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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How To Get Started In Pro Voice Work

I want to thank a blog reader who asked, "How do I get started in voice work"

This is a common question, and the blog is a great place to respond.
So you want to be a VO talent? Alright then, I'll tell you. You've got it easy. The means to record and the variety of media you can be part of are sweet and simple compared to the old days of 10 years ago. And even easier than the golden age of radio.

So the question is: What makes you think you want to be a voice talent?

Ahh! You want to get paid and you think this is easy work! Well sure you do. Now let me get you hip to what it takes.

There's more than one way to shine this shoe. I started as a radio guy many years ago. Back then, a cat named Art Hannes taught me at the old KiiS Broadcasting Workshop in Hollywood. Art was known in house as, "The Voice Of God". He worked as a booth announcer on the old CBS radio and TV networks in New York. Art was the announcer on the Ed Sullivan Show back in the day. Look up Ed Sullivan and The Beatles sometime so that you might dig how important this cat was in the announcer world.

Now those days are long gone and the, "Voice of God" is best left to the Big Cat himself. But dig baby, there's still some craft you've got to learn if you're going to be a pro who can hold his head up and roar in the same domain as the legends before you. That's not to put you down or make you small. That's just to say you've got to bow to those who are the masters. Not me - dig - I'm still a student like you.

Getting paid is good. But you've got to know that this is an art. And artists compete like atheletes. Who can run fastest, hit farthest and deliver the copy - the WORDS - you dig, the meaning - like, the most REAL. He or she is is the one who gets paid like a .400 hitter.

So dig it. Here is how you train to win like that .400 hitter.

First off. Can you read? No baby, I don't mean, "See Jane. Jane Has the ball." I'm hip that you can read. I mean, can you READ what the WRITER is putting down? Can you phrase it like music? Do you hear melody in the words? Do you get the jazz of Bill Cosby? The passion of Saint John? Can you lift emotion off the page and put it out there to be heard?

Alright that's pretty advanced. Let me start slower and kinder to your ego.

I can't play like Miles Davis. I didn't play the horn and furthermore, I'm not the innovator who found melody where none had been before. That's what I desire. I desire to play my instrument and find the melody unique to every story. So how do I get there?

Think about it. Somebody sometime gave you a challenge to master in your life. Maybe it was math. Maybe it was straightening up, maybe it was saying just the right thing to a lover. Something mattered to you that much. To Miles it was the horn. To you it will be your voice. And you will practice your vocal instrument like Miles practiced his horn. Dig?

So here's how you do it without a coach. And I swear by the power of life itself that this is how you master voice work no matter who you are. I'll give my method to you for free. All that is required of you is that you commit to it. All you've got to do is work out. Just like you work out at a gym. And 3 days a week should do it.

STEP 1. Get a recording device with a real hand held microphone. You need to capture your performance and you have to learn mic technique. Love your mic and it will love you back.

STEP 2. Pick out some words to read. Ad Copy, poetry, classified ads, a speech. Whatever moves you is good to practice.

STEP 3. Record a selection of words you are moved to perform. Do three reads of each text. Spend about 30 minutes recording it in.

STEP 4. Put your recording away. DO NOT LISTEN TO IT AFTER YOUR SESSION. I know that's going to be hard for your little heart to stand. You want to play back and admire your work. DO NOT DO IT! Tell your ego to stand down and set the recording aside 'till your next session. Now go to step 5.

STEP 5. If you listen to your work directly after your recording, the mind plays tricks. Your ear will hear what you thought you put down. But cruel time is more honest than sweet ear. Once you have forgotten what you meant, you will hear what you did. And the honest difference will teach you as well as any professional coach. The mic don't lie baby, and you've got no court of appeal.

STEP 6. Use time to become your best teacher. Listen. No, I mean LISTEN to your work. Wait between workouts and then listen to what you did. Re-read work you think you can improve and discard work that does not serve you. Save work that pleases you because it is TRUE to your intention. That becomes your demo.

STEP 7. Never stop practicing. This isn't a job. This is you mastering your hearts desire.

That's all. When you have your practice down you'll know you ARE a voice talent and nobody will ever be able to tell you different.

Now you might want me to say more about getting the big gig, or making the killer demo or finding the right agent. That's all BS from people who want to cash in on your hunger. I'm not selling you, I'm telling you. There is no shortcut for learning to play your instrument. When you master that you won't need me or anybody else.

Now get to work.

5 comments:

VOICESDOTCOM said...

Hi John,

Great tips on getting started in the biz. For more information, aspiring voice talent can check out Voices.com. There are lots of free resources available including blogs and podcasts - I strongly suggest listening to Voice Over Experts.

Thanks for writing about voice over!

Cheers,

Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Stephanie,

I am hip that you are are from voices .com, and that you represent a business. That's cool baby. I did my time in a commercial workshop too.

I always said that I paid for the confidence to go out and get a job. I already had the talent.

So go see Steph. if you need to buy some confidence.

Otherwise, do like I say and do the work yourself. You can earn confidence by yourself.

MsJensing said...

First I wanted to thank you on your tips for getting started in voice work. Timeless advice. But for me, I'm there, I have done work in the past, even have a demo. Have a background in theatre and acting and the company who I did all my voicework though has since dissolved. How do I get my demo out there to find a company, find the work?

Thank you,

Jennifer

John Quimby said...

I think the potential answer to that question keeps changing.

Used to be you worked with clients, in order to get an agent so you could get clients. That still happens for some but it's less likely if you aren't already working in a sizable market.

Demos delivered to directors/producers/agents used to be the only way in.

Right now it's not a matter of distribution it's a matter connecting with the person who is looking for your talent.

So make a demo. Then send it (as a digital file) to anyone you think might want to know what you do. Then link it to ALL of your social network/places on the web.

I produce a podcast series and put it on my other blog (dunncreekfarm.blogspot.com)
which demonstrates my skills as a voice, writer and producer...and constantly keeps my newest material on the web. It's a demo in the form of content.

I hope that helps!

Stefan Alexxis said...

Hey John. Everything you said is true. But also, as in music, besides practicing you have to listen to the masters at work. Really listen to the voices that make you take notice. Pay attention to their inflection, their phrasing. Ask yourself why they deliver each word the way they do. And then the hard part -- try NOT to imitate them but to find your own voice. But that's true in any art, isn't it?