A warmly dressed woman reading a book while sitting on the rocks on a cold and windy day at the beach.A cold read is usually defined as reading a piece of copy that you’ve never seen before… while that may be true, just how cold is a trained voice actor and interpreter of the written word?

Guest blogger Tim Lundeen explores this question and challenges us to rethink how we perceive reading copy aloud that has never graced us before in today’s VOX Daily.

No Need For a Cold Read

By Tim Lundeen
My initial proposal was, “There’s no such thing as a cold read.” Then I realized it made more sense to say, “There’s no need for a cold read.” Then I realized I would still have to explain myself…

In the voice over industry, the concept of a ‘cold read’ is merely the performance of text which one is unprepared for and/or is not familiar with. In a sense that’s true; I’ve been handed scripts I’ve never seen before (I’d call that a cold-script). But what doesn’t make sense is the assumption that unfamiliarity is synonymous with “unpreparedness.”

Do I really have to be so unprepared when handed fresh copy that I’m incapable of reading it properly? Can voice talent be prepared in such a way that a cold-script might still be performed accurately and effectively? If that is possible (as I believe it is) then there would be no need for a cold-read.

From my perspective, what makes being unprepared for a cold-read become a moot issue is how well read an individual is. Not how many projects one had narrated, not how many voice classes or coaches one has studied under, not how many speech therapists or dieticians one has consulted. In the first 30 seconds of a cold-script narration, I can tell whether or not an individual is well read.

(Not coincidentally, when approached by aspiring voice talent who want to “get into” the industry, the first question I ask them is “how many books do you read every month?” Most say “None.” Then I quickly suggest they look elsewhere for a career.)

So what started out as a proposition, that I don’t believe a cold-read is a required reality, has quite naturally become a promotion; Read More Books. Not performed out-loud; Not to be paid for it. Just the sheer baptism into the experience of language, and the familiarity of words on a page. Doing so, I believe, can make one exponentially more prepared to narrate a cold-script. Let the truly torturous cold-read be left for those who choose complacent illiteracy.

Any Thoughts?

Be sure to add your comments and join the conversation!
Tim Lundeen
iStockphoto.com/Kristian Sekulic

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. A very interesting take on it, although, it does help if you’ve got a background that says some of the stuff you read is professional in nature (i.e., medical). The more I read from you guys, the more I’m convinced that I’m right where I need to be!

  2. Bill, I agree. That’s almost like a home-court advantage; there can be a field of study or interest that is so familiar to a narrator that it’s easy to narrate from that field. Playing into the article, the more diversified one cultivates their reading habits, the greater the home-court advantage.

  3. As ever in these blogs, we are obliged to think, as well as feel! So, I guess one can assess personal progress by comparing how hard it is to cold-read unfamiliar/poorly conceived material against how easy that is with a well-loved, skilled, author. Among the latter for me are Bill Bryson, Oliver Sachs, Kit Pedlar, Kenneth Grahame, Stephen Fry.

  4. Excellent advice.
    However, I’ve been given scripts written in my area of expertise that I could not read, or make sense of for that matter. In our business, writers often write about subject matter that they do not know or understand. A good reader, without the technical expertise, would likely read the script better than an expert. The resulting narration might sound good, but it still wouldn’t make any sense.

  5. I think you’re “bang on” with the point about Reading in general preparing one to perform. Having read the other comments posted thus far, I find myself agreeing with Them as well!
    Thank you all.

  6. Read the script once and find emphasis words like brand name or an emotion word meant for the audience to hear. Look for general tone as in upbeat, concerned, etc. A lot to pick up on in one fast glance!

  7. I don’t think you need to read x amount of books per month in order to be a good voiceover actor or do good cold readings. However, I do think it requires a love, appreciation and understanding of language, which I’ve always had. I’m a st…age actor with an English degree, and I think both of those have helped each other in the long run. In other words, studying and analyzing language helped me as an actor, while acting has continued to nurture and enhance my love of language

  8. Read from the heart of the script.stay tuned to it and direct your vocal and emotional tones. do your read speak it out internalize than vocalize.

  9. I had 2 great cold reads and then a huge fail. I projected what I thought the role should be and I wasn’t it…so great set up for a fail. Best to just be prepared and not get in my own way!

  10. Cold reads help to understand and identify where inflection should be, what tone and tenor to use, plosives and fricatives to be aware of, etc. I don’t concern myself with saying it right on a cold read – just on saying it, period.


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