Auditions Review

If you’ve been on a workshop, one thing they usually recommend is to self-assess your performance and see how you can improve.  Voice Over acting is no different and on the recent Showreel course, they provided a research page with resources to learn from, including TV ads and other artists’ demos.

To date, for my own ‘continuous improvement’ program, I’ve reviewed 357 of my own auditions, 82 television adverts and 33 artists’ demos.  In every review I always fill in a box to answer the question “how can I learn it?”.  I thought I would discover and share the most common responses.  This is for my own interest but also for anyone else who might find these lessons useful.

Audition feedback: 24 times: “Work on flow, through reading out loud and polishing takes” 18 times:  “A bit smoother and this would be a very good take” 17 times:  “Give it life!  Flow and character needed to make this an engaging voiceover” 17 times:  “Closer mic technique with subtle enunciation would life this script off the page” 14 times:  “Gravitas – Flow, melody, but most of all… rhythm and space” 13 times:  “Use appropriate tone, energy and melody for the audience.  Make the words come off the page and not sound read”

TV Ads feedback: 3 times:  “Imagine the audience.  In this example like you’re talking with friends over coffee”

Artist Demos: 4 times:  “Confidence comes from a clear, neutral tone” 4 times:  “Find your signature voice and style and bring scripts to life” 3 times:  “Know your ABCs (Audience, Backstory, Character) and use your voice appropriately and with confidence”.

Afterthoughts: It’s interesting looking through and seeing what thoughts crop up again and again.  With my own auditions, I am picking out specific qualities in the performance, such as flow, smooth tone, character, melody and rhythm (and space). In the TV Ads, the VO Artist often sounds natural and conversational, whilst the Artist Demos have natural and confident voices.  That’s the aspiration, really: provide a natural read; an authentic, fully fleshed-out character that the audience would like to spend time with.  That’s a simplified response I know, but it applies in most cases that aren’t character voices or in-your-face announcers.

Learning from others at Showreel

Last weekend I went to London to try and further my voiceover career.  So far I have been learning by auditioning for jobs as well as reading resources online. Voices.com provides opportunities but you are competing against many other artists and do not get feedback if they go for someone else.  Fiverr is an online marketplace where you talk directly with the client.  So a course where the focus is on improving your own vocal talents has to be a good move.

Showreel is run by JP Orr and Mike Charters in a studio in central London.  They have many, many years of experience and JP was very friendly and open in sharing tips and tricks with me and my fellow, budding voiceover artists.  The group on the beginner’s course I attended had different levels of experience up to this point and all had their own reasons for coming on the course. We each had four scripts to read based on own vocal style and any subject matter expertise we had.  The best part of the experience was listening to others; the individual quality in their voices and how they adapted to JP’s advice for the second take was really inspiring.  In this positive atmosphere was encouraged each other and the time seemed to race towards 5pm and the end of the course.

Here are some of the tips I took away with me from the day.  Sight-reading scripts is such an important skill.  The more practice, the easier it will be for the eyes, brain and mouth to work together and produce good sounds whilst you are pouring over the next line.   But just as importantly, the voiceover artist has to be willing and able to take direction and adapt the way they are delivering their lines.  This was very clear when in the studio ready to provide a second take.  Other top tips to take away include using the body to help the voice be expressive, including using the elbows as a physical trigger to help lift or lower the voice and give it melody.

As for me, I was able to experience performing in a professional studio and take direction whilst speaking over a music track.  I’ve also been given some great feedback including the many ways I can improve, which is what I needed to know.  My vocal range is currently 30-40 years and my voice description is warm, charming, calm and considered tones, with a soft-RP accent.

I shall return to Showreel soon to work on my vocal qualities with JP and Mike, but right now it’s time to apply the feedback and get back to auditioning.  Oh, and lots more practice at reading out loud!

For more info about Showreel, you can visit their website at https://theshowreel.com/

The Wisdom of Nancy Wolfson

Nancy Wolfson.  Image from IMDB

I recently found a YouTube clip of Nancy Wolfson coaching voiceover and thought it was really insightful, so I was delighted to find there were more clips available courtesy of her YouTube channel and

one or two participants of her workshops.

They’ve been inspiring me in terms of my thinking when performing a read.  Here are some of the key points she has made during her “How To” videos along with links to the corresponding YouTube clip.  If you like what you read and hear, check out her website braintracksaudio.com for more words of wisdom.

The Script

Cover up the specs. All the things you need to know and feel lives in the content of what’s going to be coming out of your mouth. Check the specs afterwards to make sure you’re on the right page.  Deconstruct the copy; don’t deconstruct the specs.

Underline the things you want the audience to know.  What do they (the client) need me to bring to the people?

Swap emphasis over to the nouns and verb rather than the pronouns (not emphasizing ‘yours’ and ‘you’ at the expense of content)

Physique

Hit the deck, relax and let the voice fall to the back of you back.  Then create muscle memory for that voice when you stand up to do takes.

Stance – One foot in front of the other, grab the ground, bend the knees

The importance of voice when referencing is to compromise some volume to frame a story

Tonality and Volume

Admissions at a hush – Speak into the microphone as if talking into someone’s ear

Active Hush = using vocal tension to give energy to your read instead of using volume, speed or emotional cheerfulness.

Language Sandtrap – when the language appears to exclaim the words (e.g. “this is HUGE!”), less is more, and less volume can make it more dynamic.

Approach to Style

I don’t need you to make me happy about it – I just need you to explain it to me.

If something’s important in the sentence, turn it from a black note to a whole note (lengthen it)

Pretend that you’ve tried it (the product), ate it, bought it etc, and you enjoyed it.  Have the intention of the admission; admit that it is good, like you’re giving a testimonial.