What kind of instrument do you have?
When it comes to voice quality and professional range, you need to know how to work that instrument of yours.
Find out what pro voice talent and coach Connie Terwilliger has to say on the matter!
When you’re trying to figure out what kind of a voice you have, it’s a good idea to start with something familiar to compare your instrument to.
Connie asked the question “What kind of piano do you have?”
For instance, your voice could be likened to a Steinway, a Young Chang, or a generic department store keyboard depending on the quality, tone, and physicality of your voice.
During the lunch hour, participants were given a homework assignment to listen carefully to their voices and note elements about their instrument that they hadn’t thought of before. Many people realized that although they thought they had a neutral accent, others told them that they had a distinct regional accent.
Connie then delved into how accents can limit or expand your career options:
If you have a neutral voice, there will be more work out there for you whereas if you have a regional accent, the work will be limited to a particular niche or casting requirement.
Mid range voices that are resonant with no discernible accent usually get the jobs. The accent most associated with this type of quality is the Midwestern US accent.
Accents like a Southern accent or New England accent are more limited with regard to demand… although that is the case, there a lots of people out there who live in areas of the country that have distinct local accents. What do they do?
The answer to this quandary is to figuratively adopt another brain!
If you have a strong accent or personality that takes you away from what is expected, employ another person’s brain when you work on projects that require a neutral accent so that you can perform better and more accurately when recording a straight read.
For those of you just getting started in the industry, it will be hard for those of you who have the most common voice types. Lots of people have your accent and by virtue of that fact, may sound the same.
What you’ll need to do is find something special that sets your voice apart that allows you to market yourself in the best way.
The VO Reality of Today
• Lots of work today through online marketplaces and voice over websites
• More competition correlates with more opportunities
• You need to critically analyze your competition
• Figure out their voice demo strategies and you™ll learn how to improve yours.
What makes something the way it is?
Know Your Competition
Overall sound: Are their demos professionally recorded using a good clean microphone? Are they using different microphones? Is there a subtle sameness throughout the recording?
Tip: In your recording session, see if the producer can change the microphones halfway through the session or EQ the microphones a bit to sound like a different microphone.
Listen carefully: Do you hear pops, mouth noises, unusual sound? Tinny? No acoustics? What is it that makes a voice recording sound professional?
Flow of the demo: Does it move along quickly and hold your attention?
While we’re on the subject, some voice over demos are way too long and often redundant. If the producer has to shut you off (or stop your demo while it is playing) they likely are thinking that your demo is:
1. Too long.
2. The same kind of thing (not versatile / is redundant).
3. Not what they™re hearing in their head as they™re casting for a job.
4. Great! They will often say œI love that voice and set your demo aside.
What do you really want?
A seamless, quick, and interesting voice over demo that leaves them wanting more at the end.
One way to achieve this is to add dashes of variety throughout your demo. Variety manifests itself in pacing, diverse attitudes, reads, copy, music, and sound effects.
Caveat about going to a demo mill:
They have their favorite music, sound effects and copy and every demo sounds the same. You have to be your own producer, do the self-evaluation and know what™s good. Look for variety in subject matter and in product. Variety in pacing, mix it up, show them what you can do. In point of view, you don™t want all the same kind of spots (first person, second, third). Add variety in all production elements.
Back to the core of the article 🙂 What else should you be analyzing?
Acting skills: Top notch, mediocre, painful? Pick material that™s right for you. It’s good to experiment and practice reading copy. Play your voice over demo, then play it back again and analyze all over again.
Give a lot of thought to the scripts. Use scripts that you can work with to highlight your voice and style.
What else do you need to succeed in this business? Understand the business and where the opportunities lies.
• Don™t record a demo before you™ve got a business and marketing plan in place.
• Networking is different from sales. Effective networking leads to sales. Use schmoozing skills.
• Be able to understand and evaluate opportunities.
Point of interest: Union talent may be perceived as more professional by people who have been working with union talent. Something to consider when running a voice over business.
Something else you’ll need to do to remain competitive is to keep yourself and your tools updated; have a marketing budget in mind to help you reach your target audience.
Business Sense and Ability
When you run a business, there are many aspects to consider as an entrepreneur. If you’ve been with an agent for as long as you can remember and are just striking out on your own, pay close attention to the following elements.
• Negotiation: What to charge. The cost of doing business, tools, marketing, value of time, how long it takes you to work and so on.
• Bookkeeping: Need to have some bookkeeping skills.
• Collection: Following up and making sure that you get paid.
• A great demo
• A web presence / place to park your demo
• A real domain name and corporate email address.
• Recording capability
When you go out to build your home studio, start by listening to and comparing microphones, setup an acoustically treated room, get a clean sound card, and purchase pro recording software. It’s wise to learn how use the equipment before you invest too much in equipment.
Perk: Have some technical skills before you get into the VO biz.
Final question that you’ll need to ask yourself…
DO YOU HAVE THE TIME TO DEVOTE TO THIS ENTIRE PROCESS?
Do you have the time to gain a true idea of the costs, time, and the expertise required for starting a career, for maintaining it, and so on?
Part and parcel of a voice over career is maintaining it, operating it, and keeping up with new opportunities, whether related to performance or new technologies.
When you are auditioning, take a critical look at your work and the process:
Is it right for you? Can you actually do it and does the client want what you are going to send?
Use your self-evaluation techniques to be sure that you are auditioning for the right projects.
Recording the project: Make sure that your self-evaluation techniques are in check while directing yourself. Objectively listen. Continue to self-evaluate as you progress in your career.
What else can you do to help your career continue to flourish?
• Create new demos and update old demos
• Re-evaluate your niche
• Test new niches
Connie asked at the end “Do you have what it takes?
Being in the VO business requires skills in the following areas:
And those are just the business side of things!
If you are curious about more areas to develop in your career, you can also read Rodney Saulsberry’s lecture about stepping up to the mic and overcoming obstacles in your voice over career.
Your comments are welcome!
If you attended Connie’s lectures, please leave her a note here to let her know what you thought of her presentation.
P.S. I’ve published this post about Connie Terwilliger’s presentations at VOICE 2007. Please note that much of this material was taken directly from her copyrighted materials in the Conference Workbook. Please contact her (connie @ voiceover-talent.com) before reprinting this content.