Voice Acting Article

Excerpts from my article published in
James R. Alburger´s highly recommendable book
"The Art of Voice Acting"


As I always had a rather deep voice (great to make my way into discos at the age of 16) some guys recommended I should do something with my voice. So I did. Booking myself into a beginners voice training class at a private acting school in Berlin I was very lucky. The teacher had had an East German training (much better than West German) and was great. So I took some private lessons with the guy and realized I had potential and talent.

My first job was reading the traffic news at a radio station in Berlin. I was live on air for 12 times a shift, reading nonsense ? what a great training!

My philosophy (if you want to call it that): Make the client feel good! They want service not a diva. Throw in a joke or two (but never on the recording subject.

You absolutely need to know what you are doing as sometimes clients have to rely on your judgment and experience.

Be a pro. The one and only goal is to achieve the best recording possible. The "best" being the one take that gets the client's message across 100 percent. So find out what the client really wants.

As a voice over talent you need to learn different styles to match the different genres - just like a good studio musician. In corporate videos, for example, the client wants to come across as the number 1 company, so you need sound relaxed and self?assured. "Hard sell" seldom does the trick.

lf there is something you are unsure of, ask! If in doubt stick to the sound engineer. These guys are always cool, friendly and helpful. You can trust their judgment.

Flawed texts can be a problem; be very careful with criticism, but do try to suggest improvements if you think your idea really is better. Some colleagues tell me they don't care much about the text, "if the client wants crap he gets it". That is not my attitude, though. Experience will help you to decide when to say something or when not to.

Often, small things count. lf you like the commercial tell them so, if you don't, keep your mouth shut. I have had recordings when the client was happy with the session whereas I was not. So I asked if I could do it again and often managed to improve my performance. If the voice over person cares about the project that´s always appreciated. Sometimes you'II have to stick around for an additional hour when everbody´s waiting for some crucial phone call, it happens all the time. Don't grumble. Try to postpone your next date (especially if it's private). Again: these people work under a lot of stress and bear the burden of responsibility (unlike you!). Try to ease their tension, make them feel good. Offer help, bring them a coffee.

Don't be too modest. Once I had to read an awful translation (from English to German) and I said: "I think I can do better." Since then I've translated about 80 documentaries for that company and after a while they asked me to work for them as a director, too. Had I kept my mouth shut I would have never gotten these great opportunities.

There are quite a few talented people out there, but there are few who have the talent AND the attitude AND run their business like a proper company. lf you are one of them (and remember: you can work on at least two of these three prerequisites) you can really make it! Good luck (that helps, too)!

Besides all the deadlines and stress there is a lot of humor and fun in voice over land. Voice over work is rewarding in so many ways I wouldn´t want to do anything else…..


My warm up routine includes stretching and flexing my face muscles a lot. (Don't let anybody see this, you look like you just escaped from a loony asylum.)

I fight tenseness in my lips in the morning by releasing bilabial sounds like Bo, Boo, Bah. lt is important to use your arms with this, pretending to throw or chasing something away. Singing also is a great exercise. I try not to record too early in the morning as I need 2 hours to get going. For an early session I need to get up at 6 a.m. And of course: coffee is great in the morning, but is likely to ruin your sound as it makes your mouth dry producing annoying click sounds. No sparkling drinks either. You might feel alright, but once you start working with your diaphragm out comes a (in most cases rather inappropriate) BUURP!

I like carrot juice a lot, it moistens the throat but unlike orange juice it doesn't produce much saliva. Just like a dry mouth, spittle can be a real problem especially when you're reading live. Very quickly turn your head away from the mike when you swallow. This shouldn't take more time than inhaling for the next sentence.

Just before the take starts I make sure I have my mouth already open (or closed in case of bilabials) and have inhaled already. Of course this works best when you have a time code or know when the take starts; otherwise your face might turn red. Besides avoiding unwanted sounds this makes it easier for the engineer to edit the take. When you know the breathing will be edited out anyway (as in commercials) you may take a short audible breath. This safes time, just make sure there is a tiny gap between breathing an you next sentence. Whereas if you´re reading live or have the time and there won´t be much editing a longer but silent breathing in is preferable. Sound engineers all over the world are still searching for the one voice over genius that does not breathe at all.

© Viktor Pavel 2017