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: voice over exercises

Naught for November Newsletter with Tara & Yuri

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Click here to read as a pdf: Naught For November Newsletter, Nov 2014

Yuri and I are on a race to try to get things done before the holidays hit in what seems like record time. We have a bundle of projects in various stages that we are trying to get checked off our To-Do lists, so Santa can check us off his Nice list (and not the Naught(y) one!)! We are releasing Con Artists (finally) by hosting a free convention for all: Con-Con, we have been meditating in a daily practice for every single day this year (personal goals of ours), and we are prepping for our holiday travel to Europe. May your year end with as much gusto and excitement, and here is to a wonderful 2015 for us all with naught a moment to spare!

Tara :) (&Yuri)

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!


Click here to read more: Newsletter: Naught for November with Tara & Yuri, November, 2014


November 2014-page-001

Voiceover Tip: Copy the Vocal Patterns on TV Commercials

Here's a great tip and exercise for voiceover artists: use TV commercials as a source of practice. Really listen to the commercials on your TV or radio. When you find a good commercial you like, try to parrot the VO actor who is speaking the lines.  You'll be repeating the words, of course, but also try to copy, as exactly as you can, the nuances, the tone, the inflections he or she uses, and the musicality.

Then mute or turn off the TV or radio and grab any random bit of text, such as an ad in a piece of mail or magazine. Try to bring the new tone and vocal patterns you've been copying to these new words. You will be using the style you've been mimicking with this new material.

This will really start to train your ear and attune you to what is currently “hot” in the advertising world. And it gets you practicing, reading aloud, and using your voice in new ways.

And it's fun! Enjoy!


Voice Actors: Expand Your Comfort Zone!


We all have our happy places when it comes to acting. Some of us revel in playing the hero or heroine, while others feel perfectly at home twirling our mustaches as the villain. Either way, it’s good to know where your comfort zone is and where you enjoy playing. It pays to know your strengths so you can take advantage of them and carve out a niche for yourself in the area you may be best suited to. But it’s also good to be aware of your strengths so that you can take time to work on the areas you aren’t as skilled in. In this way, you expand your repertoire and make yourself a more versatile, interesting, and employable actor.

It’s certainly not our intent to detract from the idea of doing one specific thing very well. That’s extremely important. It’s just that, if that one thing goes out of style, you want to have something to fall back on. And just because you’re good at one thing doesn’t mean you can’t learn to do other things equally well. For example, our good friend, the otherworldly talented actor Dee Bradley Baker, is known far and wide for his creature voices, monster babble, and alien squawking, and that’s what people tend to hire him for. But when called upon to do so, he also turns in a very moving, believable, human performance.

The best actors push their personal boundaries and continue to grow throughout the life of their entire careers; filling them up with memorable, interesting, and bold characters. If you feel you’re having a hard time pushing your boundaries on your own, get into a class where it will be someone else’s job to give you a friendly shove in the right direction. Classes can hold you accountable for your work in a way you often can’t do on your own.

Use your auditions as a place where you always push your boundaries and expand your comfort zone a little. Open yourself up to all possibilities. Widen the circle you play in.



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!







Sassy September Newsletter, with Tara and Yuri

Check out our latest newsletter, below. There's a sign up button over on your right if you'd like to receive it!

Click here to read as a pdf: Sassy September newsletter, with Tara and Yuri, September, 2014

September - boy that is hard to write, I can't believe we are almost to the fourth quarter of 2014 already. We are excited to share a short we star in that is available mid-flight on Virgin airlines, and a taste of fall, with Yuri's sassy peach & nectarine cobbler - which is sure to invite both longer summer days and cooler fall nights with every bite. And in proper back-to-school style, Yuri and I are hunkering down with pen & paper (ok, computer and keyboard) and doing own own version of homework. I hope this fall is bountiful for each of you!

Tara :) (&Yuri)


Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!

Click here to read more: Newsletter: Sassy September with Tara & Yuri, September, 2014














Voice Over Artists: Self-Promotion 101

tooting hornSelf-promotion can be hard for some people. It takes work. And how many times did your grandma say, “People don’t want to hear you talk about yourself!” We’re taught that tooting our own horn is prideful and unattractive. But in this business, you have to find as many ways as possible to let people know how great you are and why they should be hiring you. And as we said before, promoting you is not part of your agent’s job. What if you don’t even have an agent? What can you do on your own? Well, a lot, actually.

We’ll talk about some of the things you can do to promote yourself, but there are plenty more ideas beyond what we’ll go into. The more creative you get, the more effective your promotion will be. So put your fun-hat on and get cranking on some ideas.

Once you’ve determined what your sound is and decided where you think you might fit best in the VO market, you’re done with the hard part. Use this info to promote yourself and move in the direction you want.

Tip: Don’t worry if you don’t have an agent yet: you’ll always be your own best promoter. So start selling yourself now.

What to Do with Your Voice Over Demo

So what do you do with your masterpiece? The demo you spent all that love, time, energy, and dough on? You get it out there and get it working for you. It’s time to try to get a return on your investment.

Do a mailing to your target agents or managers, and don’t stop there. Do a little research, and target production studios, ad agencies, producers, casting agents, and directors who work on the kind of projects that you’d like to be working on. Once again, feel free to check out the Resources section of this book to get more direction about where you can start your search.

Post your reel on line; it’s easy these days. Make it accessible on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and any other online social networking site, so that if someone wants to hear it, they can find it easily. Build your own Web site and host your demo there. The more online places your demo is featured and associated with your name, the easier it is for somebody to find it by using a search engine like Google.

Use whatever method you can think of to get your demo into the hands of the people who could hire you (or at least into the hands of someone who can introduce you to some of those people). There is no right or wrong way to do this, but there is a fine line between catchy and gimmicky – much like the line between aggressively pursuing and stalking. So do be respectful about putting yourself in people’s faces.

We’ve found that the difference between catchy and gimmicky can be crystallized in this comparison: a personalized card with a funny note included with your demo is fine; a glitter-filled envelope that explodes all over an agent’s desk when he or she opens it will get you remembered, but for all the wrong reasons …

A short note on packaging: except for those times when you simply e-mail your demo as an MP3, you’ll need some sort of packaging for it. You’ll want it to look nice and professional. Feel free to use your creativity in putting your package together, but one word of warning: while it may seem to be a good idea to put a picture of you somewhere on that CD case, listen when we say that there are better options. Putting your face on your demo automatically typecasts you in the eyes of the person looking at it. As a voice actor you want a potential employer to think that you can be anything and anyone.

If agents have a specific image of you in their heads, it’ll be harder for them to consider you as anything other than what you look like. We’ve been telling you how important it is to use your imagination, right? Well, let the agents use their imaginations this time.



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!




Making Bold Choices in Voice Over

Bold choices is a catch-all phrase when it comes to acting. They make such bold choices. You need to make bolder choices. I loved his bold choice. So then the question is: How do I make those kinds of choices?

What constitutes a bold choice? Well, it all relates to how well you know your personal boundaries and how comfortable you are exploring them.

A common misconception among actors is that to make a bold choice is to do something crazy or intentionally weird. Freaking out in an audition situation or reciting all your lines in a high pitched whine would be a bold choice, to be sure. But would you rather be a story that casting directors tell at parties, or would you rather have them call you in again because you stood apart from the rest – as a pro? Making a bold choice relates more to being committed, specific, and imaginative in your approach to the character in the scene.

One way to make a bold choice could be to find the thing that makes the character personal to you and play that, regardless of what you feel would be the right way (the way that you assume that they want it). Remembering that there is never really a right way to do it can be so freeing. Sometimes the clients/director don’t even know exactly what they are looking for ‘til they hear it. And the only way you can really set yourself apart from the rest of the actors who are also vying for the part is to be true to who you are; because there’s only one of you. As soon as you start trying to imagine what they want, you’ll only trip yourself up.

Another way of making a bold choice might be to take a specific quality or idea and fully explore it in such a way that you make it real, no matter how outlandish and off-the-wall the idea is. Sure, you may decide that the character is suffering from an extreme bout of the hiccups, but you’d better know exactly what caused it, how long it’s been going on, how it’s affecting the other characters or environment and how the character feels about it; otherwise it’s just an affectation that will detract from the scene.

People love relating to things that are part of the human condition, things they can identify with; so sometimes making a bold choice simply means finding a creative and fun way to explore the humanity of your character.



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 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!




A fun interview Tara did on VO acting and more!

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

How can Alexander Technique Help You as a Voice Over Actor?

We Voice Over actors use all kinds of techniques to strengthen our skills and keep ourselves in great health and shape: healthy eating, rest, voice coaching, acting lessons, improv practice, tongue twisters, breathing exercises, warm up exercises, face and mouth exercises - anything we can do to make us the best we can be!

Consider trying The Alexander Technique. Research via clinical studies has shown that it can substantially improve posture, stress, breathing, and reduce chronic pain. Since the voice is an inseparable function of the body, all methods of moving and breathing correctly can help you in the art and skill of voice over.

As a student for many years of various voice-over and movement techniques, Tara can't recommend enough getting in touch with your voice, breath, and body thru a class and a teacher that you are passionate about. If you are interested in Alexander Technique there is a fabulous database to help you find a certified teacher near you:



 You can check out The Alexander Technique and read further here as well:

The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique

What is the Alexander Technique?
What are the Benefits of Lessons or Classes?

"The Alexander technique is a way of learning how you can get rid of harmful tension in your body." Although certainly not a full definition of the Alexander Technique, this is a good start.*

"The Alexander Technique is a way of learning to move mindfully through life.

"The Alexander Technique is a method that works to change (movement) habits in our everyday activities.

"The Alexander Technique is an intelligent way to solve body problems."
- So begins an excellent article-length introduction to the Technique.
Read this article.


Recommendation for voice over actors: the work of Kirsten Linklater

Voice coaching and training: Kirsten Linklater

For those of you unfamiliar with renowned voice training coach, teacher, and writer Kirstin Linklater, we suggest you read her work and implement her methods.

Ms. Linklater speaks of voice training as a method of freeing the natural voice. Many voice over artists and film and theater actors use her techniques.

This talented women is also a dialect coach and theater director. She is currently at Columbia University as the Head of Acting in the Theater Department.

Also, Linklater's book, Freeing the Natural Voice, is a wonderful tool for the actor. Learning to command your natural voice is a crucial step toward success. We highly recommend reading her work and implementing her techniques.

Check out her website!


“The best actors, and perhaps this can be said for the best performing artists in general (musicians, dancers, singers), are relaxed in performance. That is, they have no extraneous tension. Their muscles are ready to receive the impulses necessary to fulfill action and will ripple with energies in the service of particular stimuli…
In order to develop a voice that will create maximum effect with minimum effort and therefore be truthful, actors must exercise the vocal musculature in a way that conditions the voice to respond to imaginative and emotional stimulus.”
Pg. 39, Freeing the Natural Voice, 2006, Kristin Linklater


Relax. It’s Not Just about You


The best way to learn to audition is not by auditioning. That's the second-best way. The best way is by spending some time in casting. Through the process of casting, I learned how stressful and difficult casting can be, and I can relate to and identify with the casting directors and their needs in a much deeper way. As a talent, that awareness gets me out of my own head and my own need, and need is casting director repellent. In addition, I learned how many, and sometimes most, of the determining factors in casting a role have nothing to do with the quality of my audition. I can let go and have fun doing what I do best; and when I let go, I can book.


- Zach Hanks, Actor, Director

A Mahalo March from Tara & Yuri

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Click Here To Read: A Mahalo March from Tara and Yuri: March 2013

Hello friends,  

Mahalo (the Hawaiian word for thanks) seems appropriate this March already. Spring is starting to bloom and Shelf Life Season 4 is in full swing as of today, March 5th! (we hope you are enjoying it), Tara is appearing in her first big screen flick The Call and we just returned from Hawaii where we shot an episode of Hawaii Five-0 together and also got some playtime for hikes and get-togethers with friends on the island. We are filled with gratitude and love; may we all have a bit more Mahalos in our March.

Tara :) (&Yuri)

P.S. - Today is Yuri's Birthday, so if you see him (or just "see" him online) wish him a happy happy!

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!


Click to read newsletter: A Mahalo March from Tara and Yuri: March 2013


March 2013-page-001



  Click to read the newsletter: A Mahalo March from Tara and Yuri: March 2013










Voice Over in the Studio: Taking Direction

Okay. So you got the audition. You showed up, waited in a crowded room with a bunch of other actors, and it’s finally your turn. You’re in the booth, the engineer signals that he or she’s recording, and the director says, Start. (Each director will, of course have their own way of saying, Start. Only rarely will it be, Action! as that’s more an on-camera thing. Sometimes it’ll be We’re rolling, whenever you’re ready … , and sometimes it’ll just be And … Go!)

First, make sure you’ve read the script you have in front of you – before you come in. Nothing makes you more nervous than feeling unprepared. And once you’ve read the script, hopefully you’ve made some sort of choice about it. For example, if you’re going to audition for a commercial, make sure you know how you feel about the product you’re trying to sell, and decide who it is you’re trying to sell it to. You’re going to talk differently to a forty year-old mother of three than you will to a six year-old boy. Be specific. Make that choice. Or come in with a few choices.

And then – this is where it might get confusing for a second, but stick with us, we’re here for you – don’t get too attached to the choice you’ve made. Having made a choice shows the director that, in addition to having some skill as an actor, you’ve read the material, understand it, and have an opinion. Also, a director can better direct you if you’ve made a choice going into the audition.

The director might like your choice, but often – and this is the job of a director, remember – he or she might ask you to do the scene a completely different way. This does not mean that your take on the character the first time through was not right. The CD may have loved your choice, and now just needs to see if you’re directable.

So sometimes you’ll finish your first read and the CD will say, “That was great! Now gimme something different.” This can be annoying, but it happens; so it pays to have something different to give them. And if you don’t, it pays to be good at improv. Of course, if you are having a hard time making a choice based on the material you’ve received, feel free to ask the CD for more information. But if you do ask, don’t just ignore what the CD tells you: make sure you incorporate that new info into your work.

Listen to what directors have to say. Remember, they’re not there to make a fool out of you. They want you to get the job. They want you to be good. It makes their job easier. If they’ve asked you to do it again, it means they already think that you can do it; they just want to see if you’re willing to try it their way. And that’s your job as an actor. Don’t fight the director on interpretation or try to explain why your idea was better (even if it might have been).

Remember, take the direction. If you don’t understand the notes the director gives you, ask him or her to repeat or clarify so that you do understand. Then take a moment to look over the material with this new direction in mind. The CD should be happy to give you this time. There is nothing worse than a director giving direction and an actor not taking it. All that shows the CD is that you might be difficult to work with and unable to do what the director requests. Neither of those are things you want to be known for; nor will they help you book the job.


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!




Setting up Audio to Record Voice Over at Home

We’d love to share a very helpful article with you . I know many of you have talked of setting up your own equipment for record voice over at home. While we have covered this in our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic, this is a great source to know about, as well: Soundonsound.com .

Sound On Sound : click for Home pageThanks to Jason Bermingham of Sound on Sound:

Producing Professional Voiceovers At Home, Part 1

To achieve success as a self‑producing voice-over artist, you need to be much more than a good recording engineer... This article is the first in a two-part series. Read Part 2.

By Jason Bermingham

… in this short series of articles I’ll set out what you need to know to get started as a home‑studio voice-over artist, and turn it into a paying job. This month, I’ll explain some differences between the voice-over and music industries, and run through the different roles you’ll need to become good at. Next time, I’ll discuss what makes a good voice, the sort of home‑studio setup you need, and how you can start to get the jobs coming in.”   READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE

Part Two

Tips for Creating a Character – the Acting Part of Voice Acting

One of the things you need to know before you start auditioning is the importance of creating a strong character. We’ve noticed that the people who really succeed in this business are generally good actors first, good voice-over actors second. Strangely enough, when juggling all the balls of voice-over, one of the easiest to drop is the acting. Acting is where the most fun is, so who wants to drop that ball?

thought bubble wwwwwSo, how do you start creating a character? Make clear character choices: The Importance of the W’s: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and hoW

Sure, these questions are important for reporters, but they’re also important for you (assuming you’re not already a reporter). They’re the questions that help you make clear character choices. Luckily, in most cases you’ll have a script to draw from, and it’ll be chock full of answers to these six questions.

In some ways, acting is like being a detective. If you can find enough clues and put them together, things begin to make sense, and you don’t have to do anything special. Thinking about reasons why your character says or does something (as indicated in the script) can often help you make creative choices that will help your work stand out and bring your character to life.

1. Who are you: what kind of a person/creature/thing are you? What is important to you? Who is the character you are you talking to, what is your relationship to him/her/it?

2. What are you doing, what have you done, what do you plan to do, and what’s going on?

3. Where are you physically, where are you usually, where would you like to be, and just where are you in the telling of the story?

4. When is this scene/story/moment taking place and how much time do you have to do whatever it is you’re doing?

5. Why are you doing/saying what you are doing/saying anyway? Why aren’t you saying/doing something else?

6. And finally, how does your character choose to do what he/she/it is doing, and how is that different from how you, yourself, in real life might do it?

Often, pondering the differences between how you might do or say something and how the character does or says it will teach you something important about the character.

Between your imagination and the script, you should have more than enough information to flesh out a unique and real character. Actors often try to make choices because they feel an idea will be interesting or cool – regardless of the information they’ve been given. Try, instead, using your yes, and powers to see what makes sense in terms of the story that the writer has given you. Would that Martian speak with a German accent just because it would be kooky and fun for you to do, or because the script indicates that the only interaction Martians have had with Earth has been through German soap opera broadcasts?

And don’t get caught up in thinking, Well, I’ve never been to Mars. How am I supposed to know what a Martian sounds like? Or something closer to home, like, Well, I don’t have a brother, so how am I supposed to know how that feels?

Odds are, if you’re interested in an acting career, you probably have a pretty active imagination. Use it. It’s fun. Your imagination is like your voice or a fingerprint – unique. Using it will automatically make your take on a character different from anyone else’s.

Even when you’re dealing with sterile commercial copy, something as simple as, Come in today for a great deal! it can be easy to just say the words without even thinking about it (which isn’t always bad). But try taking a second to get specific about what you’re saying. Think of a person you know, and deliver the line as if it’s just for that person. Imagine the circumstances under which you could be telling this line to someone. For example, what if you’re telling your little sister who never listens; or what if it’s a secret that you don’t want to be overheard; or what if you’re in a hurry to get the info out because the deal ends in fifteen minutes? Suddenly, this simple, throwaway sentence has taken on a whole life of its own, just in the time it took to ask and answer the W’s.

Specific choices and clear ideas on how you feel about what you’re saying take your work to the next level. Sometimes things aren’t clearly laid out on the page, and you can’t ask the writer what he or she meant. This is where you get to make up some things, get your creative juices flowing, and harness that wild imagination of yours. This is where things really get fun.

Let’s say the scene is between two brothers, and the only lines are the older brother saying, I’m taking you to the zoo, and the younger brother saying, Okay. The writer hasn’t given you much to go on here, but nobody’s keeping you from filling in the blanks on your own. Maybe the last time the younger brother went to the zoo he was attacked by monkeys, and he was left traumatized by the event. You’d better believe that’s going to color how he says, Okay.

Or maybe the older brother’s never done anything nice for his little brother before, so the little brother’s Okay is a suspicious one. In life, we’re rarely indifferent about things. We almost always have an opinion or feeling towards almost everything we encounter, so why wouldn’t our characters have their own opinions and feelings? Humor and drama come directly from our relationship to the things in our environment and from how we react to those things.


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 loop group or walla group: another good VO acting job

Another good voice acting job within the TV/film industry comes in the form of the loop group or walla group (usually a team of five to eight actors hired to record all the extra or background dialogue necessary in film, TV, or games). These groups join the project after a film/TV show has been shot, to fill in the audio soundscape (sounds that make up the environment). That generally means creating crowd or ambient noises that weren’t recorded during filming.

Typically there is little to no scripted dialogue: the walla group actors simply make up lines based on research they’ve done about the location of the scene. But occasionally, a member of the loop group will be asked to match or replace a small character with scripted lines.

You see, in order to get the best quality sound on set when a movie or show is originally shot, the only people who are allowed to actually speak and make noise are the principal actors. This means that everyone you see in the background of any scene (in the coffee shop, hospital, or sports arena) is simply miming speaking and is not actually saying anything. So it is often necessary to have a loop group come in to the recording studio and fill in the voices that are missing.

Sometimes doing loop group or walla group work means adding in efforts (those non-dialogue vocal sounds) and possibly dialogue (ADR) that was somehow missed or perhaps left until later. Or it could involve replacing dialogue that didn’t work out. Say, for example, that the film was shot in Romania, but the story is supposed to be set in New Jersey. Some of the actors who were hired locally may not have sounded Jersey enough, so the loop group may be asked to replace the dialogue with a more authentic accent.

These looping sessions can be some of the most sought-after work in the VO business. The prestige is low, but the pay is high, and the work can be profitable if you become associated with a group that works frequently.

Also, contrary to how we’ve described the workspace for most VO work, if you are working as part of a loop group, you’ll have plenty of room to move around. The microphone is often set up fairly high in a larger-than-average room so that the actors can walk and move around and create different depths of background sound.

These different depths of sound are achieved through a number of techniques that have their own specialized vocabulary. One example is the pass-by, where people in conversation stroll across the pick-up area of the mic to give the illusion of movement. Another technique is the similar donut, where the group circles like a wagon train in front of the mic, and actors converse while continuing to circle. Sometimes it’s just a stationary line-up of the group in front of the mic, with every member taking a turn shouting callouts (shouts) that may be used to break up the walla bed (a continuous layer of background dialogue). The first time we worked with a loop group, it was as if we had traveled to a foreign country and had to learn a whole new language.

As a member of the loop group, you are responsible for doing your own research so that you can bring in terms and vocabulary specific to certain settings or locales that are featured in the film/show. For example, if the movie you’re looping is about the crew of a submarine, you’d better ask the Internet (or your favorite uncle) a lot about submarines before you come in to work. You must be prepared to improvise dialogue realistically and within the specific context of the project. But don’t worry; a good loop group director will go over what you’ll need to know for a specific project enough in advance that there will be time for you to do some research.



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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!


“So How Do I Find My Own Voice?”

  interviewer by shokunin - part of set of characters submitted separately.

You can start identifying your own voice by making a list of adjectives that you feel describe your voice and your way of speaking. Then, because we often have trouble being objective, pick five people who know you well, and five people who know you less well, and ask each of them to come up with five adjectives to describe your voice. Remind them that they’re not trying to describe you or the way you look, but specifically your voice. If they have trouble coming up with descriptive words, maybe you could compile a long list of adjectives to make it easier on them. Here are a few adjectives you might choose (also see our suggestions in “Play to Your Strengths” in Chapter 10 of our book, The Demo):

abrupt             energetic               sincere           curt         fun-loving       

smooth            confident             guarded        upbeat    warm                 

See which of the words suggested by your friends resonate with you, especially if a certain adjective comes up more than once. That means there’s usually something to that suggestion.

As you become more familiar and comfortable with your voice, you may find that you can start to identify the attributes that are specific to you. Your voice might be raspy or it might be crisp and clear. Maybe you have a slight drawl from living in the South, or a particular vocal pattern that people identify with you. Identifying your vocal characteristics is a good way to start honing in on what types of characters and qualities you might be able to bring to the table.

Some people call this description of your voice and delivery a vocal signature or style; others simply call it your sound. As soon as you zero in on your sound, you’ve got a strong place to start and to build outward from. It’ll be your safe place that you can always fall back on, and probably the place from which you’ll do most of your work.

Vocal signature comes up a lot in commercial VO. You might get hired because of your specific sound and attitude – which the client feels perfectly represent the product, and suddenly you’re the spokesvoice for that brand.

Remember, the most important thing here is that you are discovering for yourself your own personal and particular vocal quality and sound. There are so many opportunities in the field of voice-over that there’s no reason for you to feel the need to alter your own sound. Simply learn to market what you have and who you are, and that’s when things will really start popping!


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!




Voice Over: Playing with Speed, Pitch and Volume

There are so many different elements that contribute to how a person sounds, and if you can become aware of them, you can use them to your advantage to help you create some really fun, funky, and fancy voices for your repertoire. Start with the speed which is simply how quickly you’re speaking: slow, medium, or fast. People often joke about Southerners (from the U.S.) speaking in a slow, meandering drawl, while folks from the northeast (U.S. again) are more fast-paced, quick, and to the point. Play around with your speed to find fun patterns, not only of the words, but of the phrases and sentences.

Then move to the pitch. Generally a voice can be pitched high, mid-range, or low. Some examples of a high-pitched voice might be the aforementioned Spongebob Squarepants, or the actress Ellen Greene, or yourself after sucking on a helium balloon. A low-pitched voice calls to mind James Earl Jones, Tom Waits, Ron Perlman, or Lurch from The Addams Family. The rest of us fall somewhere in the middle.

One person’s mid-range pitch may be your low or high depending on how you’re built, and depending on what sex you are: men naturally tend to have a lower register, while women’s voices are usually higher. Play around with your pitch a little and see what happens. It can lead to touching moments, funny moments, and downright scary moments sometimes.

The final basic element is volume: loud, conversational, and soft. Perhaps a male character speaks in a loud booming voice and is always being asked to quiet down (maybe he worked for years in an anvil factory). Or a female character’s voice is shy and whispery, and no one can understand her (too many years as a librarian, perhaps). See how entire characters can develop out of how loud or soft you choose to speak?

Now look at these three elements: speed, pitch, and volume, and break each of them down into its low, medium, and high grades. The result is nine different qualities to mix and match in three dimensions. Imagine a giant 3-D tic-tac-toe board with each quality represented by its own dimension. It’s kind of like a simplified vocal Rubik’s Cube of choices, with speed represented by height, pitch represented by width, and volume represented by depth (see diagram below). Now pick one of the intersections of these elements (a small cube within the cube) and see what combo you get. Here are quality groupings you’d end up with if you selected each of the numbered cubes in the illustration:


Cube 1: a fast, low-pitched, soft voice

Cube 2: a slow, mid-range, loud voice

Cube 3: a medium-speed, high-pitched, conversational voice


You can come up with a variety of other combinations simply by mixing these three different qualities. This doesn’t even take into account other flair you can add, such as attitude, accent, or age. The possibilities are (nearly) endless!




“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!




Be Professional!


In all the excitement of a voice-over career, professionalism can be the first trait to go. We cannot stress this fact enough: you will stand out from others by being a consummate professional.  And you don’t have to know anything about voice acting to act like a professional.

Do you think the most talented actors always get the job? Not if they’re difficult to work with. You’d be surprised at how often an actor will get the job just by showing up, doing the work, being a decent person to interact with, and then going on his or her merry way. Be one of these people. It doesn’t take a lot of extra effort.

Be someone who is reliable, humble, polite, talented, and available. Being professional means you show up on time (or even a little early), ready to work, and ready to learn. You don’t need to go to charm school for this, and it’ll help get you where you wanna go a lot faster, no matter how many E! Entertainment specials you see about difficult celebrities.



  • Be on time

Key to the whole professionalism thing is always arriving on time for appointments, whether they be auditions or work. If you can, show up a little early. Once again, this simple thing will set you apart from a great many actors, and will endear you to directors, producers, clients, and casting people. They have so many other things to worry about; don’t let your being late add to that.

If for some reason you must be late (and it happens to all of us), show the proper courtesy by calling and letting the studio know. Otherwise, not only do you send a poor signal about your work ethic by not showing up on time, but you also indicate that you don’t care about their time or the time they set aside to see you.

Being on time sometimes means being early, since on time might actually make you late by someone else’s clock. If you do get there late, don’t make excuses about why you were late, how traffic sucked, how you forgot to wind your watch, or how you were attacked by ninjas. Just apologize and get down to business. Making excuses will always dig you a deeper hole, and will never get the project completed any sooner.



  • Be prepared

This maxim doesn’t apply just to Boy Scouts, and you should put it near the top of your professionalism to-do list. Do your work ahead of time: read the script, warm up your voice, and make sure you’ve thought about whatever it is you’re reading. A big pet peeve among casting people and directors is actors who show up and haven’t read the script.

Sometimes it isn’t possible for you to get the script ahead of time. In that case, do whatever is within your power to take control of the situation and get yourself mentally and physically prepared to walk into the audition, the recording session, or the meeting. Get there a little early to see if the studio has a script or sides you can look at. If something comes up at the last minute and you don’t have much time at all to prepare, give yourself a quick mental checklist, a mantra, or a power pose that’ll help center and focus you at the drop of a hat.

Most professional athletes have rituals or practices that allow them to focus and get psyched up. Come up with your own routine that you can do no matter how much time you have to prepare; or maybe create a short version to use when time is tight, and a longer, more involved routine for when you have more time. It can be as simple as crossing your fingers and saying, I am super cool. I belong here, in your head before you walk in the door. The most important thing is for your routine to be one that energizes you, focuses and grounds you, and puts you in the right headspace to walk in confident, calm, and ready to work.

Now, with all that we’ve said about preparation, don’t obsess over trying to prepare and control every little thing. Remember, there’s no way you can possibly know what’s going to happen in the room; so perhaps the most important trait of all is to be relaxed, open, flexible, and ready to roll with the punches.



  • Be a stand-up guy

Yes, being a stand-up guy goes for all you ladies, too. Basically what we’re saying is, don’t be a jerk. Sure, we all have bad days, but when you walk into the work environment for a job, meeting, or audition, keep your doom and gloom to yourself and get down to business. Seriously. We mean it. When you’re snarky and snap at your friends, you can apologize to them later. When you’re on the job, you won’t always have that chance.

You can go home afterwards and punch your pillow if you want. And who knows? If you’re lucky, your session might help you exorcise your demons. A lot of video game recording sessions are really good for that. And sure, it’s fun to gossip; but voice-over is a small town, and you never know who might be friends with whom, so you’re better off not talking trash about anyone.

May we refer you to Aretha Franklin for a moment: respect personal space, respect other people’s efforts and time, and just … R-E-S-P-E-C-T. And don’t be a jerk. Because no one wants to work with a jerk. And sure, you might say, “Well, so-and-so is a blankety-blank-blank and they work all the time,” but go ahead and trust us on this one: being a jerk will never get you anywhere. One more time, say it with us: Don’t be a jerk. Capisce?


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 This blog is an excerpt from Tara and Yuri's highly successful book,Voice Over Voice Actor: What It's Like Behind the Mic.   It's a fun and helpful peek into the secret world of the Voice Actor. 

Are you 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.