voiceover tips

Marketing Tips for Getting Started in Voiceover: The Demo

A friend of mine recently messaged me on Facebook asking for an insight into how I got started as a voiceover artist. I was flattered considering I've only been at this gig for a few months, but after sifting through the efforts I've made to get where I am, I managed to cobble a few bits of knowledge together for her. I'd like to share some of these ideas with the rest of you as well, as I am a generous and beneficent ruler. #1: The Demo

The idea of cutting together the perfect demo scared me off from voiceover for a decade. For a very long time I chased my tail worrying that I lacked any experience or training, but that I need a demo to even start getting work, but to pay for the demo, I needed gigs I couldn't get because I had no demo because I couldn't afford training. I went in circles like that until I was cast in Murdercastle and the overwhelming support of the BROS convinced me that I needed to really take this seriously.

I had built a small home studio in my basement so that I could finish Random Battles' Dark World, so I already had a ton of tools at my command. While I don't recommend the setup I built as it's way more than you'd need for a decent VO setup, I found having a place to go in my house to at least practice and hear myself was a great motivator. You can easily do this with your iPhone, just find practice scripts, record yourself, make notes, ask friends for feedback, do anything you can to figure out where your voice is and where it needs to go.

Now, that illustrious demo. What was once a golden calf is now a weekly exercise for me. My research led me to believe that you need not one demo, but at least three: the commercial, the narration, and the character demo. I used this model when recording other BROS' voice demos; we'd pick one area and concentrate solely on that. Now that I've spent time on voices.com, Voice Bunny, and other P2P sites, I've come to regard Voices' 15 demo breakdown, which goes into specifics like audiobooks, podcasts, video games, and more. I find these specific demos to greatly assist me when hunting down new clients. If I'm contacting an audiobook company, I have one demo for children's books and another for adult fiction/non-fiction. I can pop it right into the email and take my swing at impressing somebody. I believe that you ultimately need all of these demos at your disposal: The 15 product-specific, the three compounded demos, and the one to rule them all: I call it the Composite Demo.

The composite demo will be the master track of your greatest hits. All the best bits from all of the specific demos cut into one. This is, I believe, the monster that scared me off from VO for all those years. I still haven't finished mine, but I have an entire website full of demos to show for my effort to get there. As I try to cut at least one new demo each week, I should have finished my fifteen in about 8 weeks. After that, if I still like those demos and don't decide to update them (which I've also been doing regularly), I should have enough to make that beautiful master demo that shows off all of my range and ability.

So, to wrap up, to get started, start doing your homework on your voice and your acting ability. Start talking to people and either invest a little money into some equipment or seek out a local recording studio. Most are not nearly as expensive as you think they are, have great audio engineers to help you navigate your first demos, and can even help you package them nicely. Oh wait, I know a place like that. Don't let the idea that you'll live and die by your demo ward you off like it did me.


Avoiding Mouth Noise

There are days when I want to rip my mouth off and flush it down the toilet. Mouth noise is the bane of my existence (one of them, anyway). Over the long, winding course of my now-several-months-long career, I've found a few practices and tricks to reduce or eliminate those annoying pops, clicks, whirrs, and ca-chunk-a-chunks your mouth makes. NOTE: If your mouth is ca-chunk-a-chunking involuntarily, please consult a doctor that specializes in face carburetors.

For the clicks created by spittle on your gums, eat an apple. No, a green one. I know you like honeycrisps better, but trust me. The juice from sour apples will burn off the spittle and reduce your saliva production, allowing you to speak high consonants without any troublesome noise. This trick has saved me from a meltdown in-studio once or twice. Ah, breathing. You necessary, no-you-no-life little punk. I've been playing around with my breathing since I first started voice acting all those days ago. First lesson was to stop breathing through my nose. It's way sharper, not that much faster, and sounds really obvious and terrible when picked up. Next is to breathe with your diaphragm. Pulling air into your belly will make you avoid sucking in air, which in turn makes you avoid the sound of sucking in air.To reduce the impact of plosives (p- sounds, hard f's, any other morpheme, phoneme, or diphthong that sounds like you just blew hot air straight into the mic), experiment with setting your mic off-axis. Most decent wide condenser mics will have a wide cardioid  pattern, meaning you can move around a bit and still capture clear sound. Put your mic a little to the side to avoid blowing directly into it. This should also help a bit with breathing. Check out this video for a longer explanation of this.

This next sound's a little difficult to explain. It sounds like you're kind of clearing your nose, like a short snore or like you're getting ready to spit. I notice this happens when I accidentally push a little air into my nose, which causes a sound not unlike blowing my nose in the distance. Just concentrate on where your air is supposed to go and keep it even and well-supplied. Don't swallow your breath, if that makes any sense. Here are a few breathing lessons to practice.

Those are the biggest problematic sounds coming out of my face so far. You know, other than all those words and sentences I keep spouting. More on those later!