Choosing a voice coach – part 1

Okay. So, you’ve made the decision to really try out this whole “voice acting” thingy. You’ve read some really good books on voice acting and maybe even listened to a voice over seminar / webinar or two. But now you feel it’s time to take the plunge; to dive in deep. That is to say: start taking lessons from a really good voice acting coach.

“But who should I choose as my voice coach?”

To many, that question is difficult to answer. That’s why in this post (and others to follow) I’ll endeavor to take as much of the confusion as possible out of the selection process. (And at the end of this post, I’ll show you a cool video about teachers, too.)

Class is in session. Let’s begin…

In-person or Skype lessons

Your first choice should be whether you want to have in-person lessons or telephone/Skype lessons. For some, this question is really easy to answer: I live in the middle of nowhere so I don’t have a choice. There aren’t any voice acting coaches around me!

Whatever your case may be, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • If you’re a shy person or just lack the necessary confidence at this stage, then a voice-only Skype lesson might be the best for you.
  • It is good if your coach can see you to check your distance from the mic, how you move when you read, etc., so at some point in-person lessons or video Skype lessons are beneficial.
  • In-person or video Skype lessons allow you to see how your coach performs. This makes learning easier and helps remove your own shyness (when you see how ridiculous your coach looks when performing, it makes you feel better about being ridiculous yourself. 😉 )
  • Some studios offer group lessons. These can be good because you get the chance to interact with others and get ideas from the other students. These can also be a little cheaper, which is good for those who are still a little unsure about entering into voice acting full throttle.

What kind of lessons work for you?

In general, there are a two basic types of voice acting lessons that I’ve seen. I call them structured and on the job. Each has their pros and cons. One thing to remember is that the style that works best for you may be horrible for someone else and visa-versa.

Structured lessons

Do you like a structured curriculum with detailed homework or practice drills? If so, then structured lessons may be best for you. Some coaches have created their own progressive lesson plans that take the beginning student through the voice acting skill set. You’ll work on each stage individually until you have a good grasp of that particular lesson before moving on.

Some people love these kinds of lessons because of the feeling of accomplishment after completing a particular section. Others find it too restrictive.

Here’s what I like about structured lessons:

These kinds of lessons usually give the beginning student a solid foundation of the basic skills needed in voice acting. The structure helps to keep you focused.

Here’s what I don’t like about structured lessons:

Some coaches might not take great care in making sure you’ve mastered each skill. The coach might just teach you one skill per lesson and then move on to the next. Be careful.

“On the job” lessons

Are you the kind of student who learns best from just jumping right into the deep end? If so, then on the job lessons may be best for you (NOTE: I call them “on the job” lessons. But others may call them by a completely different name.)

So what are on the job lessons anyway? Well, some coaches don’t have any real lesson plan (and there’s nothing wrong with that.) Instead, they teach you just like you were doing a real voice over job. You choose a script that you want to work on and your coach directs your performance. When you have problems performing the script, the coach stops working in “director mode” and teaches you the particular skill you’re having problems with.

Here’s what I like about on the job lessons:

If your coach is good then you really will know exactly what it’s like working on a voice over job. This way, when you finally land your first gig there will be no surprises.

Here’s what I don’t like about on the job lessons:

Unfortunately, they might be challenging or even disheartening for the extreme beginner. There might also be holes in what you learn as time goes by. It’s up to you, then, to keep track of what you’ve done during the lessons and what you still would like to do. Make sure to tell your coach what you’ve been working on together and ask for your coaches opinion on what you should work on next.

What’s in part 2?

Truth be told, I haven’t decided yet. I have two ideas already but I’m waiting to get some feedback from you on how to progress. I’m definitely going to talk about what makes a good coach, finding the right coach for you, and what to avoid or, in some situations, postpone. Lastly, I’ll put up a link or two point you to listings of well-known, qualified voice acting coaches.

‘Till then! 😀


4 Comments

  1. Hey, great article! Thanks for posting this. It’s really helpful. You talked about structured lessons, which I think I’d prefer. The only question I had is, could you give us an idea of what the curriculum might look like? So we know what we should be looking for in structured lessons? A list of the main topics that should be covered would be really helpful. :]

    Andre

  2. Andre,

    Thank you for your comment! 😀

    Each voice coach has their own unique curriculum and since there are so many genres (commercial, audiobook, corporate, etc.) it’s hard to say what the main topics should be.

    If anything, one of the first things the curriculum should talk about is how to act. I see too many scam classes that talk right away about how to make money and how much an actor could make. Stay away! Stay away! Stay away!

    There should be focus on technique, interpreting the copy, building commercial characters (not animation characters), gestures and posture, breathing, how to use a microphone correctly, etc.

    I hope this helps!
    -David

  3. I think that this is a great article! I really want to do it all in voice over and acting in general, I try to become better and better. For training on my own I want to do some fandubs and original dubs and I want to join the voice acting alliance once I get a better microphone and once I finnish high school I´m going to take some lessons no matter the cost I´ll do whatever it takes ´cause this is what I really want to do. And this article really covers some things to do and some things not to do so thank you, It´s really helpful!

    Sam

  4. Thanks for the article. I have considered becoming a voice over because of its exposure and opportunities. Is there any advice for those who doesn’t have ANY experience at all?

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