Looks Can Be Deceiving
Some VO artists can bring life to funny, wild cartoon characters, seemingly on the spot. Some have a natural gift for dialects. Some are great at impressions. Make no mistake, these are true gifts for any performer. But don’t mistake the term “gifts” as something that comes effortlessly. Many people underestimate how much work it takes to get to this creative place that seems like second nature from the outside.
These “gifts” don’t come as easily as they appear. Every successful VO artist works extremely hard to find that freedom of expression and dedicates most, if not all, of there lives to the craft of learning every facet of the work of voice over. It’s a lot more than funny voices.
Box of Tools
Like any skill, voiceover requires practice. It’s a muscle like any other. A violinist who stops playing for a few months is going to get rusty. Picking up that instrument after a long time away may feel awkward and uncomfortable. For my own practice, over the years, I have acquired a handful of daily habits that I highly encourage you to use. If you aren’t out auditioning daily it is a great way to keep those chops in shape and prepare yourself for any tricky VO script that may come your way.
I’ve listed below some easy exercises that you can practice just about anywhere. Or anytime. And start simple! Sometimes, in the morning, I read the news feed – out loud! And I practice tongue twisters while sitting in Los Angles traffic or on my way to record an audiobook or audition. I tend to check in on my breathing while I wait in line at the bank and grocery store, taking a shower, cooking, or sitting in my car.
And before I let you dive into a hopefully helpful box of tools, I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “You can’t make it happen, you can only prepare for it to happen!” If you don’t practice, train, study hard and do your research, unless you are incredibly lucky, you may just remain mediocre. So, when the time comes for that big audition, be prepared, be confident and be ready! Practice makes perfect! [Read More… ]
1. Read out loud everyday – If you’re not reading my blog out loud, try it! (That is, of course, if no one is around you that would be disturbed). Be it children’s books, news articles, literature, the back of milk cartons or instruction booklets, make an effort to read out loud to yourself every day. You can also challenge yourself by reading it like a news broadcast, an audiobook or TV show narration. And if you come across any words you are not sure how to pronounce, look them up to find the correct pronunciation.
2. Listen to TV and radio commercials – Most people (including myself) mute the television or turn down the radio when a commercial comes on. However listening to other VO artists is imperative. You may hear an ad campaign that you are totally right for! (Keep tabs for demos!) I also find it really important to tune into current campaigns and listen for new voice trends. Like every other artistic medium, VO trends come and go all the time. I can’t tell you how important it is to expand your ear and really take the time to listen to ad campaigns and fellow voiceover artists.
3. Breathe from your diaphragm – It was not until recently that I added this to my daily rituals. But it may be the most important practice of them all. And the most simple! I do it while making tea in the morning, throughout the day, until I brush my teeth at night. As a VO talent, you must have full use of your instrument and most of us breathe using only our throat and chest. Taking control of your breath is taking control of your voice, your instrument. This drill not only strengthens and expands your voice acting, but helps to reduce daily stress along with unneccessary tension in your neck and back. Win win!
4. Take VO commercial copy home from auditions – I am sure there are plenty who would reprimanded me for this one but I cannot resist. Unless the casting office or agency enforces not taking the copy then why not? You may find a good ad for your next VO demo! Here is an opportunity to take the copy home, record yourself and practice. So go for it! I always love to listen to my performance and see where I need improvement. Should I have slowed down? Did this copy need a little more warmth and smile? Did it sound like I was really talking to someone or just reading with no connection, attitude or purpose?
5. Articulation and tongue twister drills – There are times when I find myself driving to an audition, nerves slowly setting in, as the traffic drives me completely crazy only to open my glove box to grab my handy little list of tongue twisters and drills sheet. I highly recommend keeping these printouts in a convenient place and practicing your drills on a regular basis, especially before heading to a booking or audition or just plain ole’ stuck in traffic. For the most part, I have mine memorized so I use my print out only as a reference. I am certainly not recommending reading while driving! Here’s a few twisters to get started:
- A tutor who tooted the flute tried to tutor two tooters to toot said the two to the tutor “Is it tougher to toot or to tutor two tooters to toot?”
- Silly Sally swiftly shooed seven silly sheep. The seven silly sheep Silly Sally shooed Shilly-shallied south. These sheep shouldn’t sleep in a shack; sheep should sleep in a shed.
- Three sweet switched Swiss witches watch three washed Swiss witch swatch watch switches. Which sweet switched Swiss witch watches which washed Swiss witch swatch watch switch?
- I’m not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate, and I’m only plucking pheasants ‘cause the pheasant plucker’s late. I’m not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s son and I’m only plucking pheasants till the pheasant pluckers come.
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, a peck of pickled peppers did Peter Piper the pickled pepper picker picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where is the peck of pickled peppers the Pater Piper the pickled pepper picked?
Tongue Twisters – Say 3 X’s fast
- I shot the city sheriff with the city sheriff’s gun
- Red Leather, Yellow Leather
- Sally sells seashells by the seashore
- Toy Boat
- Give Papa a proper cup of coffee in a proper copper coffee-cup.
- She stood in the fish-sauce shop welcoming him in.
- The Leith police dismisseth us.
- Unique New York Unique New York, you know you need Unique New York.
The object of this exercise is to be able to recite the following passage with crisp, intelligible articulation in a full, clear, well-projected voice, IN ONE BREATH! (Please revert back to Daily Drill #3 before attempting this exercise!)
My eyes are fully open to my awful situation —
I shall go at once to Roderic and make him an oration.
I shall tell him I’ve recovered my forgotten moral senses,
And I don’t care two-pence haypenny for any consequences.
Now I do not want to perish by the sword or by the dagger.
But a martyr may indulge a little pardonable swagger,
And a word or two of compliment my vanity would flatter,
But I’ve got to die tomorrow, so it really doesn’t matter!