Your Best Narration is Just a Breath Away

 

monkeysDo you find yourself meticulously removing every breath in recorded audio like a chimpanzee nit-picking fellow chimps? You may be afflicted.

It starts with difficult breathing brought on by nervousness and stress. It’s recorded as gasping for air or a huge sucking sound.

Common studio remedies include removal or the significant reduction of breath noises. This process can build to neurosis, where beginner to professional voice talent compulsively delete every obnoxious, normal and subtle breath recorded.

If this describes you, you may be suffering from Spiritus Aveho.

Spiritus – The Latin word for “Breath” and defined as: breath, breathing / life / spirit.

Aveho – The Latin word for “Remove” and defined as: to carry away / remove.

This OCD variant troubles many professional voice-talent and producers from beginner to expert.

Well, take a deep breath and relax.  Help is available. With treatment and self-help strategies, you can break free of the unwanted thoughts and irrational urges and take back control of your life and your breath.

Have you ever been asked not to breathe while talking? Have you experienced a conversation where you’ve been asked to repeat what you said, but to do so without taking a breath? Of course you haven’t.

Like conversation, narration is suited well for the inclusion of breath sounds. It’s OK.

Preventive Treatment

Most times, treatment is as easy as becoming familiar with your script and minimizing stress. Taking only a few minutes to prepare the words you’ll be reading with indicators to breathe will make you sound more natural and full of life. And, reduce stress by including deep breathing exercises as part of your daily warm-up routine.

Wake in the morning feeling alive and free to breathe and keep Spiritus Aveho out of your studio.

Killing the Microphone by rawmarius

Not to be confused with other oral noises such as mouth clicks, lip smacks, tongue ticking or spit bubble pops. Tummy noises may also happen during sessions, so make sure to eat ahead of recording, but avoid the foods which cause mouth clicks, ticking, smacks and pops. Staying hydrated and getting enough sleep also helps reduce stress.

Avoid Spiritus Aveho and breathe life into your scripts. Don’t become an unnatural sounding breathless voice-over zombie.

 

© 2015 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

5 Reader Recommended VO Podcasts Not to Miss

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

10 Tips for a Healthy Studio

LittleSneezeI sat in a restaurant the other day and watched a grade-school sized child endure a massive coughing and sneezing fit. By massive, I mean a series of sneezes followed by a volley of gurgle filled coughs and then more sneezing. While I felt sorry for the tyke, all filled with snotty goo, I was happy to leave her behind as I walked out the door into fresh air.

According to Weather.com Cold and Flu Facts, cases increase during the fall and winter months, then taper off in March and April. Homes with children are more susceptible to these seasonal visitors and women have more colds than men. If you’re a 60-something, your chance of having a cold drops considerably, less than once a year on average.

If you work from home in your personal studio, your chances of coming into contact with a cold or flu carrier is lower, significantly lower if you live by yourself. And, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t get ill if you live in a cave. Some caves have good ‘coustics!

However, if you are a parental unit with a spouse and kids, your chances are pretty good that you’re going to get exposed to somebody who is beta testing the latest strain of cold or flu. You’ll have what they’re having and you’ll pass it on to your studio.

Your studio is the money maker. Sure, you’ve got the pipes and sound super cool when you’re recording whatever it is that gets producers to write you a check. But, without your studio you’d be reduced to using string and cans or traveling to somebody else’s hood to record.

Think of your studio as a living being, one that you have a symbiotic relationship with. You both rely on each other for survival and just a bit of common sense will help keep your studio free from nasty cold and flu bugs.

With that in mind, here are some tips to keep your studio in healthy, usable shape through the season.

Maintain a Perimeter – Your studio is sacred and should only be accessible by the truly healthy. Reduce the potential of ill-inducing germs getting in your way by limiting or eliminating access to anybody who has symptoms. That includes you. If you’re sick and only working because you “feel” you should, don’t. Take time to repair, stay away from the sickos.

“…give your pop filter a rise with warm soapy water.”

Clean Equipment – Once a week, give your studio a cleaning. Clean you monitor, wipe down your keyboard and mouse. Use an electronics-friendly cleaner and a soft cloth on your other pieces of gear such as speakers, audio interface and control surfaces. Finally, give your pop filter a rise with warm soapy water.

“…when I get congested I sound like poo.”

Work Station – Dust makes me sneeze and when I sneeze I get congested and when I get congested I sound like poo. Use a clean cloth and surface cleaner to pick up the week’s accumulation of micro-particles. Your studio will appreciate your hands-on approach to keeping its surfaces clean.

“…stress will take a hike and your efficiency will improve.”

Studio Area – Stress is more than happy to give cold and flu a hand when it comes to plying their ickiness. Keep stress to a minimum whenever possible. Keeping your area organized and clutter free will reduce stress and even make you feel more on top of your game. With you studio in order, stress will take a hike and your efficiency will improve.

“…wash your hands first before heading into your studio.”

Wash Your Paws – During my early years in school at Belgrade Elementary, the teachers were constantly reminding me to wash my hands. Not just reminding me actually, but everybody. At the time I thought it was a dumb idea and a big time-waster. There were more interesting things to do.

OK, so, now I get it. Washing hands reduces germs. When you come in from the outside world (that’s any place that’s not your studio) wash your hands first before heading into your studio. If you find yourself hand washing a lot, use cooler water. Hot water strips away oils that keep your hands from getting chapped. Regardless of water temperature, make sure to use a hand soap you like. Maybe a nice vanilla almond or lavender.

“…their potential for carrying seasonal germs IN while carrying the garbage OUT is quite high.”

Garbage Patrol – It’s like washing your hands. Nobody enjoys emptying the garbage can. It’s just one of those things that you have to do. Remember to keep your perimeter up and empty it yourself. While one of your child slaves might have the weekly duty, their potential for carrying seasonal germs IN while carrying the garbage OUT is quite high. Don’t allow them to pollute your space.

“Your Sneezes and coughs increases air-born gunk that other people can breathe in.”

Be polite, Cover Your Pie-hole – You’ve done everything I’ve suggested in this list of paranoia and still managed to get sick. Now you’re taking it easy to recover so you can get back into your pristine studio. Your Sneezes and coughs increases air-born gunk that other people can breathe in. Do what you can to reduce that from happening. When spontaneous histamine triggered expelling occurs, do it into a fresh tissue and then toss the entire mess away. No tissue in  sight? Sneeze or cough into your shirt sleeve, at the crook of your elbow.

“…they wont stop until you are feet up in bed and ankle deep in bunny slippers.”

Don’t Stick Your Fingers in Your Eyes, Mouth and Nose – This should be obvious. In case it’s not, your hands collect a lot of garbage, hence the hand washing. If you stick a finger or your small one sticks a finger in any of the above mention places, you’ve just released the hounds on your immune system and they wont stop until you are feet up in bed and ankle deep in bunny slippers.

“When you’ve captured a cold or flu virus, staying hydrated is doubly important.”

Stay hydrated – Drinking several ounces of water a day is just part of what we do. It keeps our pipes in working fashion, reduces mouth clicks and keeps our thirst at bay. When you’ve captured a cold or flu virus, staying hydrated is doubly important. Your body uses the water for everything and when you’re sick, it uses more of it.

“Stress will raise its ugly head when you’re feeling cold and uncomfortable.”

Feel Better – While you’re recovering, there are a few things you can do to feel better. Hot drinks with honey and lemon are a start. There are some home remedies that suggest adding a shot of your favorite spirits to a cuppa something. While it sounds good on the surface, alcohol is a dehydrator, which will work against your hydration process. I’m a fan of the herbal tea ThroatCoat or something a bit wilder like Bengal Spice or Orange Spice. And, your body will benefit nicely from extra rest and sleep. It’s working hard to get you back in the studio so give it a chance with some time. Also, keep warm and comfortable during recovery. Stress will raise its ugly head when you’re feeling cold and uncomfortable.

Start counting down the days until warmer, more humid weather. Mark the first day of spring as the un-congested light at the end of the cold and flu tunnel. Then you and your studio can relax. Until then, can I offer you a vitamin C or zinc tablet?

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

5 Reader Recommended VO Podcasts Not to Miss

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

12 Voiceover Podcasts You Should Not Miss (Pt 2)

Previously in part one of 12 Voiceover Podcasts You Should Not Miss, I introduced you to six podcasts to educate and inspire you about voiceover. I’m amazed at the amount of FREE information available through podcasts and I always feel listening to them is time well spent. I can’t think of another way to get educated passively.

This post continues with the second half of my recommended list.

 

Voice Coaches

mza_6385187628270560378.170x170-75Sometimes this podcast is too short. Warren Garling and Chris Scharling find topics that could use more time. They’re that interesting. They entertain well together and discuss methods to improve your VO business. From insightful interviews with industry professionals to marketing tips, and professional suggestions, each episode is delivered with humor and openness. Make sure to listen to the entire podcast for hilarious outtakes.

 

The Producers Podcast – Voiceover and Radio / Audio Production

mza_8350867020232262915.170x170-75While Ryan Drean’s professional focus is Country Imaging services at TM Studios, 360 Country, he is one guy that has many audio interests. His podcast is a blast to listen to and his easy going approach with the professionals he interviews gets answers and stories seldom heard elsewhere. Ryan talks with producers, voice talent and other audio industry professionals.

 

VO Minute

ps.jqrxbgqm.170x170-75New to the voiceover biz? Been in it for a while? This podcast is just right for you. Host and Voice Actress Allison Moffett provides useful VO tips; suggestions for improving your studio business; tech info and personal experiences in bite sized episodes. Allison’s bubbly, upbeat delivery is fun to listen to and sure to be one of the most positive parts of your day.

 

Voice Acting Mastery: Become a Master Voice Actor in the World of Voice Over

Known for numerous video game credits, Voice Actor, Crispin Freeman is the go to guy when your interest is voice acting in animation and video games. He’s been in the business for close to three decades and has the expertise to answer your most pressing voice acting questions. Interviews with agents, voice actors, and producers are typical of what you’ll find in his biweekly podcast.

 

Voice Over Experts

One of the first podcasts I subscribed to is provided by the folks at Voices.com. I was looking for a repository of stories from industry professionals, people who were successful in what they do. I wasn’t disappointed and found each episode enlightening and educational. What happens when you have too much radio in your sound? Check out this podcast for the answer.

 

Voice Over Marketing Podcast

When your VO business could stand an injection of marketing know-how, John Melley delivers what you’ll be looking for. You love what you do otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it, right? Learn to make more money and REALLY love what you do. John has useful information specific to your business that’s easy to access and a pleasure to hear.

 

I’ve received a number of suggestions since I published part 1 of this two part post and will share them with you next time. If you have a favorite podcast that helps you with your voiceover business respond in the comments section with your suggestion.

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

Five Ways to be Remembered by Your Clients

 

 

The Disturbing Voice Disappearance

MouthShot_150x150Early yesterday morning I discovered my voice had checked out. Speaking was no longer possible.

Concerned, I opened my mouth and the attempt to say what was in my head, “Hey, what’s going on here?” was futile. I laid there silent. My heart was making up for the lack of sound with hard pounding in my ears. Shaking my entire body, it felt like it might jump right out of my chest.

Thinking maybe I was parched and my vocal cords needed a splash of lubrication, I got up from bed and went to the kitchen for a drink of water.  After the drink, I formed a small question in my mind and then engaged in what I hoped to be my first words of the morning, “Have I lost my voice?”

Silence. Still nothing. My ability to speak was gone.

Concern ratcheted up to full-blown panic as multiple, unanswered questions raced through my mind. Since I rely on the use of my voice to make a living, the biggest question was, “What am I going to do, now?”

With a refill of water, I moved over to the kitchen table, grabbed a chair and sat. My head in my hands and fingers running through my hair, I made a mental list of tasks to take care of when the rest of the world is up and moving. Call the doctor being the first.

I downed the second glass of water and tried to speak again. “What am I going to do!?” I heard the words in my head but my outside voice was gone. Checked out.

If my primary tool to earn a living went AWOL, what other skill or talent could I rely on to put food on the table? I came up with a number of freelance possibilities including audiobook editor, photographer, blogger, personal cook, weed puller, dog walker and mime.

They all seemed somewhat pale in comparison to being a voice actor. I’ve learned to express emotions through my voice. Now the best I could do is facially emote and gesticulate, two things I do well in the booth. But, take those talents outside the booth, I know I’d be tossed into the house of crazy.

What seemed like hours had only been moments at most. My head was still full of questions like, “What have I done?”

The kitchen blurred and then dissolved as I found myself in bed, looking at the dresser on the other side of the room. My heart was still loud in my ears and continued to shake my body. After a moment, the fog cleared and I uttered in a whisper, “It was only a dream.”

Could you reach deep inside and find something worth your attention and passion if you lost your voice, or the primary tool for making your living? What would you do?

© 2014 J. Christopher Dunn
Image by patricia m

 

Other posts you might find interesting:

Your Next Client Could be a Return Call Away

Five Ways to be Remembered by Your Clients

Are You Available?

10 Valuable Distractions

meter watchIs there anything but work? Sometimes I ask myself that question and answer with a resounding “yes.” I spend the day auditioning, working with clients, and marketing. I know it sounds oversimplified, but the truth of the matter is that’s spot on.

Well, the above is almost spot on. I’d like to add another item. Getaway. According to the dictionary on my iMac, getaway is an escape, or a quick departure, especially after committing a crime. I’d like to rewrite that last part to read, especially after committing to and completing an amount of work. In other words, I take a break.

You need to give your mind a mental vacation from what you do everyday. Focusing on one thing, being a successful voice-talent, can be a source of fatigue and even stress. Here’s a list of breaks I suggest. All are meant to get you away from your workspace.

Stretch

Instead of shaking out your muscles at your desk, find another place in your home. A momentary change of scenery will cause your brain to wake up to evaluate your new surroundings.

Give your iPhone the ability to help you stay flexible and comfortable while you work with Ergonomics. From the App Store: Ergonomics is a complete mobile workplace health solution that offers ergonomic equipment setup advice, a variety of workplace specific stretching exercises, and programmable reminders to help you time your breaks.

Enjoy the stretch.

Stretching Exercises at Your Desk: 12 Simple Tips

Hydrate Yourself

Do you fill a huge jug of water and lug it to your desk every morning? Adding a few variations to your daily intake and reducing the quantities will give you reason to get away for a few moments. Take a midmorning break for non-caffeine tea, and lemon water in the afternoon. Both are a refreshing change from water.

How to Learn How to Properly Hydrate Myself Throughout the Day

Eat a Snack

It’s easy to get over-focused on a project and not eat. I’ve missed lunch several times because of my desire to get to a stopping point. When this happens, I eat a snack. A piece of fruit will help you get to dinner time.

17 Healthy Snacks for Work

Listen to Music

The days when my mind is going in a bazillion different directions at once, I allow myself to indulge in a music break. I don’t want to relax, necessarily I just want a slight distraction to get my mind off everything. I’m a big fan of old rock-n-roll, The Eagles, Lead Zeppelin and Nazareth are waiting on my iPhone for immediate relief.

Pandora | Songza | Spotify | Allmusic

Take a Walk

A few of the breaks mentioned above involve walking as part of the effort. Go further with this idea and take yourself outside for some fresh air. This could be around the block, down the road, up the street, or any other destination cliche you can think of. Disrupt your day with motion.

Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health

Get the mail

This sounds ridiculously obvious, but I know it’s easy to forget. Owning this little task is an excuse to get yourself away from whatever you are focused on so intently.

Little Known Facts About the United States Postal Service

Call Somebody

We work in solitude all day and other than talking with clients (you do talk to your clients, right?) it can be a bit lonely. Give yourself 10-minutes to call somebody for a short chat break. Do it away from your workspace and computer so the only distraction you enjoy is the one that’s on the other end of the line.

How to Have a Great Phone Conversation

Read or Listen to a Book

My iPad is used for script reading and other freelance related tasks. Recently, I gave it another responsibility, to be the keeper of the books I read for leisure.  I’ve found many sources for digital books, my local library being one of them. I’ll take my iPad and find a comfy chair away from my work area and read for 10 or 15 minutes. It’s the perfect duration for a chapter.

New York Times Best Sellers | Audible

Pump Iron

This has nothing to do with laundry, which I’m sure is a huge relief to you. However, it does require that you take a trip to the gym. If you can, try taking a much needed midday break to exercise. Don’t limit yourself to working out. Look for classes that interest you and will help give your mind and body from your routine.

10 Minute Workout: Short, Intense Workout To Get Fit

Errands

Need a few groceries? Does your car need gas? Kids need a ride to after school sports? Jump on the opportunity to push away from the desk and take care of a few items on your personal or family to-do list. One or two short duration items will be the perfect distractions.

How to Make Your To-Do List Doable

Sitting at your desk all day might increase your productivity but it will also increase the size of your sit-upon-it-thingy and help fill your daily stress bucket. A few breaks is all it takes to help decrease the size of either one.

Other posts you might find interesting:

Five Tips for Better Client/Talent Workflow
JewelBeat: A New Royalty Free Music Source
Five Ways to be Remembered by Your Clients

Unplugged and Loved It!

abstract ship in seaDuring the first part of June, I traveled with family and friends to celebrate a 50th Wedding Anniversary. We took an Alaska cruise for seven-days and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, ports of call; amazing food and entertainment; and each other’s company. It was a relaxing and restful experience.

While preparing for the trip, I though seriously about what gadgets I should take and how I would maintain my business connections while away from my studio. Should I pack my laptop or could I get by with my iPad or maybe even my iPhone and my trusty travel mic? Where would I record on a huge cruise ship that had a constant rumble from the engines? What was the price of satellite wifi to remain connected while on board? Should I accept calls at sea? How much gear should I take?

The cruise was supposed to be a relaxing, fun time with the focus on my friend’s wedding anniversary. After giving this considerable thought, I came to the conclusion that I would unplug. Yup. Totally disconnect. The stress of where to record, how to maintain contact, and run my business onboard seemed, well, silly.  Risky? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

The first thing I did was contact my clients with an e-mail letting them know well in advance that I was unplugging for seven-days and to contact me with any recording needs before then. I received many responses telling me to enjoy myself. Clients with voiceover needs contacted me immediately to set up session time. They were open to work with my schedule. I love my clients!

Time off was spectacular. I got to know my travel companions better. Spent time engaged with people face to face instead of gadget to gadget. Slept better than I had in a very long time. And felt like I had gobs of extra time on my hands.

Being unplugged is not overrated but does have some drawbacks. Since auditioning is the primary way I get hired, I missed out on a few of opportunities. Yes, it was a risk I considered and a price I paid.

One thing I’ll remember next time I unplug is to set up an e-mail auto response to let people know that I’m OOF (out of facility) and when I’ll be back. This will let prospective clients know that I’m not slow or ignoring them and existing clients who missed my unplugged e-mail that I’ll take care of their questions and needs soon after I arrive back home.

You know, everybody is SOOOO connected to everything. We spend a number of hours each day touching those connections to make sure we’re remembered. During the process we filter a significant amount of noise, content that just doesn’t fit a current agenda. It’s mentally exhausting. Unplugging and leaving the gadgets behind is a type of therapy. It was a little scary at first for me and by the end of the voyage, I was recharged and ready to plug back in.

Your experience may vary.

Other posts you might find interesting:

VoiceWorld Toronto, It’s a Voice Conference

You may or may not be a professional voice person but you are somebody who enjoys learning about the biz, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading a blog about voiceovers. Now that I have that out of the way, I would like to direct your attention the information below. You’ll find details about VoiceWorld Toronto Conference.

This will be a key opportunity for you to meet like minded people, hear from experts that have been doing the voiceover craft for decades and enjoy the beautiful city of Toronto.

VoiceWorld Toronto Conference

Date: Saturday May 4th, 2013
Time: 8:00 am – 5:30pm
Location: Toronto Hilton Hotel

Prepare to be educated, equipped and empowered

  • Audition like a pro — understand the do’s and don’ts of auditioning in person and online.
  • Learn the ins and outs of the voice acting business, and what it takes to be a successful voice-over talent.
  • Get into business — explore ways to turn your voice acting talent into a business.

About VoiceWorld Toronto

VoiceWorld, the industry’s premier conference, being held in Toronto in 2013, is an immersive experience focused on engaging voice actors from across Canada and the United States. Connect with amazing, influential people who can change your life through courses in artistic development, business and technology preparing you for success in the exciting world of voice acting. A breath of fresh air, VoiceWorld sets out to invigorate and intensify your love for the art of voice acting as never before with an action plan for you to take your business to the next level.

VoiceWorld Toronto Speakers

  • Pat Fraley – Man of Four Thousand Voices, CESD Talent Los Angeles
  • Elley-Ray Hennessy – Award-winning actress, Director and Producer
  • Deb Munro – International Voice-over Talent and Coach
  • David Ciccarelli – Co-Founder and CEO of Voices.com
  • David Goldberg – Owner of Edge Studio
  • Dan Lenard – The Home Studio Master
  • Sunday Muse – Voice-over Artist, Author and Coach
  • Dave McRae – The Voice Mann
  • Stephanie Ciccarelli – Author of Voice Acting for Dummies
  • Wayne Young – Audio Producer and Mixing Engineer

10 Reasons To Attend VoiceWorld Toronto

Early Bird Special ends February 28th!

*Tickets are limited. Purchase your full conference pass by visiting, http://voiceworldtoronto2013.eventbrite.com/

Voice World Toronto
Join us in Toronto for the voice acting conference of the year on Saturday May 4th, 2013.
VoiceWorld

Find Your Voice-Over Answers in These Five Amazing Books

First, let met point out that books are not dead! While mobile devices like the iPad and Kindle have reshaped the publishing landscape, books are still useful. They offer a wealth of information that’s just a page turn away, whether it be digital or physical. While I can dive into the Internet and search for answers, I also like having a book written by a knowledgable expert that’s within easy reach.

The reference library for my voice-over business ranges from setting up a home studio to marketing my services. The books I’m sharing with you are what I think are some of the best available for people investigating, starting up on, or successfully working in the voice acting or voice-over business.

“The Art of Voice Acting” Fourth Edition “The Art of Voice Acting” Fourth Edition

James R. Alburger

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

James Alburger has earned eleven Emmy Awards, Omni Intermedia Awards, and Silver Microphone Awards for his work as a director and audio producer. He has over 35-years of experience as a performer and in the recording studio. James has condensed his success into a book that every person interested in a voice acting career should read. “The Art of Voice Acting” features chapters that include a business overview, working with copy, auditioning and studio stories. The book includes a CD of demos from top voice-over artists along with exercises to help prepare your body, mind and mouth for optimal performance.

“Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home ... and on the Road”“Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home …and on the Road”

Harlan HoganJeffrey P. Fisher

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

This was the first book I bought for my voice-over reference library. The duo of Hogan and Fisher do an amazing job of explaining what’s needed to set up a home studio that’s suitable for recording. They cover hardware, software, production techniques and more. Both authors have had fascinating careers and you get a glimpse of that along with all their helpful information. This book will help get your brain wrapped around the basics of working from a home studio.

“Voice-Over Voice Actor”“Voice-Over Voice Actor”

Yuri LowenthalTara Platt

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

There is something for everyone in this book. Yuri and Tara explain the art of voice-over in a casual but very knowledgeable approach. They draw from a number of years of combined experience with clients that include Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Dell, McDonald’s and Budweiser. The book includes a great chapter on warming up your body and vocal path before you audition or perform. I’ve adopted this into my daily routine.

“Voiceovers: Techniques and Tactics for Success”“Voiceovers: Techniques and Tactics for Success”

Janet Wilcox

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

The approach of this book is to train like an athlete. Long time veteran Janet Wilcox breaks down the process into understanding the rules of the game, training, preparing to compete, and discovering your game or what you’re good at. Janet has done a great job of making what can be ambiguous in the career path of voice actor more understandable. The included CD features exercises and interviews with top voice-over talent.

“Secrets of Voice-over Success”“Secrets of Voice-over Success”

Joan Baker

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Borders

This book is a must read to get insight from the top voice-over pros. Each chapter is written by a professional who candidly shares their life as a voice actor. You’ll discover how Jim Dale, the voice of all the Harry Potter books, was in the right place at the right time. Each chapter ends with an industry secret, based on the experiences of the chapter writer. A CD is included, which features the demos used by the book’s contributors to get voice-over work. The tragedy of Alzheimer’s struck home when Joan’s Father was silenced by the disease. Proceeds from the book go to The Alzheimer’s Association.

These are five from my library and I’m always looking for more. What books have you found useful in your career as a voice actor?

Three Part Voiceover Practice Method that’s Close to Perfection

An athlete practices daily to train for competition. Without practice, the chances of success are greatly reduced. It’s important to teach the body how to move or react to situation so it can do so automatically without having to put much thought into it.

Like an athlete, voice actors should train. Doing so will increase the chance for successful auditions. An hour a day can make the difference between missing the mark or landing the job. Practice will not make you perfect; it will make you closer to perfect.

I start each morning with a warm up that includes body, facial, breathing and vocal areas. After I’ve warmed my body and vocal path and hydrated myself, I start my practice workout.

1. Cold Read

My job as a voice actor is to clearly read aloud my client’s scripts and add my vocal color. So, to improve my ability to read aloud I start my practice session with a 15-minute cold read. I subscribe to a number of magazines, ranging from AFAR to Wired, and each morning I read aloud from one of them. It’s a great workout as I’m challenged to read unfamiliar words and names, strange phrases, words that are written for the eye and not necessarily for the ear and there’s an educational element as well. I record these readings so I can monitor my improvement by comparing how I read a couple of months ago to today. I’m happy to announce that I’ve improved. You should too.

2. Stretch the Range

My voice acting coach, Veronica Weikel, starts each session by having me create as many character voices as I can from the multiple line script she’s given me. I love this so much that I’ve incorporated it into my practice and it’s become my favorite part. The sheet has six sentences that lend themselves well to creative interpretation. Here’s an example:

  • Enjoy a walk on the beach with your favorite super hero and experience your childhood fantasy.
  • Popular? No, I’m not popular. I just act like I am.
  • About 10 years ago, your sister developed the desire for bigger purses. Now, she just carries around a suitcase.
  • With that type of attitude you’d think it was easy being a nude circus clown.
  • Night after night, it’s the same thing. “Igor, get another body from the cemetery.” Sheesh!
  • Winning would be easier if you showed up for practice. The coached is not happy.

For each line, I come up with three different character voices and change pace, cadence, emotion and word emphasis for each one. Like the cold read, I record this and play it back as soon as I’m done. I’m happily amazed by the voices that come out of me.

3. Audition Rehearsal

The final stage of my practice session is to workout with some scripts. I’ve collected a number of them from jobs I’ve done, auditions, and from Edge Studio’s script repository. I randomly select three from my stack and treat each one as an audition. I mark up the script, record three takes with a slate and then listen to the play back. This will train your ear: you’ll begin to notice right away what worked in your read and what bombed. You might have a great idea how the script should be read in your head, but can you get it out the vocal path? This will help to improve that process.

Now that I’ve finished my warmup and workout, I’m ready to take on the day. I’m in the mindset to audition and feel confident that I’m doing a better at my craft today than I did yesterday. Practice can’t make you perfect, but it can make you a better voice artist.

The Angry Click and 7 Must Have Items for Your Home Studio

Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned pro doing voice over work in your home studio, there are a few necessities that are valuable to have in order to be productive. Of course you need the basics: a computer, microphone, recording software and a place to be vocal. But, you also need a few support items to help make your recording sessions easier.

First, a story about mouth-clicks and a pencil. During a relatively easy session, I was having difficulties with mouth-clicks. The script was about 30-words with no unusual phonetics or unfamiliar terms. After my first take, I listened to the playback only to discover my read was loaded with mouth-clicks. So, I took a swig of water, ate a bite of green apple and headed back into the booth for a second take. This time, I read the script twice to make sure I had a clean, mouth-click-free recording.

During the playback of my second attempt and to my disappointment, I found that the nasty mouth clicks were still there. This time they were much more numerous than the first take. Not only did there seem to be more, the tiny obnoxious clicks had gotten louder. It was as if they had taken on a life of their own and were mocking my efforts to get rid of them.

After hydrating myself again, I trekked back to the booth for attempt number three. This time I was going to really pay attention to what sounds were emitting from my mouth. With pencil in hand, I began my read. I put emotion in all the right places and enunciated clearly. I was emoting with my entire body, stabbing with my hands for emphasis. And then that’s when I heard them. Click. Click. Clickity-click. Click. Click!!!

I realized to my embarrassment and relief, the clicks were not coming from my perfectly spoken words, but from my pencil. It was a blue Pentel mechanical pencil that I had freshly loaded with new lead. Every time I shook my hand for emphasis, the pencil replied like a miniature baby rattle. Click. Click. Clickity-click. Yes, it was a pencil and not my mouth, thank you very much.

So, now the Pentel sits on my desk and not in the booth. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the thing even though it made me sound ridiculously clicky, it’s been with me since I was a Freshman in high school. Ah, the price of sentimental nostalgia.

And now, my list of seven must have items for your home studio.

1. Pencils

Wooden No. 2 pencils work the best. You can woodshed or markup your script at will, and erase when needed. Pens allow you to write but most don’t allow you to erase. And, while mechanical pencils look rather prestigious, they are not worth the trouble. Trust me on this!

2. Water

H2O is very important in reducing mouth-clicks and keeping your mouth and throat moist while doing voice overs. I have a 32-ounce bottle in my studio that’s refilled at least three times a day. Room temperature is best, cold water somewhat restricts vocal cord movement.

3. Warm Tea

Along with water, warm, caffeine free tea with honey and lemon is a throat saver. I use a variety of blends, each one is tasty and seems to relax and clear my vocal path. One tea specifically marketed as medicinally appropriate for voice actors, is Traditional Medicinal’s Throat Coat. You can find this in most grocery stores.

4. Green Apples

It’s true. I’ve used them and have found that they do the job of significantly reducing mouth-clicks. One of the first things I do in the morning is slice up a green apple to keep in my studio for the day. It’s easy to chew a piece before a session or audition.

5. Comfortable Work Station

When I’m not in the booth recording, I’m at my desk editing, writing proposals, or replying to client e-mail. An ergonomically adjustable desk and chair will allow you to work more comfortably for longer periods of time. My desk is designed by BioMorph and  my chair is a Humanscale. Without them I’m sure that I would not be able to put in the hours I do.

6. Printer

I print a number of scripts everyday. Before I purchased a printer for my studio, I used one that was connected to my home network. My studio is on the second floor and the printer was inconveniently located on the first. Sure, I got my exercise and it gave me an opportunity to get off my butt. Nothing beats having a printer close by. I settled on a multifunction printer from Canon that gives me printing, scanning and faxing capabilities. I suggest going with a laser printer and staying away from ink jets. In the long run laser is cheaper, quieter, has better image quality, stands up to pencil markups better and is not smudged by highlighters.

7. Good Lighting

You need to see what you’re reading in the booth and at your desk. In my booth I have a Mighty Bright Triple L.E.D light clipped to my copy stand. It’s powered by three rechargeable AAA batteries and gives off an incredible amount of light for its size. The adjustable halogen desk lamp that I use lights up my entire work area.

These are the tools I need and use daily in my studio. What are your “must have” items in your studio?