In this final chapter of the series “Vital Signs”, I have two fabulously talented educators with me here on VOX Daily sharing their thoughts on how those of you who come from radio can free yourself from broadcast radio bondage. What I’m saying may come as a surprise to many people but just because you come from radio doesn’t mean that you’re by virtue of that fact already a voice actor or that voice acting will come easily to you.
This article will explain how voice acting and radio differ and will help those who come from radio lose their “radioness”, ditching the sing-songy sound that some women carry over from broadcast and also the announcery baggage that men bring to the table when they enter the business of voice over.
Radio is Not Voice Over… Weird But True!
This idea has been floating around in my head for a number of years and now seems to be the appropriate time to explore it. When deciding how to present this, I wanted to give you the perspectives of two voice over teachers, their thoughts, and also share how people from radio who enter voice over (this is a very large number of people) can make it in the voice acting business without sounding like they’re still behind the mic at the radio station which is a very different style of speaking than that of what is expected of a voice over actor.
Here are the differences:
1. For DJs, personality and vocal quality are the stars of the show. With voice actors, the client information is the star and the actor’s voice and acting skills support that key information.
2. DJs spend a lot of air time ad libbing. Voice actors ad lib a little, but primarily read from a script and have to learn how to make those words sound natural and real.
3. When a voice actor records a commercial, the spot is read many times and often cut together to mine the most impact out of the copy. Radio personalities rarely read a commercial more than once; they either read it live or record it down and dirty at the end of the day to satisfy an obligation.
For a radio personality to break into the freelance voice-over world, they have to leave their DJ job at the door and learn how to step back from the starring position, relax the “pipes,” let the words motivate the listener to take action, and sound REAL. It takes practice, but it can be done.
The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques
Ask The Voice Cat
As a voice acting instructor and coach, I encounter a lot of people, mostly men, occasionally women, who’ve been in Radio for some time and want to transition into full-time voice acting. And they seem to have one thing in common–the dreaded “Radio Voice,” which, when agents hear their V-O demos, run screaming out of their office.
The Dreaded “Radio Voice”
What accounts for this aural phenomenon? Well, a few things.
Many radio DJs, announcers or personalities wear headphones while they’re on the air, and have basically fallen in love with the purring, resonant sounds of their own voice.
Most have been inculcated by their program director to deliver station-written and produced copy in the same style that they talk on the air, because that’s what the advertiser wants and is paying for. And many Radio people have listened to their predecessors for years, and have consciously or unconsciously emulated them.
Radio people do have, however, a lot of skill-sets that many people in the voice-over world don’t appreciate.
They have excellent eye-brain-mouth coordination, i.e., they’re able to lift words off a page effortlessly, without stumbling over any words, rarely omitting or adding any, and giving them a ton of energy. They’re also able to speak very fast, with outstanding articulation, and an amazing ability to “shoe-horn” seventy seconds of copy into a sixty-second spot.
They have wonderful cold-reading ability, since most of them come from the “rip and read” school of “this just in” on-air announcing.
On-air personalities are able to ad-lib extremely well, particularly in testimonials, giving advertisers a lot of bang for their buck. But most incredibly of all, they’re able to do all these things live, with thousands, hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of people listening to them. That’s a hell of a lot of pressure on a person, something that most professional voice actors rarely, if ever, encounter. We’ve got an audience of maybe a dozen people maximum hanging on our every word.
I explain to my students that the aforementioned skills are vital to a professional voice actor, and, truth be told, many of the Radio people I work with trying to transition into voice acting are able to find their niche.
I also remind my students that not everyone is cut out to be an actor. I know a lot of voiceover people doing a ton of non-acting work: announcing, corporate narration, e-Learning and instructional modules, phone-on-hold systems, pre-recorded announcements, etc., and are making quite a nice living. Heck, someone who comes into the studio for fifteen minutes to record a legal tag for a campaign can make more money than the actors, because the legal tag is tacked onto all the radio and TV spots!
But what can a Radio person do to not sound like a Radio person?
The main reason some Radio people have a challenging time transitioning into voice acting is because they haven’t been trained or taught how to act. So first, take voice acting classes. Learn how to speak conversationally, talking to just one person, not the multitudes. You can even take acting classes, to learn how to set a mood or attitude and find the emotional hook.
Second, don’t audition with your headphones on. Unless you’re doing a phone-patch and need to hear the director from a remote location, or you’re in a three-way trialogue with other performers who are in a separate room, don’t listen to yourself in your phones–you’ll just perpetuate that Radio mind-set of style over substance.
And third, concentrate on delivering copy in the same way you talk to people (or pets) you love–your siblings, your kids, your spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend, your parents–just not the way you talk to your audience. Because believability comes in talking to just one person, preferably someone you know who fits the target audience you’re talking to.
As long as you’re truly sincere and invested in what you’re talking about, chances are you’ll eventually lose the dreaded “Radio Voice.”
The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques
Los Angeles, CA
Transitioning From Radio To Voice Over
Moving from radio to voice over isn’t easy as you’ve read but it is achievable! Many of our great teachers today help talent to make the transition and encounter it quite often in their voice over studios. If you’d like to make the leap and need some help doing so, feel free to contact either Elaine, Marc or reach out to any of the voice over experts that we refer at Voices.com through the Voice Over Experts podcast.
Have You Made The Switch From Radio To Voice Acting? How Was It For You?