Several miles down the wrong road

Here's a disturbing trend:

Over the last couple of years many voiceover students have come to me with bad habits already ingrained. They've been "teaching themselves," you see. I don't want to sound elitist here, as if the only way to learn v/o is to come to a competent teacher (me!), but I don't see any way to avoid the problem that, when you try to teach yourself, the instructor is just as ignorant as the student.

Some of the things you teach yourself might be right. Some will almost certainly be wrong. When I say "wrong," I mean these skills will actually be anti-skills, making you less hirable. Never forget that, if the client could do the voiceover himself, he would. You have to bring something to the table that he clearly lacks. What is that "something?" If you don't know, then you aren't able to teach yourself whatever it is that clients want.

Some of the bad habits I've heard include breathiness, wild & unnatural manipulation of the voice, and speaking too loudly. I'm not sure where that last one comes from, but that's what I'm hearing in my sessions. Some students actually come in with multiple layers of malfunction that we have to discover and de-train.

I think one of the root problems is that we all dislike the sound of our own voices. So there's an overwhelming temptation to manipulate, to mimic, to adopt some kind of artificial, mechanical shtick that will hide what we don't like. Very bad. As you continue to dig that rut, your performance will sound less and less authentic and engaging. It may even give us the impression that there's something physically wrong with you (as with the breathy affectation).

So how do we avoid this pit? Let's say that you can't afford good v/o instruction right now, but you want to do something to work toward your goal of becoming a voice actor. How do you get out of your own head? Maybe by playing samples to others in the industry. Don't ask your friends and family for a critique; they don't know any more than you do (and probably won't even give you their unvarnished opinion). If you're in Northeast Ohio, join our little LinkedIn group, "neovo," and offer to swap critiques. Be respectful of others' time, of course.

It's good to be eager, but it's bad to be in such a hurry that you actually set yourself back by going several miles down the wrong road.

© 2018 Dan Popp


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