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Speech 101
 
Stress and Your Voice
| Tuesday, 06.05.2018, 10:00 AM |   (39583 views)

Should I Make a Voiceover Demo?

By Ginny Kopf

If you’re already a working stage or screen actor, a voiceover demo is something to add to your bag of tricks, to open yourself up to more work.  But don’t rush into it.  Look into the field first.


          Getting VO work involves much more than just having a great demo, or even having a great voice.  As a vocal trainer, I often get calls from people who’ve been told by friends and family, “I love your voice—you should be doing voiceovers,” or “Man, you should be on the radio.”  Is this you?  Or maybe you can do some entertaining character voices, and you wonder if you can break into animation or talking books. 


          But getting into the VO field isn’t as simple as making a demo.  You have to train to be a “voice actor,” with everything that becoming an “actor” entails.   Hopeful screen actors know that they can’t just show up at a shoot and expect to be given a speaking role!  They need training in film and television technique, as well as practical experience doing student films and any other volunteer work on camera they can find.  It is the same for voiceover.  There are techniques you must learn.  You need to learn the lingo, and know what kind of direction you are going to be given.  You need to be able to take the heat, and know what you are doing in the studio.  Think about it:  anybody can make a good demo—recording and re-recording until it’s perfect.   But a good demo doesn’t prove the person can act or sight read well.  It doesn’t show if they can handle themselves in the studio when the pressure is on.


          Get some direction before you rush into making a demo.  I’m not just saying this because I’m a voiceover trainer, but you do need guidance.  First you have to find out exactly what about your voice sells.  Get a trainer’s help in putting the demo together, figuring out what should be on it and in what order.  It’s tough to do it yourself because you need the objectivity of an expert to put the right cuttings on there, in an order that will really make you shine. 


          What’s on a demo?  It’s a 60-90 second recording, with about 8 pieces of commercial or narrative copy (about 10 seconds each).  These pieces show off the “types” you can play, in your voice’s colors, textures, and range.  (Unlike a screen actor’s “reel”, none of these pieces have to be something you’ve actually been hired to do.)  If you do a lot of characters and dialects, then you could have a character/animation demo that is separate.  It would still be under 90 seconds, and can have dozens of short clips of your characters, or maybe it would be a children’s story with a narrator and a number of characters.  A demo must be very professionally produced, with music or sound effects behind some pieces, so they sound like real commercials or real narrations.  A “producer” where you do the recording of your demo will edit them and put all the music behind them and make it sound fantastic.  (Don’t try to produce it yourself unless you really know editing and have a large bank of music and sound effects to pull from).  This demo is your “calling card” and it must be professional and phenomenal or it will be turned off after 10 seconds.  If you are mailing it out, or handing it to people, it also must be packaged very professionally and look amazing.  Get advice on this too.  You can listen to some demos on-line just by Googling “voiceover,” and you’ll get an idea of what a good demo includes.  Books about how to get into voiceovers often have CDs in the back, with several demos to listen to.


          Do you NEED a demo to get any work?  It’s possible you could get some work just by meeting people who hear your voice and like it.  Or someone takes a chance on you because you were recommended or because you were at the right place at the right time.  For some of the jobs, the copy may be emailed to you and then you record the copy in your own home studio and send it off.  So, yes, it is possible you could get jobs without a demo.   But sending the demo out, again, is your “calling card” that shows producers and ad agencies and companies what you can do, so if you’re serious about the VO business, it’s obviously a smart move to have a demo.  There are no talent agents strictly for getting their clients voiceover work. This is a right-to-work state and you’ll be getting your own work.    


          And don’t be in such a hurry to throw something together “just to get it out there.”  That won’t get you anywhere.  Do it the right way, with excellence, and it’ll be a marketing tool you can use for years.  If it’s done right, you won’t have to make a new demo every 6 months, like how actors have to update their headshots. 


          My second piece of advice is this:  don’t put the cart before the horse.  Get some training before you make a demo, so that you will truly know what you’re doing in the studio.  Learn mike technique, studio technique.  Learn about how to control your voice on mike:  appropriate diction for the piece, breath control, pitch range, tone quality, rate, rhythm, stress.  A good voice teacher will also show you how to whittle away at your weaknesses (what to work on) so that you are more marketable, i.e. more competitive.  Learn how to quickly interpret copy, and about the types of “reads” you will be faced with.  Listen to a lot of demos and a lot of commercials and narrations, so you know your competition and you know what sells.  And learn about the voiceover field, how to market your demo once you have one, how to find the work, and how to KEEP the work coming.


 


More questions about voiceover demos?  Ask Ginny Kopf--Voice, Speech, and Dialect Trainer in Orlando.  gkvoice@cfl.rr.com   www.voiceandspeechtraining.com


         


         


 



Ginny Knopf


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