Voice-Over Voice Actor

A Peek Into The Secret World Of The Voice Actor

Interested in pursuing a career in VO? Curious what goes on behind the scenes in a business where people talk funny for money? This book offers a fun and comprehensive look at what it takes, what goes on and what it’s like behind the mic from two working pros who started from scratch.

Filtering by Tag: vocal health

How to Succeed as a Voice Over Actor: Great Article from PBS

neumann micWe found a terrific article from PBS that we'd love to share, "How to Succeed as a Voiceover Artist in the Digital Age."

It offers good suggestions for getting started, ideas on home and portable studios, attending voiceover conferences, continued training, and more. Here is a short excerpt, and click on the link to read the rest!

"...voiceover, like with other entertainment industries, has moved into digital. While voiceover work has existed for decades, new technologies have enabled voiceover actors to record with more quality and to do so virtually anywhere they happen to be.

Most of us probably take many voiceovers for granted: telephony (such as voice prompts and on-hold messages); animation dialogue; videogame voices; audiobook readings; corporate and training video work; dubbing work; e-learning instruction; webinar speaking; documentary film narration; radio, podcast, promo, trailer (the famous Don LaFontaine) narration, and television voicing.

This growing need for voiceover work, along with the opportunities to work from anywhere, make this profession a great and burgeoning business for voice actors."

Read the entire PBS article entitled "How to Succeed as a Voiceover Artist in the Digital Age"

Voice Over Actors: How to Stock Your Pantry

All the actors we know have their own tricks and tips for keeping their voices healthy – because if you lose your voice, there’s no real way around it.

Some of our favorite tools for soothing a sore throat or tired voice, or getting your voice prepped for an upcoming session, include all natural black licorice, non-caffeinated hot tea, honey (especially Manuka honey, an anti-bacterial, medicinal honey from New Zealand which you’ll have to go to a health store to find), primrose or fish oil capsules, lots of water, fresh pineapple or pineapple juice.

Also, we eat a lot of ginger and garlic which are said to have natural antibiotic properties; and while that might not directly affect our voices, it seems to keep us healthy. Staying healthy is important because we’ve found that when we get sick, our voices are the first things to go. We’ve also found that zinc helps nip a cold in the bud, or at least loosen its grip on us. You may want to keep these things around so you’ll have them when you need them.

You may find other things that are good for you. Great, add them to the list. Pay attention to what makes your voice feel good and what makes it feel bad.

Many people will tell you that before recording you should avoid milk products at all costs because it makes your voice thick and phlegmy, and in most instances they’re right. But sometimes we actually like to have a little dairy if our voices are particularly scratchy or raw because it tends to coat our vocal cords a bit. Obviously (because we’ve said it so many times), drink as much water as you can without starting to feel sloshy. Not just before a session, but as often as possible. Staying hydrated will help a lot more than just your vocal health.

Black licorice (natural, not candy) is said to have anti-inflammatory properties which can soothe and slightly numb the vocal area, so it can be nice after a grueling session. But many people don’t like the sharp taste. Yuri used to hate it, but after realizing how positively it affects his voice when it’s scratchy, he’s come not only to tolerate it, but maybe even like it. Maybe. Just a little.

Many types of cough drops can also be soothing. And while lemon and menthol (not necessarily together) are appreciated by some as a remedy, see how they affect you because some people actually find that the harsh properties of both lemon and menthol can aggravate a throat irritation.

Hot, non-caffeinated tea is nice for multiple reasons: it is warm, which keeps your voice loose and relaxed; and it keeps your throat moist. Honey, which can be mixed into tea or taken separately by the spoonful, has soothing and anti-bacterial properties.

Primrose or fish oil capsules, when ingested, are said to help strengthen your vocal cords and keep them lubricated. However, be sure to check the dosage: eating too many at a time could have … runny results. As with many types of natural cures, there is no scientific evidence proving that these oils will do something for the voice specifically, but the folks we know who use them seem pretty happy with their results.

Using fresh pineapple and pineapple juice as a natural antitheir -inflammatory is a tip that was given to us by a friend who has starred in many a Broadway musical. Singers often drink it or munch on it before, during, or after a show to keep the swelling in their vocal cords down when voices are tired from overuse. Hey, good enough for Broadway is good enough for us; and besides, pineapple tastes good.

Some folks will tell you that besides green apples for combating smackiness, green apple-flavored hard candies or even a sip of soda will help. We prefer the apple since it’s easier on the teeth and healthier in general. But once again, check with your body before you make your final selection: it usually knows best. Since you really just need the juice of the green apple, it’s too bad they don’t sell green apple juice. We’d buy it.

Things that we’re pretty confident you should avoid to keep your voice as healthy as it can be are smoke and caffeine. Hey, like we said before, we’re not your mom, your teacher, or the boss of you; but smoking and being around smoke seems like an obvious no-no, as smoke dries out your vocal cords and can change your voice, over time. Not to mention the effects of smoking on your lungs, mouth, etc. (we’re sure you know this already). Once again, it is very much a personal choice. We know both highly successful voice actors who are regular smokers and highly successful voice actors who never smoke.

Caffeine has a very similar side-effect to smoke: drying out your voice and often creating more strain on it when you use it. So think twice before swigging that morning cuppa joe on the way to your VO session, tasty though it may be. Or at least consider decaf.


Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!




Voice Over Essential Tip: Know Your Voice!

concerts,entertainers,entertainment,females,microphones,music,people,performances,performers,persons,singers,vocalists,womenThis is something that can’t be said enough: you must know your own voice. No matter how long you’ve been living with your voice and how well you think you know it, you’re about to start doing things with it that you’ve probably never done before. So take the time to get friendly with your beautiful and unique pipes. You’ll learn to recognize your limits and your strengths.

Believe it or not, if you don’t know your voice, sometimes booking the job is the worst thing you could do! For example, let’s say you really push your voice way out of your comfort zone in the audition, and you book the job. Well, that’s great, you got the job! But now you have to do that voice (maybe for 52 episodes!), and if you’ve made a choice that your vocal apparatus can’t keep up with (say, a deep gravelly voice that you can only maintain for a few minutes before you get hoarse or keel over in pain), then you’ll end up embarrassed because you’ll have to back out of the project, and the producers will have to find someone else.

In that case, everyone loses, and no matter how many times you apologize, everyone will remember what a snafu you caused. We’re gonna bet most voice actors have a story like this; and you only need one such experience – where you risk losing your voice (and your pride) – to drive home the importance of knowing your own limits.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t push yourself or that it isn’t possible to expand your range. That’s the fun part! But the key here is staying healthy. Start by becoming conscious of when you are speaking on your voice or off your voice. Just as our fingerprints are unique to each of us, our vocal folds vibrate to create specific vocal patterns which make up our personal and unique vocal signature. Practice creating interesting and specific characters with the voice you have, and not the voice you wish you had.

Sure, it’s possible to imitate someone who has a similar sound or register, but ultimately we are each built differently, and our vocal quality is one more example of this. (You really are unique, just like your mom told you.)

You can expand your healthy voice range just as you would build muscles at the gym – by working out. Taking a singing class or voice class can often provide you with the exercises you need to broaden your range.


Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic  includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!

 entertainment,performances,people,singers,soloists,web animations,women,web elements,microphones

“I Use My Voice All the Time. How Hard Could It Be?”

When speaking (reading) dialogue in a voice over session, you will obviously be using your voice much like you do in real life. But the difference between normal everyday use of your voice and using your voice to make a career in VO will be noticeable in things like your control, your stamina, and your ability to meet any challenge the job might put in your way. Think of it like the difference between occasionally playing sports with your friends and playing professionally. You will sometimes be recording sounds and non-words (screeches, yells, screams, efforts) that might not be part of your daily routine. Making these sounds requires skill that will take practice to develop and hone.

Check out the rest of the website for tips and exercises, we post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it's like behind the mic  includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!




Can you Step Out of Your Natural Voice? Stretch Yourself!


Stepping outside of your natural voice can be a lot of fun! Once you understand what your natural vocal qualities and “sound” are, you can begin to play outside the box and expand the range of characters and qualities you can offer.

This exercise helps you play with a range of emotions. As you read the following phrases, you’ll notice that we have removed all punctuation, which can often be a clue to a phrase’s tone. But in order to expand your range, let’s play around with the many different ways the same phrase can be said. First, see what your natural inclination is when you read the phrase. Copy and paste this blog to a Word Doc, and after each one, write down the adjective that you feel most fits the phrase/sentence. For example, a sentence such as “stop,” might be angry. As you read the phrases, see how you naturally interpret the emotion associated with saying the words.

Exercise: Phrases

  • Over here                                          
  • I need that                                         
  • Let go                                                   
  • What are you talking about       
  • Don’t do that                                    
  • I don’t think that’s a good idea 
  • Give me the new one                   
  • No                                                         
  • Try it again                                         
  • Listen to me                                      
  • Alright                                                 
  • Stop right there                               
  • Wow that’s huge                            


Now, review your phrase list and see how you naturally ‘heard’ the specific words. Perhaps your “no,” was “frustrated,” because you assumed that if you are telling someone “no,” it’s because you’re frustrated about something.

Becoming familiar with your instincts can be very helpful because it’ll allow you to make a choice outside of your natural inclination, which can yield very interesting results.

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Hum while chewing - it's a great exercise!

We hear good feedback from folks about this exercise, and we find it very helpful.

Give it a try!

1. With your lips closed, start to hum.
2. Then make chewing movements, as if you were eating, and keep humming the  whole time.
3. Now use your hands to feel the vibration in the front of your face, your nose, your cheeks, and gently allow your hands to move to your neck and throat, and perhaps even onto your belly so that you can feel how your voice resonates in different areas of your body.

Using the chewing hum can warm up the different areas where your voice will resonate. Once again, when your voice resonates, it bounces around a certain area of your body, whether that’s up in your face, nose or head area, your throat, or your chest or belly.

Now to begin to identify where your voice is resonating, let’s concentrate on specific sounds that tend to resonate in different areas. Certain sounds we create generally vibrate more toward the head, while others, because we use different muscles to make them, may vibrate lower, toward the belly. If you can learn to control where you choose to place your voice, you can begin to use it in more powerful and interesting ways.


Remember, Caffeine May Not be a Good Thing for Your VO Session!

REMINDER: Sure, who doesn't like a stimulus and pick-me-up delivered in a tasty beverage like coffee, tea or a soft drink. But when you're getting ready for a VO session, that caffeine can have the unwanted side effect of drying out your vocal chords. So be aware of the effects before hitting the booth. An herbal tea can be a wonderful substitute and still maintain the lubrication necessary to keep your vocal chords moist and healthy.




8 Tips to Starting a Voice Over Career

  1)    You must have a strong dream to get you through the dry times as you get started in VO industry.

2)    Be sure to get ready before you start offering your services.

3)    Keep your job, unless you are independently wealthy! You will need finances to train, create a demo, and it takes time to get started. You need tenacity and perseverance.

4)    Don’t have unrealistic expectations – that way lies heartache. Just because your friends tell you that you have a great voice and are going to make a ton of money, the fact is the competition is huge.

5)    Create a good quality voice over demo (get help with this – it is NOT something to be done on your own).

6)    Further to the last tip, do not think you can be self sufficient in this industry. Even the best VO actors get critiques, engage a coach for continual training, and they practice, practice, practice!

7)    Get a website up! Some people advise that you should wait until your demo is ready to create a website. But these days an online presence is practically mandatory and you might be losing contacts to hold off until your demo is completed. So create it as soon as you can so people who find the site have something to listen to.

8)    Oh, and did we say this already? Practice, practice, practice!

Keep the dream alive. Be realistic and know it will take time. And the more you practice and train, the better your chances of having a fun and rewarding career as a Voice Over artist!




Microphone Technique

The mic can be rather daunting when you first start out in voice-over! Practicing at home with one will help to reduce the newness of it, and the distraction from it. Here are some tips to get you started!

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Take Action #27: Getting your own practice copy together

1. This exercise is to help you begin to compile your own practice copy for you to work on and then eventually use to create your commercial or animation demo reel.

2. For commercial copy, find magazines, see which ads visually pop out at you and write down the advertisement (or if the magazine is yours, pull the page out). Remember that print copy reads differently from commercial audio copy, so use the print as a starting point and then make slight adjustments to help the line flow.

3. To build animation copy, find an inanimate object in your house, then begin to write a monologue or conversation this object/character might have with you about its needs or hopes or dreams. Another wonderful way to create animation copy is to write down your favorite characters from animated shows, then rename them and make changes to what you know of their experiences, then try building a history or story for them that you find interesting.

4. Note which type of ad goes with the different types of commercial types (hard sell, soft sell, partner read, tag, etc.) also review your animation copy to see what types of characters you’re showing off and make sure you have some variety that works with your voice.

5. Put all your found (and massaged) copy into a binder, and practice randomly flipping to different pieces and reading and performing them as you would if you were in the booth.

Wonderful. You’ve had the chance to hone your unique vocal qualities and become more familiar with your natural voice. You’ve also probably gotten to see how your body reacts to a warm-up and how that can better prepare your voice for a session. You’ve read copy and made choices and have begun the process of building your own personal stack of practice copy that you can use as you move toward making your demo reel.

Voice-over isn't like it used to be where only 'certain' voices worked, now there are voices of all kinds and varieties to make up the spice of life. Basically, if you are a solid actor, are professional and considerate and you have good mic technique there is no reason you can't work in VO, of course, someone would have to hire you, so you'd need your demo reel ($$$$, time, energy) and most likely you will need to secure an agent to represent you and get you auditions (time/energy) as well as giving yourself as much as an edge as possible by taking classes, practicing your craft, knowing your voice and how to take care of it; so planning a career in voice-over is an investment.

The wonderful world of voice-over allows you to create amazing characters, to teach, to entertain, to offer new alternatives and to go on a whole new adventure. Remember, voice acting just “acting” without the bonus of using your facial expressions or body language to convey something visually, so your intention has to come across with just your voice helped by your imagination. And we all have one of those…

Take Action #26 Practice Copy

PRACTICE WITH SCRIPTS & COPY So, your body is warmed up, your mind is awake and you’re ready to get your hands (well, your vocal cords anyway) dirty with some actual voice-over work. There’s a lot to take in when you are looking at a script so here are a few helpful (non-acting) hints and reminders.

As we mentioned in the book, if you’re working on ADR/dubbing, there might be notations in the script to let you know where pauses (sometimes called ‘hitches’) fall, at what time-code the line starts and ends, and what lines might be on-camera and not. If you’re recording original animation there might be loop numbers before each line of dialogue. Let’s review briefly some common notations, as any extra information you can mine from the page can help to inform your performance.

Hitches (means pause) (^, …, /_, ) MNS – mouth not seen, OM, CM – open mouth, closed mouth _______ - off screen Time code – 01:02:03:04

Below is a practice script, some fake commercial copy for you to practice with. Create a practice work session that you can go back and review by using some sort of audio recording device to record yourself while you practice out loud. Enjoy your session!

1.As you read, try circling all the notations you notice as well as be extra aware of any information you can mine from the page. 2 Ask yourself the Who-What-Where-When-Why-hoW questions to see what comes up. Underline this information to help you see if it affects your interpretation or acting choices.


Your new voice-over agent would like you to read some of the spots they just got in today so they can see what would best suit your voice. Often agents will have you read for all sorts of things when you first sign, as a way of throwing things up against the wall to see what sticks. So, go ahead and read the various copy that’s come in

Luxury: The Jewelry Outlet at KnollCrest is having a pre-Valentines engagement ring sale. Come on down and surprise your loved one with the proposal of a lifetime. We have 24 karat gold and platinum rings on sale for almost 30% off, this weekend only. High Energy: It’s Faaaaaaantastic. Super Fruit Bowl ‘O’Sugars get you ready for a day of fun in the sun. Filled with vitamins, minerals and naturally sweetened real fruit pieces, Bowl’O’Sugars are part of a complete breakfast. Start your morning right, be fan-tastic.

Promo This October, The Best Show on TV is moving to a new time…five days a week. Catch your favorite characters Mindy, Bobbi and Karl now at 7pm on KOOLTV.

Partner read: A: Honey did you forget to pay the phone bill? B: What do you mean, I thought it was automatic? A: Oh, right, its just so easy, I keep forgetting? B: Yeah, now we can spend time thinking about more fun things. A: Like if you paid the cable bill? Announcer: Don’t let bills get you down, use the automatic bill pay feature offered by Earth Bank to pay for all your charges throughout the month, even if your provider doesn’t have an auto feature set up. Earth Bank the bank of the Earth. Not available in intergalactic space station Giltex. Soft sell: Soft CleoPattra Egyptian sheets are specially designed to become softer with use…and every time you wash them the natural bamboo fibers relax just a hint more…which makes your bed even more comfortable to get into….who wouldn’t want to sleep in…Soft CleoPattra Sheets. Easy to sleep on, easy to sleep in. High Energy: I love hitting the BergerJack on the way to the game. I can fill up on all my favorites, a real ice-cream shake, a 100% beef patty and a large Idaho potatoes home fries for under 5 bucks. And I can even grab something for the coach, so if I’m a little late to practice sometimes, no harm done.

Tag: Prices based on participation and subject to change without notice, offer good only in the continental United States, all entries must be postmarked by July 4, or will not be considered.

The above copy will give you good practice in looking for clues on the page as well as making cold choices. Of course, there are so many different types of spots always remember you can tune into the radio or TV to see what is currently running.

Take Action #25: Radio Follow-Along

Turn on the radio or TV and try to mimic not only the words, but the accent, the inflection of the speaker and see how close you can get to sounding like them. This is another great (and inexpensive) way to practice is to mimic things you hear. Listen to your favorite radio station and simply mimic the DJ’s, the commercial announcers, even the newscasters. Not only will this clue you in to the types of voices that are booking work, but you’ll often come up with new and exciting voices just by trying to mimic someone else’s.

Take Action # 24 Audition Time

1. This exercise is to help simulate an audition experience for you. Remember to look for all the information on the page to give you clues to your performance.2. Do a trial run with each of the specs and record yourself. Play it back and listen to hear if what you planned in your head was apparent in your recording.

Try out the following Commercial and Animation Audition Copy using the following specs. See how each unique spec changes your performance.


Specs: 1. young, cheerful, spunky 2. wants to be everyone’s friend 3. eternally optimistic 4.intelligent, honest, down-to-earth

1. In the summer heat, 2 bucks can go a long way. Now, at The Burger Joint, grab a large drink, large fries and your choice of hamburger or cheeseburger for only $1.99. Come in and fill up for less than 2 bucks.

2. Why choose one of those other companies that might loose your package or handle it with less-than-optimal care? Let BoxYouUp come by your office or home and package, mail and deliver your important items at your convenience. Visit BoxYouUp.com for pricing. Animation

Specs: 1. energetic, sporty, hot shot 2. is always having a good time 3. goofy, crazy, wild 4.nervous and easily excited

1. Hey little monkey, I don’t know what you are doing in there, but you need to come out right now. You hear me?I don’t wanna have to yell. C’mon now. Get out. Get. OUT. Monkeeeeeeeeee! OUT. Now see, that wasn’t so bad, now was it. Ha! Silly monkey.

2. You mean there is more out there than this? Robots even? Wicked! Because I’ve been waiting my whole life for that.I just know I can take them on. Let’s go. What are you waiting for? Let’s do this thing. Woah. Did you see that? I’m awesome.

Fantastic. Hopefully getting the experience of listening to your performance has given you a deeper understanding of the variety of things you will want to consider when working on audition material or even going to an audition. Of course, this exercise can’t exactly duplicate an audition experience, but the more prepared you feel before you go into an audition situation, the more confident and relaxed you will be, and the higher your chances of you doing your best work, and with any luck, booking the job!

Take Action #23: Fight Sounds

1. punch small medium large 2. kick small medium large

3. attack small medium large

4. hit (you’re being hit) small medium large

5. death small medium large

The above is a good example of something you’ll encounter quite a bit in video games because video games are generally chock full of action. Imagine what kind of sounds you’d make in the given situations. Mix it up a little and try a variety of sounds like hy-ah, ki, shah, rah, gar, huh, for example. Try the same sounds with different types of efforts to see how they come out. Experiment with different lengths of efforts. Often in a video game session they will ask for a small, medium and large version of each fight sound. Imagine the difference between getting your earlobe flicked, getting punched in the face and getting decked with a sledgehammer. A good imagination will bring variety and directors really like variety. Give ‘em what they want and they’ll call you again.

Try to make sure you are generating the sound from good diaphragmatic support and not uncomfortably constricting your throat to create the sound. Straining your throat can put a lot of pressure on your vocal cords and could damage your voice.

Another great (and inexpensive) way to practice is to mimic things you hear. Listen to your favorite radio station and simply mimic the DJ’s, the commercial announcers, even the newscasters. Not only will this clue you in to the types of voices that are booking work, but you’ll often come up with new and exciting voices just by trying to mimic someone else’s.

Take Action #21: Trills

Roll your tongue on the roof of your mouth (in a “Spanish ‘R’ ” sound) while going up and down the scale Doing trills combines warming up your vocal cords with waking up your tongue. Since your vocal apparatus is like a machine, you want all of its parts warmed up, well-oiled and working together to create your best, strongest, most versatile voice.

Great articulation, and rapid tongue movement is what a ventriloquist uses when throwing their voice.

Take Action #20: Articulation

1. P-T-K-T (puh-tuh-kuh-tuh) Repeat the sounds P-T-K-T over and over (p-t-k-t-p-t-k-t…) 2. B-D-G-D (buh-duh-guh-duh) Repeat the sounds B-D-G-D over and over (b-d-g-d-b-d-g-d…) 3. P-T-K-T-B-D-G-D (puh-tuh-kuk-tuh-buh-duh-guh-duh) Repeat the sounds P-T-K-T-B-D-G-D over and over (p-t-k-t-b-d-g-d-p-t-k-t-p-t-g-d…) 4. Vary up the pattern a bit to make it harder for yourself. Try also going up and down the scale while doing this articulation exercise 5. After doing this exercise for a bit, try one of your favorite tongue twisters and see if it’s easier.

This exercise will allow your mouth to get warmed up while working on both plosive and non-plosive sounds. Also be aware of your breathing throughout the articulation exercises, so that it also helps you practice breath control.

Take Action #19: Dog Pant

1. Place your hand on your diaphragm. 2. Open your mouth and allow the tongue to relax and hang out of your mouth. 3. As quickly as possible, inhale and exhale, like you’re a dog panting. (of course, if you feel dizzy or lightheaded, stop immediately)

We’ve been focusing on strengthening your diaphragm, but that won’t be the only thing you’ll be using. Your diaphragm will be working in conjunction with your mouth, tongue and mind so they must be ready to go as well. Articulation, or the ability to speak clearly, is a crucial element to a voice actor’s repertoire. Not every character you play will need good articulation (and sometimes you may even be told to articulate less), but it is always better to have it up your sleeve, so that if you’re slurring your speech, it’s a choice rather than an issue.

Take Action #17: The Count

1-2-3 inhale 1-2-3 hold 1-2-3 exhale 1-2-3 hold 1-2-3-4 inhale 1-2-3-4 hold 1-2-3-4 exhale 1-2-3-4 hold 1-2-3-4-5 inhale 1-2-3-4-5 hold 1-2-3-4-5 exhale 1-2-3-4-5 hold

Having a strong diaphragm will not only help you maintain your breath for longer periods of time, it can also help you yell, scream, shout and make fighting and reaction noises, all of which are likely to come into play in voice acting. Continue exercising and strengthening your diaphragm so that no matter what type of VO job you jump into next, you’ll be that much more ahead of the game.

Certain sounds (“s” and “z”) will naturally help you ‘hold on’ to your voice and increase the amount of time you can breathe in or out. The next exercise will help you to strengthen this ‘muscle.’ Using the “s” or “z” sound, (rather like a snake hissing) try to slow the air down as much as you can while pushing it out. Start by counting to a lower number (say, three) while inhaling, then exhale on the hiss for three as well and up the count as you feel comfortable doing so. Try also adding a count between breathing in and out, so you’re breathing in, holding, then breathing out, holding, then breathing in again, and so on.

A great review for our book! Voice Over Voice Actor: What It's Like Behind the Mic

From: PlaybackSTL.com:

Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt/ Voice Over Voice Actor: What It's Like Behind the Mic

Even if you have no aspirations towards a career in voice-over, there’s a lot you can learn from this book.

256 pages. Emerald Book Company, 2010. $19.95 (paperback)
Everyone knows about the kind of acting where you actually see people doing stuff: Hilary Swank doggedly pursuing evidence to free her brother from jail or Jeremy Renner disabling IEDs in Iraq.  But there’s a whole other world of acting out there where the actor’s only tool is his/her voice. Not surprisingly this is called voice-over, and once you become aware of it, you will notice it everywhere: not only on the radio but also in commercials, live and animated film, television programs, video games, and recorded announcements. Basically, if you hear a voice and can’t see the person who is speaking, that’s voice-over.
Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic, written by industry professionals Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt, provides an insiders’ view of the business of voice-over acting with a particular focus on actors who want to break into this market. Between them they have over 12 years of voice-over experience with clients including Disney, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Dell, Coke and Subaru. Yuri is, among other things, the voice of the Prince of Persia in the video game series of the same name, Superman and Superman X on Legion of Superheroes, Ben Tennyson on Ben 10: Alien Force and Jinro/Kuma on Afro Samurai while Tara’s roles include Temari in Naruto (series and video games), Wonder Woman in DC vs. MK and Dream Girl in Legion of Superheroes.
They take a systematic approach to their topic, beginning with a description of the industry then moving through the practical processes of finding your voice, auditioning, creating a demo, building a home recording booth, marketing yourself, and actually doing the work. What I like best about this book is the informal yet business-like tone taken by the authors: they don’t offer shortcuts or “secrets to success” but point the way down a path which can lead to a rewarding career. And they’re not afraid to have some fun in the process: anecdotes, cartoons and fun facts are salted throughout the text, along with sidebars from other industry professionals which offer advice, war stories and other information about working in the voice-over business.
If you think you know something about voice acting (and even more so if you think it’s easier or somehow a lesser skill in comparison to conventional acting) I invite you to listen to the demo reels of Yuri (http://www.yurilowenthal.com/page4.html) and Tara (http://www.taraplatt.com/vo.html). Pretty amazing, huh? Not only do these demo reels demonstrate the versatility of these two actors, they also provide examples of how to assemble clips to showcase your talents briefly and effectively.
Even if you have no aspirations towards a career in voice-over, there’s a lot you can learn from this book. For instance, understanding the process by which anime dubs are created goes a long way toward explaining why you’re usually better off listening to the original soundtrack with subtitles. When animated films are first made, the dialogue is recorded and the animation is made to match the voices. Creating a dub reverses the process: the voice-over actor has to create a convincing performance while trying to match the mouth movements (flaps) of an animated character (who is “speaking” in a different language) while alone in the studio (generally each character is recorded separately) and working with little chunks (loops) of dialogue. That’s a tough gig any way you look at it.
You can learn more about Voice-Over Voice Actor from the book’s web site (http://voiceovervoiceactor.com/) which also offers bonus materials like exercises to improve your skills. You can also purchase the book from this web site and from online sources such as amazon.com. | Sarah Boslaugh


Sure, who doesn't like a stimulus and pick-me-up delivered in a tasty beverage like coffee, tea or a soft drink. But when you're getting ready for a VO session, that caffeine can have the unwanted side effect of drying out your vocal chords. So be aware of the effects before hitting the booth. An herbal tea can be a wonderful substitute and still maintain the lubrication necessary to keep your vocal chords moist and healthy.