Five pieces of voice over advice you should be ignoring

Posted on July 1, 2013 by

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Bad voice over advice

Photo: Some rights reserved by alxndr

There is no shortage of voice over advice out there on the interwebs. From what microphones to buy to how to audition, how do you seperate good advice from the bad? We recently asked the question on our Facebook and Twitter pages, “What’s the worst voice over advice you ever received?” We discovered that there is a lot of bad advice out there! Here’s some tips that you should definitely ignore:

Tip to ignore #1: “You can’t be a voice actor unless you have an [insert brand and model #]  microphone. It’s the industry standard.”

There are many mics that have been labeled the “must have” for anyone who wants to be a voice actor. The Neumann U87 and the Sennheiser 416 are just two examples. On the lower priced side, the Baby Bottle mics from Blue get a lot of attention (I actually use the Bluebird in my home studio). But, beware of anyone who tells you what mic to get!

Dan Lenard, the Home Studio Master and co-host of East-West Audio Body Shop says, “There is no industry standard, especially since we’re talking about a multi-genre business. There is no perfect mic for any one person. It’s not the mic that gets you work, it’s the skill of the voice sending sound waves into it.”

It’s like buying jeans, just cause they make your butt look great doesn’t mean they will fit mine! Like our posteriors, voices have different shapes, sizes, and qualities and you must get into the store and try them on to see which one fits. Also, just because it’s expensive, doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. Here’s a great video from Dan’s website on expensive vs. cheap microphones:

Tip to ignore #2: “You have to get ProTools. It’s the industry standard.”

There’s that phrase “industry standard” again!  ProTools is a software/hardware package made by Avid that runs from about $600 to over $2,000 depending on the options you choose. It is the audio editing tool most used in professional music recording studios. In my opinion, ProTools is pricey and total overkill for most voice actors. If you plan on getting into music production or imaging, then perhaps you should consider ProTools. However, for most voice over work, even a free program like Audacity can suffice. Personally, I use Adobe Audition because that’s what I learned on when I started my radio career.

Tip to ignore #3: “You should add [reverb, compression, etc.]. It makes your voice sound deeper.”

Adding reverb was the hip thing to do in radio in the 60s and 70s. It makes it sound like you are recording in a larger room. Many voice actors, men especially, are told that if they add reverb it will make their voice sound “bigger”. The truth is that compression and effects like reverb can make you sound robotic and may mask your voice’s natural, warm qualities. Here at Voice123, we see thousands of scripts and directions posted every day and we can tell you, the days of the over-the-top announcer style are over. Voice123 Casting Ninja Michelle Falzon says, “By far, the words I see most are ‘conversational’, ‘upbeat’, ‘friendly’, ‘professional'”.

Tip to ignore #4: “You need a professionally produced compilation demo.”

Voice actress and Voice123 Casting Ninja Felecia Angelle told me, ” I was reading a voice over forum recently and saw a conversation that went something like this, ‘I see people with like 1000 demos tagged in different categories. Isn’t that overkill?’ and people were like ‘Yeah, you just need a comp demo!’. I just wanted to /facepalm. The more categories you are in the better! If a voice seeker searches for audiobook narration, they don’t want to hear you doing commercials, phone systems, etc. It’s best just to have several examples in each category. So, yes, you do want 1000 demos tagged in different categories!” In the online world, voice seekers typically don’t want to hear your entire life’s work on one audio file. Voice over coach and casting director Nancy Wolfson has said that voice seekers listen to about 9 seconds of your audition or demo, that’s it. If the best thing you’ve ever voiced is 30 seconds in, they are never going to hear it.

Tip to ignore #5: “It’s just an audition. Don’t worry about quality.”

Voice123 voice actress Christina Smith said,  “A local agent, giving advice to potential clients, says that she has her people audition via the cell phone, versus having them actually record in a home studio. Obviously, I did not sign with her. Poor audio quality can be a huge turn off to casting professionals.” Put yourself in the voice seeker’s position. Imagine you’ve listened to 50 auditions and of those, you really liked about 10. If it comes down to choosing someone who recorded their audition in crystal clear, high quality and someone who recorded on an iPhone but claims to have a professional studio, who would you choose?

What’s the worst voice over advice you’ve heard?