By Stephanie Ciccarelli
Do you feel like your voice has been typecast or pigeonholed? J. Michael Collins knows that sentiment all too well! Learn more in this short lecture on the importance of versatility and how an artist can use various tools, including Voices.com, to expand their range.
Julia-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voice Over Experts brought to you by voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voice Over 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'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.
Now for our special guest...
J. Michael Collins: Hello, I'm J. Michael Collins and today we're going to discuss the importance of versatility in the voiceover industry and how you can more effectively leverage your talent and equipment to maximize your own vocal range.
One of the most disheartening things I have ever experienced as a voice actor was being told by an agent years ago that I was a one-trick pony. In the early days of my career, it never occurred to me that voiceover involved anything other than a golden-throated announcer voice capable of rattling the walls in a world where everyone should sound like the voice of god. As my career progressed slowly, I discovered that not everyone liked or wanted the movie trailer voice. For some reason I never conceived of, it just wasn't considered right for a strawberry shortcake audiobook or Apple's IVR system. I quickly realized that if this one-trick pony wanted to become a voiceover resource, I would have to eat from a more diverse trough.
But how does an ex-radio guy with one powerful read evolve into a more complete artist? For that matter, what about the voice actor with a guy-next-door voice, how does he expand his range? How does a young voice sound old or vice versa? The fact is all of us have more range than we take credit for. As professionals, we have confidence in our best reads, but sometimes our confidence gets shaken when we are taken outside of our comfort zones. The problem is we have to remember that we are not so much selling our unique sound as we are selling an adaptable skill that will give the client the read they are looking for.
To be able to do this, we have to believe we can nail every read before the microphone ever goes hot. But how can we train ourselves and adapt our vocal style to effectively compete in as many sectors of the industry as possible? First, we have to define what our potential vocal range actually is. For me, this meant accepting that I was never going to effectively pull off that super young, authentic generation Y sound. Hard as I try even with effects, I just can't make my voice sound 18. But I discovered that with some self-training, I could produce an upbeat energetic 25-year-old read that is capable of booking jobs. How? By implementing a three-step strategy that broadened my range, improved my technical skill, and gave me the confidence to take a once unnatural read, own it and sell it.
Listening: The first part of my evolution as a voice actor was to listen. Using the voices.com talent search as well as other resources, I combed through dozens of demos from successful artists who effectively executed younger, perkier, more energetic reads. What qualities in their voices could I identify and incorporate into my own reading style. What did I hear that sounded like something I would pay for if I were casting voice talent, and what did I hear that I should avoid? I took copious notes, which I would refer to later. After hours of study through listening, I thought that I had some good insight into how I could improve my younger reads, but when I went back into the studio, the Don Lafontaine in me kept trying to sneak out and in a world where you are trying to sound young, it's not so good to sound like this.
Which brings us to step 2, learning. Whether you're a long-time pro or just starting out, there is always something new you can learn about your equipment and how you can maximize its ability to work for you. In my case, I had long ago set my levels in a manner that rendered my voice with the power and authority that had always defined my reads and I didn't like to tinker with them. But after research the capabilities of my control surface and consulting a variety of technical resources, I discovered that with only a minor EQ adjustment, I could shave a critical 5 to 10 years from my voice without sacrificing audio quality. With some practice and by incorporating everything I had learned from listening to other talent, I was soon producing reads in an upbeat younger voice that I had never before been aware I was capable of pulling off.
Now I was ready for step 3, believing. After putting in the time and research necessary to have confidence in my newfound range, I could approach my microphone for younger reads with the same certainty I've always felt when powering through an announcer read, a movie trailer, or a car commercial. After booking my first client for a Groupon style web video, my confidence was validated and since then I have stopped ignoring or deleting all those auditions that asked for young adult and have instead been adding those voice seekers to my list of satisfied clients.
Listening, learning, and believing. We all have more ability than we are aware of. We can all improve and expand our vocal range and book more jobs as a result. All it takes is a willingness to be honest with yourself, exclude what you are positive that you can't do, but don't rule out anything else. It also requires the commitment to put in the necessary hours of research to get it right and the ability to believe in yourself as an artist and to have faith that you can make it happen.
If you know your equipment and you know your own voice and you know what you're capable of, the sky is really the limit. Voiceover is not a career that's going to mint a lot of millionaires, but a lot of us can do well in this industry professionally. Opening up new avenues to market yourself and expanding your skills so you can conquer different sectors of the marketplace will bring you one step closer to making that living that you've always dreamed of by sitting in front of your microphone.
I'm J. Michael Collins, professional voice actor and coach and you can find me on the web at jmcvoiceover.com. Thank you for listening.
Julia-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. To start your voiceover career online, go to voices.com and register for a voice talent membership today.
Throughout his career as a broadcast and print journalist, educator, and corporate trainer, J. Michael Collins has utilized a natural facility with the nuances of English to produce the highest quality product for clients and employers. Whether hosting a live radio talk show, teaching at a university, serving as the personal writer/editor for the C.E.O. of a major American PR firm, or writing for publication, effective English has been the cornerstone of his professional life.
J. Michael Collins has dedicated himself to providing voiceovers of superior quality to all of his clients, large and small and has recorded advertisements for major corporations such as Coca Cola and McDonald's, movie trailers for worldwide release, television documentaries, Fortune 500 corporate narration, promos for local establishments and audio-books.
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.
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