The Best Ways to Practice Voiceover
What Are the Best Ways to Practice VoiceOver?
There is not so great practice.
Then there is good practice.
Then there is better practice.
And then there is the “best” practice.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter where we are at in our level of profession as a voice actor. The truth is unless we have mastered all genres of voiceover, we are always learning something new. There are very few mastered experts in all genres of voiceover. For the rest of us, we are always beginners as we approach and learn a new genre. As such, we have to practice what it is we are learning.
I posted about this idea of how there is no substitute for practice on my Instagram. The ideal way to practice is inside our booth, in front of our microphone, in the actual setting that we are going to be recording so our mind, body and mouth can be comfortable and able to execute when it’s go time. Always remembering that voiceover is acting. It's art. It takes time. Don't rush the process.
So this raised a few things. The first in this series on this topic is, what kind of practice is ideal? As a beginner that can be hard to decipher because we don’t know what we don’t know. So here are some helpful guidelines that can help guide you.
There is not so great practice.What this means to me is practicing without understanding basic techniques in voice acting. Practicing on your own with no training can lead you to develop some bad habits that can be hard to undo in the future. At the very least, start understanding what are the basic techniques in voice acting with a coach. Then yes, practice on your own. This is so important because coaching alone won’t help you advance much unless you take time to practice on your own with some level of understanding of what constitutes a good read for whatever genre you are learning. A word of caution for totally new people to voiceover, getting in front of a mic at an Introduction to Voiceover class or workshop is NOT practice. These classes exist to get you to buy voiceover training coaching and demo packages. Be very wary of any demo producer who will assess your voice for free as the only way to help you get started in voiceover. Ask questions, get testimonials and know who are the coaches who will be coaching you. Are they successful in their own right? Do they have an established professional reputation? A lot of people coach without being an expert themselves so be careful. Lately, people who have seen some success in one or two years are already coaching. Just know what you want from your coach.
Then there is good practice.
This is where peer-to-peer workouts can be helpful. Something to be aware of is to note the level of experience of the person who is leading your peer-to-peer workout. Hopefully, they are at least one or two levels above you. Otherwise, when you're on the exact same level of experience, while you will get a ton of affirmation and validation, it may not necessarily help shape your best reads for booking voiceover work, if that’s your goal. My second tip, don’t stay with one group, that will quickly become a comfortable zone for you. Find new and fresh people to grow and learn from. Growth happens when you step outside of your comfort zone. So if you are super comfortable with your current peer-to-peer workout group, that’s a sign it’s time to change and expand. Both from the group and the leader of the workout. I have consistently done this over the past 15 years and I have become a much better voice actor by changing groups and leaders.
Then there is better practice.This is where you practice with actual Casting Directors who hire voice actors all the time. They are an excellent source of education. The only caveat here is that you want to make sure you have some type of foundation in your voice acting skills. Don’t be impatient and launch too soon into this category of practice. Why? Because you want to make the best possible first impression you can. Ideally, you’re able to showcase what you can do well here. I know it’s a catch 20/20. However, done right, this practice can yield amazing results in your voiceover career. Never go in with the expectation that you will get cast by any person, agent or director. If you can come with the right mindset of you are there to learn and take in what you can, apply what they are teaching you and do your very best, that to me is the right formula for success in this type of practice.
And then there is the “best” practice.This is where you combine all three types of practice.
Working with a specialized coach in the new genre you are learning. Then practicing on your own by recording yourself. A good coach will want to hear your progress.
Being part of a peer-to-peer workout that is really stretching you outside of your comfort zone. Can’t find one, create one.
Work with Casting Directors who do workouts, workshops or classes.
Combining these types of practice levels will surely help you start seeing the success you desire in your voice-over career and help you become the best voice over talent you are seeking to be.
A word to my professional experienced voiceover colleagues, don’t expect to be perfect after a few practice coaching sessions in a new genre. I’ve seen this with the people I’ve been coaching for Audio Description. They all expect to be able to nail it in the first session. No one has yet but that’s okay. Why? It’s a new genre. Can a professional trained voice actor excel quickly in a new genre? Absolutely. Many of us totally do that but not usually on coaching session number one, minute one so be patient here too.
A little side story about taking risks on practicing and getting feedback.
When I was unsure of my skillset, I was afraid of even going in front of the microphone when people I didn’t know were there. I can think of two times this happened to me. The first was at my first voiceover conference at VOICE 2012. There was a breakout session where we could come to the stage and do a read and get feedback. I was terrified, I didn’t take that opportunity. I sat on the sidelines.
Then there was That’s Voiceover 2012 in Chicago where they had their spotlight audition. I didn’t even submit mine because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough to even be heard, let alone book an audition where I had to compete with my peers on stage and then perform in front of the judges.
So don’t allow fear to keep you from taking hold of whatever opportunity you have to get feedback when you can. Take those risks. Once I did, everything changed for me.
Have fun practicing!
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