The following is from the Such A Voice archive, written by Catherine Marshall.
Optimizing your practice time on voiceover technique has several advantages. While you want to avoid rushing through your voiceover scripts, being more efficient at how you practice will make you a better voiceover artist – faster. As you become more proficient at breaking down copy, consistently using the basics, and coaching yourself as you go along, your turn-around time for producing a high-quality product for paying clients will shorten.
Follow these 4 voice-over practice techniques to get more bang for your buck (or time) on each voiceover script:
1. Practice in front of a mirror. You will probably feel silly and self-conscious the first few times you do this, but looking into a mirror while practicing voiceover scripts will help you improve in more ways than one.
First of all, go ahead a try it! Find a mirror and try reading anything – the back of your shampoo bottle, for example. Did you smile? Were your head and body gestures natural, or did your body freeze up? If so, you will be able to hear all of that in your voice. When you’re just getting started as a voiceover artist – and maybe even after you are a pro, it can be hard to remember to smile all the way through your read. If you practice in front of a mirror, you can see exactly what you sound like.
2. Memorize the first line of the script. Sometimes, even if you practice a voiceover script that appeals to you, you will have trouble delivering the lines naturally. When this happens (and trust me, it will happen!), memorize the first line and then put down the script. Walk over to a friend and say the line as conversationally as possible. Pretend that the line you are having trouble with is something you say all the time. Depending on what the copy is, you may want a “Hey, did you know X” tone, or a “Can you believe what a great deal X is?” Your friend might give you the hairy eyebrow, but capture your more casual tone of voice and carry it through the rest of the script!
3. Emulate commercials you like. Be careful with this one! I am not suggesting that you get in the habit of always mimicking other voice over artists. While you are practicing voiceover scripts and technique, mimicking a successful voiceover talent will help you get into his or her head and understand why the artist chose to read the spot that way.
Start by picking a commercial that sticks with you, either because the copy was witty, the voiceover artist has a memorable voice, or the product interests you. Notice what emotions you hear in your own voice when you imitate the voiceover artist. Ask yourself what the voiceover artist accomplished by the tone, inflection, pace, and energy.
4. Record yourself! That’s right – record yourself practicing your voiceover scripts and play them back. I used to cringe when I had to record my voicemail message, play it back and accept or re-record it. “That’s not what I sound like!” Believe it or not, your phone, answering machine, and tape recorder are not lying to you! Eventually I learned to get over my shyness, and now my recorder is my best friend. For me, listening to my playbacks helps me identify where to neutralize my faint Southern accent, and it’s invaluable for listening for awkward breathing places and rushed sentences. Plus, if I can’t “sell it” to myself, there is no way the client will “buy it” either.