When you’re first launching your career in voice acting, it’s common to find yourself holding your own recording sessions and working predominantly from home. Many of the most celebrated talent in the industry carry out the majority of their business from home, and once they have established themselves in the field, even develop their own state-of-the-art home recording studios.
However, as you move forward in your career, you may find yourself invited to attend an in-studio audition, or requested to deliver a script read from a professional recording studio of your client’s choosing. This is more likely to be the case if you have agency representation, are based in a metropolis that houses a major voice acting market, or if you’re landing a lot of work in TV and film.
Once you’ve gained a handle on how to best conduct yourself in a recording studio environment, attending your recording session will become far less of a daunting task. It’s a real privilege to get to record your work using the industry’s finest equipment—something not every voice actor gets a chance to experience—so you ought to savor the occasion.
When in studio, you’re sure to find that engineers are protective of their equipment. So, if you get the honor of being invited to attend a recording session at a professional studio, there is some studio etiquette to be aware of.
Follow these recording studio dos and don’ts in order to pull off a faultless read that impresses your studio mates and gets you invited back to record again.
While this definitely means that you should show up prepared to deliver your strongest vocal performance, it also means that you’ll have already put in the preliminary work to understand the project and character that you’ve been hired to read for. You’ll ideally pull up to the recording studio having interpreted the meaning of the project and carried out multiple read-throughs of the script aloud. All the work you put in before stepping foot into the studio will cause you to be more familiar with the characterization, pacing, and general tone of the piece.
Arrive armed with lots of water and an apple (or two). Anybody who has worked in a call center or held a job that’s required talking all day long will appreciate how difficult it is to articulate yourself with a dry throat and mouth. Granny Smith apples are highly acidic, and help reduce pesky mouth noises the mic might pick up. As someone whose vocal conditions can make or break a recording session, you never want to underestimate the importance of having warm or room temperature water on standby at all times.
Creative directors are just that: creative. The direction of a recording session can take some unexpected turns, including last-minute script revisions, experimentation with different styles of voice over, and unconventional directorial decisions. Different clients will have different workflows, so be ready to be spontaneous and show that you can go with the flow.
If you find yourself uncertain about how to pronounce a certain word, the punctuation at the end of a sentence, or if any other questions arise, don’t be afraid to respectfully ask for some guidance. Your colleagues at the recording studio will be happy to lend you a hand. Just remember not to wait until you’re mid-delivery to interrupt your own read and pose these questions, odds are that this will cause some frustration.
Check your ego at the door. Every recording session is a collaborative process, and everyone present in the room is an integral piece of the puzzle who shares the same interest in achieving the best recording possible. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned professional or an industry newcomer: you’re providing a service, so put on your customer service hat and be friendly and respectful.
Be warned: microphones pick up everything. If you’re wearing jangling jewelry, any time you move your arms or body, the sound of your outfit will disrupt the recording. Replace any accessories that jingle, jangle, clink, or clank with a loose-fitting, comfortable getup comprised of cottons, knits, jeans or khakis, and soft-soled shoes.
While in most cases it’s encouraged to have your phone handy, to find the address of the recording studio, to communicate with your clients, or to snap photos for social media, the one place your phone doesn’t belong is inside the recording booth. Besides the fact that it can be distracting and take you out of character, if you receive any texts or calls, the sound will damage your whole recording. In fact, even anticipating texts or calls can affect your focus. To be respectful of others’ time, turn off your phone and leave it in your bag, or lock it away in your vehicle. Calls can wait until after you’re finished recording.
As much as we know that you’d like to take the reins and adjust the mic exactly to your liking, you must resist the impulse. The sound engineer has put a great deal of effort into assembling every element of the booth in precise detail, so taking the liberty to move things around shows a level of disrespect that will reflect poorly upon you.
In the entertainment industry, first impressions are everything. You do not want someone to remember you as the voice actor who forced them to wait in the studio for you to arrive. Every minute inside a recording studio is precious (and expensive). Plan to arrive about 15 minutes early for your session so that you have a moment for proper introductions. Budget extra time for travel in case you run into any transit or traffic delays.
While it can be impressive to arrive with your own, creative take on the project, veering from the actual content within the script is highly discouraged. Unless you are instructed to improvise, it is not your job to write original material. When you’re hired to serve as the voice for a project, don’t overstep your boundaries by additionally trying to act as its copy editor or director.
Everybody makes mistakes. So, if you slip up while performing a read, resist the urge to break character and apologize. Simply take a breath, remain in character, and reread the sentence that you had an issue with. The sound engineer will appreciate a brief pause between takes, so if you happen to stumble on your words, just take a few seconds to regroup before beginning afresh. Although you may feel bad about your mistake and want to make that known, your restraint and professionalism will pay off.
You’ve completed your first recording session at a professional recording studio and you’re pleased with how it went over. Good job! Once you go home, one of your first orders of business should be penning a handwritten Thank You card to mail off to the studio to let them know how much you enjoyed working with them.
Make sure to slip a business card for your voice over business into the Thank You note so that the team at the recording studio will have it handy the next time they’re casting a project. This is all a crucial part of building the reach of your business and your roster of repeat clients. If you want to be invited back, leave a lasting impression that is as strong as your first one.