By Stephanie Ciccarelli
June 13, 2007
Join Voice Over Expert Marc Cashman of Cashman Commercials as he discusses "Finding The Music in Copy". By taking a musical approach to copy you'll have a better understanding of the music hidden in scripts.
Marc Cashman, Music, Copy, Ad Copy, Commercials, Voice Acting, Voice Overs, Cashman Commercials, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques.
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Marc Cashman : Finding The Music in Copy
Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voice Over Experts brought to you by www.voices.com, the number-one voice over marketplace. Voice Over Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voice over.
Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voice-over talent. It's never been easier to learn, perform and succeed from the privacy of your own home and at your own pace. This is truly an education you won't find anywhere else.
This week, www.voices.com is pleased to present Marc Cashman.
Marc Cashman: And this is Marc Cashman. I am the VoiceCat on www.voices.com and I appreciate the opportunity www.voices.com is giving me to put these podcasts together, and get you some, hopefully, valuable information.
Today, I would like to talk to you about "finding the music in copy." Now, we are all musical. Whether or not we are singers or play an instrument, music is all around us. We are humming to ourselves all the time. At one time or another, most of us have pounded drums, tickled the ivories, sung in a choir, strummed, plucked, blown or whaled.
We sing in the shower. We sing in the car. We have sung on Saturday or Sunday morning services and we followed the notation in the hymnal. It is a rare person with a tin ear. Even someone who can't carry a tune or dance can understand rhythm. Most of us can tell whether a note is sharp or flat, whether it extends or stops abruptly.
Advertising copy or text is musical. It has cadences and beats, tones and keys. It has sharps and flats, and rests, words that are held or chopped off. It has highs and lows and dynamics. It has droning sounds or wild up and downs. A lot of copy reads or plays like a song or story, with a beginning, a hook, and an end.
Some directors, myself included, use musical terms to direct voice actors. I will ask an actor to take a beat and that means to wait a moment. If I want an actor to raise their voice, I will ask them to raise it a key or raise it up a step. I am asking them to raise their pitch a bit. If I use the term staccato, I am asking an actor to hit words crisply and quickly.
If you try taking a musical approach to copy, you will have a better understanding of the music hidden in scripts. Listen carefully to the sound of your voice in playbacks and hear the variation of notes and volume.
Most professional voice actors stay within a middle range of notes with occasional highs and lows, and maintain a consistent volume and projection. The more breath control you have, which comes from your diaphragm and with proper posture, the more you will be able to hit certain notes as you deliver your copy.
Now if you are ever in a situation where you have to deliver a specific phrase that a director isn't happy with, ask them to give you a line read. Now I know a lot of you hate that, but this is how the director hears the phrase in their head, and we want to know how they want it to be delivered. When they give you the read, consider it a gift. There is no way you can read a director's mind.
Listen extremely carefully for the notes, then be able to mimic that phrase exactly, note for note. It is like when you were a kid and your mother said, "Take out the garbage." And you muttered under your breath mimicking her, "Take out the garbage" in exactly the note she spoke.
Elaine Clark, a very talented lady up in San Francisco from her book "There's money where your mouth is" Back Stage Books 2000 says it eloquently, "There is music in speech."
It lilts up and down to separate thoughts, emphasize key elements, or give directives. Even a monotone speaker lifts and lowers the pitch slightly to separate phrases and add punctuation. It is all a matter of degree. When words are read, many readers forget to apply this natural melody to speech. The problem with reading words on the page is that the words don't naturally belong to us.
Often the spoken words sound read rather than real. What the actors fail to achieve is matching the way the words would sound had they come out of the speaker's mouth first before they were typed. As voice actors, we have to learn to break that acquired habit of sounding like we are reading and learn to speak in a real and natural manner.
Now just as I said before that copy is musical and has beats and keys and sharps and flats and all sort of dynamics going on, there is one place however where music and copy diverge. Virtually all music has a steady beat, even jazz, copy does not. The cadences in our conversational speech have rhythms, but not a time signature, not a steady beat.
We don't talk like this. Our cadences make our speech speed up or slow down, stop and start again. We stutter, we stammer, we don't talk in a steady beat; therefore we should never read a script that way.
The next time you are watching TV and a commercial comes on, I dare you not to watch it. Close your eyes and listen, listen to the notes, listen to the cadence. You will hear the majority of voice actors stay key-wise right about in the middle of the musical staff with slight inflections up or down.
If you are familiar with musical notation, this usually means raising or lowering the voice one or two notes up or down, not uttering extremely high or low notes. As you are listening, mimic them about a half-second behind, note for note.
Learn from your competition, the ones on air, they do it effortlessly. And if you listen carefully, you will hear some of them, even though they are speaking, sound like they are singing.
Julie-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this voices.com podcast, visit the Voice Over Experts show notes at podcast.voices.com/voiceoverexperts.
Remember to stay subscribed. If you're a first-time listener, you can subscribe for free to this podcast in the Apple iTunes podcast directory or by visiting podcasts.voices.com.
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MARC CASHMAN creates and produces copy and music advertising for radio and television. Winner of over 150 advertising awards, he also instructs voice acting of all levels through his classes, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques in Los Angeles, CA.
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