Voiceover Milwaukee - Find Your Voice
  1. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

    July 28, 2013 by dave

    Once in awhile an advertiser will contact Voice Over Nation looking to hire cheap voice over talent.

    First, let me set the record straight. We do not train cheap voice over talent. We train our students with the goal of seeing them work at the highest levels of the industry. What's more, VON is not a talent agency, and we have no interest in making it one.

    There are talent agencies out there that do cater to this market for cheap voice over talent, many of them online agents. But it's like buying cheap jewelry or cheap whiskey. You won't get diamonds and Glenlivet. You'll get exactly what you pay for.

    Often with a cheap agent, the script is recorded blind, with little or no input from the client, who has to accept the result – or pay an additional session fee to re-record. After paying several session fees in order to get exactly what the client wants, suddenly cheap doesn't seem so cheap anymore. In the words of classic voice over star Bert Berdis, "There's never enough money to do it right, but there's always enough money to do it over."

    And if that sounds like a bad deal for the client, think about it from the talent's perspective. Not only is the pay piddling. If you get tagged as "cheap voice over talent," do you think a producer will seriously consider you to voice the next Jaguar campaign or the video launching the next version of the iPhone? More likely, you'll be stuck doing answering machine messages for Eddie's Cell Phone and Tobacco Emporium.

    That's not to say you'll never do a discount job. Many voice artists who are starting out and don't have agents yet will occasionally accept a reduced fee in order to gain experience and collect real-world material for their demos. But the ones with an eye to success are careful to choose both jobs and demo samples judiciously, accepting only work that will showcase their talents in the best, highest quality light.

    So don't sell yourself short. Get the training you need to work at the highest levels of the industry and find your voice!


  2. Does It Matter Where You Are From?

    July 2, 2013 by david

    For the last year, I have had the pleasure of working for an international production company in Asia. While there, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to produce voice talent from all over the world. I’ve recorded voice over in Mandarin, Russian, many different dialects of Spanish, and Western English in as many diverse accents as there are English-speaking countries.

    One thing holds true no matter what language you speak. You need to find your voice. It’s all about sounding real and, most importantly, conversational. If you sound like you’re reading from a script, you’re doing it wrong. As listeners, we want to believe that you’re speaking from your heart.

    You’re the expert on whatever’s the topic. Whether it’s fashion, the newest flavor of pudding or the political party you support. We look to you as the expert. And that’s what your clients are going to expect as well. That’s why they’re paying you. So the next time you practice a script or read for an audition, remember to find your voice by asking yourself, “Do I sound believable?”

  3. Make Me Believe

    May 7, 2013 by david

    Some scripts really make it easy to sound natural. To sound like the guy or girl next door. But that’s not always the case. With legal disclaimers and complicated wording, some scripts make it hard for a voice over talent to sound conversational.

    In those cases, what do you do? Dave and I say it over and over again: Practice, practice, practice! When reading a tough or poorly written script, practice every type of interp you can think of. Make it happy, sad, confused, surprised, angry and nonchalant. Practice your read every way imaginable.

    Make it sound as comfortable as possible. Remember, we want to believe what you’re saying. We want to believe that the medicine you’re selling will be good for us, even if those side effects in the disclaimer can potentially harm us. We want to feel the new caffeinated beverage will make us work harder and feel better, even if we know it won’t.

    It’s your job to be the trusted voice of the company; it takes lots of practice to sound like you believe, even though you really may not. Remember, nine times out of ten, it’s your job to sell for your client. And to do so, you need to make the listening public believe. Find something difficult to read today, and work on reading it out loud till you’re believable.

    In other words, find your voice.

  4. Voice Over Nation Expands to New Market

    April 24, 2013 by david

    There’s big news in the Voice Over Nation blog-o-sphere. VON has expanded to its second market! That’s right, we are truly national now. Starting in July, VON will offer its successful Essentials of Voice Over Class in the Twin Cities area. Minneapolis has always been known to be a hotbed in the broadcast world, and it’s with great pleasure and excitement that we announce the opening of our new branch.
    “What makes our program so much different than other classes available is that ours is taught in a state-of-the-art recording studio by the people who will hire you. The producers,” said David Conner, co-founder of Voice Over Nation. “You can’t expect to become a professional VO talent just by reading scripts around a table. You need to know how it feels to be on mic, in front of an engineer and producer, and you need to know the proper session etiquette. There’s much to learn about becoming a voice over talent that can’t be taught in a day-long master class.”

    VON has partnered up with award-winning Audio Ruckus, an amazing broadcast recording studio in the heart of Minneapolis. There, talented Twin Cities producer Gary Bingner will teach the class.

    For more than 20 years, Gary has worked on “both sides of the glass.” Not only has he written and directed talent in thousands of commercials over his career – for big names like Target, Best Buy, Comcast, Chipotle, Applebee’s, McDonald’s, Tombstone Pizza, Hormel, Jiffy Lube, Honeywell and Sprint – he’s also a working voice talent represented by the Wehmann Agency in Minneapolis. These dual roles of director and voice talent will give him a unique ability to empathize with voice talent and help inspire them to give their best performances.

    The Twin Cities edition of the Essentials of Voice Over Class begins July 9th. Space for this popular class is limited, so reserve your seat now and be one of the first lucky students graduate from our expanded program. For more information on Voice Over Nation and the education we offer, email us at findyourvoice@voiceovernation.com, visit our home on the web at https://www.voiceovernation.com and check out http://www.facebook.com/VoiceOverNation.

  5. Don’t Quit Your Day Job

    April 1, 2013 by david
    Well not just yet. Most starting voice over actors will work a “day job,” and that’s OK. One of the busiest guys in town started doing VO on the side while he was working at one of the big box hardware stores.
    We get asked by students, “How do I manage auditions and gigs when I work 9-5?” It’s not always easy, but try to schedule auditions and sessions on your lunch break to start.
    You’ll want to check your email frequently for audition requests from your agent. If you don’t need to go into a studio to audition, schedule some time at night to record at home and to work on your voice over business.
    When you score that big dream job, the client may be willing to work around your schedule. If not, you may have to weigh whether it’s worthwhile to take some personal time off work.
    Either way, be persistent. The more work you get, the closer you are to being a full-time voice artist. So find your voice!

  6. How Many Voice Overs Do You Hear a Day?

    March 26, 2013 by david
    Think about it. How many voice overs do you hear a day? I’m guessing it’s many more than you think.
    Did you know that, on average, a radio station plays approximately 15 commercials an hour? For TV, it’s closer to 20. That means each hour there are thousands of voice overs being played nationwide.
    You hear VO at the grocery store, on public transportation and on your kids’ video games. Watched a movie recently? You heard VO there too. Voice over is everywhere, and that’s why the industry is booming.
    And it’s not just a small group of VO actors or celebrities getting all the work. Advertisers and agents are always looking for new voices with great talent. I’ve seen an “average Joe” beat out a celebrity on multiple occasions. It just takes hard work, persistence and tons of practice.
    Do you have what it takes to be a voice over success story? Get started today by contacting us at findyourvoice@voiceovernation.com. We have many different ways to jump-start your VO business. Find your voice!

  7. Age Limit?

    March 18, 2013 by david
    I’ve been asked, “Is there an age limit for voice over?”
    The answer is simply, “No.” Just listen to TV or radio and you'll hear a wide range of ages. From young children to elderly. Voices come in all shapes, sizes and ages. It really all depends on what market the client is trying to reach. 
    On almost all audition spec sheets, the agent will indicate an age range. Remember, the age range is not how old you really are, it’s how old you are supposed to sound. Many times women do little kids' voices because it’s easier to direct an adult in the booth than it is a child. Sometimes people in their 20s will play 50-year-olds, and vice versa.
    Just remember, don’t force it or change your voice. Think about what makes someone sound younger or older and try to replicate that by slightly changing your tone and your interp. It takes practice, but if you can voice 18-65, you’ll get more work and have a broader range than if you only stuck to your actual age group.
    So never second-guess starting a career in voice over due to age. Age is just a number, and your voice can be multi-generational. Get practicing and find your voice.

  8. Shampoo Bottles and Cereal Boxes

    March 11, 2013 by dave

    There is advertising copy everywhere. On everything. On shampoo bottles and cereal boxes. On clothing labels and bank statements.  All of that copy out there was thoughtfully and lovingly crafted by some professional writer, toiling away in an anonymous cubicle in some large generic ad agency. 
    A lot of it's not bad, and therefore it can make great practice copy for a voice over artist. Read it out loud, at full voice, and add interpretation. Package copy can be a rich source of practice material for you.
    But, as graduates of our Essentials of Voice Over Class know, voice over scripts written specifically for radio or television are creatures all their own. They have a certain structure and rhythm. They're usually 30 or 60 seconds long, with distinct beginnings, middles and ends. They're written to be spoken, not read.
    That's why we offer professional voice over scripts in the VON Shop. Each of our Practice Packs includes three scripts, two exercises and a producer's read based on a particular commercial category. Retail and PSA Practice Packs are currently available, with Health Care and others to come. They're inexpensive, and they make a great supplement to the shampoo bottles and cereal boxes.
    So practice, practice, practice!! And find your voice.

  9. Can’t I Just Read a Book?

    March 4, 2013 by david

    Students tell us all the time about the books on voice over they have read. And Dave and I have read quite a few ourselves. They are good supplements to your VO training. 

    Even though we always talk about how important it is to further your VO education and to learn about how the business works, there is no way you can only rely on reading books about voice over to become a professional. 

    You need time in the recording booth, in front of people who will be listening to you, guiding you and judging you as well. It’s one thing to read about giving a good “read.” It’s another to stand in front of a mic, with headphones on, your script in your hand, and a producer, engineer, and writer waiting on you to give them the performance they want. The performance they are paying you good money to deliver. Real world practice is very important, and it’s the key to becoming a professional voice over artist.

    Voice Over Nation offers a program that gets you in the booth, in front of the mic, in every single class, so when you’re done you’ll be concentrating on your read and performance instead of worrying about the people watching you in the control room. Educate yourself as much as you can, but never forget that you need real world experience.  Let Voice Over Nation give you that experience – an experience you can’t get anywhere else.

  10. Let’s Get Down to Business

    February 25, 2013 by david
    So you’ve had some training and some time in the booth. You’ve sent out your demo and you’re ready to start working in the voice over business. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the calls to come in.
    This is the voice over business. Your business. Just because you have a demo and maybe an agent, that doesn’t mean the work is over for you. The VO business is just like any other small business and takes lots of work.
    What are you selling? YOU.
    So that means you have to market yourself. Not just via social media outlets, but you really need to get out and “meet and greet” others in your industry. Advertising agencies, talent agencies and other people who may potentially hire you.
    You need to call those people who you’ve sent your demo and nurture your relationships with them. Even if they haven’t hired you yet. Remember, you're selling you, so be friendly, even if you may be frustrated.  It all comes with time.
    Dave R. suggests that you set aside some time weekly to work on the business of you. Return emails, make a list of who and when you sent out demos, see if any local networking groups are having meet-ups and go introduce yourself to the people who you want to hire you.
    Being a voice over talent takes hard work, but if you put in your time, you will be successful.


  11. No Sugar Coating (Except on the Donuts)

    February 10, 2013 by dave

    Many graduates of our Essentials of Voice Over Class tell us they like the fact that we offer frank, constructive criticism of their on-mic work. They appreciate that, while we're positive and encouraging, we don't sugar-coat our critiques.

    That's important for a first-timer. To get knowledgeable feedback on what you're doing right and solid advice on what needs improving.

    But that's not all we do. We teach you to critique yourself, so that when you record your rehearsals and listen back, you yourself will be able to hear what you're doing right and what you need to improve.

    That's also important, because once you launch your career, you'll need to be your own toughest critic. No sugar coating. (Unless you're bringing a treat for David and me.)

    So be critical. Be frank. Be honest. And find your voice.



  12. “Can I do VO if I’m not an actor or if I don’t have a big voice?”

    January 28, 2013 by david
    The answer is a big resounding “YES.” (said in my best movie trailer voice)
    My voice has a rich, deep sound, so people are always telling me that I should be in radio. It was one of the main reasons why I became so interested in voice over. But let’s say you’ve never heard that in your life. You’d love to do voice over work, but you don’t sound like the movie trailer guy or the announcer at the end of retail commercials. 
    That’s ok! The “Big Voice Over Actor” sound isn’t trending right now.  Most producers are looking for “real” these days.  Just listen to the radio for 15 minutes and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.  
    We want everyday-sounding people. I want to believe that you’re my neighbor, my doctor or the friendly sales associate at the local store. There’s so much more work for “real” than there is for Mr. Movie Trailer.  
    I’ve recorded and mixed hundreds of radio and TV commercials, and a majority of those have called for normal sounding people.  Not the crazy, intense voices that were so popular in the 80s and 90s.
    Remember, the sound and tone of your voice isn’t that important.  It’s all about how you interpret the script, whether you sound believable, and especially if you can take direction from the producer.  So whether you want to be the next big name in voice over or just make some part-time money on the side, be confident and practice, practice, practice. 
    Then go out and find your voice!

  13. Bring Something to the Audition

    January 14, 2013 by dave

    No, we don't mean donuts. Though producers and engineers always appreciate donuts. (Mmmmm… donuts…)
    No, when David and I tell you to "bring something to the audition," we're talking about the X-factor. That extra… something… that will make you stand out from the dozens of other VO artists vying for the job.
    What will catch the producer's attention while she or he is half-listening to endless auditions in the middle of a busy workday? Is it the genuine little chuckle you interject into the middle of a funny commercial? Is it the sob that escapes your lips as you deliver an emotional read? Is it the awe that you radiate as you describe a monumental event?
    Too often people worry that their auditions won't be "perfect." In my opinion, that's an unrealistic expectation to set for oneself, and totally unnecessary to boot. Living an authentic human life is anything but a perfect experience, and our speech is no exception. 
    Sometimes we chuckle. Sometimes we sob. Sometimes we get quiet. Sometimes we get loud. Sometimes we… hesitate… as we search for words. And sometimes that's exactly what rings true in the producer's ear, and earns you the job.
    So the next time, bring something to the audition. (And send the donuts to David and me.)
    Find your voice.

  14. Putting the Social in Media

    December 24, 2012 by david

    Times sure have changed since Dave and I started working in the broadcast industry. Not too long ago the only way to get a demo to an agency or potential new client was to mail or deliver it to them. Generally you’d have to pay for duplication of your demo, printing costs for your headshot, resume and CD sleeve, and of course the postage. It was an expensive endeavor to say the least!

    Boy, how things are different now.

    I hear students often say, “I don’t have a Facebook page,” or, “Linkedin?  How does that work?” Don’t discount the power of social media. It isn’t all about sharing what you had for lunch, or the latest funny picture of your cat.  Social media can be a powerful tool to help launch your career and get more work.

    There are so many ways to share your demo online. And 99.9% of them are free to use. You’ll find that almost any business will have some sort of social media presence. Use that to your advantage. There is one thing to remember though. Just because you set up a Facebook, Linkedin, Myspace or Twitter profile, that doesn’t mean people will flock to your pages (pun totally intended).

    Social media takes work. Not only do you need to reach out to friends, business associates and potential clients. You need to also concentrate on the “social” aspect of this medium. Find voice over groups online and regularly post messages on their pages. It only takes a few minutes to pass on an article, or to give your opinion on someone else’s post. Be a part of the conversation. Don’t just expect great things to happen. Find your voice and go make them happen!

  15. Follow the Instructions

    December 10, 2012 by dave

    You've probably heard the urban legend about the teacher who gave a test. The instructions said, simply, "Write your name at the top of the test and turn it in. Do not answer the questions below." Most of the students, so the legend goes, skipped reading the instructions, answered all of the questions, and promptly failed the test.

    The moral of the story? Follow the instructions.

    If it's true for a middle schooler, it's even more true for a professional voice artist. When you submit your demo to a talent agent, follow the instructions. Many agents publish their submission policies online. As a matter of fact, Voice Over Nation's brand new Agent Directory 2013 features more than 125 talent agents throughout US and Canada, with direct links to online submission policies where available.

    Each agent's set of submission policies is different. Some want your demo on a disk. Others only accept demos by email. Some want a resume. Some want a head shot. Some want both. Some want neither. Whatever the agent requests, follow the instructions. Follow them carefully. Check them and double-check them. Make sure you follow them to a T. Why? Because you never have a second chance to make a first impression.

    By following instructions, you're demonstrating to the agent that you're reliable and responsible. That your professional behavior will reflect well on the agent's reputation. That you're a businessperson as well as an artist. That you get it.

    So get the Directory, follow the instructions, get represented…and find your voice!

  16. The Voice Over Nation Difference

    November 20, 2012 by david

    We get asked the question, “What makes the Voice Over Nation program different than other VO classes that are available?” Here at Voice Over Nation, it’s our job to prepare you to be a professional. 

    We not only teach you to use your voice as a tool, but also how to carry yourself in a session and what it takes to get that session in the first place. 

    Instead of sitting around a conference table with a “voice coach," at Voice Over Nation you study with working industry professionals – a producer and an engineer – just like you would in a real-world scenario. You learn from people who have been hiring and working with voice talent for years, and we put you into real life situations in a professional broadcast recording studio. We don’t believe that you can become a pro voice over talent by attending a weekend seminar, or that you can be prepared for a session by paying for a two-hour phone conference. Instead, we offer intensive training to prepare you for this fun profession. 

    But as fun as it may be, it’s still a job, and learning any new profession takes work and hours of practice. If people tell you otherwise, they're just looking for a quick payout. We make sure you're prepared, and if you aren’t, we give you the tools you need to get there. So if you’re thinking of becoming a voice over talent, do it the right way and make sure you're ready. Sometimes you only have one chance to make a good first impression.

  17. Theatre of the Mind, (not so) Old School 3

    November 12, 2012 by dave

    I'd like to introduce you to one of the most prolific voice actors working today. Billy West is the voice behind countless contemporary cartoon characters. He provided the voices of both Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd in the movie "Space Jam." He created the character Stimpy for the groundbreaking "Ren & Stimpy" — and later voiced the Ren character, as well. He played the awkward preteen title character on Nickelodeon's "Doug." His credit list goes on and on.

    But today let's put aside his invented character voices and focus on the voice that Billy himself admits sounds the most like his own natural voice: Philip J. Fry, the hapless 21st Century geek trapped in the 31st Century of "Futurama."

    I want to zero in on Fry because we preach the gospel of "real" to our students at Voice Over Nation. We guide them to become comfortable and versatile with their natural voices before venturing forth to try character voices, accents and other embellishments. Ya gotta walk before you can run, right?

    At the same time, we encourage them to stretch themselves by experimenting with what we call "theatre of the mind," a form that incorporates voice, narrative, music and sound to paint an audio picture in the listener's imagination. Cartoons, radio dramas and situation-based commercials can all fall into the category. Often voice artists choose to "go big" in productions such as these by exaggerating key characteristics of their natural voices.

    "I talked like this when I was in my 20s," says Billy, assuming Fry's voice in a Comedy Central video clip. "Kind of nondescript, plain, vanilla. Y'know. Like a kid. Whiny and nasally."

    In other words, he began with his own voice and exaggerated key aspects of it to create a particular interpretation. You can do that too, if you're willing to cut loose and experiment with your interp.

    Go big! Find your voice!


  18. It Really Is a Small World After All

    October 29, 2012 by dave

    Once upon a time, if you were a voice over artist in a particular city, you were a voice over artist in that particular city. You might occasionally get work in neighboring large cities, but if it wasn't within driving distance, it was pretty much outside of your professional sphere.

    Occasionally, a producer would hire voice talent in another (usually larger) city and produce the session via what we called a "phone patch." In other words, I (the producer) would telephone the studio, and the engineer would patch my call into the talkback system. I could hear the talent and she or he could hear me. Of course, the audio fidelity of phone lines is notoriously low, so I wouldn't hear exactly how the read sounded. That'd have to wait till Fedex delivered the reel-to-reel tape the next day. But at least I could hear the talent's interp and direct his or her read. It was a tradeoff.

    Now, however, I can produce a session with a voice talent in a distant city — even several voice talents in several distant cities — and it will sound like they're right there in the iso booth next door. Using something called ISDN technology (it's not important to know what that means, but if you're really curious, Wiki it), we can connect multiple studios via what are essentially high resolution phone lines. Because ISDN lines transmit high quality signals, the engineer can record the talent on my end and we can mix the project instantly.

    So, thanks to technology, the voice over world really is getting smaller. You're no longer limited to working in a particular geographic area. One very ambitious and successful voice artist who David and I know does the majority of his work for clients based in cities other than his own.

    Opportunities abound for those who seek them. Where will you find your voice?


  19. We Want YOU

    October 23, 2012 by david

    Over the years I’ve engineered hundreds of sessions and I've gotten to see just as many voice over artists. 

    One of the things I’ve noticed about “the best of the best” is that they aren’t afraid to cut loose and really let their personalities shine. They aren’t scared of how they may look in the booth or sound on mic, acting crazy, or taking it way over the top. They know that we're all here to get the best performance from the talent.  

    As producers, we expect you to be a little silly, creative and not afraid to be YOU. We hire you not only based on how well you read, but on your personality too.  Can you pull off the read we want?

    It’s much easier for us to “dial you back” than to have to push you take-after-take. So the next time a producer asks you to cut loose and take it over the top, don’t be scared. Go for it! 

  20. You Call That Experience?

    October 15, 2012 by dave

    Have you ever sat at a large table? Sure you have. Plenty of times. You may even have a big ol' dining room table in your home where you sit on a regular basis.

    Have you ever talked on the phone? I'm guessing you've done it at least once already today. Talking on the phone is more common than ever, thanks to cellular technology.

    So why would anyone pay thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars to sit at a conference table or talk on the phone?

    On the other hand, have you ever stood in the isolation booth of a professional recording studio, spoke into a microphone that cost close to a thousand dollars, and listened to your own voice in a pair of headphones? No?

    Because that's what happens when you enroll in our six week Essentials of Voice Over Class. Unlike other voiceover training programs, we put you on the mic in every single class. Heck, we even conduct your sixth and final class like a mock version of an actual commercial recording session, where you assume the role of the talent we've hired for a professional gig.

    You don't get experience like that talking on the phone or sitting at a conference table.

    When you graduate from the Essentials of Voice Over Class, you'll have six weeks of experience recording in a professional studio under your belt. That's a lot more than most other voice artists had when they first started out. Plus, the class gives you an opportunity to observe the recording process up close and personal.

    So why are you just sitting at a table or talking on the phone? Contact us (below), get in front of the microphone and find your voice!!


  21. The Interp

    October 9, 2012 by david

    Your interpretation of a script is one of the most important jobs you have as a voice over artist. It can make or break an audition. A lot of times a producer will rely on you to give him the “interp” he’s been hearing in his head for the last few weeks.
    But how do you decide on an interpretation?
    First off, read the script. What is the general mood of the spot? What do you think is the target age? Who is the business trying to reach with this commercial? What is the commercial about? There’s going to be a huge difference between a retail spot and a health care commercial. 
    Still having a hard time? Do your research. Search on the internet for your client’s commercials. Often you can find their last campaign on YouTube. Don’t copy the voice over talent in those spots, but get an idea what the company has produced in the past and an overall feel for what it represents.
    And most importantly, listen to the producer. What is she asking of you? Did the producer include any notes when she emailed you the copy? It’s your job to interpret the script the way the producer has envisioned it. So work on listening and taking direction. And practice, practice, practice!
    Find your voice.

  22. Art and Business

    October 1, 2012 by dave

    In our Essentials of Voice Over Class we teach what we call "the art and business of voice over." 
    You learn how to exercise your instrument and hone your craft. Breathing and vocal techniques that improve performance. Strategies for sounding natural. And more. That's the art part.
    We also teach you how to audition effectively and behave professionally. What to expect during every recording session. How to promote yourself to agents and clients. And more. That's the business end.
    Some people come to us looking for a vocal coach. That's not us. We're working producers, the sort of people who will hire you for each and every gig. So we can provide you with a unique, inside perspective on what we want and how to deliver it. 
    Now, that's not to say that vocal coaching is bad. Au contraire mon frere! You are entering a field that places a high value on continuing education and ongoing training. 
    You may decide to hire a vocal coach if, for instance, your diction needs improvement. You might work with a dialect coach if you want to learn accents. You can take acting classes, or even hire an acting coach. There's always something to learn.
    But don't forget about the art and business of voice over. Because, no matter how your voice sounds, or how well you can read a line, you still need to know the Essentials.
    Find your voice.

  23. Theatre of the Mind, Old School 2

    September 24, 2012 by david

    I was very fortunate when Dick Orkin’s Famous Radio Ranch in Los Angeles hired me. In fact, I like to call my time there “The School of Orkin.”  It was my first in-depth look at what Dave and I like to call “Theater of the Mind.” 

    Dick Orkin is an amazing writer and voice over talent who is best known for creating the radio comedy “Chickenman” in the 1970s. He has also written and voiced thousands of commercials, and he's won countless awards for his work. The Ranch specializes in funny radio commercials. Commercials that paint pictures in your mind by using sounds, imagination and a bit of acting. When we refer to Theater of the Mind, that’s what we mean.

    On the radio you have no visual cues. You don’t see things flying through the sky, or bananas walking on all fours, or anything outrageous that a writer may dream up. But if it's done well, you can really draw on people's imaginations and make them see the scene you are putting before them.

    Even without CGI!

    There's a reason voice over artists are often referred to as voice over actors. It’s your job to make us believe. To act like what you’re describing is real. Many times, doing Theater of the Mind means going way over the top. Even if you're being monotone, you still need to do it to an extreme.

    Take a listen to these great Theater of the Mind spots by Dirk Orkin, and start working on making us believe!

  24. The Auditioner’s Edge

    September 16, 2012 by dave

    Back in my day (geez, do I sound old), when I was first producing (no, dinosaurs didn't walk the earth), I used to receive voice over auditions on cassette tapes. The talent agent would send out the call for my audition, and folks like you would file into the agent's office to record on a crusty, crackly sounding boom box in a closet. You'd get three, maybe four takes, and your agent would edit the best two onto the cassette for me.


    It's way different today, thanks to digital technology. Today, I get audition files emailed to me, or I listen on a special, locked, "clients" section of a talent agency's web site. And while you can still troop into most agencies and record your audition on the crusty, crackly boom box, more and more agents are encouraging their talent to record auditions on their own and email them in.


    That leaves you with two options if crusty, crackly isn't the quality statement you want to make. You can record your auditions in a professional studio. That'll sound a kajillion times better than the boom box,  but it can get mucho expensive. Especially if you get lots of auditions. And you want to get lots of auditions.


    The other option is to record at home. Just about everyone has a computer, and nearly every newer computer comes with some sort of microphone and recording software. Most voice artists today choose to record their auditions this way. 


    But few of them realize that there are tips and tricks that any voice over artist can use to bump up the quality of his or her home audio recordings. Most have never even considered the fact that a clean, crisp recording can provide a subtle but powerful edge over carelessly recorded auditions. 


    Mic placement, "deadening" a room and listening for "bleed" are all techniques that are used in the world's best recording facilities every day. Yet they're all techniques that you can easily employ in your own home studio when you record your auditions.


    Thus, Audio Ninja Extraordinaire David Conner has written an ebook called "Auditioning from Home." In it he offers a plethora of advice on improving the quality of your home audio. And he does it in a straightforward way, so you don't have to be a professional engineer to understand it. 


    Sure, you'll eventually want to make some investments in your home audition rig when those paid gigs start rolling in, and David offers equipment recommendations for when that time comes. But rest assured that he also offers plenty of valuable tips and techniques that cost little to nothing.


    Check it out. If it helps you win one gig, it's worth the price. 


    Find your voice.


  25. Practice Makes Perfect

    September 10, 2012 by david

    When I went to conservatory for college, the most important thing I learned was how to practice. I must admit, it’s my least favorite thing to do, but by far the most important. And there are definitely ways to make practicing more fun. Your voice is just like a musical instrument; you need to practice to not only become better, but to keep your skills in check and all of your muscles strong.

    Contrary to popular belief, there is much more to Voice Over than just reading a script and taking direction. Your voice is the tool of your trade, and you need to be able to perform all the tasks a producer will expect of you. Whether it’s reading a tag really fast, or being able to make it through a 30-second spot on just a breath or two, or reading a 100-page script that may take six hours. Practicing will improve your performance and your endurance.

    So now that we’re all in agreement that practicing is important, here are a few things to remember while you’re practicing.

    • Always practice your read at full volume. Perform it how you would perform it in studio. Reading under your breath and mumbling will do you no good.

    • Think of all the different ways a script can be interpreted. Practice it with lots of energy, serious, conversational, with a smile on your face and any other way it can be performed. Work on using different and try accenting different words.

    • There is copy everywhere!!! Pick up the closest water bottle and read. Practice in the shower! Most shampoos and conditioners will have copy on the bottle.

    • LISTEN! Listen to what’s trending on the radio. How are the “pros” doing reads? Then work on sounding like them. Not how their voices sound, but their inflection and tone.

    • Exercise. You need to warm up and cool down your instrument. Just like lifting weights, don’t overdo it and hurt your voice.

    Here at Voice Over Nation we know that practice makes perfect. Being a professional voice talent doesn’t generally happen overnight, and even the pros need to practice to keep their own instruments in good working order.

    So go practice some copy! Visit voiceovernation.com  for our exclusive Practice Packs. Each one includes professional scripts, an mp3 of a producer’s read and vocal exercises. The new PSA Pack will be available soon.

  26. The Highest Compliment

    August 23, 2012 by dave

    What's the highest compliment that a producer can pay to a voice talent?

    It isn't, "She has a great voice," or, "He bakes these killer brownies," or even, "She's really punctual." Those attributes are certainly praiseworthy, and all due gratitude should be expressed to a producer who pays you any of those compliments.

    But the highest compliment that a producer can pay to a voice talent is, "He (or she) can take direction."

    Think about it. You get an audition script, commit to an interp, do the audition and win the gig. You have this aced, right? Then the producer tosses you a curveball.

    She liked your interp on the audition, but she wants you to your read a little more like this or a bit more like that. Read faster. Read slower. Vary your pace. Go up at the end of this sentence. Go down at the end of that one. And that vaguely foreign street name you were sure was pronounced this way? It's pronounced that way.

    As a professional voice over talent, you'll be expected to absorb each new direction and incorporate it into your read, along with whatever direction has come before. After all, the producer's your boss. The production is her vision, and you're there to help her create it.

    Can you take direction? If so, you possess an essential component of a voice artist's skill set, and you have my highest compliments.

    Find your voice.


  27. Theatre of the Mind, Old School

    August 20, 2012 by dave


    Here in the hallowed halls of Voice Over Nation, we are connoisseurs of what we like to call "Theatre of the Mind." That is, audio productions that paint a picture using only skilled voices, judicious use of music and a rich tapestry of sound effects.

    This style thrived back in the olden days, when comedy albums featured scripted and produced audio skits. It migrated from the turntable to the radio wave in the late 50s, and was responsible for some of the more memorable radio commercials of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

    Ironically, the style has languished in recent times. As the economy has soured and ad budgets have been slashed, advertisers have grown timid about doing "creative" ads. This is ironic since studies have proven time and again that creative, clever, high-involvement radio sells more widgets than simple straight-read commercials.

    Well, what goes around will eventually come around. We look forward to the next Golden Age of Theatre of the Mind. Meanwhile, David and I want to highlight some of our favorite past practitioners of the form. Just as art students copy VanGoghs and DaVincis, emulating the masters of voice over can be excellent practice for an emerging voice artist like you.

    So let's start with a classic commercial from the man who many credit with inventing the sixty-second radio comedy, Stan Freberg (pictured above).

    Watch for more to come in the blogs ahead.

    Find your voice!


  28. Living the Voice Over Lifestyle

    August 8, 2012 by dave

    Do you dream of living the "voice over lifestyle?" Sipping piña coladas on the verandah of your vacation home in the tropics, and occasionally nipping in to your portable studio for a big budget session? 

    Dream on.

    Some voice over instructors try to paint that idyllic picture for you, in an effort to separate you from your hard earned cash. But here in Voice Over Nation, we believe in telling you the truth. And this is the truth:
    There's no such thing as a "voice over lifestyle."
    Voice over is a business, plain and simple. You have to hustle to get representation. Then, when you get it, you have to hustle your agents for auditions. You need to join trade associations, attend networking events and follow trends in advertising. All while practicing and keeping your voice in good shape.
    Of course, it's not just any business. It's your business. Literally, the business of you, (Insert Talent Name Here). And if you're persistent and don't get discouraged, you could make a decent living at it. All for hanging around in plush studios and playing make-believe with your voice. Not bad, right?
    Of course, there is always a chance that you'll land that big national campaign some day, for Snickers maybe, or Nike. If that happens, we expect you to invite us over for piña coladas on the verandah.
    Find your voice.

  29. Top of Mind

    July 31, 2012 by dave

    How can you help agents and producers to remember you over all the other voice over talent out there? Even in your own market, you're one of hundreds.

    Many voice artists have their names printed on promotional giveaways that they hand out to clients. Cards, pencils, stress balls, toys and the like. Little tchotchkes that they leave behind to help clients remember them, and hopefully call for them, the next time they need VO. That's good, but customized merchandise can get expensive. What else can you do?

    Food is always a great idea. Bake some brownies or cookies, attach a little card with your name and contact info, and drop them off at the agency or studio. I guarantee the whole office will be asking, "Where did these come from?" Everyone loves food. But don't always go to sweets. Maybe something healthy is in order. A hummus plate, or veggie tray, perhaps. I've received six packs of good beer from voice artists, and that always gets my attention.

    Be creative, but don't overdo it or feel that you have to spend a small fortune. There's no guarantee that a gift will win you a gig. The idea is to simply to stay at the top of your clients' minds, so they remember you the next time they need you.

    One last suggestion. Deliver your tasty treat on a plate or a platter, and tell the receptionist that you'll come back in a few days to pick it up. That's just one more opportunity to show your face in the place and be thanked for the kind gesture.

    Now, go get remembered! (By the way, we really like doughnuts here at VON.)


  30. Always Remember…

    July 5, 2012 by david

    I consider this my number one rule.  I believe it has won me jobs over other people multiple times, and helps people remember who I am…

    What is the rule?

    Nobody wants to work with an A$$hole!  

    Not to be vulgar, but it's true. Think about people you've had problems with in the past. Bad attitudes get you nowhere.  If you had a choice to work with someone who is friendly, or someone who is a jerk, who would you rather have on your team? Exactly!  

    You are one of many men and women who do Voice Over. What makes you stand out? It's not always about your voice or your delivery.

    Be friendly, inviting, and easy to work with. If you are cocky, arrogant, and mean, it will get you nowhere, and will almost guarantee you won't get a call again. Trust me I've seen it happen!  Put a smile on your face and be thankful for what you do. Treat your clients, agents, engineers and producers well, because they are the ones who will hire you again, give you a reference, OR just forget who you are and hope to never have to deal with you again. It's your choice.

    Always remember, nobody wants to work with an A$$hole!!!


  31. Don’t Jump the Gun!!

    June 25, 2012 by david

    (That's me yelling at you.)

    I'm talking about doing your demo too soon. Being the super ninjitsu engineer that I am, it would be very easy for me to make your demo sound amazing. With enough takes, killer scripts and great sound design, even the worst talent can pull off a top-notch demo. So why not do that?


    Well… Because, without any other experience or training, you won't be able to represent when you get hired to do a session. That's a bad thing. Trust me. That's a mistake you can't take back. First impressions count. Maybe a year later, after you've had some training and practice, you might be ready. But by then your agents are worried about your ability to perform, and they may not promote you like they should. (Catch my drift?) 


    So, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and get training before you even think of a demo! Be a professional. Don't think that you can do voice over just because you have a great voice and some money for a demo. Producers will see right through that. It takes work to be an amazing voice over talent. So run to our store right now, pick up a Practice Pack and get your practice time on! But be quick. For a limited time, if you record yourself reading a script from your Practice Pack and send it to davidc@voiceovernation.com, I’ll send you a free critique.


    We'll see you next week. Practice and FIND YOUR VOICE!

  32. Put On the Big Head

    May 1, 2012 by dave

    A friend of mine just raves about a job he had playing the team mascot during college. Once the big head went on, he said, it was magic. He could do all kinds of things a skinny, gawky kid from Michigan couldn't. He was free to cut loose and lose his inhibitions. And people loved it. He didn't worry about looking like a buffoon. It wasn't him. It was Fluffy McCostume.

    That's one of the toughest challenges for a novice voice over artist. Being able to relax, cut loose and not worry about sounding like a buffoon. So it may help to think of the iso booth as kind of like the big head. Unlike my friend, you're not alone inside there. You share "the costume" with a producer and an engineer.

    But, as we often remind our students, the best voice over work is a creative collaboration between the three of you. Therefore, you're in a safe place when you're in the booth. You can feel comfortable giving whatever performance the producer wants from you. Even if it makes you sound like a buffoon. Because it's not you. It's Character McVoiceover.

    Find your voice.

  33. Find Your Voice

    April 30, 2012 by david

    Here at Voice Over Nation, we talk a lot about “finding your voice.” We aren’t talking about losing your voice from screaming at the ball game the night before. Or that your voice is in the closet, playing hide and seek. We are talking about consciously knowing how you sound and being able to “find your voice” on command in any situation.

    Think about it. Every day you talk with your friends, you talk with your co-workers and your family. Do you ever listen to yourself? Do you hear your phrasing, the intonation of your voice and the emotion that you use? It’s all happening on the subconscious level.

    Now, pick up a script, put your headphones on and step up to the mic. How do you sound? Now that you are being forced to listen to yourself, think about your phrasing, maybe even your local accent. How do you sound “on tape” if you can’t find your voice? You sound mechanical, emotionless and dull. This isn’t what producers want, and is only acceptable when the script calls for it.

    Finding your voice isn’t about mimicking a famous movie character, or being able to talk like Daffy Duck. It’s about being YOU. That’s what we want. No matter what your voice sounds like. Finding your voice is about being you, the real you. Let us help you “find your voice.”

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