Three Essentials to Begin Your Radio or Voice Over Career
Are you interested in speaking on various media formats from podcasts to radio, television, video games, training tele-seminar, or more? One style does not fit all because your radio voice may be perfect for news, or commercial reads, and other spin-off works; such as, being an MC (Master of Ceremony) at events. However, if you decide to read aloud an audio book, or character voice acting, or a documentary read; your voice will have to adapt to that style.
Bring your passion to do voice-overs alive by addressing your personal voice challenges and strengths. The three essentials to boost your vocal sound are mastering these skills: reading aloud; speaking in your optimal tone; and studying with a professional coach.
1. Reading Aloud Mastery: Reading orally differs from reading to yourself in your head. As soon as you open your mouth to speak you are like an artist with his paint brush ready to paint on his canvas. The first stroke the artist makes determines the colour, shading, and path to his final picture for all to see. The first sound you make as a voice-over artist alerts the listener to the tone, visual colours, shading, feelings, thoughts, and journey to the final message for all to hear.
It’s vital to speak clearly by pronouncing your consonants crisply that will give them the edge or framework to your sound. You will lose clarity if you rush through your oral reading and clip the ends of words; or, if you mumble so that a listener has to guess at what word you said. To master distinct clear sounds practise tongue twisters to become agile by exercising your lips, tongue, teeth, palate, and jaw.For example, repeat: “The wagon wobbled wildly and widely” three times. Aim for clarity first, not speed. Since you perform any voice-over or radio speech by means of a microphone, you need to be aware of which sounds are coming across as too cloudy, hissy, slurring, or popping. Sometimes you can technically reduce this or use a filter; but it may be easier to remedy your sound with your own vocal focus on better enunciation.
Group your content or sentences into phrases of thought units rather than rushing through to get to the next line. If you are working with a script or audio book, this can be rehearsed and you can mark in your pauses, breathing points, and vocal emphasis. If you are improvising or not working from a script, such as, in an interview or doing a tele-seminar or podcast; then avoid your filler words: “uh, um, er, or like.”Listeners will turn off their radio or podcast if they have to listen to any annoying sounds (nasal, coughing, hoarseness, breathiness) or filler repeats. It also lessens your professional status if you are speaking as an expert. Speaking confidently and naturally is great; but sloppiness is not.
2. Finding your Optimal Tone: Your best tone can be discovered if you do a vocal warm-up singing or sounding out “oh, oh, oh” up and down the scales from your comfortable mid-range to your highest, then down to your lowest, just like a roller coaster. Find your best lower mid tone that fits you naturally; but does not sound forced. Practise reading aloud a variety of material from ads to news copy to develop your optimal or best tone. Group your words into phrases, so the listener gets the idea; as the listener relies on your voice to paint the picture. Practise inflection and emphasis on certain words to experiment with what works best with your content. Make the verbs come alive and the adjectives pop where necessary.
For commercial reads you can decide whether the content suits a friendly, or aggressive, or matter-of-fact style of read. If you are voicing audio books or scripts with characters; your voice must make the adjustment to distinguish the narrator from the characters; and each character is matched to its own voice sound. Energy and pace of voice will infuse life into the characters so the listeners can really get a picture of what the characters are like. Voice-acting is done with how well you can capture the age and attitude of each character, so the listener can picture the scene in his mind. Practise reading aloud children’s stories to help you master this skill.
3. Studying with a Professional Coach: A speech coach who can work with you on improving the sound of your voice and your delivery style will offer appropriate exercises and feedback. You may need to work with a drama or a dialect coach if you want to do more scripts or audiobooks. A radio mentor can offer you some key strategies to reading commercials, PSA’s, or doing interviews on radio and podcasts. Always record yourself so you can train your hearing to help you determine what sounds right on, and what sounds off of your performance standards.
Whoever you decide to work with, the essential training must include your having clear enunciation, the best tone, and supporting feedback to develop your voice effectively. With these core vocal skills acquired you will have the pillars of transitioning into many styles of voice-over productions.