Today, in honour of World Voice Day, I’m posting some more of the late, great Brad Lavelle’s voice over tips. Here he talks about skills and techniques you should be practicing:
“Do be script silent. Learn to turn the pages of your script over without making a sound. You should be able to flip through your local newspaper without any noise in front of a mic. Laying out your pages in a sensible manner before recording will assist you in this. Practice this at home - it's very useful.
Do learn to take cues from a TV monitor, screen wipe or sound beeps or pips. Register what the cue-lights mean (sometimes there’s more than one), learn to read and work from a time-code and to read the script brilliantly. And learn to do it all at the same time.
Do practice your plosives on mic so that you don’t pop. Every time you see one of those plosive words coming up, get ready to slightly turn your mouth away from the mic when you hit the word - this’ll direct the pop sound away from the mic’s diaphragm and you won’t need to retake the line. Practice makes perfect. I don’t use a pop screen when I record and you shouldn’t need one either.
Do practice dropping in.* When you do drop-ins, match your breaths, cadence, timbre & vocal pace at the drop-in point. As the drop-in point approaches, read aloud, along with run-up. This will create a seamless flow between the pre-recorded piece and your drop-in point.
Do play with word lengths, voice delivery levels and their timings to either complement the background music or SFX or to work in opposition. Both of these techniques are useful for dramatic purpose. Extending a syllable can sometimes make the difference between a mistimed read and a perfect one. Usually additional tracks will be added to the mix after you’ve left the studio but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask to hear the backing tracks to get a feel for the piece. Most engineers are happy to play the music to you as they know it will help your performance. Same goes if you are asked to deliver a louder voice than normal due to it being set mid tempest or you’re in a crowd scene. Ask the engineer to play the relevant sound effects down your cans during the recording if they can, It’ll help you get the feel right. But if the music or the SFX aren’t there, don’t worry, just imagine it.
Do caress your syllables and words when you need to, but don’t fall in love with the sound of your voice.
Do learn to carry on with your lines even if the producer is whispering instructions, or the engineer has left the talkback on, or the runner walks into the studio and asks how you take your coffee. The more interference you can overcome, the better you will be.
Do read ahead. Learn to read ahead so that you can work out where the text or the thought is going, before you actually get there vocally. In most voice sessions you’ll have to read a script cold; if you work on this technique, you’ll not need copious retakes and drop-ins to complete your session. The faster you are, the more your employer has time to mix and therefore save money…that is a plus in your favour.
Do practice adjusting the overall speed of your reading/performance, a paragraph, a sentence, a word – learn how to adjust by seconds and frames and you’ll eventually develop a stopwatch in your brain.
Don't breathe straight into words as you begin speaking and don't gasp an intake of breath when you finish, this makes editing more difficult for the engineer and will mean more re-takes. Always start from an open mouthed position and always be topped up with breath before beginning your take, a slow quiet exhalation before recording is useful too. Learn the silent breath…make the engineer think you don’t breathe.
Do continue your read/performance even if there is an echo in the headphones. This happens a lot in ISDN recordings due to engineer error from the receiving studio…an easy way to overcome this is just take one of the earphones off so that you are hearing your voice live on one side.
Do practice Latin and other languages. There’s bound to be a French phrase cropping up somewhere in your first 20 jobs. People who do medical or technical voicing should earn 10 times the normal hourly fee. We don’t, but we should. If you’re capable, it’s just another way to bring in the sheckels.
Do practice your reflexes, so that when a piercing feedback ploughs through your headphones (cans) you can get them off before any damage is done to your ears. Don’t over egg this when it happens; save your hearing, make your point and move on.
Do be cautious about your body movements and chemistry. Just about every studio now records in digital formats. This means that a lot of noises that used to be covered by tape hiss aren’t.” – Brad Lavelle
*see my earlier blog, “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” - LK