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15 Tips for Voiceover Work

  1. Never rush through preparing.  Really read your copy from top to bottom.  Take your time, read it thoroughly and really understand who you are, what the situation is, why you’re saying what you’re saying and who you’re talking to.    You need to know if it’s sarcastic, or silly or serious.  If the copy doesn’t have instructions, then ask your producer.  Don’t rush yourself into auditioning before you really get it.  Usually you only get one or two chances to read, make them your best!  If you’re recording at home (and most of us are) record, listen, tweak, re-record and listen again.  Repeat numerous times if necessary.   Send only your best work for an audition.
  2. During your audition imagine the face of the person you’re talking to on the other side of the mike.  Really imagine them; it will make your read much more real.  If you have to bring a photo of someone with you, (a husband, lover, best friend or child) to tape near the mike, do it.  It will help your read.
  3. If it’s a conversation, try getting close to the mike to make the read more intimate instead of announcing it.  Make it like a quiet conversation between you and a friend.  That will make it sound more real and help you connect with your radio or TV audience.
  4. If it takes a few words to get you into the copy, then do that.  Phrases like:  “You know what? Can I tell you something? I couldn’t believe it but…, Can you believe this? Wow, I was amazed…”  Those kinds of phrases can make it easier to get into the spot you’re reading, so use them.  Also, transitional phrases to get from one phrase to another are very useful in making the copy sound more conversational.   Transitional words like:  “yeah, no way, imagine, sheesh, whew” can make your copy sound more real and conversational.  Just don’t get carried away.  And if the copy doesn’t call for those words, they can easily be edited out.
  5. Don’t be afraid to tap into your emotions and think about a personal situation that makes the copy real to you.  The birth of your child, your friend’s sickness, your mother’s death, your divorce; you’ll hear the difference in your read.  This does involve wearing your heart on your sleeve. It’s called acting.   It takes guts but you’ll be rewarded with a very memorable read and probably the gig.
  6. Always take three things with you on an audition or a read.  A pencil (so you can write direction on the copy, then erase it) a bottle of water, and,  If you tend to have mouth noise, a green apple.  Take a bite or two before your read and it cuts down on mouth noise.  If there are no apples available, apple juice is OK.
  7. Do some tongue twisters before going on an audition.  It gets your mouth limber and ready to work.  Your mouth and your voice are just like any other part of your body; they need a warm up before they start to work.  An athlete wouldn’t think of not warming up, you shouldn’t either.
  8. Practice reading out loud every day.  This is how you make your living, so practice it.  The more you read aloud, the better you’ll be at cold reads and reading in general which will make you less nervous about getting the words right and more confident when it comes to the feelings you’re getting across.
  9. Take your hands out of your pockets and read with your hands.  Don’t get too crazy and bang the mike or the copy holder, but use your hands to gesture.   Never wear jingly jewelry, (earrings or bracelets) on an audition.  Never cover your mouth, or bang your hands against things, but do get in touch with your inner Italian and gesture; your reads will be better.
  10. Enunciation may have worked for Eliza Doolittle, but it doesn’t work in voiceovers anymore.   Too much of it makes you sound like an announcer instead of a real person.  Don’t enunciate each word.  No one does that in conversations, except robots or recordings.  Read the copy like you talk and you’ll sound much more natural and real.
  11. Know where you are in the spot.  Some spots might feature a situation where you are stuck in a box or outside calling to someone or mumbling to yourself…so work on your mike technique so that you’re not yelling into the mike when you should be whispering and vice versa.  Good mike technique can get you the gig!
  12. As an addendum to number 11.  If the copy says that you are one of two people running while talking, then run in place while you deliver your lines.  It will sound more believable. If it says you should be out of breath, then run around the room a few times then deliver your lines.   Always read the instructions as to what you’re supposed to be doing in the spot.
  13. Have fun.  Don’t go in desperate to get the gig.  Desperation can be sniffed out   from miles away.  Just have fun.  Don’t be afraid to do something daring with the copy that no one else may do.  And once in the recording studio, maintain that attitude, you can still have some fun.  That’s how Tom Bodett put Motel 6 on the map. He added the line, “We’ll keep the light on for ya,” in the very first recording session.  The rest is history.
  14. Remember this:  Every audition is a chance to put your talents out there for whichever producer is listening.  Although you may not be chosen for one role, there may be something in your fabulous read that the producer will remember that might be perfect for another character or commercial.   Do your best always.
  15. Don’t give up.  Auditioning for voiceover work can be very ego deflating.  You audition and audition and never get the gigs and you start questioning your ability.  It’s a numbers game and sometimes you do hundreds of auditions before you book one.  You have to remember that it’s not necessarily your read that didn’t get you the gig.  Sometimes producers have an idea in their heads of the voice they envision and the person who sounds the most like that voice wins the gig.  Are they always the best?  Maybe not, but someday it might be your sound they want, so keep plugging.
  16. Making it in voiceovers takes work!  So many people think, “Oh once I get an agent, then I’ll be doing OK.”  That’s not true at all.  Your agent can only get you auditions.  It’s up to you to be doing the leg work and making contacts in the meantime.  Most of the work you’ll get will probably be with a few producers or clients because they’ve worked with you once, they know what you can do, they like your work and you have a relationship.  The relationship is key, so get out there and connect.

    Courtesy of Zone Recording Studios

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