When coaching, I often refer to the metaphorical three-legged stool. It can be cliché, but it’s an extremely valuable approach to the world of VO. The first leg focuses on developing your acting chops, learning to analyze scripts, finding the truth in the story you’re telling, and staying in the moment. The second leg consists of building your business. That means constructing a professional home studio, creating a brand, and effectively marketing yourself. The third leg is studying others’ VO work. It’s often overlooked, but it’s a critical component to building a solid foundation for success. Listening to other voice talents allows you to learn good voice techniques and hear where you may eventually fit in the VO universe.
There’s so much knowledge that can be acquired by listening to voice-overs. There are so many places where they can be heard. Plus, incorporating good listening habits into your daily routine is a lot easier than you think. Sometimes, the hectic nature of a busy life precludes finding the consistent time and space to effectively practice technique. However, those very things that occupy us throughout the day often provide perfect opportunities to tune in to voice-overs.
Exhibit A is the car. Most people spend a great deal of time in their cars, which is, by definition, wasted time. Using that time to pour over the radio dial offers invaluable exposure to voice-overs from other voice talents, though. Don’t just zone out to music playlists or talk radio. Instead, actively seek out and listen to commercial radio – FM and AM; classic rock and classical music stations; news talk and sports talk. When the commercials come on, don’t reflexively change the station. There is so much variety to be heard, so pay close attention. Radio provides imaging and promo VO, two very lucrative categories of the business. So, tune in and turn up! If you get tired of commercial radio, bring some audiobooks in the car and expose yourself to the stylings of professional audiobook narrators.
The same applies to TV. Your average cable or satellite package includes hundreds of channels – nearly all commercial – meaning that there is an amazing smorgasbord of spots to be sampled. So, branch out. If you tend to watch a small number of networks and shows, it’s incumbent upon you to expand those horizons. You’ll hear very different commercials on primetime ABC than daytime HGTV, and Sunday mornings on ESPN than overnight on the History Channel. Speaking of the History Channel, you don’t just have to listen for commercials, there is an amazing array of documentary narration VO out there that you can learn and find inspiration from.
Don’t just limit yourself to TV and radio. There is a great variety of VO exclusively online. To initiate a search, you can go to YouTube, pick a company you’re interested in, find their channel, and then navigate through the videos for those with narration. This kind of exposure provides invaluable insight.
Ultimately, all of this proactive research will help answer some of these important questions: What kind of work is out there? Who is doing it? And where do you fit into the puzzle? Keep your antenna out, listen and learn from other voice talents, and enjoy!
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About the Author
Alan Schwartz has many years of experience in the voice-over industry. His voice has been heard in TV and radio commercials, promos, documentaries, animated films, video games, and much more. He has worked with the following brands/companies for national commercial campaigns: Sprite, Verizon, Yahoo!, Smirnoff Ice and TGI Friday’s. Check out Alan’s website to see more of his work.