Friday, 19 March 2010

Do you have what it takes to be a voiceover?

This week, CC director and award winning narrator Lorelei King blogs about what it takes to be an audiobook narrator.

One of my tweeps (if you're not following me on Twitter, please do!) recently asked me if I thought voiceover classes and seminars were a good idea - which got me thinking about what it takes to be a voiceover artist and the best way to get started, particularly in audiobook narration.

I should say that I have nothing against voiceover training - I'm sure some of the classes, particularly the ones that provide you with a showreel, can be useful - but these courses are very expensive. I would suggest that, before investing so much money, you do some legwork yourself.

First of all, you have to be brutally honest with yourself: Do you have the raw material?

Is your voice easy to listen to?

I don't think you necessarily need a 'beautiful' voice to be a voiceover, but you do need to have a tone that doesn't make people want to put a pillow over your face and hold it down 'til you stop kicking.

Are you willing to look after your voice?

This means, first and foremost in my opinion, not smoking. I know some voiceovers do smoke - and whereas the 'smoker's voice' may work for some ads and movie trailers, smoking makes it MUCH more difficult for audiobook narrators to have the stamina and versatility required (see below). You may get away with it for awhile, but if you want a long and varied career - ditch the coffin nails. Looking after your voice also means not straining and screaming too much, even if you're rooting for the Steelers. It means taking care to warm up the voice, as you would any muscle (by the way, we have a free, downloadable vocal warm up on our website).

Can you read more fluently than anyone you know?

This is particularly important for narrating audiobooks. You have to be able to 'read ahead' and to understand immediately the sense of what you're reading and be able to bring it out with your stresses and inflections. You have to be able to read without stopping and starting or hesitation. If you can't, you're unlikely to get very far. It's all about the bottom line, and audiobook producers want fluent readers who need (a) less time in the studio (expensive!) and (b) fewer hours of editing (also expensive!).

Do you have stamina?

Audiobook narration requies a surprising amount of mental strength and physical stamina. You have to read with the same conviction and energy at 5.00 pm as you did at 10.00 am. The voice shows everything: fatigue, boredom, tension, frustration. You have to find ways to keep yourself going when you don't feel like it.

Is your voice versatile?

Different audio publishers may have different 'house styles' - for example, in my experience, UK publishers prefer more heavily-characterised reads, whereas US publishers like narration to be 'straighter' - but, particularly if you're narrating fiction, you need to be able to differentiate between characters, and therefore should be able to at least approximate different genders, ages and accents.

If, hand on heart, you think you can meet all these requirements - great! In future blogs, I'll point you toward some free or low cost ways to get yourself prepared before deciding to invest your hard-earned cash in an expensive course. (Again, I'm not saying you shouldn't do these courses - but do what you can on your own first! You either won't need the course, or you'll get even more out of it, having done some of the legwork yourself!).

If you don't meet all of the requirements (and good for you for being honest with yourself!), I'll be blogging about ways you can improve your performance in these areas.

I'm excited! And I'd love to know how your journey is going... - LK

ps: I'd like to dedicate this post to David Hewson (follow him on Twitter), who proved to me that if you're passionate about something, you can blog quickly! This post took 25 minutes to write - not even close to his 7 minute blogs, but a record for me!

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