By Stephanie Ciccarelli
August 18, 2009
Join Voice Over Expert Marc Cashman in his podcast, "Practicing." Learn what it means to practice and why it is important to practice well. Marc shares tips on how to develop a good practicing regime that makes you happy and gives examples of phenomenal artists such as Joshua Bell and Wynton Marsalis who pushed themselves to practice throughout their childhood and teenage years and are now reaping the rewards.
Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voiceover Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voiceover Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It has never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and your own pace. This is truly an education you won't find anywhere else.
This week, Voices.com is pleased to present Marc Cashman.
Marc Cashman: A few years ago, a student sent me an article about world-renowned musical artists and how they felt about practicing. Every one of them said that they didn't like to practice but they all did it. In fact, they felt they had to practice to stay on top of their game and to keep up with or stay ahead of their competition. There are many things in the field of voice acting that can be studied and that's knowledge, things you learn abstractly and mentally. But skills, well, those are things you develop as you work on them or practice. They usually involve some physical coordination and most times, they get easier the more you do them. You can learn about them in books, TV, the internet, in lectures and classrooms but you can't learn to apply them unless you practice.
I started piano lessons when I was about seven years old. My piano teacher sat me down and showed me the things I was supposed to practice for the next week, different scales and a short piano piece. He showed me how to sit, where to place my fingers, how to move them, and what each exercise and piece should sound like. I was supposed to practice at least 30 minutes each day until the next lesson and when he showed up the following week, his initial comments were either, "Marc, it sounds like you practiced,' or, "Marc, it sounds like you didn't practice." Teachers have a way of knowing right away whether you buckled down or slacked off.
I don't know how many times I've had people tell me, "I think I've got a pretty good voice," and then ask, "Do you think I would be good at voiceover?" And my answer is always the same. You can have the most beautiful-sounding voice in the world but if you don't know what to do with it, it's useless. You can learn skills but you will never realize your full potential unless you practice.
Now, practicing a lot doesn't always mean you'll get better the more you do it. You could be practicing wrong techniques, doing things incorrectly, practicing bad form and strengthening bad habits. That's why it's so important to work with an experienced instructor who has mastered the skills you're trying to achieve, who's giving you specific and corrective feedback so you can build a strong foundation of skills while you're learning.
Sometimes, the exercises you practice will feel natural and easy when you're starting out. Other times, they might feel awkward or downright impossible. If you experience the latter, that's okay. You're attempting to do something new. So feeling frustrated or self-conscious about being uncoordinated is normal. But the more you practice, the easier the exercises will become. It's just like learning a musical instrument. It's muscle memory and you're building up your mental and physical muscles. The more familiar you get with a piece of copy, the more it will sound natural and conversational because you begin to internalize it and not struggle with the mechanics of speaking the words.
What you practice is crucial. If you have a good instructor, you'll have specific exercises to practice, vocal warm-ups that include articulating all the consonants and vowels, singing, wrestling with tongue twisters and sibilant words and phrases. These exercises are a great way to develop the necessary eye-brain-mouth coordination needed for all professional voiceover work. And they're just like practicing musical scales. They're exercises you need to perform over and over again until they flow effortlessly. And don't rely solely on your teacher to get material to practice. The internet has a plethora of ad in text copy for you to practice that you can download for free and there are myriad VO books on the market with hundreds of different exercises.
How you practice is important. Make sure your diaphragm and lungs can expand easily, that your posture is correct, that you're projecting your voice properly and consistently moving air, letting your voice surf on waves of words. An experienced teacher will give you resistance exercises to build up your tongue, mouth and facial muscles. They'll also give you advice on what or what not to eat or drink before warming up. Also, recording your self is a great way to practice. This way, you can critic your self, finding weak points that you can concentrate and improve on. And a reminder, as you listen back to your voice, don't beat your self up if it's not coming out perfect.
We've all heard practice makes perfect too many times. Now, I don't know about perfect but I definitely know practice makes better. You strive to be your best. You aim for perfection but perfection is elusive. If you practice to keep getting better, you'll be able many times to hit those perfect moments, those times when you're in the zone, flawlessly executing a voice performance. But if you expect to be perfect every time you get behind the mic, you're setting your self up for disappointment.
Where you practice also makes a difference. If you have a home studio, whether simple or elaborate, practice there. It's great when you can kind of recreate the environment where you'll eventually be performing, your proximity to the microphone, with or without headphones, determining a sitting or standing position, adjusting for a line of sight, that's where you can see the copy clearly but still beyond mic, and proper lighting are all things that you'll encounter in the real world. The more comfortable you get, the more at ease you'll be in an actual session. If you're serious about voiceover and don't have a home studio yet, look into setting one up. They're very inexpensive now. Sometimes, under $500.
Getting back to the artists I mentioned at the beginning, remember they said they didn't like practicing but they did anyway, well, they found ways to make practicing interesting, challenging and fun. Amy Nathan, author of Beating Those Practice-Time Blues relates to Joshua Bell, world-renowned violinist, said he had plenty of fights about not wanting to practice. Wynton Marsalis didn't always want to play trumpet. He wanted to play basketball. Andre Watts said he liked playing piano as a kid but didn't always like doing the work.
How did they approach practicing? Joshua Bell said, "I'd set up challenges for my self, like I wouldn't stop until I did a difficult passage a certain number of times in a row without a mistake. By the time I did it that many times, I had learned it and made a game out of it." Wynton Marsalis learned how to warm up with his trumpet exercises from basketball. He said, "In basketball, you practice your foot movement, your floor game, going to either side, your jump shot, free throw shooting. It seemed like the intelligent thing to do the same with trumpet, to work on all the different aspects of technique." You can do the same with copy and text and your practicing should obviously include the pieces you're working on.
I send my students scripts to practice before they show up for class or one-on-one sessions and then correct them if necessary. Flutist Paula Robison recommends finding a warm-up exercise that makes you happy. She says, "It should be filled with music from the first note so you warm up that part of your playing too." So find text passages or ad copy that's interesting and/or entertaining to read out loud. And practice at the volume you would be speaking in a session, not whispering or muttering to your self.
How do you get inspired to practice each day? Listen. Listen to the voices of people you admire, your favorite audiobook narrator, your favorite documentary narrator and demos from the top talent on Voices.com. Listen to get inspired but don't be intimidated. These are people who have practiced for thousands of hours at their craft and continue to do so to stay on top of their game.
People ask me all the time, "Will I ever be able to be as good as the amazingly talented people I hear?" And I tell them that there's only one way to level the playing field when going up against voice actors with a lot more experience, have great skills. And there's only one way to develop and eventually apply those skills, practice.
Julie-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voiceover Experts show notes at Podcasts.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. To start your voiceover career online, go to Voices.com and register for a voice talent membership today.
Julie-Ann Dean: This has been a Voices.com production.
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. Enjoying the distinction of being one of the few voice-acting instructors in the U.S. who is on "both sides of the glass"-- he creates, casts and produces copy and music advertising for radio and television clients such as Kroger, Charles Schwab, Quizno's, Pella Windows and Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer among many, many others.
In addition to his production schedule, he's been an instructor at USC Graduate School and does pro bono work for numerous charitable and public service organizations. He instructs voice-acting of all levels through his online and tele-coaching programs, his V-O classes, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques in state-of-the-art studios in Los Angeles, CA, and produces voice demos. He also has a monthly online column, Ask the VoiceCat, plus blogs and podcasts through Voices.com, VoiceOverXtra.com and NowCasting.com.
Cashman Commercials Â© 2009
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Voice Over Experts is the industry's most downloaded educational podcast featuring renowned voice over coaches from US, Canada and abroad. Join us each week for pearls of wisdom and tricks of the trade to improve your voice over career. Listen online or subscribe in iTunes to hear from leading experts in the field of voice-overs.