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How to Nail an Audition with Bruce Kronenberg

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Our aim for this episode is to provide you with everything you need to know to nail a voiceover audition! Joining us to share his expertise is professional voiceover instructor, Bruce Kronenberg. Bruce has had an impressive 25-year voiceover career working with some of the world’s biggest brands, and has been coaching for over a decade. Safe to say, Bruce knows what he’s talking about. In this episode, you’ll discover the importance of audio quality for your audition tape and how to ensure that you have the best possible recording! Bruce discerns between performing and responding and explains how VO acting has more to do with your ability to interpret copy than it does with your voice. We talk about everything from breath support to soundproofing and so much more! Tune in today to find out how to make your reads pop and nail your next audition.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Bruce Konenberg’s background and the goal of his coaching and VO demo production company, Abacus.
  • Bruce’s advice for those overcooking their audition and sounding too theatrical.
  • The difference between voice acting and voiceover acting.
  • The importance of having good audio quality!
  • Trusting your instincts and choosing your best take.
  • The fine line between overperforming and underperforming.
  • Why you do not necessarily need a ‘voiceover voice’.
  • Why you need to normalize your track if exporting to mp3 format.
  • The importance of breath control when doing VO.
  • Tips for maintaining breath support.
  • Why you needn’t rush through the copy.
  • How to lean into the humor of a piece with subtlety.
  • Bruce’s microphone and audio interface recommendations.
  • The difference between a shotgun mic and a condenser mic and which vocal archetypes suit each type.
  • What you can do to soundproof your recording space at home.
  • How to make your reads pop!

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Bruce Kronenberg on LinkedIn

Email Bruce Kronenberg

Email Emma Romasco

Abacus Entertainment

Ear Training for Voice Over Recording | Part 1

Ear Training for Voice Over Recording | Part 2

Andrea Toyias

Voices

Mission Audition

Script

Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you now know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

EPISODE 30

"BK: The more specific you are about the person that you're talking to, the more specific your audition is going to be."

[00:00:13] JJ: Hi, everyone. And welcome to another episode of Mission Audition. I’m your co-host, Julianna Jones.

[00:00:21] KF: And I’m the other co-host, Kyle Flynn.

[00:00:22] JJ: We are so excited to bring you another episode. We're going to dive into some auditions. And we've got a great coach with us today to help us critique and learn something. And hopefully, that little something that you learn is something that you can take away and apply to your own auditions.

So, today, we're going to be going over how to nail an audition. And before we get to the auditions, I want to introduce you to our guest and featured coach, Bruce Kronenberg. Bruce has been a professional voiceover instructor for over a decade. Bruce's expertise comes from his 25-year voiceover career and his stage in film work as an actor. Some of Bruce's campaigns include Mountain Dew, Campbell Soup, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Pepsi-Cola, Taco Bell, Pringles, Caster Motor oil, and Planters Nuts. Well, I’m getting tongue twisted. There are so many big names here.

As a promo artist, he has worked for CBS, ESPN, MTV, VH1, Spike TV, CNN, National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel. Wow! What a pedigree. Bruce is an owner/instructor at Abacus Entertainment at the historic Film Center Building in Midtown Manhattan.

Bruce, welcome to the show.

[00:01:35] BK: Thank you. Thank you. It's great to be here. Great to see you guys. And a lot of fun to be doing this. Yeah, I’ve been in the voiceover industry for a long time and been coaching for a little over a decade. And at Abacus, we try to help people get started in the VO business with one-on-one coaching and producing demos for them with my partner, Bryant Falk. And voices.com, I’m a big fan of voices.com, because I tell all my students, it's just a great way to get started. If you're just entering the VO industry and you've got your demo, I tell them, "Hop on voices.com. You're going to start getting auditions. And it's going to put you right in the center of it." So no waiting to try to get an agent to take notice of you. It's a great way to get started and get in there and get work. So I’m glad to be here.

[00:02:23] JJ: Oh, wonderful. We're happy to have your expertise. Okay. So, Kyle, take us through the job posting for today.

[00:02:28] KF: Awesome. So the specs of this job are a commercial read there. We're looking at a company, Minsurance. And here's the brief they gave us. They're looking for a brand voice for their latest TV, radio, and online advertising campaign. “We always offer reasonable rates for your car motorcycle, home, and much more, and leave you with a little laugh. 70% of Minsurance customer base is families. And we understand our family's needs. They need affordable rates and friendly conversation from an insurance company that understands the average household. Our ads will be playing on some common stresses of our classic customer profiles while using humor to anchor our services and cement our brand recall with our target demographic, busy families of four and more. These ads will be appearing online in TV and on radio. Our motto, "You have insurance, you need Minsurance.”"

For the artistic direction of this project, we need a middle-aged voice who has an honest and humorous tone to their voice. And this voice actor needs to be able to have a classic small-town approach to their words. And this character's humor and tone will anchor the unfortunate situation the characters of the advertisement find themselves in.

[00:03:33] JJ: Ooh! Very real-world. I’m excited. All right. Queue up audition number one.

[00:03:39] Audition 1: Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you know why Kathy and Leanne call the one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance. Ooh, you need Minsurance.

[00:04:26] JJ: Oh, we know what she should have done.

[00:04:28] BK: Okay. All right. So first of all, just the quality of the recording, it's only coming out of one speaker, one ear. So she needs to – If she's recording on Audacity, which I suspect, because it does this, she needs to switch to mono. She might be recording in stereo, which is making it come out of only one ear. That's kind of like messing with the quality of the audition. If a producer hears that, there's like, "Why is that happening?" right? So that's distracting right there.

The reed, even though she's got a lot of opinion and personality, the read is a little overcooked. She can keep all the attitude, the sarcasm, the humor. But it's a bit theatrical. And it needs to sound more like a voiceover. I do this all the time with people. I get actors who are trained in the theater. And they come in and they give me like a Broadway musical performance. And I’m like, "Okay, a lot of the stuff that you're doing, opinion-wise and attitude-wise, is great. But you need to do it for the microphone," right? Which means you pull it down and make it sound more like you're talking or responding to what is going on in the visual rather than performing it or presenting it.

And it's a little presentational. It's a little overcooked. But I like the fact that she has an audit, an opinion, and that she's going for it. She just needs someone to tell her, "Pull it back just a little bit and make sure that the recording is coming out of both ears."

[00:05:57] JJ: Yeah. I’ve heard that casting directors would prefer to have somebody who is a little bit too much so they can pull back, versus somebody who's not enough and they have to like try and get a performance out of. Am I correct in thinking that?

[00:06:10] BK: Yes, you are.

[00:06:11] JJ: So from your casting director hat, like, what advice would you give?

[00:06:16] BK: I would say, just like I said, I’d say that's great. I’m glad that you're bringing all of that opinion and personality to it. Now, just pull it back a hair. It's very musical what she's doing. There's a lot of up here and down here and all that kind of stuff. And I would say there's a way to keep all of that, but keep it for the mic, so that it sounds more like voiceover rather than a theatrical performance.

Something like, for instance, a video game character audition, or an animated character audition. You can go as far as you want, okay? Because it's voice acting. And you're going into character land. It's not your voice. I do voices for Blizzard Entertainment. And they always push me really far. And I think, "Is this too much?" I’m friends with the Casting Director, Andrea Toyias. I’m like, "Is this too much?" She goes, "No, no, no. We'll tell you if it's too much."

But with commercials, you want to have that quality of intimacy and one-on-one when you're doing it. And she's a little over the top. That's all. That's the only thing I’d say about it.

[00:07:18] JJ: I liked what you said earlier around she's performing versus responding. Like, she was having a conversation. I think that's a great tip that I’m going to remember for later.

Well, and Kyle, there was something we noticed right away about the audition, too.

[00:07:31] KF: Most definitely. Correct me if I’m wrong. I was very much with Bruce on the fact of the audio being extremely distracting coming out of one ear. So that was my key point there where immediately I think it was a great audition, but it did distract and take away from the performance. And for that reason, compared to others’ audios, it's going to disqualify you at that point just because it's distracting and takes away from your performance.

[00:07:55] BK: Totally. I mean, it's something I tell all my students now. It's like, "You guys have to get your audio together. You can't like record in your kitchen. You know you got to make sure that all your levels are right and that you've chosen the right preferences. Otherwise, you're going to send an audition that might be great, right? The read might be great. But if the quality isn't good," like you said Kyle, "you're disqualified." And a lot of my students are like, "Really?" I’m like, "Yes. You have to like – You can't use a Snowball mic anymore. That's done. That's canceled."

[00:08:30] JJ: And luckily, we've got lots of great resources on our YouTube channel. It's called our Ear Training Guide that'll help you diagnose what's going on with your own audio and then it tells you how to fix it. So I highly recommend that video series. And then, of course, if you want some one-on-one help, I know Bruce would be happy to work with you on your audio quality.

[00:08:48] BK: Absolutely.

[00:08:48] JJ: And the other thing that Kyle and I mentioned is you'll notice that this woman did two takes. But I only found out she did two takes when she started her second one, which means that if I hadn't listened all the way through, I never would have gotten to hear the cool differentiation that she did in her second take. So all of this is to say, if you are going to do two takes, you need to say at the beginning of your audition, "Two takes," so that I know to listen all the way through.

[00:09:16] BK: Absolutely. No question. Now, here's a question. Did they want two takes? Or did they just want one? Because a lot of times they only just want one.

[00:09:23] JJ: That's a good question. They didn't specify.

[00:09:25] BK: They didn't specify. Okay. If they don't specify, then I guess it's up to the talent. But these days I’m finding that they only want one take because it's all they have time to listen to because they're getting so many auditions.

[00:09:38] JJ: That's a good point. Yeah.

[00:09:39] KF: Very true. Typically, I think our data shows that, typically, clients are listening to about the first seconds of an audition. So yeah, it's very true. And a lot of talent have expressed. It comes down to that gut decision of you have those two takes. What do you feel best with? What makes you comfortable? And what do you think is your best showcase of work? And go with that one.

[00:10:00] BK: Yes, absolutely.

[00:10:01] KF: Now, if they do specify that they're open to two takes, definitely let your creative side come out and show them what you got.

[00:10:07] BK: Oh, yeah. Totally. Absolutely. I mean, the course that I teach, which it's not really a course, but it's the nailing the audition in three takes has a lot to do with that. Because it has a lot to do with the fact that they want one take. So I try to work with students to get them to trust their instincts within those three takes and don't like spend all night trying to figure it out. You got three takes. Within those three takes, figure out which one you feel the best about and go ahead and send it. It's a hard decision. But I think you have to trust your instincts because you don't really, really know what they want. I mean, you've been given some specs. You have some idea. But ultimately it comes down to being able to coach yourself and be objective enough to send the take that you like the best.

[00:10:56] JJ: Absolutely. That's great advice. All right, on that good note, let's listen to audition number two.

[00:11:02] Audition 2: Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

[00:11:22] BK: Okay. So, that audition – First of all, the sound quality is just about perfect. I mean, obviously, he's got a great mic. He has a great home setup. He sounds like he's in a booth. So the sound quality is perfection. The read for me was a little too announcery. I think that he could have leaned in more to the humor and the sarcasm. Especially since he has an announcer-type voice, it might have been funny to hear the announcer be more sarcastic and comment more on what's happening in the visual. I just felt like he kind of gave a straight announcer read. And it wasn't as humorous as it could have been. That was my take on it.

[00:12:05] KF: It's interesting as we bounce from the last audition to this audition, where one was a little overcooked. Whereas this one I felt like the individual held back a little bit on that. And I think you're exactly right. And I think it highlights that balance. That is very important. And it comes down to you're your own creative director and your own casting director. And just allowing yourself to really utilize that and bring your performance to the max. It's a tough beam to balance on, but a very crucial one.

[00:12:34] BK: Yeah. I mean, again, the quality that he brought to it in terms of recording and his voice is great if he had ignored that a little bit more and leaned more into the attitude and the opinion. It might have been almost a perfect audition.

[00:12:53] JJ: And I think about the specs, too, where they want to talk to somebody who's like a real person and like a little bit small town. And maybe announcer isn't the right one to connect with that audience. So even though it did sound like this person's been doing it for a long time, maybe getting into that character is really what was needed to make sure that he was delivering that right polished voice that he's got.

[00:13:15] BK: Absolutely. I tell people all the time when I first meet them, people come to me for consultations. They want to get into voiceover. And I say, "Well, what brings you here?" And they're like, "Well, everybody at work tells me I have a great voice, and I should be doing voiceovers." And I’ll say to them, "Well, it's really not about your voice." And they're like, "What do you mean?" "It's really not. It has a lot more to do with your ability to interpret copy and make it sound real."

So this person has a great voice and a great quality. But I think he was relying too much on that. I think that if another audition, for instance, with someone else, where they were leaning more into the character, would have been a lot more interesting and a lot more closer to getting booked than this guy would even though he's got a great voice.

[00:14:02] KF: And I think the copy really kind of showed the client's hands in that regard of how many times was humorous mentioned or how many times was the unfortunate situations kind of leaned on. So I think the client showed their hand in that. And just allowing yourself to use your creativity and lean into it was definitely the game-breaker here with this individual. Because like you said, it was top quality. Just need that a little bit more creativity and individualism.

[00:14:28] BK: Absolutely.

[00:14:29] JJ: And what a wonderful thing to hear for people who don't have that traditional voice actor's voice. We really have seen this trend towards real-person, conversational. That accent that you can't quite place, like, that's a lot of what we've seen clients ask for especially in the last couple years. So it's just great for people who have always thought about this, about who have always enjoyed doing it. If you've thought about it and you really like it but you don't think you have that voiceover voice, don't let that stop you. People are looking for unique.

[00:15:00] BK: Absolutely. People are looking for unique. They're looking for real. A lot of times, when I’m with a student, I’ll playback for them. And they're like, "Oh, I hate my voice." I’m like, "That's your voice," right? You may be hearing it differently now. But you're actually hearing it the way other people hear it. So you've got to learn to like that voice. I’m not going to push you towards changing your voice.

And I’ve had that happen before where I’m talking to someone and they're talking to me in their regular voice. And they get up in front of the mic and all of a sudden they're putting on this voiceover voice. And I’m like, "What happened to the person I was just talking to?" You don't want to do that. You don't want – Well, I want to sound like this guy. Like they mention a famous voiceover person. I’m like, "Why would you want to sound like somebody else? They're already doing that. You want to sound like you." So immediately, I get them away from thinking they have to sound or have a voiceover voice.

[00:15:50] JJ: Yes, absolutely. Be confident in your unique sound, because that's what's going to get you hired.

[00:15:54] BK: That's right.

[00:15:55] JJ: Absolutely. Oh, I love that. Okay. On that note, let's move to audition number three.

[00:16:01] BK: All right.

[00:16:02] Audition 3: Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

[00:16:58] BK: First of all, yeah, he did three takes, and they were all kind of similar. His sound quality was okay. It was a little low. He might have needed to normalize it a bit and boost it a little bit more. I don't know what he's recording with. It sounds like he's acoustically treated, but it was a little low, the sound quality.

I liked his opinion. I liked his point of view. I liked his kind of quirkiness. But again, I thought out of the three takes, the third one was the best because he toned it down just slightly. And I know I said that earlier. I personally feel that if you're going to take on that kind of attitude, that quirky kind of like sarcastic, snarky kind of read, which he did, which fits the copy, make sure that you're doing it for one person. And I thought his first two were a little big and the second one he sounded like he ran out of breath. So that's my take on it. I think his third take was the best. He didn't need to do three. He probably would have been good with just that third take. But again, I thought the others were just a little too over the top. And his sound quality was okay. Not great.

[00:18:02] KF: And Bruce, when you were talking quality there, something that stuck out to me was volume. Is that really what you're alluding to? I did find the volume very low.

[00:18:10] BK: Yeah, yeah. I’ll tell people sometimes if you're working in Audacity, or TwistedWave, or whatever, if you're exporting to an MP3, make sure that you boost the track with normalizing. Otherwise, you risk – Because MP3s are so compressed. You risk losing volume when you export it to an MP3 from TwistedWave without normalizing it. I find that's true for most. The normalizing just gives it a little boost. That's all. You don't want to go to – I think there's another, in Audacity, I think there's something for loudness. You don't want to use that. Just to normalize it a bit to minus three true peak value. And that usually works.

[00:18:52] KF: Amazing. Now, with that, we have talked and carried the theme around kind of the creativity that they're leaning into. Would you find that this is one that he's kind of in that right pocket? Or did he stretch it a little far and need dialing back? Or is this something that you would encourage him to continue further into that character?

[00:19:13] BK: Right, right. No. I think he's got the right idea. But I would dial it back, for sure. I think he kind of did dial it back on the third take. But again, if you're running out of breath, for instance, which he did in the second take, you don't want to use that take because that's what it sounds like. And again, that's noticeable, right? So having breath control when you're doing VO is really important, I think. Taking breaths. And then if you have to edit them out later, if they're too prominent, that's fine.

Some producers don't mind hearing breaths in between, because it sounds human. I think that with his third take, he started to pull it back a little bit. But the first two I thought were just a bit over the top. And like I said, his sound quality could have been better.

[00:19:57] JJ: Do you have some favorite tips that you give for maintaining your breath support?

[00:20:01] BK: Absolutely. What I usually do is I usually breathe prominently in between lines. Or when I feel myself starting to go out of breath, I breathe prominently. I’ll take a nice breath so I can continue and give energy to the next thing I’m going to say. Then when I go back and listen, I’ll just edit out the breaths. That's all. But I breathe. I don't stop myself from breathing.

I have students sometimes, and I’m like, "Okay. Stop." I said, "You're not breathing. Why are you not breathing?" I’m like, "Oh, I don't want to –" I said, "No, no, no, no. Breathe. You got to breathe. Otherwise, it's going to sound like you're running out of breath and you're going to trail off at the back end of the sentence. That's usually what happens. You're going to lose your opinion. You're going to lose your point of view because you're worried about catching your breath." So I breathe prominently throughout my takes and then I edit them out very carefully.

[00:20:53] JJ: That fits so nicely with what I was thinking about this read was that it sounded rushed.

[00:20:58] BK: Yes.

[00:20:58] JJ: And I wasn't sure if he just really condensed the time between one sentence to the next in his editing. Or if when he was producing his voiceover, he actually spoke that quickly. But there's no pauses during it for emphasis. I didn't hear a pause after the question mark. You don't pause on the name of it. And I was like, "Oh, is this his read? Or is this his editing?" But it makes a lot of sense that it would be his read. And breath support would be a consequence – Or lack of breath support would be a consequence of a fast-paced read.

[00:21:31] BK: Absolutely. You're absolutely right. And I’m glad you said that because a lot of times when people who are first getting into this, they think they have to get through the copy quickly. They have to like plow through it. And I’m like, "That's what it's going to sound like." If you send an audition where you're just plowing through it, it's going to sound like, "Oh, this person can't wait to get to the end of the copy." You know you want to live in the copy. You want to let it breathe. You don't want to be thrown off by the fact that it says 30 seconds. Because it's 30 seconds when it goes on the air, okay? If you're doing an audition where you know that if you book it, it's eventually going to be a 30-second audition, spot rather. You don't have to make it 30 seconds exactly when you're bringing in an audition. You want to leave enough room, enough time in there to let your opinion come through. Because if you're thinking, "I got to get this down in 30 seconds." That's all that's going to come through in the read.

[00:22:23] JJ: Yes.

[00:22:25] BK: So what you're saying is very true, taking beats, and using those beats to breathe as well. That's really important. Allowing one thought to land before you go to the next thought, right? People don't do that enough. They pop right to the next thought. Sometimes they pop right to the brand. I’m like, "You just rushed through the brand," right? All you got to do to like highlight the brand is just say it and take a beat after it. that's all. Just let it sit there for a second.

Discover Card, it pays to discover, right? So if you go, “Discover Card, it pays to discover”. I’m like, "What? What did you just say?" So it's really important like you're saying, to take beats, not to rush. Absolutely.

[00:23:10] JJ: And you know what? that's something I’ve learned from previous that I’ve really taken to heart when I’m doing presentations, when comprehension of what I’m saying is crucial to us having a productive discussion. So you can see me now. I talk with my hands. I make sure that I pause. And it allows me to breathe and think. So those are things that not only I think help with VoiceOver, but they help with just day-to-day communication, which I really like as well.

[00:23:36] BK: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It also makes it sound more like you're talking to someone, right? If you rush through copy, it sounds like you're talking at them, and you don't care who's on the other end. Taking that beat before you say the next thing, it sounds like, "Okay, did you hear what I just said? Discover card, it pays to discover." right? So yeah, that's a great thing that you said. Absolutely.

[00:24:01] JJ: Yeah. I love how the world of voiceover isn't just like this little nucleus. It has so many implications to the rest of your – Yeah, I just really like that about this. It's pretty cool.

[00:24:08] BK: Totally. Totally.

[00:24:11] JJ: Wonderful. All right, let's listen to audition number four.

[00:24:14] Audition 4: Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you now know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

[00:24:32] BK: All right. So, yeah, that's a pretty great audition, in my opinion. First of all, his sound quality, he's got a great mic, obviously. Sounds like he's got a Neumann 103. But I could be wrong. But it sounds like one. He's in a booth, obviously. He's acoustically treated perfectly. And he's got a great voice. But unlike the other audition, he goes for the humor. And it's subtle. Okay, it's not over the top. It's implied in there, okay?

He is responding to what's going on in the visual. But he's doing it almost like a funny narrator or something. And I really like that. I really think that's right for the spot. I mean, I know that they say they want like an everyman, like a real guy. He still sounds like a real guy even though he has a great voice. And the reason why he sounds real is because he's leaning into the humor a lot more, but doing it with subtleties. This is what I’m talking about when I said earlier about the other folks how they went over the top. He's exactly in the right place as far as I’m concerned.

[00:25:38] JJ: Hmm. Sweet spot.

[00:25:39] BK: I really love his audition.

[00:25:41] JJ: You've mentioned a mic that you do like and a mic that you don't like. Do you have a couple fan favorites that you would recommend to people who are getting started or people who want to take this full time?

[00:25:52] BK: Oh, sure. Sure. Sure. Well, people who are just getting started, we're not going to break the bank and get a Neumann 103. So we would start maybe with the Rode NT1, which is a condenser mic. Condenser mics are great for voiceover, particularly for commercials, for characters. The only thing with a condenser mic is you've got to be in an acoustically-treated space because it has a wide range and a large diaphragm. So it picks up everything, right? So if you're in your kitchen, even if it's a Neumann 103, you're in your kitchen, it's going to sound terrible. It's going to sound echoey. It's going to pick all that up because it's got a wide range.

So Rode Nt1 and the MXL 990 is another really good condenser mic. It's a little less expensive than the Rode. The Rode I think is like 269. And it comes with a whole – It's a whole bundle. It comes with a shock mount and a pop filter and XLR cables and all that stuff. So yeah, I recommend either the MXL 990 or the Rode NT1.

For a shotgun mic, I have the Synco D2, which of course is not the Sennheiser 417. Again, that's a very expensive shotgun mic. But the good thing about a shotgun mic is that you don't necessarily need to be in a completely acoustically treated space to make it work because it only picks up what's right in front of it, okay? So if I lean into this mic, my room kind of disappears a little bit, okay? Because I’m not in an acoustically treated space right now. I’m in my house.

So if you prefer a shotgun mic, it's a different kind of sound than a condenser. A condenser mic is warm and dynamic. Shotgun mics are a little bit more intimate, but a little bit more flat than a condenser mic. So Synco D2 is great if you want a shotgun. Rode Nt1 or the MXL 990 if you want to condense your mic. And for an audio interface, I would recommend the Focusrite Scarlett Solo to plug into.

[00:27:54] JJ: Absolutely. Fan-favorite. Are there certain vocal archetypes or sounds that work best with a dynamic condenser mic versus a shotgun mic?

[00:28:05] BK: Shotgun mics, yeah. Promo guys. Promo artists tend to use shotgun mics. So that promo sound. You know, that sound, right? A lot of promo people use those. For condenser mics – And you said dynamic. Dynamic is a different kind of mic. Condenser mics and dynamic mics are different.

[00:28:25] JJ: Oh, thank you.

[00:28:26] BK: Yeah. A dynamic mic is similar to a shotgun mic, but it's got a wider range. And I’m not crazy about those for voiceover. those are good for singing. Condenser mics, basically it's pretty across the boards that if you're doing commercial reads, if you're doing video game characters, or animated characters, or even corporate, condenser mics just pick up a lot more resonance in the voice. So I would say that, particularly for promo people, they like to use shotgun mics.

[00:29:01] JJ: And condensers are pretty much all-encompassing, good general mic.

[00:29:03] BK: Commercial. Yup.

[00:29:05] JJ: Okay. That's good to know. Thank you.

[00:29:07] BK: USB mics. Don't use USB mics anymore, okay? Unfortunately, if you're using a USB mic – I mean, it might be okay for an audition. But if you book the job, the producer is going to want to know that you've got something better to do the job with if they want you to do the job at home. That's why I mentioned the Snowball mic. I mean, no offense to Blue microphones. But the Snowball mic, you should not use that.

The Blue Yeti, a lot of people have used that before. That's good for podcasting. Not necessarily good – It's too sharp and too bright for voiceover. Like I said, USB mics have kind of like gone by the wayside as far as recording from home.

[00:29:52] JJ: Especially with how affordable the XLR mics have become, the way the technology has progressed. Yeah, we've seen that as well.

[00:30:01] BK: The Rode NT1 is not expensive. And the MXL 990 is even less expensive. And they're both quality mics. So you don't need to spend a thousand bucks.

[00:30:10] JJ: Yes. And they're also less than the average cost of a job on our website.

[00:30:14] BK: Yeah.

[00:30:16] JJ: There you go. The job pay for your mic. Yeah, that's how we'll get your business into the black, baby.

[00:30:21] BK: There you go. I like that. That's the main reason to do it. Absolutely.

[00:30:28] KF: That's awesome.

[00:30:29] JJ: Okay. Well, then, do you have anything else? Anything you'd like to add, Kyle, about the read?

[00:30:33] KF: Yeah. The main thing that I really liked is, going back to our previous opinion on the last audition, I liked his pace on it. I think his pace was very, very strong. Allowed for it to resonate, while at the same time not being so slow that it distracts. It was perfectly paced and allowed for you to hear and acknowledge and soak in everything that he had to say. And like Bruce said, those little subtleties of the humor. It allows you to capture those.

[00:31:00] JJ: Yeah, nice job. Let's listen to audition number five.

[00:31:05] Audition 5: Elizabeth Mialerae. Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you now know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

[00:31:33] JJ: Oh, my heart goes out to her, because that was a great read. But I think, especially after hearing the other ones, we can all understand that her audio quality just wasn't up to snuff.

[00:31:44] BK: No. It wasn't good. No. I mean, it sounds like she might have been just recording in a room and not using any acoustical treatment at all. I’m just hearing the room, whatever kind of room she was in. Whether it was a bedroom, or a dining room or something.

Yeah, I mean, again, it just points to what we were saying before. If you're not going to deliver good audio quality, it doesn't matter – You can deliver the greatest read ever but if the audio quality doesn't match, you're out of there, unfortunately.

[00:32:14] JJ: Yeah. Yeah, it's hard to hire you. And luckily, there are lots of things that are easy to do at home that you can do to make your soundproof, right? We've got people using cushions, blankets, acoustic foam. Even your proximity to the mic can really help if you have room noises. And making sure you turn off your air conditioning. Turn off your fridge. Your dog's not barking. Your neighbor's not mowing. All of these are crucial elements to producing a voiceover that can be hired.

[00:32:45] BK: Yeah. I mean, I think that I liked her read, I didn't love it. It said middle-aged, right? A middle-aged person. She sounds older than middle-aged. That's number one. And I just felt like there was a little quality to it that sounded like she was reading it. I didn't feel that she activated it as well as the other people did. Even the other guy that I felt was over the top, I really thought he would he wasn't reading, right? I thought he was just going too far with his activation. But I didn't feel like she was just making it pop, you know?

And also, again, back to the sound quality. Not only was she not recording in an acoustically treated space. But I think she was using a USB mic. That's what it sounded like to me. That's my take on it. That wouldn't fly if I was a producer and I was listening to that.

[00:33:36] JJ: What are some of your favorite tips for making reads pop? Not sounding like you're reading?

[00:33:42] BK: It's funny, because, like, coming from an acting background, you used to not be able to do this with auditions for voiceover, which is memorizing them. Back in the old days, you went to a casting director's office or a studio and you read the copy off a music stand. And if you did memorize it, if you walked in with it memorized, the casting director would be like, "Why did you memorize it? It's right here." Okay?

So now we're at home. We could do whatever we want. So the more you get it into your system, the more that you, first of all, have an opinion, have a point of view, know who you're talking to, understand the attitude that they're going for, the quality that they're going for. The more that you get the copy into your system, the more it's going to sound like it's coming from you and it's not coming from the page, right?

I try to teach my students when we're working on copy, I tell them, "Try not to look at the page as much. Look at what you have to say. And then look up at the person you're talking to." That's activating the copy as opposed to reading it, okay?

When you're reading it, it's going to have that ready kind of sound to it, which I think she did. So activating it, you could do it in a lot of different ways. You can look away from the copy. Be sure you have a point of view. Be sure you know what you want to do with the copy. And then get it into your system. Now that we're home auditioning, you can memorize it. That's the best way to go. Then you're not even looking at the copy anymore. You're talking. So I’m a big fan of that.

[00:35:11] JJ: I love the tip about pretending you're talking to somebody. And I’ve heard it said that to help imagine that you're talking to somebody, people will put photos of friends or family in front of them so that you've memorized it, you're looking away from the copy. You're looking at your friends. It's like you're having an in-person conversation with them.

[00:35:29] BK: Totally. And not only that. What you're saying is great, because the more specific you are about the person that you're talking to, the more specific your audition is going to be.

I tell people all the time, I say, "I have people in my life. I talk to them all differently. I talk to my wife differently than I talk to my brother-in-law, differently than I talk to my brother, different than I talk to my best friend." So whoever you choose, if you are thinking of them, that's how the audition's going to be. It's going to be very specific and personalized because of the person that you chose to talk to.

[00:36:03] JJ: It all comes out in the copy. It really does.

[00:36:06] KF: And I find – Correct me if I’m wrong, Bruce. I’d love to hear your opinion on this. Nearly every coach that I’ve had experience working with or having some training sessions alongside, one of the first questions I hear every time is, "Who are you speaking to?" And I think that really speaks volumes. Would you agree on that? In order for a read to come through, you have to dial in that specific who am I talking to. Because like you said, you talk to each person differently. And who's going to bring that out in your read?

[00:36:33] BK: Absolutely. Sometimes what I’ll do with my students is do a moment before. Before you say the first line of the copy, get something going with that person that you're talking to. There's this spot that I work with people on for BP Gasoline. And the first line is, "Your engine is the heart of your car." So I’ll have someone say, "Okay, pretend that you're talking to your dad, and you hear that the engine sounds like not great. And you're like, "Look, dad. You just started the car. Your engine sounds terrible. And I mean, your engine is the heart of your car." See what I just did? I segued into the first line of the copy. It came out of something I said previously so that it doesn't sound like a first line. It sounds like something that comes out of a conversation and out of who I’m talking to. That can really help make it specific for you, by talking in your own words and segueing into the copy and doing that. So I work with my students a lot on that. And it seems to work for them.

[00:37:30] JJ: I love that. It's a great one. Thank you for sharing.

[00:37:32] KF: I did also want to – We were talking about audio quality, and Julianna had mentioned the amount of things that you can do at home, from moving blankets, to cushions, to all of that. I know a couple of top talent on our platform today still do work out of their walk-in bedroom. Clothes kind of create that dead noise that the acoustic soundproof might. And you don't necessarily need to have twenty thousand-dollar studios. You can go about doing this. Just be aware of it. Make sure that you take that time before to be aware of your audio and to do those little things. Because you can do it at home with little to no cost.

[00:38:08] BK: Absolutely. If you have a walk-in closet, by all means, clothes are great acoustical treatment. You can also put together a booth made out of PVC pipes and moving blankets. And you can get everything at Home Depot. Basically, you get those PVC pipes in the elbows. You build the structure of the booth. You drape the acoustic blankets, or the moving blankets around it, and you clamp them on. And boom! You've got a booth.

One of my former students, who's now a full-time voiceover guy, Robb Moreira. I don't know if you know who that is. But he started in that kind of booth. And for six years, he continuously booked work in that kind of booth. No one knew the difference, right?

Finally, after six years, he had enough money to buy himself a real booth and built it. But you can do that now. And that's better, much better than being in your bedroom and just sitting at your desk or whatever. So there's lots of ways. And of course, a walk-in closet, if you have one, great, perfect.

[00:39:09] JJ: Wonderful. All right, let's listen to the last one. This is audition number six.

[00:39:16] Audition 6: Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you now know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

[00:39:33] KF: All right. Bruce, I would love to get your take on that, because this is one of my favorite auditions that we had.

[00:39:39] BK: Oh, it's great. Great audition all the way. Love it. I think it's comparable to the other audition that I said was great. The only thing I would – I mean, I love the fact that, again, she very subtly hinted at the humor. She's got a very distinct voice. There's a little bit of character in there, but not a lot. Just enough. I would have liked to have heard her slow down just slightly. She kind of plowed through it. And I’m only saying that because I liked what she did. And I would like to hear her sort of like live in the copy a little bit more to kind of stretch some of those subtle, funny things, funny reads that she put into the copy. So yeah, I like this a lot. I just would have had her slow down a little bit. But her sound quality was great. She, again, hinted very subtly at the humor perfectly. And, yeah, great audition. I like that a lot.

[00:40:31] JJ: Mm-hmm. Agreed. And this copy really is quite well-written. And it's kind of nice to revel in the jokes that they have. And as a big fan of cheesy humor, I really enjoy things like that. And it's nice to talk about lighthearted things sometimes and have a giggle at silly things.

[00:40:50] BK: Oh, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And, again, when you're the voiceover and you're asked to do that, you want to like – It's almost like you're winking while you're doing it. There's a wink. There was a wink to hers. There was a wink to the other guy’s. And a wink sometimes – Again, I use that sometimes with students. Just wink. You don't have to like broadly state the humor. Just wink at it. Like this gal did and the other gentleman did. And you've got it. Like I said, the only thing I would say about this is that I wanted her to slow down a little bit. That's all.

[00:41:24] JJ: Yeah. Really well done.

[00:41:26] BK: Yeah.

[00:41:27] KF: Now, looking at the two auditions that I think we all have heard to be the strongest, what is your casting director hat when comparing these two and then coming to the choice where we're going to pick a winner? How do you look at these two auditions in comparison to one another and separately from one another?

[00:41:47] BK: I would say that the previous audition that I liked, the one that I liked, basically, what I loved about that audition was not only him very subtly leaning into the humor and the sound quality. But his pacing was perfect. I was able to sort of revel in it with him as he was doing it. So he would be my choice. I loved her audition. I guess I would pick him over her only because her audition was a little bit too fast. And would have wanted her to slow down and hear her kind of stew in that humor a little bit more.

[00:42:23] JJ: Oh, that's wonderful. Audition number four, you're our winner.

[00:42:27] JJ: Oh, boy. This does not look good. The infamous one-eyed bear from the campground dump has conquered your campsite and is really going to town on your station wagon. Well, I guess you now know why Kathy and Leanne call that one-eyed bear the cyclops. You have insurance? You need Minsurance.

[00:42:45] JJ: All right. Wonderful. Well, now that we've got a winner, Bruce, how can we get in touch with you if we'd like to chat more with you about your coaching services?

[00:42:54] BK: Oh, sure. My email address is [email protected] You can also contact my assistant, Emma Romasco, and her email is [email protected] You can email me anytime. Usually, it's best to email me, because we do have a phone number, we do have a landline in the office, but we generally don't use it, or we don't answer it. We usually get things through email and text. And we Slack each other and all that stuff. So you can get in touch with me that way.

[00:43:32] JJ: Oh, wonderful. And do you guys have a website where we can check out some of your work as well?

[00:43:36] BK: Absolutely, www.abacus.nyc.

[00:43:41] JJ: Brilliant. And we'll make sure to conclude all of your contact information in our show notes. We will also make sure to include the script. And I’ll ask that the link to the ear training guide on our YouTube channel will also be included so you guys can review your own audio and make sure that it's as good as it can be so you can have the best chance at landing those auditions.

All right. Well, Bruce, thank you so much for sharing your expertise with our audience. We really appreciated having you on our show today.

[00:44:11] BK: Thank you so much. It's always a pleasure to work with you guys. Always good to see you. Big supporter of voices.com. I’m always telling my students, like, "Now, go on voices.com." So I hope that's happening. I’m sure that you're getting people from us. And, yeah, it's always a pleasure.

[00:44:28] JJ: Absolutely. Right back at you. We really appreciate that.

[00:44:31] KF: Amazing, Bruce. It's been a pleasure. This is not our first time working together. And each and every time, your expertise blows us away. So thank you so much for sharing it with our community.

[00:44:40] BK: Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You guys are great.

[00:44:44] JJ: All right. That's it, everyone. We hope you have so much fun taking these tips back into the studio. We are rooting for you. Happy auditioning.

[00:44:53] KF: Remember, everybody, if you like what you're hearing here on Mission Audition, make sure to subscribe. If you're looking for any of the scripts that we're using in the Mission Audition episodes, you can find those on our blog resource on voices.com platform. So feel free to check those out.

[00:45:07] JJ: All right, everyone. It's been so good chatting with you today. We hope you learned something and that you'll be able to use that in your studio, and that you'll get hired for jobs because we are rooting for you.

Okay. Have fun, everybody. And happy auditioning.

[END]

Geoff Bremner

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  • Dana Hall
    April 21, 2022, 5:44 pm

    This was very informative and helpful. Thank you!

    Reply