Making the most out of your vocal training
From panting like a Golden Retriever to reading like John Wayne, there are million voice training suggestions out there for making you resonate like James Earl Jones… none of which will give you a set of malleable, distinctly-you pipes, nor a willingness to learn and grow in your profession. As with actors of any sort, voice acting demands its own set of skills. Fortunately, there are opportunities for vocal training online and in person. Here are a few tips for making the most of your voice training, as well as some suggested routes you may want to consider.
Voice training with a private coach
While few people who pursue voice acting as a profession earn a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree exclusively to master the craft of voice acting, it does not mean the art can be entirely self-taught. No matter how determined you are, it would be a disservice not to seek out the help of an acting or voice coach. If you’d like to work with someone for one-on-one coaching sessions, it’s best to meet for a consultation and see if the two of you mesh.
“Two fundamental qualities to look for in a coach are experience, and someone who understands the current and potential state of the voiceover industry,” explains voiceover actor and filmmaker Jamie Muffett. “Most coaches will offer a consultation session, so it’s wise to meet with more than one and compare their assessments. There should be some consistencies in their feedback. A coach who seems to be wildly at variance with the majority is likely to be someone overly-complimentary who is just looking for clients, or who thinks being overly-critical makes them seem more legitimate. Be wary of both.”
Having been lured — and burned — by false promises, let us assure you: No voice training program can guarantee specific results, namely those that have a financial outcome. No two people walk the same exact path, and vocal training must be geared toward each person’s individual strengths and weaknesses.
Similarly, hesitate before leaping into demo production just because a voiceover coach suggests it. Though it’s tempting to think you’ve got the chops for any role within the industry, such a thing is highly unlikely (read: impossible). As such, it will take some time for you and your coach to ascertain what areas you’re best suited for and how to form the skills necessary for them. If your voice training guru suggests it too early in the process, consider it an upsale that you’re not likely to benefit from.
Recognized as one of the top voiceover schools in the country, Voice One offers vocal training and job opportunities in video games, television commercials, audio books, and animation. The program is multi-dimensional in that it doesn’t just focus on voice acting; there are courses about improvisation, character development, long form narration, and marketing as well. There are also offerings exclusively for children and communication training for non-actors, as well as several online videos and tutorials.
Now it may seem odd that we’re advising you to take improv with your voice lessons. Wondering how it can help with voice training?
Animation and cartoons
Any time you’re asked to do animation or cartoon voice work, your personality will be integral to the process and action will move very quickly. Having a background in improv will allow you to act without the critical part of your brain taking over.
Though you walk into an audition with one expectation, it often doesn’t materialize exactly how you anticipate. The casting director may change direction, which requires you to instantaneously shift approach. Embracing your inner improv artist will improve your audition by leaps and bounds.
Like with animation and cartoons, radio auditions rely heavily on a voice actor’s personality and finely tuned sense of humor. Two-person radio scripts are especially keen on this as the actors riff off one another. Having the improv skills dialed in will inevitably throw you far ahead of the competition.
ADR and looping
If you have any desire to be considered for the ADR/looping stage, you must prove your worth in improv. These two platforms rely heavily on improvisational skills, demanding that the actors’ conversations match the vibe of the scene or background in a film or television show.
Edge Studio for voice acting
When you work in the voice acting industry, there’s a good chance clients will direct you over the phone, through Skype, and in-person. As such, Edge Studio provides that real-world approach by pairing you with coaches who are scattered all over the country. Even if you’re fortunate enough to live near a studio, coaches encourage you to work with folks via online voice training, Skype, and in-studio.
In addition to classes for Spanish speakers and children, the courses are divided into four stages: Evaluation, Get Training and a Demo, Garner Customers, and For Pros. During the first phase, you’ll have your voice, marketability, and delivery evaluated. If the coaches determine you aren’t a good fit for the industry (which accounts for 50 percent of their clientele), they’ll tell you like it is so that you don’t go on to waste your time, money, or ego. If they perceive you as having the right kind of talent, they’ll pair you with an instructor who matches your skill set the most.
Such a Voice
Online voice training can be a hit or miss proposition, and the realm changes often enough that we aren’t always sure what we’re getting when we plunk down the credit card. That said, Such a Voice is a reputable program that enjoys a healthy reputation among industry-types. They offer different levels of membership, with hour-long teleconferencing phone calls a primary focus. All of their courses allow you to work remotely while providing your vocal talents to clients throughout the world.
PDR Voice Over Coaching
Peter Rofe, a voiceover actor for more than two decades, is the mastermind behind PDR Voice Over Coaching. With a full offering of classes and workshops in New York City, PDR is the go-to spot for voice training. Aspiring voice over artists embark on a four-week course to learn the nuances of the industry, hone their skills, and produce high-end demo reels. Prior to beginning coursework, you must participate in a 25-minute assessment class where instructors assess your potential in the highly competitive industry. Evaluations can take place on the phone or in person.
Shut Up and Talk
Vocal training meets harsh reality in NYC’s Shut Up and Talk. Its six-week course, called “Cracking the Voice Over Code,” teaches everyone from amateurs to veterans what it takes to hack it in voice acting. Through group classes and private coaching, enrollees have the opportunity to work with professionals in the field to take the craft to the next level. There are no promises of a financially rewarding career at the end of the tunnel; rather, instructors are down-to-Earth with practical suggestions and honest evaluations. Hosted by Hyperbolic Audio, participants are granted the opportunity to work in an actual studio to produce demos that can be used to garner auditions.
Unlike the other suggestions, HB Studio provides an immersive experience in a plethora of performance fields, all intended to provide students with the skills necessary to perform in a chosen field. Taught by veteran actor Mark Blum (Broadway’s “Lost in Yonkers” and “The Graduate), the voice training workshops can help you transform commercial scripts into a compelling voice portfolio. The program also sets out to help students develop professional peer relationships, including those enrolled in courses for vocal training, musical theater, playwriting, directing, body and movement, and singing. There are also workshops for young people.
Making the most of your voice training
hafizh armynazrie @ Unsplash
Now that you’re enrolled in a workshop or coaching, how do you go about getting the most out of the experience? Here are some tips for you to do just that.
Always come to the session with an objective in mind
Even if the curriculum is already established, it’s important to know what you want to achieve with each lesson. If you don’t come prepared with any ideas, the coach or instructor will determine your entire path of learning.
Ask questions if you don’t understand something taught in the vocal training
Before moving forward from vocal warm-ups, make sure that you master the skills being taught. Likewise, ensure that you have the content down before jumping ahead in lessons. Once your instructor isn’t sitting by your side, you’ll be all alone, which means you’ll need to rely on what you already know and remember. Even more critical, if you continue practicing a technique incorrectly, you risk serious damage to your vocal chords. Injured vocal chords equals no career in voice acting.
Always practice warm-ups and techniques at home
Turns out homework isn’t just for the kids. Rather, you should practice the activities given by your instructor every day or nearly every day. This is the surest way toward improvement and the only way you’re going to see the changes you want in voice acting.
Arrive well-rested and ready to learn
All too often, students approach sessions half asleep, hungover, or in some other state that makes learning near impossible. Note: It isn’t your instructor’s job to cheer you up or watch you fumble through exercises. A fresh mind and body is imperative for success, not only in a traditional classroom but also with vocal training.
Though the road to greatness is strewn with obstacles, it’s an achievement worth considering. If you are trained in voice acting and want a chance to show your chops to the world, join VoiceBunny’s team of voiceover artists. Alternately, if you want the perfect finishing touch on your project, have a look at VoiceBunny’s extensive and diverse roster of voice over artists.