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Opuzz Voice : Featured Article

Producing a Dynamite Voice Demo

by Gordon Nicol


Everyone's told you that you have such a great voice that you should be doing
commercials or even be on the radio.  What's the next step?

First, I'd recommend that you find a local voice demo class. It may be called a voiceover workshop, voice training, voice coaching or something like that. I'd suggest calling all your local talent agents to find one that is highly respected. Typically (at least in the Dallas area) you should be able to find one in a classroom / stage type setting where you will be among others also learning their skills. You could elect to have private coaching but, naturally this will be more expensive and anyway, it should be much more fun practicing with others and is a good way to get your feet wet. Or should I say your vocal chords lubricated : )

OK. You've maybe taken some classes. You had a blast, learned a whole lot and
you're now just itching to make a voice demo so that the whole world can hear just how
great you sound.
The copy you choose is probably the most important element in the whole process.
I advise you to spend a lot of time on this part as it's so important. Use the internet to
listen to many demos of other people in your age/vocal style range and really listen.
Download them and listen again carefully, really analyzing them. Find the ones you think
you could do just as as good a job or maybe even better. But first, ask yourself, "What is it that's good about the way this spot sounds? What is the person doing to make the copy come alive?"  Listen carefully to all the nuances, the inflections. These are what separate a mediocre read from a great read.

Believe me, just having a good voice is nowhere near enough. You have to be able to interpret and inflect, color the words, bring the writer's cold words off the paper and give life to them. I've worked with many a person who has been told they have a wonderful voice but they have no idea how to read copy. Interpreting copy is an art that can only be learned by doing. Over and over and over. Your ear has to be trained to listen, to distinguish the subtleties, to hear the hint of an eyebrow being raised. Listen, Listen, Listen....to everything you can get your ears around. Radio, television, movies. Don't sit passively and be entertained. Listen with an analytical ear, dissecting the words as they come off the actor's lips.

If an audition was held and the copy, to be honest, was pretty lame and boring, and one person actually brought it to life with their interpretation, who do you think the client would hire?

When searching for your copy, first take a look at the different styles of deliveries. There are many and you'll first want to decide which ones are right for you. Keep in mind that a total of somewhere between six and ten pieces is plenty for a demo tape. More can easily be added in the future. So concentrate on the styles which are your forte. As well as the "nuts & bolts" announcer style of read, you need to find copy that really speaks to you. That pushes your buttons, makes you feel something, be it  Joy,  Sadness,  Anger,  Compassion,  Love,  Empathy, Excitement, Sympathy, Grief, Tenderness. If you have chosen copy and none of it evokes some emotion in you, then find some that does. 

Remember, unlike an audition, this is your chance to do whatever you do best. No restrictions, no limitations. So take the time to find copy that makes you laugh, cry or at least gets you interested in whatever it might be that you're about to share with your audience. If the listener doesn't hear some kind of emotion in your voice, he/she'll think you're not interested in what your saying. Your demo is a reflection of your personality, so as well as straight announcer copy, work on finding copy that you can truly relate to. Copy that will bring out the child in you, get you hopping mad, bring tears to your eyes. Follow this advice, and you'll have the foundation for a dynamite voice demo.

Once you have your copy, the next step is to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse.
Record your voice on cassette as you rehearse.  This is a MUST. If you don't have one, borrow or purchase one from Radio Shack for about $20 to $30. You can only be objective when you can listen back to what you have been rehearsing and then you can critique the delivery, intonation, inflection, speed, etc and re-record. Then compare to the first recording. Only when you're really happy with it can you go on to the next piece of copy.

You're now ready to record. I'd suggest the same praxes for finding a studio as you did with the voice class. By now your network of broadcast people has blossomed so you can check with all the new friends you've made, the talent agents and the people doing the voice class to find a recording studio and engineer/producer who comes highly recommended and whose rates are reasonable. Don't go on just price. If possible ask for samples and testimonials. If the studio is any good they probably will have a web site with samples that you can listen to and a rate sheet. A decent voice demo will cost (depending on location) around $300 to $500. But again, do your homework and listen to many samples and get some good recommendations before deciding.

Now it's time to record in the studio and, if you have really done your homework,
then you'll be able to concentrate on the feeling and delivery of each spot and not worry too much about the words, as they will be ingrained in your memory. This makes the recording session go so much more smoothly and you will be so much more relaxed and able to give the very best reads without stumbling over copy that you don't know.

The recording session will typically last about one and a half hours, during which
time you'll record various takes of each spot and, with the help of your engineer/producer, you'll be surprised at how good these voice tracks will be. You'll end up with a total of maybe ten spots which I'm sure you will be happy with and feel good about. If you did your homework, it will have been an exhilarating experience, if not you might feel that you could have done a better job on some. Either way, now it's time to take these basic voice tracks and mold them into something you might not even recognize when you hear the finished demo. The producer will take these raw takes and produce them using music and sound effects to enhance and embellish your read.


By Gordon Nicol

Gordon Nicol produces Dynamite Voice Demos when he's not
voicing commercials himself.

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