Do I Really Need a Coach?
When you begin a journey as a voiceover artist, one of the first things any of the currently working professionals will encourage you to do is to get coaching with one or more reputable VO coaches. Seriously, anyone who approaches VO as more than a hobby—that is as a profession—will tell you this is an absolute first step. It’s a must. It’s critical. Go ahead, ask them. I’ll wait. See? They told you you need coaching, didn’t they? I won’t say I told you so…I’ll just imply it heavily. It doesn’t matter how talented you are (or think you are). The fact is there is always more to learn and there will always be those who have more experience than you to learn from.
Regardless of receiving the same advice from numerous professional voice talents, there’s always the temptation for newbies to question it, to think maybe—just maybe—they’re the exception and don’t require coaching. And I get it. I was there too not all that long ago. Granted, I simply wasn’t aware that VO coaching was a thing at the time, but the point remains that the prospect of a career as a voiceover artist can be incredibly exciting, and we often want to just go for it. There are so many courses (online and in-person), workshops, tutorials, and more to assist up and coming VO talent these days that the question of “Do I really need a coach?” can seem like a valid one. You’ve got to invest so much time and money into equipment, software, and learning how to use them properly, the idea of spending more time and money on coaching can feel tedious and hindering. The problem with jumping straight into the deep end without the proper preparation, though, is that you’re a whole lot more likely to sink than you are to swim. So, let’s address that question—Do I really need a VO coach? The short answer is yes, you absolutely need a VO coach. I agree 100% with the working professionals in this industry. If you were looking for my two cents, there it is. You can even feel free to jump ship now knowing my ultimate conclusion. But if you stick around, I’ll tell you why I think coaching is imperative for every voice talent. And I’ll do so through sharing some of my personal experiences with various coaches. Thus far, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with three different VO coaches. Each one had a unique approach to coaching and each coaching experience left me with invaluable knowledge that has unquestionably helped me grow as a voice talent. Allow me to expand.
Coach #1—Jason Simpson
My first coaching experience was with working Canadian voice actor, Jason Simpson. Jason has a multitude of acting credits to his name, both voice and on-screen. Notable among them are the voices of Lord Viren in The Dragon Prince and Rengar from League of Legends. My connection with Jason was established long before voiceover was ever on my radar, as he and his wife adopted their children from the same childcare center that I worked at for nearly a decade in Lesotho, Africa. Only years later, when I reached out to him to ask some questions about the world of VO, did he invite me to coach with him in animation. It’s amazing how your life experiences prior to VO can impact your career in such cool ways!
As someone who was never formally trained in acting (all of my experience was extracurricular), Jason helped me learn some of the nuances of acting, particularly in the realm of animation and video games. He taught me how to interpret copy and lift dialogue off the page in unique and expressive ways. And he showed me how examining images of the character you’re giving voice to can give you clues as to how they might sound—for instance, if a mythical creature has tusks, that will likely influence how it sounds. Jason also helped me expand my range, both vocally and in performance ability. He pushed me beyond the bounds of what I thought I was capable of, significantly opening up the number and types of roles I feel comfortable auditioning for. Overall, working with Jason Simpson was the perfect first coach experience for me. It was incredibly informative, a lot of fun, and showed me how meaningful a good coach is to helping you grow and develop as a voice actor. Coach #2—Scott Burns After I became a bit more connected in the VO community, I sought recommendations for another good, reputable coach to work with. The suggestions unanimously pointed me to Scott Burns who has countless VO credits spanning a variety of genres, including the first ever voiced appearance of Bowser in the Super Mario Sunshine video games. As a nerd who thoroughly enjoyed playing those games as a kid, that was a huge selling point for me. Working with Scott was an incredible experience, one that I will surely return to in the future. The sheer number of recommendations pointing me in his direction assured me that he would be a good person to coach with, but if anything, they undersold how great he is. Scott is the kind of guy who breathes encouragement. Even though he’s the seasoned veteran I came to learn from, I left every session feeling like a VO expert. He is quick to compliment and celebrate what you do well, and his instruction is so subtle and kind that it hardly feels like correction at all.
Like Jason, Scott is also gifted at drawing out dormant talent lying in your depths. After one read and a slew of praise, he offers a seemingly simple suggestion to “maybe try this” and suddenly you’ve delivered an incredible second read in a style you never would have thought of before. He’s a master of helping you provide multiple unique takes of the same copy.
He also has a treasure trove of tools and tricks to help you get out of your head and deliver your best every time. One such tool he dubs the “character cloak.” If you’re struggling to nail a read, he suggests picking a character voice—something completely wild and inappropriate for what you’d actually use for that copy—and run through the read in that voice first. Afterward, take a beat and read the script again in the voice you think best fits the genre. All of a sudden, you’ve found your groove and recorded a stellar take, as if the goofy read cleared out all the mental gunk and reset you to your optimum performance space. I don’t know where he comes up with this stuff, but it really works! Working with Scott taught me a lot about what it means to work as a voiceover artist across different genres. He coached me in commercial, corporate narration, eLearning, and even some animation. He helped me build up my chops in each of these genres, giving me confidence to know which voice and delivery style to use in each. And like I said before, Scott’s just a really nice guy and a complete joy to work with. You can’t help but feel like you’re on top of the world after interacting with him.
Coach #3—Anne Ganguzza The final coach I’ve worked with up to this point is the amazing Anne Ganguzza. Anne is a thriving voiceover artist, actively working across multiple genres including eLearning, corporate narration, medical narration, and commercial. On top of that, she hosts a weekly voiceover business podcast, VO Boss; provides services as a demo producer; and, of course, offers coaching. She’s another well-known, solid staple in the VO community when it comes to getting quality VO instruction. While working with Anne, I narrowed my focus to corporate narration with the aim of getting a professionally produced demo in that genre. Upping my demo game is one of the next steps in taking my VO business to a new level, so I wanted to make sure I was prepared to deliver quality reads every time in that genre. Where Scott helped me find my voice for corporate narration, Anne has helped me fine tune and strengthen it through focused training and exercises. Before, I had coached in corporate narration on a broader scale. Anne is bringing me in for a closer inspection, teaching me more specific skills and delivery techniques. In addition to providing me with plenty of homework that requires me to directly practice reading copy, she also expects me to be familiar with what other working voiceover artists are producing. One assignment I found particularly enlightening was choosing ten corporate narration demos from other VO talent and assessing each spot in them with a fine-toothed comb. How many spots were in the demo? How long was each spot? What industry did it fall into? Did it represent a specific brand? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like about it? How do you think it could be improved? The point of this exercise wasn’t to compare myself to others and try to mimic the ones I liked best. Rather, it was to help me better understand the pool of talent working in that genre and find where my voice fits into it. More importantly, it helps me discover what I can do to stand apart from the crowd.
Anne is a no-nonsense, jump-right-in kind of coach. She knows her stuff and she values both her time and yours. She goes out of her way to make sure that every session is catered to the goals you want to accomplish, making sure you get the biggest bang for your buck. And the Verdict Is… So, let’s summarize briefly. After only working with three VO coaches, I have gained the following: · A deeper understanding of the VO industry at large · Knowledge of the distinctions in delivering copy between various VO genres · Training in acting · A wider vocal and performance range · A handful of tips, tricks, and tools added to my VO arsenal · Professional relationships with VO industry veterans · Greater depths of confidence in my own abilities · More credentials to back up my legitimacy as a professional voiceover artist
While this is not an exhaustive list of what I have gained from my limited coaching experiences, I believe it represents the heart of just how impactful good VO coaching can be for your voiceover career. The time and money I spend on coaching is more than a good investment. I would be missing out on so much without it, floundering and making wild guesses regarding things I now have industry-backed knowledge and personal confidence about. I don’t think there’s any argument to be made that the jury’s still out on this one. There’s a reason seasoned pros recommend coaching as one of the first and primary steps any voiceover artist ought to take. So, do you really need a VO coach? Let me say it one more time: yes, yes you do.
Who are some of the best coaches you’ve worked with? What did you like about working with them? How did they help you grow and become a better voiceover artist? 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!