Finding Your Authentic Voice with Brian McKeever

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    Today’s listeners can sniff out an inauthentic voice from a mile away. Whether it’s a regional accent or a voice’s age, authenticity in a read will determine whether a vocal performance really sells an audience or just falls flat.

    In this week’s episode, Stephanie links up with voice actor and coach Brian McKeever to listen to a series of auditions for a branded podcast intro. Their conversation covers the items you should always keep close by while recording, the reason it’s always best to speak within your comfort zone, and just how far you should take a regional accent. 

    About Brian McKeever

    Brian McKeever is a senior audio post-production editor/mixer/sound designer at Soundtrack Boston, where he’s worked since 1992 with clients such as Toyota, Cleveland Golf, National Grid, Srixon, XXIO, McDonald’s, Constant Contact, Keurig, Eversource, and many others. As a voice actor, he’s lent his voice to thousands of projects, from commercials and training videos to documentaries and animation projects. He has also taught the craft of voiceover to students for over a decade.  

    A graduate of the Music Production & Engineering program at Berklee College of Music, McKeever brings many years of experience and a unique perspective to the classes he teaches, helping prepare students with a real-world understanding of the current audio, technology, and voice over industries. In his spare time he enjoys motorcycles, astrophotography, and fine single-malt Scottish whiskey.

    Hosts: Stephanie Ciccarelli, with special guest Brian McKeever.

    Links:

    Inspired by this episode? Get your practice on with our voice over sample scripts

    Connect with Brian McKeever at Voiceover Intensive by sending him an email at brian@voiceoverintensive.com, and hear his voice on Voices.com.  

    Check out these other links mentioned in the episode:

    Dialects Archive

    https://www.izotope.com/en/shop/rx-7-standard.html

    About Mission Audition: Mission Audition is presented by Voices.com. Produced and engineered by Randy Rektor. Script written by Oliver Skinner.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Welcome to Mission Audition. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli for voices.com. In today’s episode, we are going to be showcasing seven podcast-style additions for a fictitious podcast called Gold Spotters Pod. We’ll get into the company and job description in just a minute. But before that, I’d love to introduce you to our guest. Today’s episode, we have with us, Brian McKeever. Oh, my goodness. Brian, welcome to the show.


    Brian McKeever:
    Thank you for having me.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It’s so great to see you and to have you here, and we’ve actually never met in person before. So, this is a real treat to actually meet one of the only coaches we have in the Boston area.


    Brian McKeever:
    Yeah, it’s been great to work with you guys, and it’s been awesome for us. So, thank you.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, fantastic. Well, Brian, I’m going to share a bit more about yourself before I ask you to jump in as well. But for those of us who are new to Brian, Brian’s a senior audio post-production editor, mixer, and sound designer at Soundtrack Boston. And he’s worked with clients such as Toyota, Cleveland Golf, National Grid, and McDonald’s, to name a few. Now, as a voiceover talent, he’s also lent his voice to thousands of projects, from commercials to training videos and documentaries and animation projects,
    and has actually been teaching for quite some time now, the craft of voiceover to his students for over a decade at Voiceover Intensive. So, Brian, I know I just went over a whole bunch of awesome stuff about you, but I would love if you’d share with us a bit more about your background. I see you went to Berkeley.


    Brian McKeever:
    Yeah. I was a music production engineering major at Berkeley College of Music. And that gave me the foundation of sort of the audio background that’s got me into the career I’m in today, which and originally I was planning to be a music mixer, a producer, discovered audio post-production, discovered the world of commercials, which is the primary business for Soundtrack Boston, and loved it, loved the work, working with agencies, creating spots, TV and radio stuff. And we’ve moved forward to things like theatrical commercials. We’ve done films and documentaries. And so, I always enjoyed that piece of it.


    Brian McKeever:
    A major piece of that was voiceover, meeting talent. I never understood what that was about. We did some mock projects in school, but coming into a facility like this, working as an intern, and seeing talent do what they did, and seeing a creative director or a copywriter directing a talent, and what they said and how it was interpreted, and when there was great direction with terrible talent or terrible direction with great talent and how that worked, it was by osmosis kind of gave me a real good education in what
    voiceover was. And that led to, as an engineer, having to do scratch tracks, having to do temporary tracks for people, just to time things out and see how they worked.

    Brian McKeever:
    Then one day, somebody says, as it usually happens, “Hey, we loved your voice on that. Can we use that? And we’ll pay you.” And it’s like, why would I say no? That led to like, “Maybe I could do this.” And from there, started here and there doing some stuff and eventually, it steamrolled a bit. It definitely picked up once the online casting thing became a major part of our client. Our client started using that. We started hearing about that, and we’d get voices from all over the place through those services. And it
    was… I started teaching right around that time. And that’s what led to kind of having to discover what the, for example, voices.com. So, they said, “Hey, you ever heard of this?” I’m like, “I haven’t, so I’ll check it out.” And I did and found it to be a very excellent place to find voiceover work.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s awesome. And it was, while I was listening to your story, Brian, it reminded me of Don LaFontaine in a way. Because Don, he started in the more production side of things and someone one day didn’t show up to work and they’re like, “Hey, Don, do you think you could read what you wrote here? Do you think…” And then he’d… “You got a decent voice,” they say to him, right? Something like that.


    Brian McKeever:
    Right.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:


    And from there, it’s history, right? Everything else is as we know it today. So, I think a lot of talented voice artists do actually come from the production side, and you have that skillset. So, I would really love if we could have some of that extra knowledge come into the podcast from your background in audio production. And as we go through these seven auditions, we will be hearing these pearls of wisdom from you, no doubt. So, without further ado, we’re going to jump right into the job posting.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    As I mentioned before, this is for a company called Gold Spotters. It’s a musical talent discovery and star-making platform for teens and young adults. Our audience is mostly composed of tech-savvy gen-Zers, who exclusively use their phones and social media to find new artists and listen to music. Remember that beyond that they’re also consumers, they’re typically budding talent themselves. So, those users, of course, prefer the authentic DIY approaches to production and promotion. Keep that in
    mind when we’re listening. And in one sense, the podcast will accompany and boost the platform.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Remember, this isn’t just about the talent signing up, it’s about the platform itself. So, the voice actor who performs each episode intro will serve as a Gold Spotters brand advocate. Not only are you appealing to those people who would sign up, you’re also speaking as the voice of the brand. So, at the
    same time, you want to have that voice in the podcast to stand out on its own for listeners who don’t yet use Gold Spotters, but yearn for youthful and authoritative advice about online music-making and self-promotion. These are adolescents who are hard at work, they’ve got lofty dreams, and they’re bound by all things musical, the love of all things musical, which I think, given that you went to Berkeley, Brian, I think you can totally get into that too.


    Brian McKeever:
    Absolutely. Yeah.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Awesome.

    Brian McKeever:
    There’s a passion there. There’s a passion that’s always involved with making music, so they’re bringing that to this.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, and we want to hear that for sure. And the last point, one of the last points here so far as artistic direction goes, has to do actually with the accent that we’re going to be listening for. So, the talent had been asked, for this podcast, to sound like they’re from the tri-state area, but we’re still open to other interpretations. We’re looking for a voice who can briefly introduce our listeners to a series of topics related to producing music and getting their tracks heard. Each intro will last around 15 to 30 seconds
    and scripts may range from technical how-tos featuring complicated instructions, to more laid-back industry anecdotes, or the bios of young musicians.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I think we’ve got so much creative direction here, we don’t know what to do with it, frankly. I think this is probably one of the most well-described creative directions we’ve had so far on the show. You can write in and tell us if you think so or not. But right now, we need to get into the show, and we’re going to listen to these seven auditions. Make sure you bought your pen and your pencil or whatever you’re taking notes on ready, because we are going to have a great time today. Let’s listen to audition number
    one.


    Audition 1:
    What’s up, guys? Welcome back to Gold Spotters, the pod all about cutting your teeth and getting noticed in the music biz. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at crafting original cover art that captures both the vibe of your track and who you are as an artist. Plus, I’ll teach you how to create a looping visual to enliven your image on streaming platforms.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, Brian, what do you think?

    Brian McKeever:
    Well, excellent pace. Her enunciation’s great. What I like about it is that, a natural voice and natural phrasings. She sounded interested in it. It could have maybe been a little more energetic or excited. This is an exciting… Again, the passion and excitement has to come through. There was no accent. So, I mean, maybe that could be considered a minus on it, but the… She understands the copy, and I think that’s a big deal here is that she understands what’s important in that script and kind of brings it.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And she sounds young enough, right?

    Brian McKeever:
    Yep, yep.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Youthful aspect is there, for sure. While we’re on the accent piece though, I did want to ask you about the tri-state area. So, for those of us who are not Americans, and we do not live on the east coast of the United States, can you tell us about what the tri-state area is, which states that comprises of, and the accents that one might find there?


    Brian McKeever:
    The tri-state accent is kind of a blend. You’ve got New York, you’ve got New Jersey, and sort of Southwestern Connecticut. There’s a New York accent that you could take to almost parody that has the New York. It’s interesting because of variants of that becomes a Boston accent, where we lose Rs and
    things like that. So, it takes away some of the vowels, lightens them up a bit, and it has different flavors. I don’t know if it’s one generic accent, as much as it is a certain area’s, a Brooklyn accent versus New Jersey. It tends to have some nasal-ness to it. People tend to work that a little bit more in a nasal range, as opposed to a deeper chest resonant range. So, that’s my understanding of it. And it’s interesting because having it done organically, it’s amazing. When it’s not, it’s very noticeable that it feels like a little
    bit of parody. And you have to be careful of that, depending on, for example, advertisements.


    Brian McKeever:
    I did one years ago for Cape Cod, and wanted to have a slight New York accent. But when they heard it, they felt it might’ve been a little too parody-ish and therefore, it could offend some of the people who come up to Cape Cod from New York. And so, they ditched it. They went with a no accent read.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wow. So, it might actually be safer, in some cases, to say neutral accent, as opposed to trying to get someone who isn’t a native speaker, we’ll say, of that accent and grow up with it to… Because yeah, you can do some serious damage to an accent if you don’t know how to do it, right?


    Brian McKeever:
    Yeah. Absolutely.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Then you’ve offended all kinds of people. They don’t feel that you are authentic, that you’re legitimate, that you can actually speak to them as someone who comes from where they are.


    Brian McKeever:
    Yeah. I mean, that’s why there’s dialogue coaches for actors to keep it in that zone where it’s authentic and real, and doesn’t go… And with some varying levels of success, especially with the Boston accent. It’s a hard one. New York is as well. A Southern accent, you can take that into parody very quickly. But if ever asked for an accent, I will always lean on the lighter side of it. I will go with something where there’s a hint of it, unless specifically said, “This is parody. He’s a crazy cowboy from…” Okay, then fine, we’ll go into that zone, but a very different voiceover versus an animation side of things.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Absolutely. Great thoughts on that audition. Let’s move on to audition number two.


    Audition 2:
    What’s up, guys? Welcome back to Gold Spotters, the pod all about cutting your teeth and getting noticed in the music biz. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at crafting original cover art that captures both the vibe of your track and who you are as an artist. Plus, I’ll teach you how to create a looping visual to enliven your image on streaming platforms.


    Brian McKeever:
    I like her. I like her accent, and I think her pace is good. She sounds like she’s cool, and has some authority, like she knows what she’s talking about. On the other side of things, I think that that could have been a little smoother in terms of the phrasing. Cool people talk smooth. And there’s a bit of choppiness to some of that read. Maybe a little bit more energy, it would benefit from. And in some places, there were some things in the copy she didn’t hit as much, certain things that would have been important. Like the, “It’s all about cutting your teeth.” Those kind of hits are important. But her pace and her accent and her authority, I think, really make that stand out.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yes. I think her read was definitely, it felt like she was really speaking to those people. I did notice that it was a bit more staccato, more choppy, even to my untrained ear. I began to doubt whether or not the accent was authentic, to be honest with you. I began to doubt whether it was authentic because it didn’t sound fluid enough, unless there are a ton, a ton of pauses in how they speak in a particular area, let’s say, of, because I’m not exactly sure which accent that was. For you, Brian, what did it sound like?
    Because I mean, there’s probably people like me who were thinking, was that Brooklyn or was that Jersey?


    Brian McKeever:
    I would lean toward Brooklyn, over Jersey. I feel like that’s probably closer to that. I might be wrong, but. And again, sometimes I think in the mind of someone who’s casting, they may think it’s Brooklyn when it actually is Jersey. Like they’re… Somebody asked us one time for a New Hampshire accent. I don’t know what that is. And I don’t… Honestly, we asked them and they didn’t either. They just took that as a direction from their client. It was an agency producer and they took it from their client. And so, we’re digging and finally, it was just more of the performance. It wasn’t an accent as much as sort of a laid back kind of vibe. So, in some cases, it may or may not be, but if that’s what’s in their mind. But I would lean that one towards a Brooklyn, New York, not New Jersey and definitely not Southern
    Connecticut.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. Yeah, I could see that. What does New Hampshire sound like? Or what does Vermont for that matter sound like? Beautiful? There’s lots of trees. There’s lots of green mountains.

    Brian McKeever:
    Relaxed.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. That’s my limited experience of those states, speaking on here. And I love those states. I’ve driven through them but sometimes, we just don’t know what an accent sounds like. That’s why it’s good to check sites like IDEA. I don’t know, do you have any experience with the International Dialect of English Archives?


    Brian McKeever:
    I’ve heard of it and certainly had people reference it.
    Stephanie Ciccarelli:

    Absolutely. And I know we’ve written about this before on the voices.com blog about IDEA. Just pulled up here, the website for anyone who is interested and certainly, open your browser and I’ll leave it and go back to listening to our podcast. But the website is, dialectsarchive.com. So, dialect with an S, dialectsarchive.com. Well, that was all very, very interesting. Now, let’s listen to audition number three.


    Audition 3:
    What’s up, guys? Welcome back to Gold Spotters, the pod all about cutting your teeth and getting noticed in the music biz. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at crafting original cover art that captures both the vibe of your track and who you are as an artist. Plus, I’ll teach you how to create a looping visual to enliven your image on streaming platforms.

    Brian McKeever:
    Another natural voice for it, and some good variation in the read. I like how she started into it and her pace was good. I’m not sure if that might be too much accent. It felt like that started to cross over that line. And again, kind of a little bit of a choppier read. The authoritative thing kind of asks for a phrasing that’s smoother, because you’re confident in what you’re saying. You don’t have to think about it each time. And I wonder too, if her pitch, where she was in her voice, might’ve been a little lower than higher up. I think might’ve felt a little bit more energetic and excited. Again, this is an exciting thing. The Gold Spotters Pod, it’s hip. It’s something that people are going to aspire to. That has to be in the voice as well.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. And I’m just thinking about something you said, and not a lot of people listening are as familiar musically with what you’ve said. Brian, how important is it that people are speaking in where their voice is most comfortable? And we would call it the Tessitura. It’s like your playground, you could say, as a voice artist. It’s where you feel safe. You know your boundaries. You’re always going to sound awesome in that space. Why is it so important that their voice has that sound to it, that it is in its best place?

    Brian McKeever: Well, it’s always going to be the place where it’s most easy for you to be authentic. Because you’re not worrying about trying to hit the right pitch while you’re getting the direction of the copy, while you’re
    performing the words, you don’t have to think about your pitch side of it. That’s one less cognitive thing to process during the work of the voiceover. It’s certainly, as a talent, you need to be able to expand upon just that natural range to other places, because you want to have as many options available so that you can have as many gigs as possible. And that’s…

    Brian McKeever:
    But your natural voice, that’s honestly, that’s where we start people in the training side of things, and where they should work when they’re practicing, is in that natural voice. Once they start to get the mechanics of voiceover, the breathing, the projection, pronunciation, pace, pitch, all those things, then they can start to work outside of that, and take all those things, that foundational stuff, with them. It’s just like accents. I mean, some people like to do fun accents and character voices, but it’s harder to do
    that while you’re doing all those other things. Better to get to those after you’ve kind of got that foundational stuff going.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. Because as you were saying, it becomes effortless. It’s just where you’re most comfortable at. So, those are all awesome points. Thank you very much for sharing your advice in this area though, Brian, because it is crucial that people understand what their limitations are. Because we can’t do more with what we’ve been given than it can do. Sometimes, you can elongate or you can strengthen. You can build up different areas, but that takes a lot of work and that should be done, I would think, under some
    supervision, so.


    Brian McKeever:
    Yes.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Okay, perfect. Oh, well, that was a good one. All right. Let’s listen to audition number four.


    Audition 4:
    What’s up, guys? Welcome back to Gold Spotters, the pod all about cutting your teeth and getting noticed in the music biz. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at crafting original cover art that captures both the vibe of your track and who you are as an artist. Plus, I’ll teach you how to create a looping visual to enliven your image on streaming platforms.


    Brian McKeever:
    Good authority. She hit some good emphasis points, and the vibe. And the accent, I thought, were pretty good. It wasn’t over the top. Pace, a little slow, a couple of pauses that felt a little weird, but it could be fixed. From a technical standpoint, this is the first of the auditions we’re listening to that felt she’s too close to the mic. There’s a presence boost there. And that, you can make the case to say that when a client’s listening or somebody who’s looking for a voice that they’re going to listen to the voice and not notice those maybe technical challenges.


    Brian McKeever:
    But I kind of liken it to your art portfolio. You go to art school and you come out and you have a portfolio of your work to show people. And two people walk in with the same quality of portfolio. One is pristine, beautiful paper, clean. The other one’s got coffee stains, wrinkled, whatever. Presentation, I think, matters to an extent. So, this person, they had a good performance, had a couple of tweaks to make, but my ear listening, and maybe it’s a subconscious thing, felt maybe a little bit that that presence boost wasn’t helping. It wasn’t helping her voice, I don’t think.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So, is this an opportunity for us as those who are talent first, producer second, to kind of take a moment and be like, “Is my mic technique okay? Should I add processing, should I not add processing?” There’s probably many questions that someone sitting isolated in their home studio is thinking when they’re simply an artist. So, how do we know if we are too close to that mic? Or how do we know if we’re too far away from it?

    Brian McKeever:
    Well, that’s a tough question because, unless you have something to reference, it’s hard to kind of discover that. So, I think it matters. The people who are listening to this have access to these auditions, hearing that audition versus some of the others are going to hear that puff, that movement, that lowfrequency kind of muddiness that’s there. There’s a reference. In any voice lessons you do or anything, it’s great that if an instructor records you and passes that to you. Because if you’ve done it with
    somebody in a studio and it’s clean, that’s a great reference. To speak to the idea of like, “Do I need to add processing?” No matter what, every recording starts with doing it as well as possible with the microphone in the space it’s in, so.


    Brian McKeever:
    A good rule of thumb is, is not getting too close to the mic, but not being far enough away where the room’s an interaction. There’s acoustic reflections and things, so. And I think especially now with the situation where everybody’s recording from home, there are people who’ve never had to record from their home space before and their acoustics are of varying difficulty levels, tend to move closer to the mic in order to alleviate that. The idea is that, “Oh, if I’m closer, it’ll be more my voice, less of the
    surrounding noise and reflections,” but there’s a limit to that, and there’s only so much we can do in post-processing. So, the matter there, I mean, and there’s rules of thumb that people have two fists or your thumb and your pinky kind of as a distance, off-axis, not straight in front of you, off to the side, 40 degrees, 30 degrees up. Those are helpful.

    Brian McKeever:
    Certainly, the space you’re in, you can’t beat physics. And that’s one of the hardest things about sound is it goes everywhere. You’ve got reflections inside the space, you’ve got internal noises, computers, or fans or things. And then, an HVAC and then external noises. If you live somewhere and you have windows in the room you recording in, and there’s a fire station two doors down from your apartment building, when the fire trucks go out, you’re going to have to stop recording for a moment. And that’s, with the acoustic side of it, there’s things you can do. There’s solutions that go up and down the spectrum of cost.


    Brian McKeever:
    But I think that it would be better to have a recording where, yeah, we’re hearing some of the room for an audition, than have it too close to the mic where it’s kind of pushing that low-frequency bump stuff. It starts with a good recording. And that means not having the mic, not being right up on the mic. For people who are vocalists, people who are performers, MCs that are used to having a mic right up on their mouth, that is, they’re used to maybe that sound, which isn’t necessarily as appropriate for voiceover.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. You’re speaking to an audience of one, not a concert hall. So, why don’t we move on to audition number five?

    Audition 5:
    What’s up, guys? Welcome back to Gold Spotters, the pod that’s all about cutting your teeth and getting noticed in the music biz. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at crafting original cover art that captures both the vibe of your track and who you are as an artist. Plus, I’ll teach you how to create a looping visual to enliven your image on streaming platforms.


    Brian McKeever:
    I like her voice a lot, and her projection, and her diction and pace are great. It felt a little flat in terms of the energy. It felt like we didn’t hit anything that maybe… Then there was no accent there, which again, might have been a choice, just to kind of go with a neutrality as opposed to trying an accent. And the directions said that could be an option is to kind of maybe no accent at all. But it was a natural voice. It just felt a little not as energetic, maybe, as it needed to be for something as exciting as this pod.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. I think you’re trying to reach teenagers, and they’re not easy to reach on the best days. So, to cut through, to have that personality. And I think in what’s possibly more important than energy level is just that connection and that, “I’m like you. I’m a teenager or I can sound like one.” But the authenticity piece, especially for this generation, is huge. They need to hear from somebody who is telling them the truth, who’s been there, who they can trust. Whoever is doing a voiceover recording, especially to the
    people who are of this generation, you do need to sound like they can trust you because they will sniff it out so easily.


    Brian McKeever:
    Absolutely. And that honestly, I think if there’s one direction for auditions or reads that I’ve heard more than anything in the last 20 years, it’s, “You got to sound natural on this. We want a natural voice,” no matter what the copy is. Sometimes the copy doesn’t lend itself to that. When you’re talking about APRs and financing terms and lease deals, yet still, we’re not going to talk about that naturally at a bar hanging out. But that’s the expectation. And that’s a skillset to have, to stay in that zone while you’re saying numbers and percentages.


    Brian McKeever:
    Then for this, it, luckily this starts out, “What’s up guys?” It’s a conversation. It’s natural. And so, those first three words dictate how this read should be and really, kind of playing it, like you said, authentic. They know it. And I think most people know when they’re being authentic. And there’s that natural, like, “Oh, I’m doing a voiceover, so I have to put on a voiceover voice,” which takes it right out of that zone. We don’t want that authority anymore. So, yeah, absolutely.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Wow. Just these auditions are just flying by and there’s so many good comments that are coming after them. I sincerely hope that you were all taking notes, perhaps tweeting about this too, just maybe. And just share these tips with other people, because voiceover is a community and it’s really like a big family, in a lot of ways. If you haven’t yet found community in voiceover, you found Mission Audition somehow. You’ve just been listening to it, but you don’t know anybody in voiceover, please go and find voices.com on social, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, wherever it is that you interact with people because then you can come across really wonderful peers, but you can also find people like Brian, people who
    are there to help guide you on this journey.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Voices.com has a coaches directory of which Brian is a part. And if you go to voices.com/coaches, then you can totally find amazing people, including Brian. It really is something that is a career development tool. You need to have community.


    Brian McKeever:
    Yeah. And it can’t exist in a vacuum. It can’t be in a vacuum. If it does, I don’t think it grows properly. You need, I mean, at the very least, you’re listening to commercials and voiceover narration pieces and documentaries, and even the onboarding video for HR for a company. You’re hearing, “Why did they pick that person?” And then, “how did they say this? Why do I like their tone?” Or “why does this not appeal to me? Why doesn’t it work?” You’re never going to stop training. You’re never going to stop analyzing the voices you hear, and be that with somebody in an improv class with you or peers hanging out talking about stuff, or listening to stuff that’s on-air, or even listening back to some of your old spots and thinking about “how I could have done that better.” That’s that iterative loop of training, that constant kind of feedback loop of figuring things out. It has to be organically with other people involved.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And it’s not just people who are beginners who practice. I’m sure you are practicing, as you’ve said, Brian, but everybody from your A-lister Hollywood celebrity on down, they have to keep sharp too. I mean, yeah, they may have more offers being brought to them on a silver platter or something than most people, but I mean, they have to stay conditioned. They have to still be able to do what they’re known for and to grow even, and to try new things. So, I think that’s awesome. All right. Well, we have
    two more auditions. Let’s listen to audition number six.

    Audition 6:
    What’s up, guys? Welcome back to Gold Spotters, the pod all about cutting your teeth and getting noticed in the music biz. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at crafting original cover art that captures both the vibe of your track and who you are as an artist. Plus, I’ll teach you how to create a looping visual to enliven your image on streaming platforms.


    Brian McKeever:
    The first thing that struck me about this audition that I liked was, there’s a conspiratorial tone, which for the listener, as the intro to this podcast, it’s like, “Hey, I’m sharing a secret with you. Not anybody else, just you.” And I know that’s maybe that’s not exactly the case. It’s a podcast, but the idea of framing it in that way, shows some thinking. And by doing that, that level of thinking, there’s an intelligence behind the read. The accent level, there wasn’t much accent there. It had the right age and tone and sort of vibe
    for it, but… And the pace and energy, I thought, were really good. The little bit of mouth noise, again, that’s a technical thing, that’s I don’t think any client’s going to hear that and have a problem with it. And the phrasing could have maybe been a little bit smoother in a couple of places, but not overall. Overall, very good. But that, right off the bat, “what’s up guys,” the conspiratorial tone, I liked that. It spoke to me. I’m putting myself in the mindset of who’s listening to this intro.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That was an excellent performance. What I’m just thinking is, mouth noises and not to pick on her, because that is absolutely not what I’m doing. Is there something that you would recommend people either eat before a session? Let’s say it’s before a meal, or, I mean, you need some food in your
    stomach. Let’s put it that way. What do you do, Brian, as someone who does this day in, day out, how do you manage this? And how do you go on to prevent or address a mouth noise in your performance?


    Brian McKeever:
    Okay, well, I’ll start with saying that I’ll try not to eat within about an hour of a voiceover. Now, that doesn’t always work because sometimes a client emails me and says, “Hey, we got this thing. Can you get this to us by two o’clock?” It’s 1:15. I just had lunch and guess we’re going in, but. And to speak to your point about having to have something in your belly, I had a guy who is a double-scale voice-of-God talent. He’s a local guy, he’s done stuff nationally. He was a national car brand voice for years. And I used
    to record him a lot. He used to come over and record a lot, and he had the stomach growl. He just didn’t eat breakfast, and we’d have to get something in him. And we try to stay away from the particulate stuff, cereals and things.


    Brian McKeever:
    The reality is, mouth noise is caused by uneven mouth irrigation. Gets kind of gross to think about, but the amount of saliva, too much, too little, it’s going to be a problem. There’s that zone of, you have enough, but not too much, not too little. And the tips and tricks for that side of it. Number one, avoid hot beverages, obviously avoid alcohol. I wouldn’t say drinking before a voiceover is a good idea in any case. You also don’t want the really cold stuff, both for vocal reasons and also, within your mouth. We provide room-temperature bottled water for our clients, or for the talent that come in. That’s honestly the best choice. Yeah. If you like tea, let it cool down a bit before you drink it.


    Brian McKeever:
    And if you come to the point where you’ve got somebody with mouth noise, and we can’t mitigate it by prior fixes, for years, it was apple juice. Apple juice is a similar pH to our saliva, so it allows it to kind of irrigate you a bit. Sugar-free gum, which means you got to take it out for the read. That’s not great. Believe it or not, I mean, you were saying about apples, Granny Smith apples actually have a very distinctive amount of acidity that help with mouth saliva. They’ll stimulate it when you don’t have enough. If it meant going into the bathroom and swishing with the room temperature water, kind of irrigate things and spit, that’s fine. Not using mouthwash, again, an alcohol-based problem.


    Brian McKeever:
    But if you had somebody in the booth, they had mouth noise, you worked around it. You had to retake things. You could cut it out where there weren’t words, but if it was in the middle of a line, we could get very precise with our digital editing down to the sample level without affecting things. Didn’t always work great. But now, there’s tools. I have to say that iZotope that makes a processing plugin, a suite of, a bunch of different plugins, one of which is their RX suites. RX 7, I think, is the latest version of that. And
    there’s a mouth de-click plugin, which is miraculous. Mouth de-click is part of, it’s a standalone plugin. I use it in Pro Tools and it’s renders out as a processed kind of rendered plugin. It’s been amazing.


    Brian McKeever:
    But again, just like the mic technique thing, if you try to fix it at the source, that’s the most organic way to do it. And the best, it saves you time. If you’re auditioning, you’re doing voice work, if you have to take the time to fix it afterwards, that’s time spent not auditioning for other things or doing other jobs.


    Brian McKeever:
    One of my most important jobs is to give the talent everything they need to be successful. The easier I make their job, the easier my job is. So, if it means an ergonomic setup, making sure there’s light on their script stand, making sure the microphone is placed comfortably for them. Are they right-eye dominant, left-eye dominant? Which side should it be on? The idea of having water there for them. It’s one thing if they said they needed a particular spring water from Geneva, that’s a difference. But room
    temperature water is not… And some apple juice in here and tissues.

    Brian McKeever:
    We have a basket, both for voiceover recording. And we also have another basket for ADR for actors that has Afrin and stuff that has some other mystical things, which, those I’m not sure of as much. But for the voiceover side of things, the easier I make of the talent, make sure their headphones sound right, make sure that the temperature of the booth is right. If they’re happy with all that stuff, it doesn’t distract them from the work they got to do. And the session goes better. The product is better. Everybody’s happier. Clients are happy and they keep booking us.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Sweet. So, what’s in that basket? If I’m a voice talent sitting at home, listening to Brian McKeever talking about this, what should I have at my side as I’m recording? What is in my basket?


    Brian McKeever:
    Well, I mean, the room-temperature water, some apple juice. We did apples up until recently, the Granny Smiths. Sugar-free gum, for those who didn’t want to do the apple juice or the apples, napkins, and Kleenex. We’ve had, when we have a long session, a narration session, or a long IVR recording, all of the voice prompts for National Grid or something, we made sure that there was snacks available. And with those, yeah, it violates the rule of eating something during a voiceover but again, stomach growls and a hungry talent is now distracted from the work they got to do. So, there’s tempering that rule, but that’s all it really is. It’s not a fancy basket. It doesn’t have Godiva chocolates or something, or it doesn’t have fancy chocolates or…


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    No dairy in there. No?


    Brian McKeever:
    No caviar, no dairy. It’s just there to basically meet those simple needs and they’re not complex, but it just makes a better product.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I love it. I absolutely love it. Everyone, get a basket, fill it with the stuff Brian just said, it will save your session. All right, well, we’ve got one more audition. Let’s listen to audition number seven.


    Audition 7:
    What up, guys? Welcome back to Gold Spotters, the pod all about cutting your teeth and getting noticed in the music biz. Uh-huh (affirmative). Okay. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at crafting original cover art that captures both the vibe of your track and who you are as an artist. Plus, I’ll teach you how to create a looping visual to enliven your image on the streaming platforms.


    Brian McKeever:
    I like her personality a lot. I think that, for who she’s talking to, she’s trying to meet them on that level, and it works for me. So, the personality and the attitude’s great. The pace is good. And it’s, again, a natural voice. That accent feels authentic to me. That doesn’t feel like it’s put on. The energy was a little low. There wasn’t as much excitement as you might want. It didn’t lean toward that conspiratorial from the other one. And I feel like maybe that also the energy and projection kind of go together. It felt a little
    quieter than it needed to be.


    Brian McKeever:
    From a technical standpoint, the only audition so far with background noise. I could hear like an HVAC motor type sound in the background, which again, it’s not a deal-breaker. If you love that read, then that’s not going to change anything for you. But again, putting your best foot forward and trying to kind of eliminate those things, in some cases, might mean positioning yourself somewhere else, turning off an appliance nearby, whatever you can do, shutting of vents, covering a vent, whatever you got to do to kind of fix that.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, definitely, some of the reads, as you’ve noticed, have had accents and some not, and some lighter and some heavier. My one thought here, only… And it’s just because we’re at the end and we’ve heard so many different voices up to now is, is the accent actually a hindrance? Is that limiting the people who this could actually appeal to because it might not speak to them in the same way? I know that this happens when you localize something. You mean and you intend it to be for a certain audience because you want it to be for them. If this is truly tri-state area, that I totally get it. But if this is like, anyone can do it, and we just happened to like this accent because it kind of sounds cool and it’s going with what we want to project, then is the audience actually bigger than what the script is suggesting in terms of its
    direction, do you think?


    Brian McKeever:
    For this one, yeah. I think that, it’s a podcast. You could be listening to it around the world, Australia, Korea. But the one thing to think about, to say there’s a danger of going too much into the accent because, again, the parody side of things, but if the accent is somewhere that’s aspirational, New York City is an amazing place, and there’s been amazing music that’s come out of New York City. The first time I thought about music coming out in New York City was the Beastie Boys in the ’80s. And it was like Def Jam and everything. And so, thinking about the audience for this, I would say that going to New York or being a part of that tri-state area kind of music scene is something they aspire to.

    Brian McKeever:
    So, for this, I would say that it doesn’t bug me. I wouldn’t go hard on the accent. I would definitely pull it back. I would have a hint or a little bit more than a hint, but it wouldn’t be like… You can’t gauge it exactly, but 100% accent, every word is affected. 50%, it’s most of it, a good chunk of it. I would stay in the 20% range, where you’re hearing it, but you’re hearing it here and there at ends of sentences, beginnings, not every word, so. And for those for whom it’s aspirational, for some people, it won’t make, what is that? They won’t know what that accent is. Why does that mean anything? So, I don’t think it will offend them. But for those who know it might think that it adds something to it, being on the geographic location and what that means.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Okay. Well, we have found ourselves at the end of the line here. That’s all seven of the auditions. And Brian, as it always does, the decision as to who wins this episode of Mission Audition does fall to you. So, you’ve had a lot of time to think about this.

    Brian McKeever:
    I have.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, what do you think?

    Brian McKeever:
    Number six was my favorite.

    Audition 6:
    What’s up, guys? Welcome back to Gold Spotters, the pod all about cutting your teeth and getting noticed in the music biz. Today, we’re taking an in-depth look at crafting original cover art that captures both the vibe of your track and who you are as an artist. Plus, I’ll teach you how to create a looping visual to enliven your image on streaming platforms.

    Brian McKeever:
    Oh, that was the conspiratorial tone. There was a thinking behind it. I liked that tone. I thought it was it just, it brought me in. And that’s what any voiceover does, is it engages the listener. It’s got to do something, otherwise you’re just reading. Otherwise, you’re not giving anybody a reason to pay you to talk about it because you’re not making anything more of it than just the words.


    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, fantastic. So, Brian, your work is done, so far as picking the winner and giving all this amazing feedback. Thank you for the lessons today. Now, if someone wanted to reach out to you, and perhaps
    study with you or

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    Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.

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