Voice Critiques and Voice Coaching FAQ's

Note: I have written a book on the subject of voiceover (the first in a series) and I’m encouraging anyone interested in a voice critique to read the book first. It’s currently in the throes of mass publication. When it’s fully released to all retailers, I’ll update the site. For now, you can check out Funny Voices in Small Padded Rooms – Book 1, The Madness of Voiceover on Google Play

I started doing voice critiques in Toronto around 1999, after I coached someone through reading a script for his company.

It was an impromptu kind of thing; I was simply at the studio waiting to do my voiceover recording session. The engineer asked me if I could help out his client in the booth so we could all get on with our day.

I had never done this sort of thing before, but said I would give it a shot.

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After the session, the engineer said I was a natural at coaching others and suggested I pursue the work. I told him that the idea of coaching VO was tantamount to sticking a knitting needle in my eyeball and it wasn’t going to happen.

Voice coaches in general have awful reputations; I’d never wear that hat. We talked about it in the days afterward and I came up with the idea of offering short, quality voice critiques. My thinking was that I might help a few people from getting ripped off by voice coaches and demo mills. 

For a long time, I would do voice critiques for $100.00 and gave $25.00 to the engineer. Beer money. Word spread fast and I couldn’t keep up with the voice critiques. There was a lot of “window shoppers” so I raised the rate to $250.00 to focus on only those who were serious about the work.

Since then, I’ve done about 200…..maybe 250 voice critiques? I lost count after 100.

Funny thing…I don’t know of anyone – anywhere – that does voice critiques. There’s a reason; voice coaches don’t want to tell someone they don’t have the chops, because they want to sell a course. So, a coach isn’t going to do voice critiques – if they do, they’d just tell every single student they need more work. 

What do I sell? Honesty. It’s unheard of in the services-to-voice-talent industry; they’re almost all scam artists.

Below, you’ll find some info on my voice critiques and also some useful content on what to look for – and what to look out for – in a voice coach.

For the record…I don’t coach; I only mentor people who have the chops and the drive…..and I’m very particular with whom I choose to travel down that very long road.

Voice Critiques and Voice Coaching FAQ's cont'd

voice critiques by professional voice talent todd schick
What is a ``voice critique?``

What is a “voice critique” and why do I need one?

Any qualified, reliable voice coach or professional voice talent should offer voice critiques.

I insist on doing them 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. Or, we hook up via Skype. 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.

My voice critiques usually take one hour. After, 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 and Internet critiques.

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.

Looking for 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 four hours. Two hours will be spent on stuff like “This is a script…” and…. “This is a microphone…you speak into it here…”  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 two hours here and two 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.

Setting goals

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?``

Voice Critiques – 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! 🙂

``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 prefer 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 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 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 I insist on the in-studio experience with all my students.

Coaching over the Internet

What about 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 get coaching 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 pod casting mic will do, and a computer with a sound card. When I do critiques over the internet, I always use Skype.

Rates 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 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.

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.

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.

If you’d like more information on the professional voice talent industry and making a demo click and I’ll respond ASAP. Thanks for visiting!


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Jen Frey
Jen Frey
3 years ago

Thank you for the detailed and honest information! Your studio is located in Toronto which is a bit out of the way from New Orleans, LA where I am currently. Is there any group or organization that you know that would perform your type of evaluation in the lower US? I have found lots of online schools that offer classes to learn the business. These are of little use if you don’t have the right skill set to begin with. Thank you for your advice in advance 🙂