1: Do You Have Talent As A Communicator?
There’s a reason that you’re reading this book right now. Maybe you’ve met someone who made their living with their voice in radio, on TV, or in some other market. Maybe you’ve noticed that more and more web sites, telephone systems, sales kiosks…and yes, now even your CAR… seem to be incorporating voice navigation. But, almost certainly, somewhere along the way…someone has told you something like this: “You’ve got a really nice voice. You should do something with your voice for a living.”
Of couse, there are many reasons that people may be attracted to one’s voice. A voice may have a unique quality…maybe it’s extra smooth, noticeably deep or has a pleasant breathiness or a nice raspy texture. The fact is that we are all blessed with individual traits. Some present themselves naturally…while others require training and refinement in order to become of obvious value.
In years past, a “great voice” meant one that was deep, resonant, sparkling and full of personality. However, in recent years, our culture has grown weary of “marketing hype”. One of the more popular requests of producers and ad agencies these days is “less announcer, more regular guy”.
So…it’s really not all about “the voice”. However, producers and ad agencies don’t REALLY want someone who sounds like a regular guy. What they want is a professional communicator who can really get the point across…but to do so without employing the slickness and “sing-song” sound of traditional narration.
Which brings us to the real question: “No matter how great your voice is, can you communicate?” Because, if you intend to pursue VO work as a career, you not only need to believe in your own ability to communicate…but you need to be able to convincingly demonstrate that ability to your potential clients.
We’ve all met people who we would describe as “clueless”. For the sake of our discussion, we’ll say that these folks are living in their own world… devoid of objectivity… separated from reality. For example, maybe you’ve met someone creative: a musician, actor, or writer…who seems unable to understand that he’s really the only one in the world who cares about what he does.
In order to avoid becoming (or staying) one of those folks, it’s important that we get objective feedback on “where we’re at” in terms of our current level of development as a talent. In other words, just because your Mom tells you that you have a great voice for commercials…well, that’s not really enough to go on. She loves you. She just wants you to do well.
So where can you get good, objective feedback? Well, I’m lucky in that, where I’m located geographically, there’s a really good recording engineer at the largest studio in town who serves as a great resource for me. Every time I hear from someone who wants to get into voiceovers, I refer them to John. He’s very good. He’s willing to be brutally honest. He’s well-connected. And, for folks who want to make a demo, he can get you fixed up at a very reasonable price.
But, what if you don’t live in my area? What if you live in a small town…or on a farm…or on an island somewhere?
Well, there’s no one “right” answer here, but here are some thoughts:
- Attend a voiceover class and get some feedback that way (more on this later). But these classes are usually only available in large cities.
- Look for a referral to a good engineer at a recording studio near you. Contact a couple production companies in your area with a quick phone call and ask a producer who they like to use and who they trust. Then, contact that engineer and tell them you are thinking about making a VO demo, but you’d like some feedback first, before deciding to invest. Ask what it would cost for a half hour of their time to evaluate you. You can also find people online who can help with your demo. One of the guys I’ve used is Russ at Chrismar Studios.
- Take advantage of the internet. Record a handful of commercials in different styles from the radio or TV. Transcribe them to paper. Then practice them like crazy for a couple days. And then, use whatever facilities you can get your hands on for free or cheap to lay them down on tape or digital audio. Get them on your computer as an MP3 file (a very flexible, portable file format). Visit voiceover artist forums to see if any are willing to give you a listen and offer a quick, but brutally honest, critique of some of your reading. It’s a great place to pick up some constructive feedback. NO ONE knows everything about what works for VO talent. But if you get 2-3 comments that seem to line up, then you’ve got some really good information on which to evaluate whether or not you should proceed.