VAM 022 | 5 Essential Steps for Voice Acting Beginners

VAM 022 | 5 Essential Steps for Voice Acting Beginners

Welcome to episode 22 of the Voice Acting Mastery podcast with yours truly, Crispin Freeman!

As always, you can listen to the podcast using the player above, or download the mp3 using the link at the bottom of this blog post. The podcast is also available via the iTunes Store online. Just follow this link to view the podcast in iTunes:

http://www.voiceactingmastery.com/podcast

In this episode, I want to talk about 5 Essential Steps any Beginner should take when approaching Voice Acting. I get inquiries from many people who are brand new to the idea of voice acting and would like to pursue it professionally. Often, they would like a clear recipe on how to become a working voice actor. The irony of this, of course, is that there is no one recipe for becoming a voice actor.

While there may not be a linear recipe to follow, there are certain abilities or criteria that I find common among the most successful professional voice actors. These are concrete things you can work on in order to improve the likelihood that you will be able to take advantage of voice acting opportunities. Any beginner, (and even some veterans), will benefit from focusing on these steps. I’ve narrowed them down to 5 Essentials:

  1. You must become an actor.
  2. You must learn how to use your voice as an instrument.
  3. You must discover your character types.
  4. You must become capable of and comfortable with recording yourself at a professional level.
  5. You must be confident.

I explore each of these topics in depth in the podcast itself. While these essentials may seem obvious, you must truly understand and internalize these ideas if you want to become a successful professional voice actor. A superficial understanding is not enough. I encourage you to listen to the podcast thoroughly!

I hope you enjoy it!

Download Voice Acting Mastery Episode #22 Here (MP3)

 

43 Responses to “VAM 022 | 5 Essential Steps for Voice Acting Beginners”

  1. Eric Rivera says:

    Excellent, thank you again.

    Because there is no linear path to becoming a voice actor, I can create my own plan to suit my current situation.

    Let’s see…

    1. I’ve had a natural knack for acting, but I haven’t gotten any good practice for a while, unfortunately for me. Hopefully that will change next semester when I start my acting classes.

    2. I took a public speaking class last semester. It was okay. I think my Speech for Stage and Screen class will be a bit more in depth.

    3. I’m still trying to figure that out. I do weekly reviews on YouTube and I often listen to them a few times back to see if my voice matches certain characters, but alas…

    4. Being a beginner of a beginner, all I have is a little USB headset. However, I have my eye on a nice little Blue microphone over at Best Buy. I plan on making my own little home recording studio after a graduate next year.

    5. I’m not that worried about this part. Like I said before, I had to seek professional help for this. I’m much better than I was before.

    I also read that article that you retweeted not to long ago. For the record, I’m not approaching anyone until I am completely confident in my abilities. The only thing I wanna do right now is study this podcast, study my Voice Over Voice Actor book, and my Adventures in Voice Acting DVD. And graduate with my BA

    I love anime, and I want to help it grow and become more popular. I don’t want to hurt the industry by being a crappy actor. You know that the thing that turns off people from anime more than their usual amount of crazy is a horrible dub.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m glad you took this last episode so much to heart! I think it’s great that you went through and evaluated yourself point-by-point.

      Best of luck to you!

      • Eric Rivera says:

        Well, my good sir, allow me to provide a quick update. I just got off the University website and my Speech for Stage and Screen class was cancelled for the Fall, so now I’m taking it during the summer, which means I won’t be graduating next Spring. I (hopefully) will be graduating next Summer. I would love to take Children’s theater in the summer as well, however there is no room in my degree plan for it. Boo.

        Still taking Acting in the Fall. I’m going to try to get everything I can out of that class. The professor already knows me pretty well, so I hope that won’t be a problem.

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          Sorry your class was cancelled, but I’m sure that just means some other opportunity will arise. Best of luck with your acting class.

  2. Wes Davis says:

    Really enjoyed this podcast.

    I like all the essentials listed, but number three especially sticks out to me.

    When I first started out I definitely was in the camp of feeling like I had to master every type of voice. I think I felt like I had to be perfect for every voice over job that came my way or it would lessen my chances of being successful somehow. It took quite a while for me to finally accept and learn that I’m not an actor of limitless voices, but hey, that’s okay! Because it’s the voices I do well and am really able to bring a part of myself to that shine.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I hear ya! I too fell in to the trap of trying to do too many voices at first. Mel Blanc flexibility is far more possible in the world of cartoony voice acting. It is not nearly as feasible in the world of naturalistic voice acting which is the dominant paradigm in video games and adventure animation.

      You don’t have to have 1,000 voices to be a successful voice actor!

  3. Kalyn McCabe says:

    Knowing your character types was a hard lesson for me to learn when I started out. I usually tried to get all the cute, high-pitched characters because they were all the main leads with the most lines. More lines = more other people hearing and possibly want me for their fandub or original project. But as I grew up, my voice dropped to a medium, Soprano II range, and I still tried to play the cute, high-pitched characters.

    Let’s say that ended in disaster. Haha.

    My character type is the middle/high school, energetic teenager to the older, knowledgeable, sexy secretary. If that makes any sort of sense. Teenagers are what I’m casted as 95% of the time.

    I’m trying to develop a boy voice without straining my vocal chords. It’s coming along nicely.

    Are there any improv games/exercises one can do by themselves? The type I’ve been exposed to is mainly ensemble building. I know I am severely deficient in my confidence with improv, so any solitary games/exercises would help greatly.

    Much love,
    Kalyn

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m glad that you’re so aware of your character archetypes. That’s wonderful to hear!

      To be honest, I don’t know of any improv exercises you can do by yourself, unless you want to go the Borat route and try to improv a character in real life to normal people. You could try walking into a restaurant and improving a completely different accent or personality for yourself and see if you can maintain it. That’s a hell of a challenge!

      But I don’t think you can improv alone the way you can play solitaire by yourself with a deck of cards. But maybe there’s something I’m missing.

      Anyone out there who does improv want to chime in?

      • Roy Mills says:

        I also have/had the whole problem with finding my type. But, i’ve noticed that the characters i’ ve recently received were toward the younger, teenager, with a touch of maturity. I’ve been trained as a classical high tenor bordering on counter tenor. But one of the places I’ve learned to work on accents and speed was my day job as a cashier for a grocery store. I worked on closing annoucements, promos, and greeting customers. For closing annoucements i tried various characters like game show annoucers, djs, and the like. On promos i worked on my accents. Ever tried donating to a charity with a guy speaking australian or a brit sounding man before. Plus you can have a lot of fun, and having fun at improv too. Got to make whatever that’s available work for you, even when work might not be coming use your day job to practice and have some fun with it.

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          Glad you’ve been able to find opportunities to practice! Experimenting is how we expand our expressive capabilities.

    • Ryan Ashlight says:

      Regrettably I don’t have any professional experience and/or training in improv to speak of yet, though there is an exercise I’ve found to be useful in the meantime.

      First, have you ever heard of Japanese Visual Novels? If not, they’re something of a cross between a manga (a Japanese comic book) and an anime that you play on your computer.

      Focusing mainly on plot-heavy stories and characters, you read through them as you would a book, only in this case you’re being given visual displays, characters voices, etc; making the experience much more realistic and engaging, this being true all the more so as you can proceed at your own pace, as quickly or slowly as you wish.

      What I’ve found useful is treating these visual novels, or VNs as they’re called, as something akin to practice script for VO, something which you read aloud to yourself as you progress.

      In the area of improv for example, I press myself to try and fit into whatever character I’m reading for at the time. Not only do I find this useful for discovering character types that I fit into better than others, but it also presses me to get into the emotional context of whatever I’m reading. Amidst the hours upon hours of script there is, there’s no time to be dwelling upon each and every line before you have to move on.

      Though it’s tough at first, slowly but surely you begin to hone your instincts into feeling your way through the text.

      At any rate, as this is something I came up with on my own, I certainly can’t make any guarantees, but I hope it might prove useful for you. If you’d like me to explain anything further or have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them for you.

      • Crispin Freeman says:

        Thanks for sharing your insight Ryan! I’d never heard of VNs! Sounds like an interesting hybrid medium!

  4. Meg says:

    Hi Crispin, thank so much for this episode-it was very understandable for me, too 🙂 When I was practiced my voice to talk myself in the mirror, I realize that my voice is excellent match for mostly quiet ones, and even some cute girly gilrs as well. I got good news! LAst couple days, I did very well for playing the small part as a main girl’s friend from my class team’s ‘Nike’ individual commercial from my advertising class. Hopefully, I can email it to you if the clip is working well 🙂

  5. Patsy says:

    Thanks for the podcast. I really liked it. However, I did want to ask about something, but I don’t know if it can be simply answered or is too broad and should be discussed on a podcast-

    How do you take care of your voice?

    What illnesses hurt your voice, and what can you do to prevent it?

    Thanks

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      You pose a good question, but it’s probably too broad a topic to be answered in a blog post. Let me see if I can work up a podcast about it in the future.

      In the meantime, the general rule of thumb is, if it hurts your throat, you need to stop. Vocalizing should never hurt your throat.

      As far as illnesses, colds and such don’t hurt your throat, as long as you don’t try to force yourself to vocalize when you’re sick.

      The most common way people damage their voice is by banging their vocal folds together. This can happen anytime you vocalize with tension in your throat. When you scream yourself hoarse, you’ve banged your vocal folds against each other and caused them to swell. It’s like you’ve bruised your voice. You must allow it to recover by resting. If you continue to bruise your vocal folds, you can eventually build up scar tissue otherwise known as “nodes”. This can make your voice sound hoarse permanently since the scar tissue doesn’t allow your vocal folds to meet cleanly.

      So just make sure you don’t do anything that causes you pain when you vocalize.

  6. Caitlin says:

    Another great podcast! I was wondering if there was anyone that you look up to for inspiration as a voice actor. Also can you talk about demos in a podcast at one point? Thank you!
    By the way, you are one of my inspirations and I love your work.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      As far as inspiration, I think the voice actors that had the most influence on me are the ones who worked on the Rankin-Bass animated version of the Hobbit. Especially Hans Conried (who played Thorin and many characters in Disney movies) and Brother Theodore (who played the scariest Gollum on the planet!). The actors in that movie really shaped my idea of voice acting.

      I will definitely be talking about demos in the future!

      Thanks for listening!

  7. Angelican Marcos says:

    This was very nice Mr. Freeman podcast it helped me a lot I’m actually inviting some of my friends to voice act some characters i made for them and i might put them in youtube sometime if i get a chance to i might link the videos someday wish me luck 🙂
    Sincerely,
    Angelican Marcos

  8. Kate says:

    Even though I’m content to stay at an amateur level with my voice acting, I’ve been really finding your podcasts useful and enjoyable. I may not want to go pro, but I do want to do the best I can on the fandubs and small games projects I work on. I’ll make a note to write you a good review on iTunes.

    I’ve been doing voice acting as a hobby since I was 18, but stopped for a long time due to disillusionment over not getting the roles I was interested in playing. I’m a big fan of badass tomboy heroine characters, but my voice is very soft and I have a very strong English accent. It took me years to recognise and learn to enjoy the kind of characters I actually play well and get cast as; prim and proper young ladies and melodramatic cartoon villainesses. When you talked about knowing your voice type and voices, it really struck a chord with me since my range of roles is sort of limited, but within the online voiceacting community my unusual tone and accent mean I can easily land certain roles.

    I guess if I have a question for you, it would be to ask if there are any character types you’d really love to play but just can’t get your voice or accent to stretch to?

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Well, sometimes I’m drawn to a certain character personally, but I know the chances of me getting cast as that character are slim to nil. For example, when I was auditioning for the show, Wolf’s Rain, I was really drawn to the character of Kiba. I really identified with him and felt like I knew where he was coming from. However, I had a feeling that my voice would be better suited for Tsume. Sure enough, that’s what happened. They wanted a slightly younger sound for Kiba and a more older brother sound for Tsume.

      I was certainly happy to play Tsume since I think he’s a great character as well, but Kiba is closer to who I am personally. That’s why it’s important to understand your archetypes and where your voice sits. There’s also no way I would’ve been cast as Toboe. I just don’t sound that young anymore.

  9. Martin says:

    When I have to describe my archetype in a couple of words I usually say: deep, demons, goblins, badguys and anti-heroes

    Does it make sense for my character archetype to be in major part “evil” voices and bad guys!? I can’t seem to make any heroes or at least, I’m not confortable playing one… The only heroes I can do are anti-heroes!

    And I wanted to know if you have any knowledge about any ways to improve on a reaaaaaaaly rough voice. I can do the demon like voice (like those heavy metal screaming guys) but only for an hour or so… I keep practicing for months but it doesn’t get much better… any advice?

    Thank you for your time and as always… GREAT podcast!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I think your statement is very revealing. You say, “I can’t seem to make any heroes or at least, I’m not comfortable playing one.” I have found that is the main reason someone cannot play a certain type of character: not because they are physically unable, but because they are psychologically or emotionally unwilling.

      You just have an emotional resistance to playing hero characters. If you’re truly interested in playing hero characters, you’ll be inspired to discover what that resistance is and remove it. But you don’t have to. If you’re happy playing villains, then go right ahead and do that. Just understand and accept that it will limit your employment opportunities.

      As far as your rough voice question, I’m not sure I understand. Are you asking how to smooth out your voice if it’s naturally rough, or are you asking how to avoid hurting yourself if you do “throat ripper” type monster voices? For the former, I’m not sure what can be done. If your voice is rough, it’s rough and I don’t know any way of smoothing it out short of vocal physical therapy or surgery and I’m not an expert at either. If your challenge is the latter, you should never do anything that causes your voice pain. It is possible to do demon type characters without causing yourself pain, but you need to keep the back of your throat open and relaxed. Vocal pain comes from holding tension somewhere in your throat. However, even when Fred Tatasciore plays the Hulk, he can only do it for 2 hours at a stretch.

      • Martin says:

        I see! For the hero, I’ll have to work on that. But what you say makes a lot of sense and maybe I know why I tend to block them out. Since I have a deep voice and that most heroes are teenagers, I just can’t physically do those, but not all heroes are teens! I think I just put them all in the same basket because I tend to dislike the usual stereotype whining teenager hero that didn’t want their powers and responsibility.

        As for the rough voice, I’m talking about the 2nd option, the “throat ripper” (that should be an official term!!) When I use this voice it does not hurt, I don’t feel pain as I do it but I guess it starts to build up little by little and after 1h maybe 1h30… it starts to catch up. But I know that heavy metal signers have a technique of some kind because they have to be able to sing (or growl in this case) for hours, day after day… I’ll make some research, see if I can find anything about a technique and I’ll keep you posted on that!

        • Crispin Freeman says:

          You’re right! Not all heroes are teens! Batman has a very deep voice.

          I’ll be curious to hear what you discover about the heavy metal singers. I’m not sure how Rob Zombie does what he does without permanently damaging his voice. Thanks for looking in to that!

          • Martin says:

            Soooo… after a little research on youtube and google, I have found that the screams and growls that are used in heavy metal will hurt your throat after long use no matter what technique you use BUT… using a technique will help you use it longer and will help lessen the burden on the throat. The technique is fairly simple as a matter a fact! You have to use your diaphragm to push the air out while you relax your throat. This is the best tutorial that I could find (lower your speakers volume before clicking on the link, it starts out pretty intense!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM4KVhXV3ao&feature=related

          • Crispin Freeman says:

            Wow. Can’t say that I recommend doing that to your voice unless all you want to do for the rest of your life is death metal vocals. I’ve done some pretty vocally stressful parts, but nothing like screaming like that for an entire concert.

            Interesting video, but I would steer clear of that kind of vocal production. It’s not really called for in voice acting that much anyway.

  10. Josh LeFebvre says:

    Was kinda curious about your point on making your voice your instrument, i know you talked about singing and voice lessons for improving your own singing as a way to improve on this. i’m not very confident in my own singing ability, but i tend to change the sound of my voice.

    i was wondering if you would consider being able to manipulate your throat and diaphragm to change the sound of your voice to be an alternative to singing.

    i know the dangers of putting too much stress on your own vocal chords and relying too much on using your throat as opposed to your diaphragm especially when portraying a character for a stage production and i’ve done well to improve in that field, but i do tend to do a voice or two using my throat instead of my diaphragm, mainly in the form of a Stitch or Meatwad sounding character and avoid doing a deeper or gravely voice with my throat (i know that’s a good way to damage my vocal chords) i guess would you consider that to be ok as long as i’m not damaging my vocal chords, or am i causing damage to them that i don’t realize? as i said when i do this sort of voice it’s to do a higher tone of voice and not a deeper or gravely voice….

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      You do not have to be a singer to use your voice as an instrument. There are plenty of successful voice actors who are not classically trained singers. Learning how to manipulate your voice is perfectly valid. Flexibility of vocal characteristics is another way to learn how to use your voice as an expressive instrument. What you’re doing is fine.

      However, if anything you try causes you pain, you should either not do that thing, or find a way to do it without causing yourself vocal stress. You cannot damage your voice without feeling it. You will feel discomfort if you are doing something harmful to your voice.

      Still, there will be times when you do something vocally that just tires you out. Often when I play soldiers in games it is a vocal workout. I need to rest afterwards the way any athlete would need to rest their muscles after strenuous exertion. But I can feel the difference between my voice being simply tired, and my throat actually hurting. If you ever feel sharp pain, numbness or soreness, you’re pushing things too far.

      I hope that clarifies things for you.

  11. Christine says:

    I was so excited to hear that you had made a podcast for voice acting! I’ve been interested in it and so I had been doing the normal route of taking acting classes (Assuming that at my college there would be a voice class, and I was ecstatic to find out there was!) However they cut the theatre major at my school so I might not be able to take that class. That’s neither here nor there though.

    My question is do you have any suggestions on finding out what kind of character’s your voice is suited to? I mean I could just go and look at the different plays I’ve been in and the character’s I’ve been casted as, but as someone who has done a fair amount of improv, I know that characters I do improv tend to encompass a whole different range than those I’ve acted in actual plays as.

    Is there anything you did to help yourself figure out what types of character’s you do best?

    I also second the demo podcast idea! I’d love advice for scriptwriting for it!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I will probably do a podcast episode about finding your characters, but suffice it to say that you basically have to find them by trying them on for size. Think you might be good at doing hero voices? Try it. Think you’re better at doing cartoony characters? See if you can. But in the end, you need to record your experiments and then play your recordings next to actual professionals to see if you sound close to what the professionals are doing.

      I thought I had a really deep voice until I recorded myself and played myself back next to someone like James Earl Jones. I simply do not have his level of resonance. That’s usually the best way to get a sense of where your voice might sit: record yourself and them compare your recordings to other performances.

      So glad you’re enjoying the podcast!

  12. Thank you great podcast! I like to discover what new characters would be possible by watching vids of the greats and seeing their faces for their character and the extent to which they go. The range can be amazing!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I agree. It can be very insightful to see pictures of voice actors performing. I’ve certainly been surprised by seeing pictures of myself voice acting!

  13. Ann Marie McDermott says:

    I enjoyed this podcast (and the others I’ve listened to) very much!

    Unfortunately, voice acting isn’t very popular where I live (which is Miami). When I started voice acting (which was about 6-7 years ago), it was just for fun. But, after a while, I’ve grown to not just like it, but love it! To me, voice acting is kind of like when you read a book and you’re consumed by it! I’ve never taken an acting class (planning to, it’s not easy when you’re a poor college student…), and I think I have what it takes to be a voice actress!
    I just need somewhere to start… so I was wondering if you could help me.

    Now, I’m currently going to school to be a pre-school teacher (I love kids!), but the true career that I want is to be a voice actress. Now, unfortunately, most of my family (especially my mother) doesn’t believe that I’m serious about wanting to be a voice actress, even though I’ve been telling them that I wanted to be one for the past 3-4 years. My mother refuses to help me in any way when it comes to voice acting (like paying for classes or books or anything) and I’m currently (and have been for my whole life, excluding the occasional seasonal job) unemployed. I have done some voice acting work, but it’s not professional work, just things I create for myself so I could figure out the different voices I can produce.

    So, now that you know my situation, I was wondering if you have any tips for me to further my acting? Something I could start now until I could afford, on my own, acting classes.

    Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast!

      I’ve created this podcast specifically to help people like you who may not be in the Southern California area but would like to learn what I have to share about voice acting.

      There are plenty of books on acting you could read. I’m fond of The Practical Handbook for the Actor. However, I’ve found that more often than not, you will need someone to help coach you if you want to improve your artistry. You can’t play in the major leagues practicing baseball by yourself. You eventually need a proper coach. If your budget doesn’t allow that right now, that’s fine. Take a listen to my episode about How to Practice Voice Acting Anywhere. I think you’ll find it very helpful.

      • Ann Marie McDermott says:

        OMG! Thank you so much!!! That podcast was SO enlightening and very helpful!. I learned a lot and I was always afraid to sign up for community theaters because I don’t have any acting experience, but you’re right, I have to start somewhere!

        I’m going to try and purchase that book as well once I get the money to (which will be in a few weeks ^^).

        I’m also a member of the VAA and have gotten a few roles on there as well (only one of them is an original character, but it’s still good that the others are not ^^)

        Thank you so much Mr. Freeman! When I find a community theater, I’ll definitely tell you if I get in or not!

        Again, thank you so much!

  14. Elsie says:

    Hello. My name is Elsie. I am 14 and I am going to be a freshman. I want to be a voice actor. What are some tips on how to get started? I am planning on doing chorus and drama this year….and XC……but I really need tips on how to improve! I know I am not great…but I feel that if I improve I will be a voice actor!

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      That’s why I created this podcast and blog. There are over 2 years of episodes on this website giving advice on how to become a better voice actor. Have you listened to all of them? If you have, then you know that I’ve shared with you some very specific ideas about what you can do to improve your voice acting skills. In addition, I also offer classes both in LA and online to those who want to get even more detailed advice on what they can do to improve their artistry.

  15. Mike says:

    Hey, Crispin. I’ve listened to a lot of V.A. podcasts and I have to say that, at least for me, Voice Acting Mastery has definitely been the most helpful. I’m making my way through the episodes and all have been insightful in some way. Thank you!
    My question actually involves your classes and it seemed like this would be an appropriate episode to ask in the comment section. I’ve been studying voice-acting on my own time for a long while but I would certainly consider myself new to the art. My degree isn’t in the performing arts (film grad) and I’ve had only a small amount of formal acting training. However, I’ve wanted to take more classes that pertain to voice-acting specifically. Are your classes directed more toward people who have had acting training but are just becoming interested in voice-acting? I know all seem to be welcome but I’m curious if the classes are more beneficial to those that are already familiar with acting.
    I’ve been messing with my voice, creating characters, and imitating people informally since kindergarten. I’ve always been pretty obsessed with it. Still, I can’t help but feel like I’ll probably need a bunch of formal acting training before diving in. Whenever an example like Steve Blum (a personal hero) comes up it seems like 50 examples of theater actors do, heh.

    • Crispin Freeman says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words Mike! I’m so glad you’re finding my podcast helpful. I strive very hard to make it practical and applicable.

      My classes are designed to work with actors no matter what their skill level might be, especially if you’re talking about my online voice acting workshops. I tailor the characters and my feedback to each actor individually based on their capabilities and their acting goals.

      Obviously the more acting experience you have, the more you tend to get out of further acting classes, but that applies to any artistic endeavor you might be pursuing.

      I consider my acting training to be no nonsense and straightforward. However, I am limited in the amount of time I can dedicate to teaching. If you feel that you would like a class that meets more often then by all means find a class in your area that offers a more regular schedule. Taking more acting classes can only broaden your understanding of the craft.

      So the short answer is you are always welcome to take my classes. I think you’ll learn some wonderful fundamentals that you can apply to any acting situation. But by all means supplement your acting training with other teachers that you trust and admire. Hope that helps.

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