• Jeffrey N Baker - Voice Actor


Every bit of advice you’ve ever been given is wrong.

But it’s also right, to a point.

As I take more and more workshops and ask questions, or read advice columns from other voice over professionals across this great World Wide Web, the more I realize how much everything should be taken with a grain of salt. Sure, some of the advice given is absolute crap and can be discarded instantly. But a lot of times you’ve got good stuff out there. You just need to know how to use the advice properly, else that good advice can become bad advice very quickly.

So how do you do that? What I’ve learned is that many times the advice has another crucial component that goes along with it. Something you really need to pay attention to. That component is called CONTEXT. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen an argument kick up between two voice actors that both are right, however they are both coming at the question from a different context.

Don’t worry, I’ve got an example!

Here is a great bit of advice:

“When delivering an audition, put your best foot forward. Add a little EQ, some compression, and maybe a gate if needed. You want to sound your best. Just don’t overdo it.”

Why it’s bad:

In a workshop I met a line producer from CBS. We asked her about how she wanted auditions delivered. This is just an audition remember, you haven’t been hired yet. Her response? “I want a RAW audition. No effects. I know what my sound engineers can do to clean up your audio. I want to hear the real you.”

See there? Context. For many potential clients they want something a little cleaned up. Why? In most cases they’re not going to have the ear for what it could sound like.

I run across this in my animation work a lot. I have clients that don’t care to see storyboards or animatics. They don’t have enough experience to extrapolate that information to envision the end product. So I essentially have to just do the work and be prepared for a lot of changes down the road.

Back to voice acting advice.

Great Advice:

Stick to the words on the page. A copy-writer/team spent time crafting the spot and they’ve chosen very specific words. Honor the copy.

Why it’s bad:

For an audition, especially, you can just end up sounding like everyone else. Just another voice in a sea of voices. In recent weeks I’ve been reading from the likes of J. Michael Collins about taking big risks. Add a bit of yourself to the spot, throw in a chuckle or maybe a small lead in or throw away joke that wasn’t written. It can really help you stand out!

Why THAT’S bad advice:

Your big risk may turn off the client because they didn’t like what you did. Your little throw away joke may not be funny to them or demonstrate that you don’t really understand the spot the way they’d meant it to be read.

So is the advice really bad? No, not really. It’s only “bad” in a particular context. What it boils down to is just about all the advice you’re going to read has it’s upside and downside. What may work for one person might not work for another. What may work with one client may not work for another.

So, my advice, always pay attention to the context. There are very few hard and fast rules within any given art form. Learn to discern.

Hope you enjoyed this article. I hope it’s given you something to think about and chew on. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, whether you agree or disagree I’m always up for open dialogue. Have a great one!

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