Monthly Archives: October 2017


Looking After Your Voice As A Voice Artist

If you make a living as a voiceover artist, you’ll know there’s nothing worse than succumbing to a cold, or worse still a throat infection just before you’re due to go into the studio. The typically nasal sound that is part and parcel of a cold is not something people want to hear in their radio drama, or when listening to their favourite audio book. And advertising clients certainly won’t be able to use you, no matter how much they liked your reel or audition. So it’s important to keep your voice in tip-top shape.

Talk to any voiceover artist and they’ll tell you one of the most important things you can do is get enough sleep. When we are tired our vocal chords over compensate for the lack of energy and you start tensing muscles that should be relaxed. This in turn means that your voice becomes tired much more quickly than normal and you will find yourself straining and may eventually become hoarse. So, rule number one is get lots of sleep. The second most important thing a voiceover artist can do for their voice is drink lots of water. We’re all supposed to drink about a litre a day for general health anyway, but if you use your voice to make a living it’s even more essential to get enough fluid. Your vocal chords are surrounded by a mucous membrane which needs to stay moist in order to keep your vocal chords operating smoothly and fluidly. If you notice that you’re having to clear your throat a lot, which can be very irritating when you’re trying to record, it’s not because you have too much mucous, it’s because this mucous is too thick. Drink more water and this will help to sort the problem out.

As a voiceover artist, you need to think of your voice as a muscle that needs to be worked out regularly to keep it in shape, so even if you’re having a quiet few weeks and you’re not in the studio, try to do some vocal exercises every day keep it in shape. One of the easiest and most effective things you can do is practise some low humming in the shower. It might sound daft but the combination of humming and steam from the shower will do your voice the world of good and help to keep it tuned.

And finally, if you have a big job coming up, try and avoid dairy as it also makes your mucous thicker. So cut out milk, yoghurt, cheese, chocolate, ice cream and butter. It might seem harsh, but remember the client has booked the voiceover artist they heard on your reel, so you need to make sure your voice sounds just as good on the day of your job as it did then.

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How To Produce A Good Radio Ad

Anyone can produce a radio ad. All you need is a script, a voiceover and a recording studio. Decide what you want to say and off you go and record it. What’s difficult about that? Well, nothing really. It’s true, anyone can produce a radio ad, but not everyone can produce a good radio ad. And what do I mean by a good radio ad? Well, I mean an ad that people will actually listen to, and one that will convincingly sell the benefits of the product or company in a creative and compelling way.

Radio has often been described as ‘theatre of the mind’ and it’s for this reason that radio can be so compelling. A few carefully chosen, well executed words can conjure up a totally unique image for every person who hears them, and often these self-created images are far more powerful than any chosen for us (as they are in TV and print advertising). When we hear a well-written, well produced radio ad, we should be able to see the pictures immediately. We should be able to imagine ourselves driving that car, eating that pizza, or getting fit in that gym.

Got a checklist of things you need to say about your product? Then don’t use radio advertising. Cramming too much information into a 30 second slot is basically a big fat waste of your money. Copywriters and radio stations will be happy to take it from you, and will write your ad and air it for you no problem, but it certainly won’t get the results you’re looking for. Your radio ad must be single-minded. It should have one clear message, selling one key benefit, with one clear call to action. Ask your customers to do one thing and one thing only and don’t give them a choice. If you try and suit lots of different people by suggesting they phone, go online, call into the store or whatever suits them best, you actually paralyze response.

Give your words plenty of time to breathe. Think about the chatter that is going to surround your radio ad and produce something that will break the rhythm. Most radio presenters talk a lot, so if you produce an ad where there isn’t much talking at all, it will really stand out. Of course, it’s not always possible to do this, but at the very least the voiceover should be able to deliver the script without having to read at a hundred miles an hour. Yes, the engineer can speed up the delivery in post production, but it’s no good having lovingly crafted copy if the VO ends up sounding like a chipmunk. This is a particular problem with terms and conditions, so if you have loads of them radio may not be the best medium for you.

Choose the right voice over. Think carefully about your target audience and the kind of voice that is going to be appeal to them. Also think about what kind of voice is going to suit your product. If you’re advertising a gym, a young, vibrant voice with lots of energy will set the right tone for you. If you’re selling coffee, a smooth, rich, velvety voice will match the characteristics of the coffee. If you get the voiceover wrong it doesn’t matter how well written the ad is or how often it’s repeated. It just won’t hit the right note!

When done properly, radio advertising can really make an impact on response rates. Just remember to keep it clear, concise and focused.

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Getting To Know Your Voice

If you’re hoping to carve out a career in the competitive voice over industry, one of the most important things you need to do is decide how to market your voice and what kind of voice over work you think you would be particularly good at. Some people are blessed with natural versatility and can get to grips with pretty much any voice over brief they’re presented with, whether that’s corporate video, hard sell radio, character animation or talking books. These people are the envy of most people in the voice over world, because the majority of us mere mortals will be particularly good at a few things, but not necessarily at everything.

The first thing to do is to consider the natural tone of your voice. Of course you will learn to play with your range and use either the higher or lower register of your voice as you get more experienced but by and large you will book most voice over jobs based on what you sound like naturally. If you’re a female artist with a nice, bright, bubbly voice then if you’re recording a commercial voice over demo, you should consider ads that suit your natural tones. Perhaps things like shampoo, baby products, feminine hygiene (someone has to do them), food stuffs like yoghurt, milk, breakfast cereal or anything that might fall into the ‘Mum next door category’ where a friendly, empathetic delivery is paramount. If you’re voice is naturally deeper then play to this strength, consider recording ads for more sensual products like chocolate, luxury coffee, jewellery, perfume or jazz or blues albums! Similarly choose your narrative reads wisely. A naturally bubbly voice may not be the best choice to narrate a documentary about Jack the Ripper, while a sensual voice will sound decidedly odd narrating the goings on at Monkey World!

The next thing to think about is delivery. Are you a Hard-sell Harry or do you work better with more subtle scripts? Some of the most well loved voices on the radio have great difficulty getting to grips with the DFS-style hard sell ad. It’s surprisingly tricky to get right, and if you don’t hit the right note there is a real danger that you start to sound a little demented with an extra helping of cheese! If subtle and understated is more your style then avoid these types of ads completely as they won’t do your voice over reel any favours at all.

The secret to understanding your voice is practice. Get your hands on as many different voice over scripts as you can and do lots of different practice reads. If you have an iPhone this is ideal as the voice recorder gives good quality MP3s and you’ll be able to hear what you’re doing right and where you might be going wrong. If you have a friend in the voice over business as well, then get some constructive feedback from them and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll improve.

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Getting The Most Out Of The Script

As a voice actor, you’ll find yourself working with a wide variety of scripts promoting all manner of things from home insurance to baby wipes, cars to dating websites. Some of them will be well thought out and well written, giving you lots to play with and make your own. Some of them will be pretty poorly written and you’ll have to work extra hard to make the read sound natural and convincing. All in a day’s work!

The key thing to remember is that though you might have your own ideas about how the script should sound and what it should say, it’s the job of a voice actor to work with what you have. It may be ok to make suggestions for very small amends so that the script flows better, but by and large, it won’t be possible to make any sweeping changes. Often the copywriter will have produced several different versions to include all the information that the client wants in there, so the version you have in your hand will be a compromise between creative sensibility and marketing necessity.
To make sure you do the best job possible and get the most from the script, here are a couple of top tips from some of our most experienced voice actors.

• If you know you’ve been booked for a job, always ask if you can see a copy of the script beforehand so that you’re not coming to it completely ‘cold’.
• Underline any words you feel you really need to hit, or any lines where the rhythm might be tricky. Remember, rhythm is hugely important for radio commercials.
• If the script looks pretty tight for 30 seconds and you think you’re going to struggle with the timing, underline any words you think it might be ok to lose and suggest this on the day. Words like ‘and’ ‘the’ ‘that’ can all usually be chopped out without getting up the copywriter’s nose.
• If something’s not clear, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re not quite sure of what you’re saying you won’t make it clear for your listeners either.
• Remember to breathe! Very important and something a lot of people don’t get right. The engineer can always cut the breaths out, but if you have a great take bar the bit at the end where you’re turning purple and squeezing the words out, it will be frustrating and disappointing for everyone.
• Don’t forget to give the product or company name due attention and emphasis. It might not be the most fun part of the script but it’s ultimately what the listener needs to get from it. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for people to be very familiar with a radio ad, without having the faintest clue what the ad is for. This isn’t always the fault of the voice actor, but be aware of it just to be sure.
Finally, remember to have a glass of water in the booth with you – not tea or coffee as they’re not good for your voice. Have fun, but be professional at all times, and give yourself the best chance possible of getting booked again.

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