A stethoscope sits across a keyboard in a semi-unfurled fashion. Voice Acting

Audition Diagnosis – Tips to Get Your Career Rolling

Have you been auditioning over and over again with no results? If you haven’t booked any jobs, or you’ve only received just a few “likes” on your audition – you could use an audition diagnosis.

For over 3 decades, Tommy Griffiths has been voice acting and bring to life hundreds of messages for big brands.  With experience in a variety of voice overs in the form of promos, tv and radio commercials, narration, cartoons and sales presentations – Tommy knows what it takes to make it as a voice actor.

He shares some of his insights below.

General Voice Over Audition Issues Are Usually Technical or Performance Based

When it comes to your auditions, Tommy says the issues that are preventing your career from taking off can be technical problems, performance issues, or both.  

Below are his ideas on how to improve your auditions, on all fronts.

Technical Problems Are An Easier Fix

Compared to performance issues, technical problems are usually easier to solve and more straightforward. They can be as simple as using the wrong settings, speaking into the wrong part of a microphone, or using gear that doesn’t meet basic requirements.

First, the basics. Generally, you should record in mono, normalize to -3 db, and record in a “dead-sounding room;” avoid surfaces that allow your voice to bounce back into your microphone.  

Make sure that your settings are 16 bit depth rate, 44 100 sample rate, and that you’re recording in MP3 or WAV format.  

He also advises that, especially when starting out, you don’t need to get the most expensive mic available. “There’s a certain point where you just don’t need to spend too much, where you’re just not getting a return on your investment,” says Tommy.

Default Delivery and Other Vocal Performance Problems Require Conscious Effort to Correct

While technical issues are often easy to fix, performance issues are not always so simple. This is where the “craft” part of voice acting comes into play. “You don’t want to sound real. You want to be real. There’s a big difference,” Tommy stresses.

One of the issues he highlights is known as “default delivery,” which occurs when you see a script and use your best “announcer voice.” To see if you have this issue, he advises listening to 5 to 10 seconds of several of your auditions. If you’re using the same tone, tenor, emotions, pace and phrasing – then that’s a problem.  

As each script is different, all of your auditions should sound different.

Steps to Fix Performance Issues in the Auditioning Process

That’s where the audition process comes in. You are your own director, and as such you’ll have to direct yourself. Don’t start by reading a script aloud, because that will imprint it in your mind in a certain way before you have considered what you need to think through.  

Instead, start by reading the script in your head and imagine you’re talking to somebody. Once you’ve absorbed the script, read it out loud at a slow, deliberate pace and without any inflection.

Next, visualize. “Think visually, act vocally,” says Tommy. Visualize the scenario that the script would be applicable in.

The last step is to consider your audience. What is your relationship with them? Do you know them well?  

You can see all these different circumstances come together to create a unique situation. Medical copy should not sound the same as an explainer video. Accordingly, none of your reads should sound alike.   

Let the Script be your Guide and Infuse Words with Meaning

Words can have certain feelings associated with them. Select words in a script can have a feeling associated with it specifically. Take a moment to think about the words individually, and then within the context of each sentence, as well as the broader intention of the script. Let the flow and feel of the words direct you.

Use the vocal range you have to infuse emotion – using that variation of highs and lows infuses your read more passion.

Tommy suggests starting in the middle of your range and adjusting your pitch throughout. If you’re trying to go for a bright, sunny feel and you start at the top of your range, you can only go down. If you want to adjust your sound, you don’t have anywhere else to go to sound more excited.  

Use Ad-Libbing to Ramp Up to the Correct Delivery

Tommy suggests “ramping up” to a piece of copy. “Ramping up is sort of ad libbing into the script and then seamlessly blending from the ad lib into the script,” says Tommy.

After following the process outlined above, imagine a brief preamble to your copy. Say it as you would to your target audience and that way, when you get into the script, you’re already in the correct mindset before you reach the script. The tone of the ad lib must match the copy to create an immediate connection.

Go Slow to Allow for Micro Beats, Emotion, and Breathing

When reading, go slower than you think you should. Going slowly serves several purposes.

1) It ensures your performance is received as intended. Listeners can’t always go back and listen to you again. “Another reason you want to go slow with virtually every script is because the listener does not have the luxury of going back like the reader does if they miss something,” says Tommy.  

2) It gives the audience time to take in the whole experience. There may be visuals accompanying your voice over. The audience might need time to allow those visuals to be absorbed.

3) Going slowly also allows you to breathe. If you run out of breath when reading, it’s a sign you’ve been reading too quickly.  

This doesn’t mean you have to take full out pauses. Tommy advises taking “micro beats.” These brief pauses allow you to infuse emotions into your words and your overall reads.

Be Yourself to Make Your Reads Stand Out

In any voice over, the best advice is to always be yourself – because there’s no one else like you.  

You have a unique perspective, voice, and vision to bring to a script. Infusing life into your read is what you bring to the table as a voice actor. Using your intuition and some knowledge should get you to where you need to be. You’ll have to grow in your craft because, “the stuff that really comes from within, from you as an artist, that’s what really counts.”

About Tommy Griffiths

Tommy Griffiths sits in front of a microphone with a pop filter. He is wearing headphones.

Tommy Griffiths is a coach, host and voice actor. For over 30 years Tommy Griffiths has been voice acting. He’s brought to life the message of hundreds of major clients like Nissan, Coca-Cola, and Harvard University. He’s also voiced sales presentations, promos, and commercials for radio and TV for brands like History Channel, Dodge Ram Trucks, Chevy Camaro, and Discovery Channel. He’s been the voice of the Dad on “Caillou” for the games and e-learning series and he has coached and produced demos for hundreds voice actors at all levels, worldwide. Find out Tommy’s upcoming workshops here. 

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  • Avatar for Debra Stitt
    Debra Stitt
    August 11, 2017, 7:06 pm

    Good stuff, Tommy. Regardless of one’s experience level, we all need tuneups. I really enjoy working with you and always feel like you really care about my success.
    The gems I come away with are invaluable!

    • Avatar for Tommy Griffiths
      Tommy Griffiths
      August 16, 2017, 1:13 am

      Thanks Deb! You’re an awesome talent!! Tommy

  • Avatar for Tommy Griffiths
    Tommy Griffiths
    August 11, 2017, 7:07 pm

    Thanks for posting, Voices.com! If you’re auditions aren’t booking gigs, you need an Audition Diagnosis. In a 30-minute online session I review your auditions for technical and performance issues. The AD will help you submit better auditions! To schedule, email [email protected].

    Tommy Griffiths

  • Avatar for Jo Nelson
    Jo Nelson
    August 17, 2017, 6:06 pm

    Great article Tommy! Yes, and the part about “being yourself” ! I will never understand why this is soooo difficult. You certainly helped with my confidence! Thank you!

  • Avatar for Audrey W WALDEN
    Audrey W WALDEN
    January 2, 2019, 11:43 am

    Happy New Year…..TG.

    This article is a great motivator. I’m a newbie, and I totally appreciate your comments. It’s the melding of the training and self……..toward a successful craft……Thank you……