This article first appeared in the Voice-over FAQ section of my website; I thought it worthy of putting here for the sake of those just getting into the business.
As mentioned on many articles on this website, some of the content (and links to content) within this article may be dated. When reading, consider that the research information at the time of publication was both current and correct....(read more)
Can voice-over be taught?
About 30% of the skills you need can be taught, yes. Those are technical skills like mic technique, recording studio protocol and other technical related issues surrounding the set up and operation of a home based studio. The other 70% of the skills you need are acquired through some training, but mostly practice and experience.
This is where we enter into the rather seedy world of VO coaching and those who claim to be able to teach a person how to become a “professional” voice-over talent. With only 30% of the skills able to be taught, these so-called “coaches” are very limited in their approach to get customers….not to mention they have to compensate for a very, very low success rate.
The classic voice-over coaching scam
Take for instance, this site. Here, we have a guy who has leveraged even the most obscure reference in an effort to make himself credible. I personally am always wary of people who go to great extremes to justify their credibility. A certification from VoiceSTA (I don’t even know what that is…) or 0 complaints to the Better Business Bureau doesn’t make a business credible.
This same company states that they hire students to teach others the skill of voice-over. Let me ask you this. Can a swimming instructor teach your child how to swim if they’ve never been in a pool? Can a Sargeant in the army teach his troops about combat if he’s never been in battle? Can a driving instructor teach driving if they’ve never been behind the wheel?
If this isn’t a classic case of the blind leading the blind, I don’t know what is. This guy, is actually training people to coach VO, when in fact, he’s never done a VO session in his entire life. But…it looks very reputable, doesn’t it? In fact…I actually got sucked into thinking they were reputable….until I had a peek behind the facade. It’s clear to me that this business is a demo factory, selling false hopes under the guise of credibility…..but that would be my opinion.
I could list a hundred sites for you to look at similar to this one, but the bottom line is – I’ve only found one guy that seems to be doing it properly. And even then, he can only teach a person so much until they’re faced with the fact that the only way to truly become a “professional” in the business is with a great deal of practice actually doing the work…..and performing arts experience.
The mark of a true professional voice talent
The trick is, making garbage script sound good. That’s the true mark of a professional voice talent. You see, VO coaches attempt to train their students with expertly crafted scripts. The problem is, when the student goes into the real world, they have to make a script like this sound natural and interesting:
“Organizations are challenged to focus on their core business and look to outsource ancillary departments to specialized service providers who have the economies of scale to reduce the cost of delivery of that function.”
Can you imagine yourself saying something like that to a friend over a cup of coffee at the diner? No. This is the true challenge faced by pro VO talent everyday. I get hired because I can make crap like that sound good. And that, my friend, is not something that can be learned from a VO coach who has never voiced a piece of copy in his life.
Voice-over requires practice and experience
This (as you’ve probably guessed by now) is the “70%” portion of the skill one needs to acquire to become a professional voice talent….and it can’t be taught – it has to be learned. This is why buddy here has decided to take this approach; pointing out mistakes. Why? Well, the answer is quite simple. The only way to truly learn VO is to learn from making these mistakes that have been graciously listed for you.
The problem is, you can’t learn from a mistake by reading about it, you can only learn from a mistake by actually making it.
See what I mean about the seedy world of voice-over coaches? Is this making sense to you now? Are you catching on to the reason why there are so many testimonials, accolades, memberships and award announcements all over the place? Because that’s all these people have to get you in the door to get you to open your wallet. These people come right out and say that you don’t need to be “seen” to be coached and that they can coach you over the phone – and nothing could be further from the truth.
Physical adaptation to the spoken word is a HUGE part of learning voice-over and if a coach can’t physically see you in the booth, they can’t properly coach you. Yes, 50% of your sessions will be performed when the client can’t see you…..but that’s only when you’re working. Coaching has to be done in person, one-on-one.
So, in summary….only 30% of the skills can be taught by a VO coach…and all of them have a different “slant” to sell you on their approach to coach you that 30%. The other 70% you’ll have to learn on your own through practice and experience. If you have some broadcasting and/or performing arts experience, you’ve got a head start.