If we were machines, there would be a standard, never fail warm-up. Mine all depend on my mood. I'm a morning kinda guy, so early adrenaline can send me into my studio with enthusiasm...the only warm-up I need. Other times, I wail on a rock&roll vocal. It loosens both the vocal chords & the thought process! Usually, I'll do silly ad-libs as I audition (edit 'em out later) which puts me in the "performance" frame of mind. Then I work my audition process (it's almost completely automatic now). First I hit "record" & read the copy cold for those habitual automatic intuitive responses. I do copy "CSI" before the second read to go deeper & find the intent of the client. Next, I consider variations in my approach that would be a possible alternative. Then, I try a fourth daring or slightly off-center read (assuming that most other actors will use similar logic for the first takes). Usually I select the strongest 2 or 3 reads & send them. And that's it! From warm-up to final read!
Skills & The Perfect Read
To become a successful performer requires passion, basic knowledge, & skills. But the basics get you only so far. Imagine trying to play guitar in a band without being skilled. If you try to perform with experienced musicians, without understanding music, tempo, & harmony, your chance of success will be somewhat limited. To become competitive, your technique needs to be proficient ("professional & efficient") as quickly as possible. And the secret to it all is the passion that comes from making your process both focussed...& fun, fun, fun!
So you have skills. Now, how do you create a perfect voice-over performance? It comes down to communication! When people hear & believe, they respond. You listened &, in effect, read your client's mind. You followed the clues in the script. Now, visualize the character "variables"; who you're speaking to, their attitude, time of day, etc., to build a believable performance from your own "skill-set", influenced by what you've learned & your own unique past experience. Create from what you learn & your personal "frame of reference" & you'll have the best read.
Would you go to work naked? Of course not! But memorable characters begin with memorable voices, using vocal dynamics; timbre, vocal placement, accents, & speech affectations like sibilance or drawl . They need to be colorful & fully "dressed" or developed...accessorized by their visual identity (as you picture them in your mind), their mood, motives, attitudes, & temperament, tone (comedic or serious), age, others in the scene, surroundings, etc. Just as a skilled, perfect actor's read is affected by your current environment, your automatic reactions from unique past experiences can help you define that unique character as well.
Imagine you have a chance to compete in The Voice-Over Olympics. You'll need to train, of course. But there will be no silver or bronze medals...only the gold. And you'll have to win the gold twice. First, you have to win the audition. That is your door to the final gold. You'll have to use all your skills to understand the wants & needs of your prospective client, then perform that audition perfectly to be the one, chosen from all the other hopefuls. And, if you make all the right decisions & create the winning performance, you'll have to do as well or better on the final job. Someone once quipped, "It's supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it!"
The Art Of The Business
Voice-Over, in all its variety, is both a business & an art...kind of a a "Biznart". But success requires more than just "clucky" duck voices. It demands a working knowledge of how to actually conduct your business; with agents & casting services, leads & contacts, bookkeeping & billing. Yes! Take voice-over & other classes (like traditional acting, improvisation, stand-up comedy, etc.) to develop your talents. But don't stop there. Enroll in a business course on-line or at a community college. Learn the finer points of internet marketing. Many performers focus mainly on their art & lean on others to support their businesses. But if you learn to "wear both hats", you'll have greater chance of sustained success. And besides, you'll have two terrific hats!
Guest Appearances & Other Media Classes
I've taught voice-over classes & seminars for over 35 years (taking time out for family, meals, jobs, & of course, rockin' & rollin'). I love sharing the concepts & secrets of the craft that lead to success. They come from roughly 1.5 million years in the business (check my "cred" out on IMDB), and from years of studying with legendary performers & coaches including; Daws Butler & Joan Gerber of Hanna-Barbera fame, dialogue coaches Larry Moss & Robert Easton, Dee Marcus at Off The Wall Improv Workshop, Film Industry Workshops, & Sherwood Oaks Experimental College. To name-drop some notable friends & performers I've worked with, like Mark Hamill, Peter Cullen, Jane Lynch, Tara Strong, Billy West, Frank Welker, Tom Kenny, Neal Ross, Jim Cummings, Stan Freberg, Bob Bergen, Eddie Snazmo, & countless others on the "brag-list" implies talent by association. But sharing the knowledge with upcoming performers is much more important than ego & approval. In fact it's priceless! And, as I owe many of them my thanks, if you come to my workshops, you can owe me too.