Podcasts Voice Over Experts How to Develop Tools and Acting Skills with Rachel Alena
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How to Develop Tools and Acting Skills with Rachel Alena

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Geoff Bremner
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Many aspiring voice actors might wonder why somebody other than them always seems to land the jobs, and the answer to this question comes down to skills and tools. Today on the show we are joined by Rachel Alena, our featured coach for February, to talk about how to develop tools and skills that will help you ace more interviews. We cover the tools of pitch, rhythm, and dynamics and Rachel demonstrates how to read different scripts using these techniques. We then move onto the acting side of things, hearing Rachel reading another script and demonstrating how it lands differently depending on whether acting skills are used or not. With over 20 years of experience in the voice acting industry, Rachel knows exactly what she is talking about, so tune in today and hear what she has to say!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • The work Rachel has done in the field of voice acting.
  • The fact that acing an interview comes down to skill.
  • The tools and skills that Rachel has developed in her program.
  • Tools such as pitch, rhythm, and dynamics.
  • What happens if you don’t have good tools or skills.
  • What pitch is, why it is important, and how can you use it.
  • A demonstration of the smooth and staccato techniques for rhythm.
  • What dynamics are, why we use them, and how to do so.
  • Why acting skills matter, and how to develop and apply them.
  • A demonstration of reading a script using acting skills.

[INTRODUCTION]

[00:00:00] RA: Hi, there. Welcome to Voice Over Experts, your monthly educational podcast, helping you bring your voice acting career to the next level, with insightful lessons presented by Voice’s voiceover coaches. This is Rachel Alena, your Voice’s February featured coach. I've been a voice actor for more than 20 years, a voiceover coach for the past eight years working with people individually, as well as large universities and talent agencies.

I've also worked as the director of the voice acting department for a talent agency. Not only has my voice been heard on thousands of projects for clients, such as Disney, Microsoft, Old Navy, and many, many more. I've also worked on the business side of things. I really know what clients want and what they look for when choosing VO talent. I'm very passionate about self-expression. I'm really thankful to be here with you.

This month, we are diving into script analysis, and how to best prepare for your auditions. What I want to talk about today is something that I've developed over the years as a coach that really helps to give you foundational skills, whether it's for auditions, or for jobs. There's really two types of foundational skills that we're going to talk about. A lot of times, people wonder why the other guy or gal gets the job every time. In my experience, it's not rainbows and unicorns, and all of that good stuff. It's actually skill.

This is voice acting. Not voice reading. There are some required elements that you need to have, and you may have these things naturally, or you may get them from a coach, or a combination of both, but they are both tools and acting skills. I want to help give you some skill now, so that you can have more of a plan when looking at your auditions.

Okay, so let's start with the two fundamentals that I've developed in my program. They are tools and acting skills. With regards to tools, tools are duplicatable deliverables. They're like a paint by number. Let's say, you wanted to be an artist, and you came to me as a coach and you were like, “Okay. I want to learn how to do some beautiful visual art.” I might give you at first, a paint by numbers, where you can have some ideas of colors that might work together. The same thing exists for voiceover, and you don't have to be a newbie, by the way. Anybody, this will work for.

The second issue is acting skills. These are not as easily defined. They don't really fit in a box, but we'll discuss acting skills in just a few minutes here. With regards to tools, we're going to talk about three of the tools. Today, there'll be pitch, rhythm, and dynamics. They're what I call verbal pair linguistics. When we talk about acting skills, we're going to talk about skills that are a little bit different than what you might do on camera. There's no facial expression. There's an expected sound and voiceover. What I can tell you is that when people don't have a strong understanding of their tools, they just might have a good intuition and just have some natural talent, which is totally cool.

Their reads might be strong at first and they may have strong auditions. They may be hired, but not rehired. Because they're unable to execute changes from a director or a client. Their reads might sound the same, and there might not be enough diversity for client brands. On the flip side, when people don't have strong acting skills, sometimes what I find is if there's no acting experience, the reads are flat and boring. They may not be relatable. The talent may be unable to bring the read to life. If they're an experienced actor, the emotions may be too big for voiceover. They may be choppy or putting emphasis in the wrong place.

The fundamental tools of tools and acting skills will help you to really grow yourself in commercials, e-learning, industrials, animation, audiobooks, and more. It doesn't really matter the style.

Let's start with our tools. They are pitch, rhythm, and dynamics. First, we're going to answer the questions about pitch. What is pitch? Why is pitch important and how to use pitch? Pitch is basically the highness, or lowness of the tone of your voice. For example, this is a high pitch. It registers up high, and this is a low pitch; the register is down low. Why is pitch important? Well, in voice acting, we want what I call an intentional change every three to five seconds. We want to keep scripts interesting, and we want to create emphasis. I want to give you an example of how to use pitch. I'm going to read this script two ways. The first is going to be with as little pitches I can put in it and the second is going to have some pitch use in it. Take a listen to the difference.

Here's read one. Hardware Pros has got it all. We now cater to businesses and independent professionals. Registered customers receive special alerts and discounts on everything from hardware and supplies to pro-grade power tools. Visit hardwarepros.com today. Now, let me read it adding some pitch. I'm going to pick some things that I think matter in this script. For example, businesses and independent professionals. Maybe, let's go with receive special alerts and discounts, and plus the client name. Take a listen to what happens once I add some pitch.

Hardware Pros has got it all. We now cater to businesses and independent professionals. Registered customers receive special alerts and discounts on everything from hardware and supplies to pro-grade power tools. Visit hardwarepros.com today. You can hear the use of pitch is really helpful.

Okay, let's go to tool number two, rhythm. There's a technique that I've developed that I call the smooth staccato technique. This is all about the internal rhythm of your script. We're going to answer the questions, what is the smooth technique? What is the staccato technique? When should we use them and how to use the smooth staccato technique? Well, similar to pitch, intentional change is important. Rhythm can be used to keep things interesting. What is the smooth technique? We draw out a word, or group of words. We lengthen our vowels. There's a smoothness of sounds and syllables, words and phrases that are joined together.

What is the staccato technique? It's short and rhythmic. You take a small rest at the end of each word and words are detached, or separated. When should we use the smooth staccato technique? Whenever we want to create imagery, drive home a point, add rhythmic diversity, or maybe break up run-on sentences. Here's an example from an audiobook. I'm first going to read it without a lot of diversity in our rhythm. Then I'm going to add some smooth staccato.

Read one. He was riding on an ocean wave when the boat rocked suddenly. He was using a sharp clean knife to open the package from Tony. It was a stormy afternoon. Winds were fierce, Gustave was still tired from the night before.

Now, let's add some smooth staccato. I'm going to look at this and I'm going to say okay, maybe ocean wave is smooth, but boat rock, suddenly, is staccato. Maybe a sharp, clean knife might be staccato. Maybe a stormy afternoon might be staccato. Being still tired from the night before might be smooth. Let me add those rhythmic elements to the script. Take a listen.

He was riding on an ocean wave. When the boat rocked suddenly. He was using a sharp, clean knife to open the package from Tony. It was a stormy afternoon. Winds were fierce. Gustave was still tired from the night before. Do you hear how that adds a little bit of diversity?

Finally, let's talk about the third tool, dynamics. We're going to answer what are dynamics and voiceovers? Why do we use dynamics? How to use dynamics? What are dynamics in voiceover? In music, dynamics would be considered the loudness, or softness. In voiceover, it's less about volume and more about intensity. Why do we use dynamics? Natural speech is not one-dimensional, and we want to mimic that. Intensity engages the audience. Less intensity draws the listener in. It also adds depth and variation. How to use dynamics? Move away from your mic when you have a stronger tone. Move closer to the mic with a softer tone, and do not maintain the same thing throughout the entire script. Mix it up. Here's an example of using dynamics in a 15-second TV spot. This first take isn't going to have very many dynamics in it.

What do you want in a family sharing plan? How about a lot of data? Like, four lines with unlimited talk and text and 10 gigabytes of high-speed data? Yup, we thought so. That's why for a limited time, get four lines and 10 gigabytes of high-speed data for just 100 bucks a month.

Now, let's do another take adding some dynamics. I'm going to pick some spots, like maybe a family sharing plan, or a lot of data. Maybe yup, we thought so, and maybe the 100 bucks a month and add some dynamics to draw my listener in, and also have some strength in different spots, so that it's interesting dynamically. Take a listen.

What do you want in a family sharing plan? How about a lot of data? Like, four lines with unlimited talk and text and 10 gigabytes of high-speed data? Yeah, we thought so. That's why for a limited time, get four lines and 10 gigabytes of high-speed data for just a 100 bucks a month. Keeping things interesting, using dynamics can really make your scripts and auditions pop.

Now, let's go to the second item on our list. Acting skills. Acting skills are a little harder to define, but let's give it a try. We're going to answer the questions, why do acting skills matter? How to develop acting skills and how to apply acting skills? Why do acting skills matter? Well, as a voice actor, our job is to connect with one person who's having an auditory experience. Acting skills can help us do that. It's entertainment. That's part of our job. The brand, or script, or director has an idea, a style, or a story. It is your job to portray it in the way that they want you to do so.

How to develop acting skills? Improv acting classes can be really helpful. They force you to handle diverse experiences quickly as an actor. Working with an acting coach, or a voice acting coach can really help. How to apply acting skills? Always, when you get a script, the very first thing you should do is think about who you're talking to. Ask yourself, who are you in relationship to them? Ask yourself, of course, how do you want your listener to feel? Finally, what is your role in this story?

Let me give you an example of how to apply acting skills in this web promo. You'll notice in the script, it could be read just as a simple script, or it can be read as if maybe as an actress, I can pretend I went to this school. I'll read it first, just as a simple script, and the second time I'll read it, I'll pretend that I went to that school.

It's not what it used to be. Career and Technical Institute is so much more. A career and technical institute education is about your style and your plan. What's your personality and what type of education fits you? Are you creative? The career options may surprise you, from executive chef, graphic designer, event planner to cosmetologist.

Okay, now I'm going to read it as if I am a student at that school. I'm going to put myself in the role of a student at that school and share that experience with my listener. It's not what it used to be. Career and Technical Institute is so much more. A career and technical institute education is about your style and your plan. What's your personality, and what type of education fits you? Are you creative? The career options may surprise you, from executive chef, graphic designer, event planner to cosmetologist. Developing your acting skills can really help you relate with your audience and land more auditions.

Okay, so let's go back and recap. How do we best prepare for auditions? We use our tools and our acting skills, which makes you a voice actor, not a voice reader, who lands the auditions.

I'm Rachel Alena. You can find me at www.rachelalena.com. Or email me at [email protected] That’s [email protected] Or visit my YouTube page. Subscribe to Voice Over Experts for free wherever you listen to podcasts and grow your career today. Thanks for listening.

[END]

Geoff Bremner

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