Voice actors are unique, because they do all the voices for cartoons, animations and television shows, without ever showing their face. You’ll hear their voices narrating documentaries, or doing the voice-overs in television commercials and on the radio, but there’s much more to it behind the scenes. Voice acting is very much like real acting, and it’s very important to remember that it takes effort and skill, it’s not just about doing “funny voices” all day. A voice actors job is to make their characters real, no matter how cartoony the job is.
If you’re just getting started this course is great because it teaches you everything you need to know about breaking into acting, and voice acting is just a specific niche within the industry. There are many overlaps between the two.
What you do need to understand is the competition in this field is fierce. What will separate you from the pack is not a wonderful voice, but what you can do with your voice. If you want to be successful as a voice actor, your first step is to refine your ability to speak well, this post will get you started. Just like normal actors, voice actors spend a huge amount of time developing their vocal talents, and have been practicing and training from a very young age in one form or another.
Despite the fact you’ll not be up on the big screen, it takes an extreme amount of talent to deliver your lines well. Think about how effectively you can communicate attitudes and emotions with only your voice. Will your audience be able to hear the difference when you’re happy compared to when you’re excited? Are you confident that you can do it?
What makes voice acting so much harder than traditional acting is that you’re usually alone in a studio. There will be a soundtrack for you to speak along with, but normally each character is recorded one at a time. This makes a voice actors job even more difficult, because they can’t take nonverbal cues from the other actors (like they could on a set), and your expressions, body language and props are no help to you when you’re sitting in a sound booth. You’ve got to rely on your voice alone.
In addition, you also need to develop an ability to form personalities behind the characters you are representing, so that you can accurately portray all of their emotions and feelings. Experienced voice over actors develop a large range of “starter” voices over time, which they can build on to create new voices, as a situation requires. Where you need to practice this is the ability to sustain each of them, individually over time. You’ll also need to be able to instantly switch between them as the situation demands. Many people have a raw talent for doing great voices, but they need to work on the discipline to change voices frequently. It’s all about getting the proper training, and finding the right connections that can help a voice actor find their first job.
The key to being successful in this industry is the right training. You need to turn your voice from a simple method of communication into a tool that you can alter and change for every situation. The first step is to learn how to communicate well, which this course can help out with. Following this, you need to find opportunities where you can develop your acting skills even further. If you’re still in school why don’t you try out for the theater club, or take classes on drama or acting. If you’ve graduated already check out all of the different theatre and acting groups in your local community. If you’re serious about this as a career, you need to take every single acting class you can find, and the theater groups are going to have plenty of options they can recommend. Study everything you learn in your acting classes in detail, and master the techniques being taught. This is where you learn the fundamentals of acting, as well as how to create the characters you are portraying.
An acting coach will help wonders, as they can give specific feedback and guidance on your strengths, and coach you where you need to improve. For rapid skill acquisition, hire one of the best in the industry and learn firsthand how to replicate their own acting success.
Finally, your voice is what needs to be trained the most. For voice actors it is critical you develop the ability to speak smooth and clearly. This course has a great set of exercises that will help you expand your vocal range, and as with all new training just be sure to ease yourself into it. Make it fun, and all the training and practice will seem like a breeze, and in no time you’ll have expanded your vocal range, as you develop the ability to control the different tones your voice can make. The best steps you can take at this stage are to build a good base of talent, and don’t rush into putting together your demo reel. You need to work on your performance skills first.
One you’ve established a base set of fundamental skills, you need to refine and hone your technique. That’s where practice comes in, and the easiest way to improve your acting skills is impersonation. Every day, practice imitating the voices of famous actors or fictional characters. It might seem strange to begin with, but you’ll quickly learn how to imitate their different voices, as you begin to pick up the differences in pitch and tone. If you can master a wide range of celebrity imitations, you’ll be a much more flexible speaker. As an added bonus, it gives you a great source of material that you can use in putting together your demo reel. Here’s some celebrities you can practice imitating:
- Jack Nicholson
- Christopher Walken
- Sarah Palin
- Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Fran Drescher
When you’re practicing, record your voice and play it back until you can monologue perfectly. You might need to read from a script the first few times, and as you play it back make notes on where you can improve, and the places where you’ve nailed it. This gives you a perfect idea of what you sound like, and will also build your confidence speaking. Keep repeating these exercises until you can imitate many different celebrities perfectly, it’s not just good practice – it’s also fun!
Finally, you need to master the ability to read out loud without being boring. Many voice acting roles will need you to follow a teleprompter or a script, and unfortunately being exciting with your voice when you read out loud is not a natural talent for many of us. Grab as many blogs, newspapers or magazine articles as you can, and read them out loud. This could be in front of your friends or alone if you prefer solitude, or even to your cat. After a couple of weeks you’ll be very comfortable reading out loud and adding energy to your voice.
For voice actors, they rely on a demo reel to showcase their talents when they are looking for gigs. This is like your resume, and it needs to be high quality because for most roles the producer won’t care what you look like, only how good your voice is. Just like a resume, there is only a short window of opportunity to spark the interest of the producer, so be sure to have your best material in the first 30 seconds, regardless if its original work or your imitation of celebrities. Sometimes though, you will need to audition, so check out this course and learn how to ace it when you get a shot.
There’s a common misconception in the industry that you need to demonstrate a special type of voice in your demo reel. What makes the world of voice acting today great is that you just need a decent speaking voice, a little talent, and an ability to be directed. Nail all of these and you can be quite successful, just like many of the people on the radio and TV commercials. Some of the best ads sound like normal people, in a real situation.
Before you go on to produce a demo reel of your own, jump on YouTube and listen to as many professional demos as you can find. This is the level you need to be competing at if you plan to be a voice actor, and want to work in one of the acting hubs like Los Angeles. You can also reach out to the talent agents in your area and ask to see their house reels, there are plenty to give you both inspiration, as well as a bar to strive for.
Get an Agent
All actors need to be represented by a talent agent, who will keep you updated when there are casting roles that you fit with, and help you to get booked. This is a simple process, and all you need to do is reach out to the talent agents in your area with your demo reel and any application requirements they have, and choose the one that you trust and feel comfortable with. If you can, find an agent that has a specialty in voice acting, or decide on the industry you want to break into, like television or radio, and find an agent that knows that industry inside and out. You should also find out about the details of the agreement each agent is offering, as certain agencies can take higher than average commission.
For anyone seriously pursuing a career in voice acting, you need to be in a location where there are plenty of opportunities. In the United States, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and San Francisco are where you need to be if you want to make it as an actor. If it’s not possible to get there yet, you can still make progress. Work on improving your skills and your demo reel, and search for voice over gigs in your area as there are many sites where you can find work. If you’re specifically interested in doing the voices for cartoons, spend the majority of your time perfecting your character voices, and you’ll eventually need to be in Los Angeles which is the center of the industry.
What makes voice acting great is that it’s a lot of fun. There’s not many day jobs where you get to joke around, play and pretend that you’re a cartoon character while getting paid! Make friends with the people you meet in the classes, and ask them how they got started, most of us are usually quite happy to share how we got our big breaks, especially if it can help to give you ideas. Ultimately you just need to keep at it. When acting is your passion, you will succeed, so long as you put all of your energy into acting. It’s never too early to start learning and building your skills, so what are you waiting for?