It’s not too surprising to me just how many people nowadays are interested in becoming a voice-over actor. I mean, with the allure of being able to work at home and at your own pace coupled with the jaw-dropping amount of money that voice actors appear to make per session, who wouldn’t want to hop on the voice actor bandwagon, too? And hey, all you need is a voice, right? And you’ve got one of those already.
For now, let’s put aside the whole “jaw-dropping amount of money” issue for a later post, shall we? It really is a topic that requires a whole series of posts to dispel. And let’s put aside the “work at home and at your own pace” topic as well because, as they say: all that glitters is not gold. And the “voice” thingy? Well, if you haven’t had it trained professionally, then just having a voice will get you nowhere at a rather rapid clip.
In this post, we’ll look at what I believe to be the most important part of becoming a voice actor: truly loving to read.
Voice actors read – A LOT
Let’s clarify that a little: voice actors read a lot, out loud. We have to read out loud when we warm up every day. We have to read out loud when we practice every day. We have to read out loud when we do multiple auditions every day just to land a paying gig. (It kinda gives the “work at home and at your own pace” phrase a whole new meaning: Yes, you’ll be working at home, just as much as a full-time position at a company. And yes, it will be at your own pace — as long as that pace is unwavering. Not too much time to enjoy daytime TV folks.)
Voice actors enjoy reading – A LOT
To say that we enjoy reading doesn’t do it justice. We enjoy the interpretation of the copy. We love the challenge of reaching into ourselves to find that spark of creativity which brings the words to life. We love to find the different ways to read the same sentence to subtly alter its meaning. And a host more.
Voice acting is acting. It’s using the whole of your creativity to bring life to someone else’s words. And if you don’t like doing that, then striving to become a voice actor might not be what’s best for you.
But how do you know if you’d like it or not if you’ve never tried? Good question. So…
Your homework: start reading – A LOT
Just to let you know, when I became interested in voice acting I had never read out loud for any length of time since my elementary school days when my teacher, Mr. Stevens, forced us to stand up and read sections from “Dick and Jane” (I admit it. I grew up on Dick and Jane books. “See Dick run. Run, Dick! Run!”) But if you want to break into the voice over business, you first have to become an expert at reading out loud. Every book on voice acting, every blog, every podcast, and every coach proclaims this. And now, I do too.
First, choose a good novel (one with lots of unique characters with unique personalities is best.) Start by reading a page out loud. Don’t worry if you make mistakes — just plow through until the end of the page. This exercise will help with your cold-reading skills (some voice-over pros can read dozens and dozens of pages without making a single mistake. Can you?) Make sure to read clearly, read at an even pace, and not slur your words together.
Next, go back and read the same page again. But this time if you make a mistake, go back to the beginning of the sentence where the mistake occurred, pause for a second (just like if you were in a booth recording it), and then continue.
Finally, go back and think about how to breath life into the words and then read the page with emotions flowing in the right places. Remember, you are a storyteller, so you have to read just like you were telling a story off the top of your head. It needs to sound fresh and alive. If there are different characters, read each part with an appropriate personality. Don’t try to do different voices for each character. Instead, read with a different personality in mind and express that personality using your own voice.
If you’re a beginner to voice-over acting then I recommend doing this every day for at least 30 minutes. Really get into the creative process of expressing yourself. Even now, I still do this. Not only for practice, but because I actually enjoy doing it — sometimes for two or three hours a day — purely for fun!
After a few weeks, if you discover that you like doing this, then great! You’ve proven to yourself that you have the blood of a voice actor flowing in your veins. If you find it to be a boring exercise, well then… maybe voice acting just isn’t in you. And that’s ok, too. Because in order to be successful in this business you truly need to love doing it.
Check out Part 2: I really hate to scare you but…