Baking the Perfect Voiceover
Ever since we made the shift to eating cleaner and cutting out as many non-food additives from our diet as possible, bread has become as valuable to us as the rarest Pokémon card in existence. Okay…maybe not quite that valuable, but I’m trying to make a point here! Most store-bought bread is full of preservatives and added sugar, among other things. In order for our family to enjoy toast with our breakfast or a nice sandwich for lunch, we almost always have to make our own bread now. Not that baking bread from scratch is overly difficult; it’s just time consuming, so we don’t make it with any regularity. Ergo, when it does grace us with its presence in our house, we savor it like it’s the last thing we’ll ever eat.
As my wife and I dream and discuss our hopes for the future, she recently made the comparison that upgrading in life is a lot like baking bread. You see, she’s currently pursuing her undergrad degree online, and while she has a fairly clear view of where she wants to end up career-wise, she’s not there yet. There are still many steps separating her from where she is right now and where she wants to be. Similarly, baking a great loaf of bread doesn’t happen all at once. There are steps that need to be followed and neglecting them will generally lead to a culinary disaster. Sure, there’s some wiggle room here and there for a creative flourish or a small flub, but for the most part there’s a basic sequence that ought to be followed to achieve success. Considering the typical content of this blog, it probably goes without saying that I easily applied this comparison to my own journey with voiceover, as well. If I want to have delicious and nourishing career as a voice actor, there are recipes I can follow to try and avoid stale disappointment. Gather Your Ingredients When undertaking any baking endeavor, it’s usually good to start by making sure you actually know and have the necessary ingredients that will come together to create the final product. If flour is absent from your pantry, you’re not going to get bread. Likewise, the first step to a successful career in VO is figuring out and obtaining the necessary pieces to be successful. Training, coaching, talent, equipment, demos, industry knowledge, business savvy, software, etc. All of it will be necessary at some point along the journey, so it’s important to be aware of each ingredient and have an understanding of both how you can get them and at what point you should add them.
Make the Dough Once you’ve got your ingredients set out before you, you have to actually do something with them. Bread doesn’t just—POOF—magically appear once everything is laid out on the counter…if only. No, first you need to mix the ingredients—properly and in the correct order—to create the dough. VO is really no different. Start with some basic education in voice acting and audio production. Invest in software and programs that make sense to you and will help streamline your business system to help scale and maximize your time. Seek out training and coaching with seasoned professionals who have proven track records in success. Combine these things to start getting a feel for who you are as a voice actor—discover your signature sound and feel out which genres suit your voice best. Bring it all together so you have something to offer.
You Knead to Practice Even if you’re not inclined toward the culinary arts, I’m sure you’ve heard of kneading dough, right? Kneading is the process of massaging and squeezing the dough with your hands. This is important because it stretches gluten strands and develops a gluten matrix within the dough, allowing for it to rise and be light and fluffy when baked. If you don’t knead well or enough, your bread won’t hold its shape and will fall flat. So, what is the equivalent of kneading in the VO process? Practice, of course! As with developing any skill, the best way to grow stronger and more competent is to do it over and over again. This builds endurance and proficiency and helps you to hold up better against the stiff competition within the VO world. Without honing your skills through regular practice, you’ll end up as flat on your face as that poorly kneaded bread dough.
Let It Rise The next step to producing a quality loaf is to let that thoroughly kneaded dough have a break and rise. When bread dough is baked too soon and not given ample time to rise it will end up dense, rubbery, and lacking flavor. This is the hands-off portion of the process. There’s nothing you can do to make it happen better or faster; you’ve just gotta let it do its thing. In VO, this reminds me an awful lot of marketing and auditioning. You’ve gone through the work of preparing and building up your skills and now you want to share your voice with the world—particularly with those lovely potential clients who can hire you and give you that sweet, sweet renumeration. So, you send out hundreds of e-mails and you audition as much as you can. And then what? You let those communications do their thing. You have no control over whether they will land you jobs or not. There’s nothing you can do to get faster or more favorable responses—or any at all for that matter. Send ‘em and forget ‘em. Allow your talent and hard work to percolate throughout the industry and rise to the top of their own accord.
Ready, Set, Bake! Alright, after all of that hard work and preparation, the time has come to put your carefully crafted loaf in the oven and watch the transformation from dough to bread take place. But the time for diligence isn’t over quite yet. You still need to make sure you’ve set the correct temperature and you keep an eye on your bake time. You may also need to rotate the pan partway through to ensure even baking. In the VO world, this is when you’ve booked the gig. It’s exhilarating when someone recognizes your gifts and wants to give you money to utilize them, but you still have to do the work of actually delivering the product. I hope it goes without saying that this also requires diligence. You must at least match your performance in the audition, if not exceed it (which is preferable). You need to project control, consistency, coordination, and confidence both in your performance and audio production. You’ve worked hard up to this point; don’t fail to stick the landing here.
Don’t Forget to Let it Cool You’re almost there, but there’s still one last crucial step to pulling off the perfect loaf of bread, and that is to let it set and cool before eating or storing. Why is this so important? Well, if you’ve ever cut—or more accurately, torn—into a hot loaf of bread, you know that it generally hasn’t achieved its optimum consistency until it has cooled down a bit. Allowing time for the bread to cool allows for the steam and moisture within the bread to move evenly outward toward the crust. What’s more, as the bread cools, the air circulating around it prevents the crust from becoming soggy and helps it to be nice and crisp. In similar fashion, the cooling process in VO is the process of maintaining a positive relationship with a (hopefully) satisfied client. You’ve delivered a hot, fresh voiceover to be proud of and now you’ve got to give your client a chance to enjoy it and employ it however they intend to. You’ve given them an overall fantastic customer experience, so the relationship can solidify into one in which they will yearn to come back for more.
Have Your Bread and Eat It Too You’ve done it! Well done! Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back—just make sure you don’t have any flour on your hands first. It may require a lot of hard work and attention, but sinking your teeth into that fresh, fluffy slice of your homemade bread will undoubtedly be worth the effort. You can take pride knowing that you successfully navigated the process from start to finish and produced a delicious—not to mention healthy—result. When it comes to VO, there are certainly myriad more nuances, options, and sequences to be explored than in making a simple loaf of bread. The point remains, however, that in order to find success (however you choose to define it) you’ve got to find or establish a process that works for you and follow it through time and time again. When you do, you’ll bake yourself a stellar voiceover that will have folks clamoring for the recipe.
Hmmm… I’m feeling a bit hungry now. Until next time, friends, keep telling stories. __________________________________________________________________________________ Are you in need of a quality voiceover for your next project? I'd love to help tell your story! Request a quote or check out my Demos. I look forward to working with you! Tyler Robbert Voiceover Artist | Storyteller firstname.lastname@example.org www.tylerrobbertvo.com Like what you read here? Looking for more ways to sate that hunger for VO-related content? Try checking out some of these other awesome blogs from within the VO community!