Attending a Recording Session

You will primarily work out of your own home recording studio, but over the course of your career you will occasionally find yourself attending an in-studio audition or voicing a job in a production studio of your client's choosing. This is particularly true if you have an agent or if you live in a major city centre where auditions may include voice-over roles in television or film productions.

Ten to twenty years ago it was the norm for professional audio recording studios to have upwards of a million dollars sunk into their equipment. Equipment costs have come down in price since then but it's still a significant investment. As a result, you'll find that most studio engineers are extremely protective of their equipment. So, above all, respect their studio. Don't touch anything, especially the microphone.

When you do attend an in-person recording session there are some important points to remember on how to conduct yourself (aka, Studio Etiquette) and general dos and don'ts that you'll be expected to know upon your arrival.

Brushing Up On Your Studio Etiquette

Do: come prepared. Know the role you'll be reading for. Rehearse the script, saying it out loud, several times before attending the recording session so that you're familiar with the character, pace, and tone of the voice-over.

Do: eat an apple and bring water. If you have worked in call centres, or otherwise had a job that involved talking all day, you know how difficult it is to speak with a dry throat and mouth. Have warm or room temperature water on standby at all times. The studio may also offer you water to drink but always be prepared.

Whether you have dry mouth or wet mouth, an apple a day will keep the engineer at bay. Granny Smith apples in particular are high in acidity which helps reduce those pesky mouth noises the mic picks up. As you bite into an apple it also lubricates your teeth helping your lips glide smoothly for a clean sounding read. If possible though, slice the apple so that you are less likely to get bits of the apple's skin in between your teeth.

Do: be flexible. Creative directors are just that - creative. Be prepared to receive some unusual direction ("Can you sound like a tree, please?"), sudden changes in the script, or the tone of the voice-over. Show them you can go-with-the-flow, enjoy these creative inspirations, and give them the best read you can.

Do: ask questions. If you are uncertain of how to pronounce a word or if anything else is unclear, such as the punctuation at the end of a sentence, don't be afraid to ask. Just be sure to ask BEFORE you start recording the script.

Do: be courteous and professional. Whether you're a pro talent or new to the industry, keep any delusions of grandeur at home. Remember, you are providing a service, so put on your customer service hat. Be yourself; your friendly, courteous, respectful-of-others self.

Don't: wear noisy clothing and accessories. Keep those MC Hammer pants and bangle bracelets at home. Microphones pick up everything. Winning combinations are loose fitting comfortable items such as cottons, knits, khakis or jeans, and soft-soled shoes. Remove any accessories that jingle, jangle, tick or tock.

Don't: bring your cell phone. Never, ever bring your mobile phone out at the studio and especially not in the booth. Even if your phone is on vibrate, the microphone will hear it. Be respectful of others and their time by turning your phone off or leaving it locked up in your vehicle. Unless your wife is expecting a baby any day, there should be no reason the call can't wait until you're done recording the session.

Don't: touch the microphone. If the mic needs adjusting, don't touch it. The sound engineer has put a lot of time into setting the booth up just right so ask them to adjust the mic for you. Aside from being good manners, not touching the microphone lets the engineer know that you respect them and the studio environment. It also prevents you from inadvertently damaging the equipment!

Don't: keep people waiting. First impressions are everything, so don't be late. Plan on arriving fifteen minutes early for your session to give you enough time for proper introductions. Budgeting extra time for travel also helps should you run into any traffic delays.

Don't: change the script. Stick with what's in the script. You were hired to do one job and that's the voice-over. Don't overstep your boundaries by acting as copy editor or director. The people in charge of those jobs will make any changes to the wording if and when they become necessary.

Don't: apologize. If you make a mistake while reading the script, try not to get flustered. Don't stop and apologize. Simply take a breath, stay in character and reread the sentence. The urge to apologize can be challenging to overcome but your professionalism will pay off and will be appreciated by the director. The engineer will appreciate a short pause between attempts to read the script, so if you do stumble on your words or something doesn't come out right, take a few seconds to regroup and then start again. Doing so makes it easier for the engineer to edit later on.

When you attend your session keep in mind that everyone at the studio has a distinct job to do. Yours is to be the voice talent. You will need to be patient, listen to direction, follow instructions carefully, and deliver the read they're looking for. Whether you're auditioning or you've landed the job, assume that everyone on-site has an influence in the decision to cast you; from the coffee guy or girl to the receptionist and the director's assistant. Be thankful, likable, and easy to work with. Be kind to everyone around you.

OrganizationLeaving a Lasting Impression

After you go home, send a handwritten thank you card to the studio letting them know how much you enjoyed working with them. Place your business card in the thank you note so they remember who you are for their next casting call. This is all part of building your business and roster of repeat clients. To be asked back, leave a lasting impression as good as your first impression.

Next up: What you need to know about working with voice-over clients.