Three Part Voiceover Practice Method that’s Close to Perfection

By J. Christoper Dunn

 

An athlete practices daily to train for competition. Without practice, the chances of success are greatly reduced. It’s important to teach the body how to move or react to situation so it can do so automatically without having to put much thought into it.

Like an athlete, voice actors should train. Doing so will increase the chance for successful auditions. An hour a day can make the difference between missing the mark or landing the job. Practice will not make you perfect; it will make you closer to perfect.

I start each morning with a warm up that includes body, facial, breathing and vocal areas. After I’ve warmed my body and vocal path and hydrated myself, I start my practice workout.

1. Cold Read

My job as a voice actor is to clearly read aloud my client’s scripts and add my vocal color. So, to improve my ability to read aloud I start my practice session with a 15-minute cold read. I subscribe to a number of magazines, ranging from AFAR to Wired, and each morning I read aloud from one of them. It’s a great workout as I’m challenged to read unfamiliar words and names, strange phrases, words that are written for the eye and not necessarily for the ear and there’s an educational element as well. I record these readings so I can monitor my improvement by comparing how I read a couple of months ago to today. I’m happy to announce that I’ve improved. You should too.

2. Stretch the Range

My voice acting coach, Veronica Weikel, starts each session by having me create as many character voices as I can from the multiple line script she’s given me. I love this so much that I’ve incorporated it into my practice and it’s become my favorite part. The sheet has six sentences that lend themselves well to creative interpretation. Here’s an example:

  • Enjoy a walk on the beach with your favorite super hero and experience your childhood fantasy.
  • Popular? No, I’m not popular. I just act like I am.
  • About 10 years ago, your sister developed the desire for bigger purses. Now, she just carries around a suitcase.
  • With that type of attitude you’d think it was easy being a nude circus clown.
  • Night after night, it’s the same thing. “Igor, get another body from the cemetery.” Sheesh!
  • Winning would be easier if you showed up for practice. The coached is not happy.

For each line, I come up with three different character voices and change pace, cadence, emotion and word emphasis for each one. Like the cold read, I record this and play it back as soon as I’m done. I’m happily amazed by the voices that come out of me.

3. Audition Rehearsal

The final stage of my practice session is to workout with some scripts. I’ve collected a number of them from jobs I’ve done, auditions, and from Edge Studio’s script repository. I randomly select three from my stack and treat each one as an audition. I mark up the script, record three takes with a slate and then listen to the play back. This will train your ear: you’ll begin to notice right away what worked in your read and what bombed. You might have a great idea how the script should be read in your head, but can you get it out the vocal path? This will help to improve that process.

Now that I’ve finished my warmup and workout, I’m ready to take on the day. I’m in the mindset to audition and feel confident that I’m doing a better at my craft today than I did yesterday. Practice can’t make you perfect, but it can make you a better voice artist.

 

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Comment by J. Christopher Dunn on April 19, 2011 at 12:20pm

Kevin-

Thanks for stopping by and enjoying the tips. Spread the word!

-JCD

Comment by Kevin Powe on April 18, 2011 at 10:59pm
Love it! This is getting printed out and kept with my vocal warmup sheet at home. Definitely one for the tool belt.

Will be pointing people looking for a regime at your initial blog post, too. Thanks so much, Christopher!
Comment by J. Christopher Dunn on March 10, 2011 at 5:20pm

Arthur-

 

That object of "Borderline Genius" comes from my voice-over coach ( VO Queen!) Veronica Weikel. She's very sharp.

 

-JCD

Comment by David W Stone on March 10, 2011 at 8:47am
I really like the idea of multiple character reads for the same line... Borderline Genius!
Comment by J. Christopher Dunn on March 7, 2011 at 7:13pm
Scott-

Thanks so much for the kind words. And I'll see what I can do to let loose with some more tips.

Stay Tuned!
-JCD
Comment by Scott J. Smith on March 7, 2011 at 6:41pm
Brilliant!  Keep those tips coming!
Comment by J. Christopher Dunn on March 6, 2011 at 3:37pm

Thanks to all for sharing your great comments and exercises. 

 

Rebecca & Mitch- I've adopted my warmup routine from Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt's book, "Voice-Over Voice Actor: What's it Like Behind the Mic", and have added a few exercises of my own. It's a great book, check to see if your local library carries it.

 

Bobby- Veronica and Steve are quite the duo. Both are a pleasure to work with.

 

Mitch- I believe fatigue is something that can be overcome with practice. Extending long reading times gradually over a period works well for me. Don't push yourself to hard, the vocal cords are delicate.

 

Matt and J. - You're welcome... I'm glad that you got something out of it. :)

 

Joe- Very true. 

 

Zook- I like those. They are similar to what I do. 

 

Arthur- I find myself reading out loud from multiple sources. Cereal boxes, cookbooks, street signs and others. The web is as good of a source as any, I think.

 

Kathy- Thanks for the kind words and I'm glad that you enjoyed the post. :)

 

Lynne- I love tongue twisters and use them as part of my dialy warm up. An alturnate to one of yours is "red leather, yellow leather, blue blood, black blood."

 

Randye- I like that! I have to find my voice makes sense to me. I don't sound anything like myself first thing in the morning.

 

Howard- My mouth exploded when I tried your drill. Thank you very much!

 

 

 

Comment by Howard Ellison on March 5, 2011 at 2:36pm
Pop shields ready?  You have 15 seconds:  Theophilus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter, in sifting a sieveful of unsifted thistles, thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb.  ....Now if Theophilus Thistle, the successful thistle sifter, in sifting a sieveful of unsifted thistles, thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of his thumb, see that THOU, in sifting a sieveful of unsifted thistles thrust not three thousand thistles through the thick of thy thumb.  Success to the successful thistle sifter.
Comment by Randye Kaye on March 5, 2011 at 1:54pm

awesome stuff, Christopher! and the comments too. A friend of mine who sings opera says he got this line from his coach "Every morning you have to find your voice again."Yep!

 

Comment by Lynne Darlington on March 5, 2011 at 10:59am

Thank you Christopher for sharing your routine.  I am always looking for new ideas to improve my craft.  Here are some of my warmups:

 

 -  Around the rugged rocks the rascals ran.

-  Long legged ladies last longer (!)

- Red leather, yelow leather, red leather, yellow leather

- Three grey geese in green fields grazing

- Mixed biscuits, mixed biscuits, a box of biscuits a box of mixed biscuits and a biscuit mixer!

- The sixth sick Sheik's sixth sheep is sick

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