Dec 12, 2012 2 Share

Finding My Voice

Close-up of man in front of microphone.

I enjoy writing for a living, but I have also wondered what other types of work might be suitable for me. There are several professions that I have considered and rejected for various reasons over the years, but one occupation which has been of endless fascination to me has survived. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find a class in voice acting in a recent catalog of elective classes being held at my old college. Curious to find out what a career in the field had to offer, I attended the class and am very excited about what I have learned about this profession and how I might find my own unique voice in it.

The instructor, himself a professional voice actor, started out by giving the class a brief overview of the kinds of work a voice actor could expect to be doing. There are two major categories of voice acting work: commercial and narrative. They encompass a vast number of genres and purposes including advertisements for television and radio, public service announcements, audio books, announcing at sporting events, Internet broadcasting, voicing video game characters, and other roles. 

A potential drawback to starting out in this field was the revelation that becoming a voice actor is much like starting up a small business. There are many opportunities for work but there is also a far larger pool of talent competing for these opportunities, so it can be challenging to find employment. One must essentially represent himself by sending out his own demos to potential clients, dressing and acting appropriately when interacting with clients and recording studio personnel, and following up with clients and personnel after a job is completed. 

The class’s final portion was the part I had been looking forward to the most: the chance to record a professional “demo” of my own voice and receive feedback on my performance. Each student was asked to come up to the microphone and read a piece of material called “licensed free copy,” which is basically a fictional script filled with generic names and products so as not to invite lawsuits from any legitimate companies or individuals. Our voices were edited together to form a commercial meant to simulate an actual radio advertisement. Our commercial was for an imaginary online car website and we each had to convey different emotions depending on the type of copy we received. I played the part of a frustrated customer. 

I was slightly nervous before I recorded my part of the demo. The instructor had told us not to touch the microphone, but because I tend to want to touch things around me, I really had to restrain myself from doing this in addition to concentrating on delivering a good performance. In addition, I was a bit nervous with all of the people standing around me as well as with all of them looking at me, a pressure compounded by the room’s small size which made it feel like there would be no easy escape if I tried to leave. In retrospect, this “fight-or-flight” response seems a bit irrational, but it did briefly cross my mind at the time. To my surprise, I felt quite comfortable speaking during the demo itself, probably due to my familiarity with the feeling of frustration, and it was not hard for me to convey this emotion in my voice as I read the script.   

After the demo was completed, the class was able to hear the full commercial. Hearing my voice alongside those of the other students felt a bit weird at first, but after the commercial finished playing, I felt proud to have had the courage to do it in the first place. 

With the class completed, the instructor gave each of us an opportunity to receive feedback on our performance. My performance was assessed as being very good with one small exception. Apparently, my voice was a bit too loud, but I did convey the emotion of frustration very well. I have made a note of this and plan on working on controlling how loud I speak as I continue on this new career adventure.

My first taste of the world of voice acting was a very positive one. I was excited to do something new, but at the same time a little nervous as well. It had been a long time since I was in a classroom by myself with people I did not know, but I was able to come away from this experience confident in my ability to continue learning. I plan on researching what types of voice acting courses and opportunities are available in my area. I am sure this could be a good way to get more experience and supplement my income doing yet something else that I love. Keep your ears open; you might be hearing me in the very near future!

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Thanks for sharing!

It was really interesting and helpful to read your perspective on voice acting as a career.  It was great to hear about your experience in the class.  My son is 16 and starting to get involved in his high school theater and choir.  He has ASD.  He has been interested in voice acting and sound effects for some time.  This might be a career for him down the road.  Best wishes to you!Lynn

Thank You

Thanks, Lynn.  Given his involvement in theater and choir and love of voice acting, it sounds like your son is very interested in the performing arts!  I'm into those same things, too, and, to me, there is nothing in the world quite like getting a lot of feelings and ideas out through creative expression.  Writing fulfills a great deal of this need for me.  I do, however,  want to explore different paths to see what else I can accomplish.In my view, voice acting is just as challenging and rewarding as other forms of acting and entertainment.  In fact, I have heard a few "traditional" actors who have done voice work for animated movies say that voice acting might be more challenging because you have to express a lot of different ideas and views through just your voice.  In the end, of course, the voice and the animated character express these ideas together, but the voice is the primary basis for the work that goes into making such things, something I feel is really neat to think about.My best to you and your son.