Unconventional Voice Over Tips: Advice from Professional Voice Actors
To be successful in your voice acting career, being a master of productivity is a must. Getting ahead in the voice over industry not only requires natural talent, but the ability to do more with less — whether that’s time, editing, or even money spent. And sometimes, that ability requires a little ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking.
To help you get a jump start, we asked our team of experts, the Voices Insiders, to share a few of their favorite unconventional voice over tips and tricks. The Voices Insiders are a group of professional voice actors who share insights and advice with the Voices community to help talent of all levels develop in their voice over careers.
Read on to find unconventional voice over tips that will come in handy in the studio and as you prepare for your reads.
Unconventional Voice Over Tips for Your Home Recording Studio
The two most important components of your home recording studio are your equipment and your space.
Your Equipment: Pop Filters
When it comes to the stars of your home setup, like your microphone, there’s no need to think outside the box. For beginners, the RØDE NT1-A and Sennheiser MKE 600 microphones come highly recommended by the Voices Insiders. But when it comes to your pop filter, here’s where you can start to get crafty.
When combatting sibilance and plosives, or unwanted esses or pops, a pop filter is your first line of defense, but this can also be achieved with one of the most common household items: a pencil. Simply place a pencil across the diaphragm of your microphone and secure it with a rubber band, and those pesky high-frequency noises will disappear from your recordings. Watch this video to see how it works:
If you don’t have a pencil and rubber band available, there are a number of other DIY pop filter options to explore, including items commonly found in your suitcase when traveling.
“When I need to travel, and I have limited space, I use a sock as a pop filter.”
“When I have to record on my laptop with my travel mic, I use the sleeve of my nylon robe as a pop filter.”
Your Space: Soundproofing
Soundproofing your space doesn’t have to be a costly endeavor. Instead of paying contractors to upgrade your voice over recording space or investing in an isolation booth, you can achieve quality sound using cost-effective ways, including these unconventional voice over tips.
The first step to soundproofing your home studio is to filter out any unwanted external sound. The areas to pay extra attention to are doors and windows, as you’ll want to ensure no unwanted sounds get in and no sound is lost as you record. Installing plastic door sweeps, and hanging moving blankets or layers of old curtains are affordable methods to help seal doors and windows on a budget.
The next step is to add insulation to your space. You’ll want to pay attention to the floor, ceiling, and the corners of your room to help lessen echoes and other sound issues. Cork, rubber, and foam insulation are common methods of soundproofing that can be found at your local hardware store, but you can also opt for heavy fabric, mattresses, or couches to fill your space. For a more flexible and temporary soundproofing solution, you can also place bags of insulation around your home recording studio and store them away as needed.
“You can use foam rollers (typically used for stretching and rolling out sore muscles) to fill the corners of your booth. I also use yoga blocks! They fit the space perfectly, are easy to find, and you can pin things into them.”
“You can always buy extra blankets and sound-absorbing material at second-hand stores for cheap (make sure you wash them first!). Treating your recording area can be done very affordably, and you can always upgrade it later once you’re landing work.”
After the external sounds have been addressed, and the appropriate insulation has been added to your home recording studio, the final step is to test your space using the ‘clap test.’
The ‘clap test’ involves standing in the middle of your recording space and clapping your hands with one single sharp clap. You should be able to hear the clap and nothing else — no echoes or any other unwanted sounds. If you hear anything other than the crisp sound of your clap, your work is not yet done, and more sound absorption is required in your home recording studio.
Unconventional Voice Over Tips for Preparing for Reads
Before you press record, it’s essential to prepare for your day as a voice actor with vocal warm ups and to get in the right headspace for your day in the booth.
The Voices Insiders have previously shared their favorite vocal exercises, but for a more unconventional approach to warming up, try the soup can work out. Simply grab a soup can or any item from your pantry or cupboard and read the list of ingredients out loud, repeating until the words feel natural. Next, try reading the cooking instructions out loud and try changing your tone from informative to conversational. For an added bonus, you can pretend you’re narrating a commercial for the ad and let your creativity run wild.
Getting into the Right Headspace for Voice Acting
After warming up your voice, it’s time to get in the zone. To start, Voices Insider Rob Jellison recommends listening to pump up music (Rob listens to one of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solos!). Music can provide a powerful energy boost that can change your mood, get your blood flowing, and help start your day on the right track.
The conversational read has quickly become one of the most requested styles of voice over by Voices clients, but it is also one of the most challenging to master. But, with a little creativity and using a few tricks to get into the right headspace, you can become a pro when it comes to the conversational read.
“I pretend to be having a conversation with someone about the topic I’m going to discuss in the audition, so it will sound more natural — even though it feels odd at the time!”
“Sometimes, if the script calls for conversational, I will start the audition by pretending to have a conversation with someone and then go straight into reading the script. It helps keep me in that ‘conversational’ mindset!”
“To sound more believable, I make up my own backstory about the company, product, or person and say it out loud before you get into the real script. This will help your read sound like your own words and that you really believe what you are saying.
When you are struggling with a conversational read, FaceTime a friend and record your audition while reading to them. It completely changes your mood and tone when you are actually ‘talking’ to a live person.”
Additional Unconventional Voice Over Tips to Prepare for Reads
When it comes to preparing for voice over reads and delivering a winning vocal performance, every voice actor has their own style. Try these tips recommended by the Voices Insiders to help round out your voice over routine.
“Stand on your tiptoes when delivering lines. When you’re flat-footed, you feel more vulnerable and less in the moment. Use your arms and hands as much as possible when you’re performing. Compare your voice to an orchestra, and you’re the conductor.”
“Brush your teeth before you begin audition or project work, and after you eat anything. It will minimize any extraneous mouth noise and make your work much easier.”
“When I first started, and I was having trouble reading a script within time limits, my voice coach suggested I read the whole script through a couple of times with a pen in my mouth. When I took the pen out, I could read the script SO MUCH FASTER!”
“If you are having trouble settling into a tone for your audition, do a read completely deadpan, then an over-the-top read. After that, it is easier to settle in the middle and hit the creative direction the client is looking for.”
Unconventional Voice Over Tips for Editing Your Voice Over Recordings
As with any new software or piece of equipment, you can expect a learning curve when it comes to understanding and getting the most out of your editing software. The more time you frontload at the beginning of your career to learn the ins and outs of your voice recording software, the less time you will ultimately spend editing after every audition or read.
As a voice actor, you should quickly become familiar with audio editing hotkeys. While hotkeys differ depending on the recording software you choose, their functions are largely the same. At a minimum, you should become acquainted with zoom, marker hotkeys, and toggling between edit points. In most software applications, a guide to using hotkeys should be accessible in the help settings.
Batching your voice over auditions
Over time, the process of recording a single audition, editing the file, and then submitting it can add up. Not only does the constant stopping and starting take you out of your performance element and flow, but it can add unnecessary hours spent in the studio and reduce the number of auditions you can complete in a day.
Instead, consider batching processing your auditions to save time and be more productive in the studio. Batching is done by recording your reads all in one session, then editing your files in a single block of time. Taking into consideration the upload and rendering time alone, you’ll notice considerable time savings once repetitive tasks are cut out of your workflow.
“I like to record auditions in one file, then label and save each file separately. Things go much quicker that way.”
Marking your voice over takes and mistakes
It’s important to note that batch processing is only a time-saving method if you can identify where each audition or take starts and stops. Otherwise, you’ll be spending unnecessary time listening to the entire file, bad takes and all!
Whether you’ve made a mistake in your read or you’ve moved on to another audition, this unconventional voice over tip will help you get your batch editing done in less time. Simply use a dog training clicker, clap your hands, or try clicking the roof of your mouth with your tongue to create an audible cue in your audio file after every take. You can even go one step further and clap twice for mistakes so you can skip reviewing entire sections of your file altogether.
Pair this tip with using markers in your recording software, and you can make quick work of the editing and file exporting process.
“When recording audiobooks, I always clap after mistakes and before retakes. Makes editing 10x faster.”
Unconventional Voice Over Tips for Your Wellbeing
The voice over industry never stops, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. As a creative professional, mental rest is essential not only for your wellbeing but for your output and productivity, too.
Take time out of your day in the studio to recharge and detach from voice acting. Go for a walk outside, take an extended lunch, or maybe try meditation. No matter what activity you choose, maintaining a healthy balance between work and life will help you to stay focused when it counts and be more productive in the long run.
“Take natural breaks, but leave a bit of your work, for later. You’ll be motivated to get back to into work, and that energy (especially after lunch) is a game-changer.”
“This is one tip that I constantly have to remind myself to do: send it and forget it! Once you record and send an audition, there is literally nothing you can do from there. So instead of obsessing over every audition, just do your best, send it, and forget it!”
Becoming a master of productivity takes practice, but you’re well on your way by following these tips from the Voices Insiders! Read more tips for making the most out of your auditions and managing your voice over business.
Do you have an unconventional voice over tip of your own? Let us know in the comments!