Have I ever mentioned the number one reason why I love voiceover work? It’s such sweet relief to not have to look the part.
I mean, there are many parts I want to play that I would never be granted if I had to play it on stage. For instance, think of the wish to be granted the part of a princess. I had a slight chance of being cast of as princess in my younger days. It often depended upon who was standing next to me. If it was a sweet young blonde then I was the god mother. If it was a rounder, plainer gal then I was the princess. However, with the magic of voiceover, I can play them all! I am a princess, glittery god mother,mean old hag, nurturing mom, even a little boy. I can be wearing minimal make-up, jeans and a t-shirt, but when I open my mouth a full cast of characters appears in the imagination of the listener. Heck, I can do that wearing no make-up.
I don’t even look the part of my sophisticated corporate narrations. I know I don’t because the image in my head of the person speaking looks nothing like me. Her crisp suit, smooth hair and elegant heels are nowhere near the microphone. Her wisdom, authority and grace are pouring into it through my vocal delivery. It’s so much fun.
In addition to my voice acting, I am a speech coach. I work with executives to help them sound their part. We usually speak on the phone before we meet. Many times they will mention that I don’t look like what they expected. Usually they expected taller and strangely, they often expected blonde. I’m not insulted. I am a petite brunette. Their reaction can be interpreted as the result of a social experiment.
I know we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but it’s a harsh reality in most of the acting world. Fortunately, doesn’t affect the voice acting world. That’s why I say, “Listen to me”. Visit my profile, close your eyes and listen. If you don’t see what you want to hear, then describe it to me. I’ll create it with my voice. It’s bliss.
When do you let it go?
Are you your toughest critic? Have you ever fussed over a line or a word trying to get it to sound just right?
Of course you have, you’re a voice over artist.
Most of us work alone and with minimum direction. That is fine. Most of us do just fine with listening to each take, tweaking the read, and producing a recording that pleases the client.
The question is: How do you know when to let it go?
I have had the pleasure of fussing over a recording, sending it to the client for approval but expecting them to want another try and then being told that they loved it. I tell myself to not be such a perfectionist. I listen too closely for errors and miss what is good about the work. However, I have also felt the dismay of sending a recording I liked and being asked to try again. This makes me put the perfectionist hat back on my head. Something you like one day can sound so different a few days later and something you were never happy with can sound better when you come back to it.
Do you rely on instinct? Do you wait for a take that just feels right? Do you give yourself a time limit and send the best of the session? Do you ask a colleague for feedback? I am so happy when the client approval message arrives in my email. Just as a parent has to eventually let go of their child – a voice artist has to let go of their mp3.
For voice actors, a regional accent can keep you from winning auditions that are out of your local area. You may not be aware that you have any regionalisms because you sound like everyone around you. Sometimes people only notice their local accent when they travel. Voice over professionals should be aware of their local sounds and be able to modify their voice so that they speak a Standard American Accent. What exactly is Standard American is debated by many voice coaches, however there are some basic sounds that are generally accepted. A few small changes can go a long way toward modifying your delivery and expand your chances of getting jobs in a wider market.
When someone comes to me for accent modification the first sounds I listen to are their open vowel sounds. These are exactly what the name says, they are vowel sounds made with the mouth open, such as, “aw”, “ah” and “oo”. You will notice that you need to drop your jaw to make these sounds. Also notice that they are very emotional sounds, so you want the audience to pay attention to the feeling you are trying to communicate rather than noticing that you are saying the word in a way that sounds strange to them. Let’s take, for example, a word that inspires a strong emotion in most of us – chocolate! The Standard American pronunciation for that word is “ch-ah-klit”. The first o is pronounced “ah” as in “ahh, that tastes good”. However, it is very common for New Yorkers to pronounce that o as “aw” as in “aw, that is fattening”. I have coached many New Yorkers who have eliminated most of their accent, but that word will slip by. It is a simple fix to substitute the “ah” for the “aw” once they are aware of it and they have increased their chances of advertising chocolate to the rest of the country.
Another time that open vowels are noticed is when our Canadian friends send an audition somewhere in the USA and forget to change the “ou” in “out” to the Standard American pronunciation of “ow” as in “how “ from the Canadian pronunciation of “oat”. To Americans the phrase, “out and about” sounds like, “oat and a boat” when spoken by a Canadian. Again, it is a simple change that makes a big difference.
It is difficult to hear your own accent. A coach can make you aware of pronunciations that may be getting in your way. One of my favorite aspects of my work is the immediate result. I give my clients their own short list of what I call their “red flag” sounds so they can mark their scripts and instantly change their delivery.
Please please me, oh yeah, like I please you.....
To all of those who have gone the extra step to hire me to record a phone message for their business, I say, "Thank you". I am glad you realize that the voice on the phone when people call you should be professional, friendly and easy to understand.
Some of you write a script that includes information about your business. It's a good chance to tell potential customers what you can do for them. Some of you get to the point, so that a caller can be quickly connected to the right department. All of you invariably get to a part of the phone message that says something like this, "Thank you for calling _________, for _________ please press 1, for __________ please press 2, for _________ please press 3."
You're great, you are polite, you thanked the caller for calling. However, when you get to the part that tells them which number to press for each department, it gets too polite. You do not need to keep saying, "please press".
Confession, I'm accusing you of being too polite but I am being self serving. Do you know how challenging it is for a voice artist to keep saying all those "p's" in "please press" without popping them? I know all the tricks. I have a pop filter, I keep the proper distance from the mike, I say it a bit like a "b" sound, but it's still tough.
So, my request is simply this......say, "please press 1", and after that just say, "press 2". You are still the polite and professional proprietor - wow, those "p's are everywhere - and your customer doesn't have to listen to the repetitive instructions.
Please please me, oh yeah, and I will speak for you.