what they want. Don’t take this personally. This is the same skill that makes that same Casting Director you are auditioning for good at her job. She listens to exactly what the client wants and strives for exactly that during her casting session. The number one key to winning over almost any client in any industry is doing what THEY want, and listening will get you there. Bob Bergen is a voice actor who has some good ideas about staying in the game in a different way. He suggests covering your bases in an audition. Maybe you listened to that director carefully but he didn’t have much to say, and you’re left unsure of how to perform. Submit two takes in these cases – one more natural and one in your best cartoon voice that fits for the job. Another suggestion he makes is to take risks when you’re going for a character voice. I have heard this many times in many ways and it is great to hear it constantly reinforced. Being “halfway there” won’t book the job. Be all the way there and then some. Bring some magic to the performance. Bergen’s expression of the rule is wonderful – “They need you to bring creativity to the character, bring it to life. The script’s a skeleton and you need to give it body.”

In this last article on Creating a Character in Voice Acting, the people at Raise Your Voice Acting make some other really important points about the craft. The thing most people forget is that creating a character voice is much much more than saying your lines in order, or in an interesting way. Building a character means creating an entire universe for this character to live in. Your imagination is key to character development. As I’ve said before, sketching your character on paper or in your mind can help, as can writing down adjectives to describe your character or even creating a background story of some sort. RYVA also talks about the classic improve strategy of “Yes, and.” This philosophy means you are living in a world of possibility. You are also priming yourself to accept fully the words and/or world ideas that the writer has already built for your character to live inside of. As with any voiceover in any genre, you must say YES and ACCEPT the world they have presented you to work inside of. Anything less than this is you rejecting a part of your own audition. Suspending your disbelief means you are now at the very least in AGREEMENT with the production team and can now COLLABORATE with them. A quote from RYVA illustrates this concept perfectly – “Who’s to say that a talking sponge can’t have friends under the sea and wear geometrically formed pants?” They go on to betting that many people here did NOT embrace the “yes, and” theory here, but that the show is a success because someone DID. Be the next one to say “yes, and,” and see how much further that takes you than a NO. As a matter of fact, we could all use a little more YES in our life. I say YES to taking a break from typing and going to eat some ice cream.