Tag Archives: voiceover demo

Best Voiceover Tips 2022

After casting, coaching, and directing demos for almost thirty years, the awareness around the nuances surrounding a great VoiceOver performance start to add up.  While there are so many techniques in voice acting – that’s the one element right there that counts the most…the acting. So let’s start there. 

What is acting?  It’s make-believe. Yes, it’s the childish way of explaining it, but it is accurate. You must Make yourself Believe.  If you don’t, who will?  So now we get to the script. Breaking down a script on voice over is absolutely essential for nailing the acting. Acting starts with context and then delves into subtext. So you start with the most basic question – “What is this about?”  Make sure you can answer that in your own words and cover as much of the context as you can, whether it’s for a commercial or an audiobook. Knowing the context as fully as possible will also help you connect to your keywords in every single sentence. When we communicate, we have a point to make, which has us emphasizing certain words over others. When you understand the story you are telling you will also be able to connect with those keywords. Your second question is the more challenging one. “What do I feel about this….what is the emotional tone…the mood….my character’s personality?”  This helps you paint the picture of the story with richer color and gives it believability. It has you transcend any possibility of sounding like you’re an “announcer.”  So on assessing context, make sure to never stop with a statement like “It’s just informational.”  If it does feel info-dense, at the very least tell yourself you are interested in it and interested in sharing it with someone. This will have you sounding engaged. This is crucial. You will never sound like you’re just reading if you sound interested and engaged in what you’re saying!  Believe you have these thoughts, these feelings, believe you really want to share this all with someone. This is the acting. Make Believe. 

For you technical-minded thinkers out there we can also add a few other elements to work with. Your tools. These are things that happen when we talk and they happen automatically. They almost always relate to our emotional perspective. These main tools are INFLECTION, PACING, and VOLUME.  We also could classify KEYWORDS as a tool, but assessing these comes from a more intellectual place than an emotional one. Executing the keywords correctly, however, does require putting emotion into them.  Let’s get back to inflection. We all talk in high and low tones, rising and falling inflections, otherwise we would be monotone. Our higher tones often reflect open and positive emotions like excitement, enthusiasm, friendliness, questioning. Our lower tones often exude certainty, confidence, authority, finality. A blend of both is the best of both worlds. But really, they have to reflect the writing and therefore be used accurately. Ending a sentence on a down inflection will give the air of conviction to the listener. It will sound like the speaker has absolute certainty in this fact. Ending a sentence with an up inflection can do many things depending on the context: it could make it sound flimsy, as if it’s not finished.  it could make it sound exciting.  it could make it sound uncertain. Knowing your context and subtext is critical to using the right inflections. 

Volume is a big topic in VoiceOver. For the most part, avoid raising your volume too much unless the emotion calls for it (anger, over the top excitement…) because otherwise you will sound like an announcer or sound too theatrical. We all want to feel like someone is speaking to us personally, not to a stadium full of people. This means using a lower voice. Not a whisper. Just enough to make it Personal. Your audience will LEAN IN TO YOU, as opposed to cringing and pulling back. Again you must use context and subtext. Is it a one-on-one conversation?  That is most likely in vo. Is it exciting?  Maybe a slight bump in volume. SLIGHT.  Is it a sincere conversation?  Lower your volume a touch. Always err on the lower side when in doubt. 

Pacing. Again we assess the pace based on real life. Excited?  Talk a bit faster. Serious, intellectual, warm?  Little slower. 

Also make sure to pause the right amount between sentences and to adjust this as well based on the emotional energy of the script. Too long or too short a pause between sentences will trigger our ears in an unnatural way and we will hear your performance as “reading.”

Let’s address voice acting technique in terms of musicality. Our ears tune in to music, it grabs our attention and concentration. It is the perfect blend of pattern and unpredictability that is so pleasant. Think about a white noise machine. They are meant to be ignored because of their monotone repetition. So make sure you don’t audition for a voice over script this way!  We have natural musicality to our voices based on emotional tone but also on how words connect to each other. This would be called our leading and key words. Here’s an example of a leading word (which goes up as if to say there’s something important coming) and a key word (which goes down as if to say this is it, this is the important thing right here!). It would be the classic “The end.”  Think about it. We go up on The because it’s not important, it’s leading into what’s important. We go down on End because it tells us the important thing we need to know – that this is over.  You can find these pairs in every sentence but the pair might not be next to each other. Here’s an example – “The best way to do it is to just relax.”  Here we see the word Best is leading into the key word Relax. We can assume by the word “it” that we have already covered the subject matter. Regardless, in this way you can see how words are always leading into other words and therefore guarantee a fluctuating  inflection. 

It’s incredible what a set of codes we have embedded into the way we communicate that is so deeply indoctrinated we don’t ever have to think about it when we talk. Except…when we are reading someone else’s words!  So yeah, now we do have to think about it. We talk perfectly natural in our everyday lives, but there’s nothing natural about reading someone else’s words. This is why understanding those words until they become our own is the way to sound natural in voice acting.  One way to try this would be to first read the script out loud but in a quiet voice, as if you’re reading it out loud to yourself to just understand it.  Another way is to read the script but give yourself creative license to add and subtract words, lead in with an entire sentence even. Share the script in a way that feels more like you would say it. Heck, even just read the script a few times until you understand it and then improvise the entire thing. By the time you want to audition for it, you’ll have emotional ownership of the material and will probably be able to read the script verbatim because you first got there emotionally on your own terms. I have some students who always start with a sentence of their own, maybe even including the name of an actual friend so it feels like a real conversation – they just delete it out later.  Win win!  Still feel like a phony announcer?  Read the script with a phone to your ear.  Triggering yourself to feel the way you do when you’re actually on the phone may control your volume and even more importantly have you sound the natural way you do when talking to someone you’re close with. Another win. Talk with your hands. Talk with your face. Your body filters energy and emotion through your voice. If you’re excited, take your hands out of those pockets!  Make sure to energetically align your body with the tone of the script. In the end, it’s about the text. The deeper you understand the intellectual and emotional components of your text, the more jobs you will win. Let the text be your director. Do what it tells you. It’s the boss. 

The Voiceover Demo – guest blog by Jason Zane

So you’ve been working with a voice coach for a few months now, developing your ability. The time has finally come to record a voice over demo.
When I first thought of a demo, I imagined an elaborate 10 minute recording showcasing all of my various voices, accents, and abilities.

But the days of reel-to-reel audio tape recorders are gone, and with them the all-in-one demo.
Casting directors have neither the time nor the inclination to sift through any number of unnecessarily long recordings in search of one particular skill set.
Based on the sound of your voice, it should be easy to determine your vocal category, for example: adult male, adult female, Youth female etcetera. 
After that you should pick a series ofcommercials that highlight your range within this demographic. Like “talkative neighbor” “wise mother” etc.
You may be thinking “with so many different commercials out there how can I choose the right ones for me?”
I know a guy who is a successful politician. he’s been elected to statewide office several times. One day he told me that’s the best advice I ever got was never to espouse and opinion professionally that he didn’t believe in personally.
I encourage you to do the same thing when choosing commercial content for your demo. Sit down and make a list of products or brands you truly believe in.
For me, it was Carhartt, Toyota, Knob Creek, Home Depot, and a few others.
Then, you can begin looking through all of the commercials for all of the products those brands offer in order to find the ones that showcase your range within your vocal demographic.
For example, you wouldn’t want to read a “Wise Mother” commercial for Tide, or Palmolive followed by a similar one for Dyson Vacuum. But perhaps Dyson has a commercial that would allow you to display your “Lady Scientist”.
After you find the proper copy for all of these commercials oh, you’re going to want to try to whittle them down to between 10 and 15 seconds. Your voice counts should be able to help you do this.
Lesley and I have worked together extensively trimming the fat. Sometimes we remove a word and read the copy out loud, sometimes we replace a whole phrase. If it sounds good we leave it. If it doesn’t, we put it back.
You want to make the best first impression possible with your demo, so give it the time and energy it deserves.

Voiceover Demo for the Beginner Voice Actor

I was reading an article on demo planning for the beginner voice actor, and I thought I would share it here along with some of my own thoughts on the demo process. For more tips you can go to the archives right here in the voiceover blog under how to make a great demo. Your voice over demo or demos can be a very expensive but also very fruitful project. Taking care to make the proper first steps with a professional is key. No, this is not where I plug myself. Today is all about giving you information, period. So, the steps….you’ve probably heard them before a million times. The reason I am repeating them is that upon review of the above article link, I noticed that while providing some valuable information, they did not give you the complete soup to nuts picture. There were a few ingredients missing, and we will review them now.

The most important thing to consider while planning your demo is not the type of demo you will do (commercial, narration, animation, etc) but whether you should DO a demo at all. Yup, you’re not going to hear that one from many of the companies out there who produce voiceover demos….it’d be a crummy sales technique. I produce demos myself. I’m a crummy salesman. But a great adviser. So, listen. Your best bet for figuring out whether this type of time and money investment is worth pursuing is to get the opinion of someone who is NOT invested in making money in any way from your demo. Even voiceover coaches who do not produce demos can be difficult to trust because they might say you are not ready simply to continue making money from training you. This could be happening subconsciously on their part – people don’t want to disappoint, and telling you to “give up” could be just downright impossible for some of them. It’s very hard for me to do as well, but my general rule of integrity to keep me in check is the 6-session rule: If I see no to little improvement after 6 sessions (one-hour each) I cut the cord. It’s hard and it hurts me and the student, but time and money are valuable commodities that shouldn’t be wasted.

OK, moving on. Let’s say you have gotten the go-ahead for demo-making from a trusted source. This is where the first page of the article on demo planning is helpful. The voiceover universe has truly exploded thanks to the internet, and there are now dozens of voice over genres to choose from: medical narration, animation, video games, documentary, commercial, e-learning/educational/explainer, promos, movie trailers, corporate narration or industrial, audio books, ok I’m tired. This demo-planning page goes into some detail about some of the more common areas and what they entail. To add to the strategy, consider whether your goal is to make money, or to have fun. Perhaps you can do both, but first consider this: corporate narration is more plentiful in terms of audition opportunities, but animation is more fun, and yes, more competitive. Be truthful with yourself and see what will work best for you with those things in mind. If you really are unsure, start out in an area that combines what you do really well with the more available work, build up your career first, and then begin to layer in those other voiceover genres that you are more passionate about from your safe and cozy nest (egg.)