We’ve talked a lot about the business and production side of voice acting, but now it’s time to delve into the main event: voicing!
Whether it’s a commercial, narration, animation, or video game, the role of the voice actor is to deliver words in an authentic and engaging voice. Imagination and creativity play a key role, as does technique and experience. So how does one attain these skills?
The long—and potentially fruitless—path is to plow this field alone, but few are able to make this work. Those who have achieved success entirely independently could have achieved success sooner if they had sought advice earlier in their careers.
Of course, advice is fraught with danger. Seeking the opinions of others whose perspectives are biased or ignorant of current trends in voiceover can be detrimental to a burgeoning career. So allow me to present some considerations for anyone taking their first steps and seeking advice from experienced educators. Today’s topic: how to find the right coach.
Two fundamental qualities to look for in a coach are experience, and someone who understands the current and potential state of the voiceover industry.
Most coaches will offer a consultation session, so it’s wise to meet with more than one and compare their assessments. There should be some consistencies in their feedback. A coach who seems to be wildly at variance with the majority is likely to be someone overly-complimentary who is just looking for clients, or who thinks being overly-critical makes them seem more legitimate. Be wary of both.
Don’t be nervous about seeking coaches outside your local area. Modern technology allows those who live in outlying areas to have access to professionals in major media centers. While in-person and group classes are certainly advantageous, it’s better to work with a talented coach remotely than a local coach with dubious credentials.
Be very wary of coaches who promise results, especially results that suggest financial reward as a certainty based on standardized training. Each person’s path to success is unique and should be customized to their individual strengths and weaknesses.
Also be suspicious of coaches who try to sell you demo production services early in your training. It will take time for you and your coach to determine what areas of the industry you’re best suited for and how to develop the skills appropriate for them. This is crucial work that happens well before laying down a demo.
Speaking of demo production, this is a specialized skill and being a voiceover coach is by no means a qualification for demo production. If a coach promotes this as a service, be sure to look into their experience in this area. Put on a decent set of headphones and listen to their demos (assuming they have examples...and they should always have examples). Compare them to demos from the top talent in the industry. Are they as engaging? Is the sound quality as good? Are they as loud? Do they showcase the talent in the best possible way? Do they sound current? Is the music appropriate? Is the mix between the music, voice, and SFX as it should be? Do the scripts match the voice/music/trends of today?
Don’t choose a coach who tells you what you want to hear. This is an immediate red flag. An honest coach will tell you things you absolutely do NOT want to hear. This could be anything from pointing out areas in your voice or delivery that you need to improve, or explaining the realities of the industry. It might even be as major as adjusting your imagined timeline or roadmap to success.
The coaching industry has boomed in recent years, which means a new crop of under qualified opportunists making impossible promises have appeared. While it’s important to recognize and avoid these coaches, the most important reason to be discerning and savvy is to do right by yourself, and by the many excellent coaches and schools out there.
Jamie Muffett is a British voice actor, audio engineer, and filmmaker based in NYC. His voice clients include Coca-Cola, Warner Brothers, Microsoft, and National Geographic. For more information, visit www.jamiemuffett.com.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.