- What should I look for in a voice coach?
What should I look for in a voice coach?
A good question many people don’t bother to ask. First and foremost, a good voice coach should have a ton of experience as a professional voice talent including voicing, broadcasting, copy writing, acting (good, but not a “must”) and the recording process. They should also have plenty of references for you to check out, in addition to a demo of their own for you to listen to.
Good coaches will first critique your voice and give you an honest assessment of your ability. This, of course, almost never happens. That’s because most of these people are in the business of “selling dreams” – who will pump you full of accolades and superlatives just to get your money. Watch out for starving actors and casting directors wanting to supplement their meagre incomes…..they’re the ones who usually have a regular “class” on a weekend that’ll you’ll pay a hefty price for attending.
The class will normally be about 4 hours. 2 hours will be spent on stuff like“This is a script…” and…. “This is a microphone…you speak into it here…” and the other two hours will be spent “in-studio.” The “in-studio” portion of the course equates to you (as an individual) having a total of about 10 minutes behind the mic, depending on the size of the class – usually 8-10 people.
Why the “split” of 2 hours here and 2 hours there? Because “in-studio” time requires an engineer and is therefore a hard cost for the coach; the less time a coach spends recording in a studio with an engineer – the more money the coach makes.
Normally, demos are extra. If the course is offering a demo as part of the course, don’t get your hopes up that the demo will get you an agent….or anything for that matter.
- What is a ``voice critique`` and why do I need one?
What is a “voice critique” and why do I need one?
Any qualified, reliable voice coach or professional voice talent will insist on a voice critique. I insist on it for a number of reasons – the most important ones being time and money. Here’s how I do it:
I have you come over to my studio with the big honkin’ super expensive microphone and I toss a whack of scripts in front of you to read. Then, I gleefully slice you up into little tiny pieces until your ego is totally deflated and you begin to consider a career in media distribution (Translation: newspaper delivery).
Just kidding. It’s really a good bit of fun and a neat look into the world of a professional voice talent.
After the 1 hour session in the booth, I take another 30 minutes to tell you then and there whether or not you’ve got the chops to make a demo, how much work you need to do and where, along with a realistic evaluation of your chances in making a run at the business – along with other relevant information.
I charge $250.00 for In-studio critiques and $250.00 for Internet (see question “coaching over the internet”).
I used to do critiques for much less, but I found that there were simply too many people who showed up that were “curious” as opposed to “serious” about doing VO for a living. In short, I didn’t feel right about taking money (ANY amount of money) from people who clearly didn’t have the chops for the work…. 🙁
That said, the critique is geared toward the premise of whether or not you can actually turn a dollar doing VO. This is the real thing – no smoke and mirrors. You will be run through your paces like a pro talent would – no holds barred. At the end, I guarantee you’ll have a very good idea of where you stand, the work you need to do, where and for how long.
It’s money well spent. A critique will save you a ton of time and money.
Not-so-honest coaches and casting directors (or those solely in the business of coaching and/or producing demos) can and will take your money regardless of your talent, coach you for months and produce your demo at costs I don’t want to even think about.
I don’t sell dreams.
You’ll get an honest assessment from me at a reasonable, fair price, allowing you to make an informed decision as to whether or not you want to go ahead and invest the time in further coaching with someone else and demo production.
- What goals should I set with my coach?
What goals should I set with my coach?
After you and your coach have determined your range and style, your coaching goal should be producing your first demo for you to distribute to prospective agents and clients, so you can start on your way to becoming a professional voice talent.
As a rule, you should prepare a different demo for each type of voiceover work you want to do – Commercial, Character, Narration and so on. Therefore, your coaching sessions should reflect the goals you have set for your demo. If you feel that doing Characters are not your forte, then your coaching sessions should focus on Commercials and Narrations.
I recommend working on all types of voice overs. After all, the more kinds of reads you can do, the more marketable you become. Most people have a hard time with the narrative portion of coaching because it’s so boring. In reality, narrative reads make up a large portion of the business I bring in each year – because a ton of professional voice work is in the narrative format.
In the end, you should be able to walk into any studio and read any kind of copy “cold.” Which leads us to our next question…..
- What is ``Cold Copy?``
What is “Cold Copy?”
“Cold Copy” is script that you’ve never seen before. You give it a quick read and off you go into the studio. Professional voice talent do it everyday.
Most of the time you have a rough idea about the kind of read they want from you – but that direction could change at any time….including the script itself.
This is especially true in auditioning.
Your coach should not only teach you how to read cold copy, he/she should also cover off the finer points in taking/interpreting direction while reading that script in a studio environment.
Sure, you may know exactly what kind of style they are looking for, but as soon as you step in front of the microphone – the producer tells you something completely different and you have to come up with something…….cold.
Odd that the industry calls it “cold” copy……when it almost always makes the rookies sweat! 🙂
- Should I be looking for ``In Studio`` coaching?
Should I be looking for “In Studio” coaching?
Very beneficial. Professional voice talent will always work in the pro studios, so if all your coaching takes place in a formal studio environment, all the better.
The problem is, this is not always the case, as studio time is very expensive. If you signed up with a school that coaches in a professional studio, then you will be paying through the nose for that course in addition to being in a class environment – no “one on one” here.
When I critique, I always insist on the In-Studio session for a couple of reasons. First, when you walk into the studio for your first session, you don’t want any surprises – you should look and act totally comfortable.
Second, there are certain tricks and protocols that you need to know prior to going into a professional voice talent recording session, to ensure a smooth recording and of course, repeat business.
Overall, it’s the “in studio” experience that really hones your skill as a voice artist. You work with the nicest mics and other equipment and you sit behind the glass listening to your direction through your headphones.
It’s that kind of isolation that a person has to get used to. It’s the sense of being totally alone with your voice – and someone in your headphones who is critical with everything you do with your voice.
It’s kind of difficult to explain here, but suffice to say that the experience is unique and one that you will encounter time and time again as you work in the field as a professional voice talent.
That’s why you should insist on the in-studio experience.
- What about coaching over the Internet?
What about voice coaching over the Internet?
There are a few things you should consider before going this route. First, once you finish coaching and get your demo, can you realistically get work where you live, or will you work out of a studio in your home?
If you are going to set up a studio, do you have the technical savvy and the financial resources to purchase the gear?
My thinking is, if you are going to hire a voice coach over the internet, then you should have some experience in recording audio into a computer and sending it, in addition to having a decent mic to record your voice with.
For coaching, yer basic USB microphone will do.
- What sort of rate should I be paying for a coach?
What sort of rate should I be paying for a coach?
Now that I think about it….this should have been the first question! Money…..hmmmm. Much like voice-over rates for professional voice talent, you’ll find voice coaching rates are very arbitrary.
Here in Toronto, you can pick up a weekend course with commercial and animation casting directors for about $500 or more. Other places, (which I won’t name here because I’ll get in trouble when I tell you that they are a complete and total rip-off) will tell you that you have a “wonderful” voice and the course is $8,000…..or $,4,000…..or $2,000.
You can pick out the frauds because they always insist you come and sit in front of them to take a “test” and listen to their hard sell on the course. Oh, they’ll be “candid” with you regarding your talent and skill, but there will always be a carrot dangling in front of you to take more coaching.
These days, you can actually add a coaching session to your shopping cart on the internet.
A good rule of thumb is, to understand that 90% of people offering voice coaching are selling you a dream. If they look honest and reputable and it seems to good to be true….don’t open up your wallet.
For most courses and coaches, expect to pay a good chunk of change in the major cities.
I charge $250 for a 90 minute critique which is quite reasonable considering you’ll get an hour of time behind the mic and very honest information vs. 10 minutes in the booth and a bunch of common sense (superfluous) information for $500 or more.
The difference is, I don’t run a coaching business; I only “critique” people interested in becoming a professional voice talent, mostly by word of mouth in the Acting/Performing Arts world.
Here’s more information on the professional voice talent industry and making a voice demo. Comments? Still have another question? Send me an e-mail and I’ll respond ASAP. Thanks for visiting!