Voice-acting tips from
"The Art of Voice Acting Workshop"


This month, I am honored to have Nancy Wolfson's contribution of tips and tricks for professional voice-over. Nancy is owner of Braintracks Audio and currently works in Los Angeles, California as a Freelance Casting Director, a Commercial Voice-over Consultant, Voice-over Acting Coach/Demo CD Producer, and Freelance On-Air Promo Producer. Her specialty is helping actors "brand" their personal style from an aural, visual, cultural, and psychological perspective. Prior to going freelance, Nancy helmed the Voice Over Department (Commercial, Animation & Celebrity) at Abrams-Rubaloff and Lawrence.definitely knows voice-over and she shares her insights from her vast experience in several different areas of the business:

The academic in me has volumes of text analysis tricks to un-boggle the mind:

  • if a word repeats, don't emphasize it
  • if you're going to rewrite the joke, put the funny word at the end of the sentence
  • work TV copy close mic as if you're relaying an urgent secret
  • hinge the comedic relief in a radio script with as much contrast as possible
  • The cultural behaviorist in me has many lectures to give on the Death of Exuberance in Contemporary American Culture. Today, the slice of the consumer audience the advertisers care about most is a jaded generation who has no interest in hearing a commercial slathered with 1980's "sunshine" all over the read. (My 12 year old nephew, Justin, would say you sound like a liar --or worse, Cathy Lee Gifford-- if you perk up your delivery with too much of a "stupid smile.") That "warm up the read" thing is about as much a thing of the past as the more commonly lambasted "bombastic 1950's trailer announcer."

The music/acting coach in me has two basic tricks for jack-hammering announcer-ism out of a read: play the minor scales instead of the major ones and jazz up your tempo with a fresh sense of arrival.

The Personal Marketing Consultant in me who specializes in chats about Branding and Personal Style could give you lots of metaphors about needing to figure out which crayon you are in the box/cereal on the shelf/broken toy in the chest before you ever hope to get a job.

However, the best advice I think I can provide comes from the (former) Talent Agent in me: Any Voice Over talent is best served to think of themselves as being involved in a service industry. Whether one is auditioning or in an actual recording session, it is the talent's primary job to be of service to the writer's intentions.

The writer has endeavored to write copy that will service his or her client, and it is the actor's job to help the writer make those words sound like what they sounded like in the writer's head. Focusing on the grandeur of one's own genetic piping in the midst of a performance will only obscure the intentions of the writer, servicing one's own ego more than the folks who have a widget to sell in Wisconsin.

  1. Be available
  2. Be affable
  3. Be able

In that order.

Nancy Wolfson

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