If you’ve ever heard a professional voice actor read a script before, you’ve probably been blown away by how easy it seems for them. Style, relaxation, control, they make it seem so effortless! But don’t be fooled, voice acting is a skill that actors work to develop with diligent practice and commitment.

Today we are going to discuss some basic “DOs and DON’Ts” for reel submissions, as well as some tips for how to develop a strong and authentic performance behind the microphone.

The basic DOs and DON’Ts:

Do focus on your strengths. Your demo reel is a demonstration of your skills as a voice actor, so it’s important that you focus on your strengths. Don’t be preoccupied with trying to include a large variety of styles if you haven’t mastered them yet. Show off what you can do well and consistently.

Do include only your best work. Casting directors listen to countless submissions, and it’s very likely that they won’t listen to your full reel. So make every second count! Your reel is only as strong as its weakest segment.

Do review the submission guidelines carefully. Some jobs have specific guidelines. Make sure to check beforehand, rather then blindly submitting.

Don’t use materials that you do not have permission to use. Music, FX, and scripts are artistic materials that are owned by the creator. You can find free voice over scripts online, as well as royalty free music.

Don’t take credit for work that isn’t yours. If you’re missing segments in your reel, don’t be tempted to include the work of other actors, even if they sound identical to you. This is a big no-no in the industry, and could get you banned. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple, and submit only your best work.

And…on the day of your audition: do be prepared, and don’t be late.

Tips for a strong performance:

Character analysis:

Just like a stage actor would break down their character for a play, so will the voice actor. Ask yourself some basic questions: Who is my character? When and where is this story taking place? What is my character’s intention? Answering these simple questions will help you to get to the heart of the script, and aid you in creating a more colorful and authentic performance.

Coloring words:

Coloring words is the process of adding emotional quality to specific words in your script. Beginning voice actors will often make the mistake of doing this by adding volume instead of emotion. Let’s say you have this phrase:

“During the holiday season, this is our home.”

A new voice actor might seek to color ‘our’ by making it louder:

“During the holiday season, this is OUR home.”

Try performing the phrase a few times like this. Does it sound natural? Are you capturing the sentiment of the phrase? Do you sound emotive, or just aggressive? Try the phrase again, and this time, think about the emotional content of the phrase “our home” as you say it. You may uncover some interesting color options for this word. Another great way to explore color is to play with volume by getting softer. Go against your impulse to get louder on important words, and instead get softer. Try reading this phrase again, and bring your volume down on ‘our,’ what do you find?

Finding the right words to stress:

We always want to sound natural and authentic in the way we deliver lines. However, voice acting will sometimes require a different speed than normal speech. In addition, you may need to pronounce your words with more clarity and precision. For these reasons, finding the right words to stress can sometimes feel confusing. Let’s say you have this phrase in a script:

“I’d like to go on the boat”

To achieve a natural delivery, start by speaking the line out loud with your normal speed and diction. You may find the phrase comes out like this:

“I’d like tuh go on the boat.”

The word “like” is stressed, and the word “to” is deemphasized and pronounced liked “tuh.” This sounds very natural, but for pronunciation purposes, we may want to change “tuh” into “to.” And this is where actors will sometimes end up stressing the wrong word:

“I’d like TO go on the boat.”

In the attempt to pronounce the word correctly, we end up putting stress on “to,” which is perhaps the LEAST important word in the phrase. So how do we make it sound natural, and also clear? First, go back to the naturally pronounced version and say it a few times.

“I’d like tuh go on the boat.”

Make a note of which words you stress, and the speed at which you say each word. Also, notice your intonation pattern: do you make certain words higher, and others lower? Once you have identified the shape of the phrase, go back and forth between the natural version, and the more precisely pronounced version. Try to keep your stressed words, speed, and intonation the same. Only alter the pronunciation of the word “to.”

“I’d like tuh go on the boat.”

“I’d like to go on the boat”

“I’d like tuh go on the boat.”

“I’d like to go on the boat”

This simple practice will help you to find a delivery that is both natural, and clearly pronounced.

Want to learn more about voice acting? Come to Seattle Voice Lab’s Voice Acting Master Class with Griffin Burns. Griffin performed the voice of Akira Fudio in Devilman: Crybaby and has 86 credited roles in animes, video games and animated films.

When: Monday, November 8th, 6:00-7:15 PM PDT

Where: Seattle Voice Lab, on Zoom

Cost: $25

Purchase link: seattlevoicelab.com/masterclasses

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