Mic Technique and Voice-Over Training BY DAVE WINSOR
If you really pay attention to the TV commercials that run in your local market, you’ll be surprised at the range of voice talent employed to sell items. If it’s a commercial for the latest Harry Potter movie, that voice-over (VO) talent is top notch and really SELLS the drama. It’s a well-written commercial with few words, that are all highly targeted. The VOICE is the star. Now listen for a local TV commercial. There is an amazing difference. Why is that?
For one thing, the high-end VO talent trains all the time at his or her craft, working on things most of us would never worry about, like “leaking” or spraying an S or a “plosive” P or D. They obsess about being able to make this phrase: “Irish sheet set” sound believable. Try saying it without making “set” into “shet.”
So, the question for you, if you are pursuing VO work, is how much do you practice?
The national VO talent has a coach and an agent. The coach instructs the talent on what needs to be worked on mechanically, as well as theatrical interpretation. That’s just the beginning. When you become a widely recognized VO talent, the jobs become more lucrative but also harder to get. Someone once told me I’d make an excellent “guy next door” in commercials. That’s not what I WANTED to be, oh no. I wanted to be the guy who says:
“In a world where…[insert whatever phrase describes something REALLY dramatic].”
Don LaFontaine (who died in 2008) was the famous VO artist who created that sensational style, and I wanted to have HIS delivery. I would have been happy to just talk with him and pick his brain. Here’s what he said about how to improve your voice:
“Singing lessons always help. You may never perform in Carnegie Hall, but you will improve your breath control, and expand the range of your vocal delivery. Also, simply using (not abusing) your voice by reading out loud will, over time, improve the quality and strength of your instrument. Do not think that smoking and drinking is going to help you develop a deep, rich tone. Smoking and drinking will help you develop cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.”
I sing to help me understand the range of my voice. A singing coach will better understand that and give me pointers. I whistle too. I try to hit as many high notes as possible and I really try to hit the lowest note I can and still sound good. What have I learned from doing this? I know where my voice originates from and where I can take it when needed. How about you?
Are you blessed (or cursed) with a really low, deep booming voice? Does your voice start at the back of your throat, or in your head? I have some thoughts on these voices and I’ll share them with you in Vegas. Think about opera singers for a moment. What do they do that’s different from other singers? They move amazing amounts of air, have perfect pitch, form notes with their mouths. They are powerful and yet when they have to be, they are tender. What can we learn from them?
Read this out loud:
“At the end of a long hard day, you can always count on us to help you relax”.
Keep practicing that. How do you think it sounded in my head when I wrote it? Can you glean anything about my choice of words? What is the delivery that you choose for this? Where is the emphasis? Try to read it with a different emphasis point.
There’s a lot to learn about using your voice properly, for voice-over work and for your regular MC duties. I look forward to speaking with you about the unique wonder that is your one true instrument: your voice. If you’re happy with it, we can find ways to tweak it. If you’re not happy with it, we can create a plan that will help you develop a stronger position. Are you up for it.
Dave Winsor is mobile entertainer and wedding specialist who has also been a radio broadcaster for the past 25 years. He was co-recipient of the Portland Press Herald’s “Maine Radio Personality of The Year” for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. He can be heard every morning, Monday through Saturday, on Maine’s top country music station, 99.9 FM The Wolf (www.999thewolf.com). Dave has also been the in-house announcer for the Hartford Whalers of the NHL and the Portland Pirates of the AHL.
Filed Under: Issues from 2010, Performing, Personal Development, Sound
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