Updating Your Voice Over Demo

The Professional's Guide To Voice Acting

How much time has passed since you last updated your voice over demo? Even if you’ve already got an impressive demo that has landed you scores of voice acting jobs in the past, it is essential that you regularly review, update, and refine it as you move forward in your career. A voice over demo is the all-important tool that serves as your main calling card in the industry.

As a professional voice actor, you’ve identified your signature voice and have a strong sense of the type of roles you’re going to pursue. You’ve also developed a voice over business plan in preparation for making voice acting your full-time gig, and you’ve upgraded your home studio, so you’ve got a fully functional recording space that serves your needs.

Now, it’s time to make an updated voice over demo so that it is most reflective of the way your voice sounds, and the jobs you know you would knock out of the park.

How to Update Your Voice Over Demo

Your voice over demo is what clients will listen to in order to gain a sense of whether you’re the right fit to voice their project. Ultimately, your demo needs to be representative of the work that you’re capable of completing. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’ve ever completed that work for a client.

Keep these 4 tips in mind when you’re recording or updating your voice acting demo reel:

1. Keep production elements to a minimum: This means little-to-no sound effects, musical backing, or additional elements that will crowd your demo with extra noise. This is particularly noteworthy if you aren’t a skilled audio producer. Having no production elements is a better strategy than using cheap, distracting ones. Your demo should reflect what you can do as a producer, not just as a voice actor.

2. Use dry voice samples: Remember, clients want to hear how you sound, not to be swept up on some flashy sonic journey. Dry voice is typically sought out for reads of audiobooks, online learning, and in telephone and GPS contexts. When you feature your voice as it naturally comes across, listeners immediately get to hear the quality of your delivery and focus on your voice as the sole instrument of the recording.

3. Don’t simply read straight from the script, or make impulsive and intuitive decisions about the style of read you’d like to perform: Direction is an important aspect of voice acting. Be sure to take it into account when you interpret the script. Devote time to deconstructing your script, mapping out when you ought to speak slowly or quickly, and which words to place emphasis on, all in service of achieving the most effective and resonant read.

4. Adopt a constant vocal regime to ensure that the sound of your voice remains consistent and healthy: This means that you should have your own vocal warm-up routine, maintain dental hygiene, stay hydrated, and take lengths to help your voice become the best possible vehicle for the delivery of your scripts.

When to Update Your Voice Over Demo

Your voice over demo isn’t a fixed entity, and like any other living thing, should continue to grow in conjunction with your voice.

Sometimes your voice over demos will simply require a handful of minor updates to indicate new vocal styles that you have studied, but at other times, they’re due for a total overhaul.

Here are 5 telltale signs that your voice over demo needs to be updated:

1. Vocal Changes: Voices change as we age, so updating your voice over demo every few years is a surefire way to continue sounding fresh.

Male and female voices don’t age on the same schedule. A woman’s voice continues to mature, year after year, until she reaches her 40s. Then, as hormonal changes begin to occur in her 50s, her vocal resonance will change once more. That means that one woman’s voice can undergo a whole lot of change over the course of a single career. Men, on the other hand, experience little perceptible change in their voices after their voice drops during puberty.

Personal habits, including drinking and smoking, can damage the throat and mouth, impacting the sound of an actor’s voice over time. Check out these vocal health tips from a voice coach about maintaining your vocal health.

The moral of the story is that when a client arrives at your profile or website and wants to hire you based on a demo of your voice that was recorded ten, or even five, years ago, it’s likely they may be disappointed by how much the end result differs from the voice they heard in the demo.

Whether you can detect major changes in your voice or not, updating your demo every few years is an important rule to follow in order to stay sounding current.

2. There are Times and Dates in Your Voice Over Demos: Another major pitfall many voice over demos fall prey to is the use of dates and times. As we know, time marches on, and thus, your demo becomes dated. This is a common concern when it comes to car commercials, movie trailers, concert tours, and political campaigns. When you voice a spot with phrases such as “New in 2015” or “Coming soon to theatres…,” you should consider cropping the date out of the recording entirely.

An easy way to avoid the date-time issue is by excluding dates altogether when you’re initially recording your demo. Or, you can update your demo with a spot concerning something up-to-the-minute.

3. Your Voice Over Demo Has Outdated Cultural References: If your voice over demo is densely composed of cultural references, including spots revolving around debuts, reunions, or catchphrases from a specific era, it is highly likely that your demo is bound to go out of style. Unless this happens to be your intention, it’s best not to craft your voice over demo in the form of a time capsule, where the references will eventually grow irrelevant and alienate casting directors.

It’s also not a great practice to pack your demo full with impressions of, say, cartoon characters that young adults (25-35) aren’t familiar with. In fact, it is best only to feature impressions if they are spot-on. It is rare that your impression will live up to a character audiences already know and love, and you don’t want your demo’s most memorable characteristic to be your impression of a beloved character having fallen short.

4. You Need to Update Music and Sound Effects: By the same token, if you plan on adding a backing track to your voice over demo, you should proceed with caution. If you choose wisely, the music you use has the chance to greatly enhance the resonance of your work.

On the other hand, if your backing track is widely associated with a particular era of music, it has the power to instantly date your entire demo beyond the point of salvaging. Unless you’re aiming to parody a certain musical genre, cut the period music and sound effects.

5. Your Voice Over Demo is Simply Out of Style: If you’re hoping your voice over demo will convey the broad range of vocal delivery styles that you’re able to perform, it’s a good idea to pay attention to current trends in voice acting. For some time now, the industry has been leaning toward relatable, casual voices far more than the sound of, say, traditional radio broadcasters. It may not actually work in your favor to juxtapose your flair for doing a guy-next-door vocal style with your ability to deliver a booming radio voice.

In your demo, you also want to voice more realistic characters who sound as if they’re plucked from an actual project, not merely hollow caricatures. Check out this advice from a casting director on how to create a winning demo.

More than anything, it is important that you showcase your signature voice, and avoid bloating your voice over demo with vocal styles that you don’t really specialize in.

Using Previous Voice Over Jobs in Your Voice Over Demo: A Word of Caution

At the beginning of this page, we mentioned that your voice over demo shouldn’t necessarily operate as your audio CV, but more so as a collection of samples of the vocal roles and styles you’re eager to undertake. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use samples of completed jobs that you’re proud of and which show off your strengths. If you do plan on incorporating past completed work into your voice over demo, you should first take these considerations into mind:

1. Not all clients will want you using recordings of jobs that you’ve worked on with them as part of your voice over demo. Your voice over demo is a pivotal resource that you will want to be able to distribute as widely as possible, so the last thing that you want is to encounter content objections after you have finished mixing it.

2. Even if you haven’t signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), it is still wise to contact the client you completed the project for and request their permission before sticking that piece of work in your voice over demo. Asking makes a world of difference. Voice actors regularly contact Voices to check if they are allowed to use work that they’ve recorded for our site in their own demos, and we are more than happy to give them the go-ahead.

3. While it may seem highly advantageous to showcase impressive work you’ve booked with big clients, don’t use brand names in your voice over demo if you haven’t already been granted permission.

It is similarly important to never use audition spots as part of your demo. Doing so is considered copyright infringement. The client always owns 100% of the rights to the audition script, so you must contact them before recording your demo.

Scouting out royalty-free sample scripts that align with your preferred style of vocal delivery or show off your extensive range are also favorable (and hassle-free) routes to take. Take a look at Voices’s catalogue of free sample scripts!

Showcasing Your Voice Over Work Online

The model that many voice talent use to edit their voice over demos is based upon the analog tradition of sending agents voice acting demo reels that showcased the actor’s strongest spots in a variety of vocal styles. In today’s world, this entire process happens online, and instead of putting a number of different niches into a single audio track, some actors prefer to edit each niche into their own MP3 files, each of which last no longer than 30 seconds. When clients are listening through the demo reels of prospective actors worth casting, they will click away if they haven’t identified what they’re looking for in the first 15 seconds.

Being concise and punchy with your voice over demo is crucial. If you’re adding new spots into your demo when you’re updating it, be sure to remove others that no longer best showcase your capabilities. You should aim for a runtime of 1 minute or 1:10, and never exceed 90 seconds.

Once you have produced a demo that you’re happy with and which shows off your talents, publish it on your own voice acting site and Voices profile, making sure to promote it widely and give your demo its best chance of falling into the hands (and ears) of the next casting director who could hire you. Do not, however, send out your demo unsolicited to a massive email list.

In addition to updating your demo file on Voices, update the description in your profile to indicate your specialities and the type of voice work you’re interested in doing. When you place a great deal of effort into keeping your voice over demo polished and up-to-date, you are bound to start booking more jobs and have a greater chance of establishing yourself within the industry.