millennial

Real Age Vs. Vocal Age

Ok, so I am at the point in my life when I cringe when I have to reveal on print, or anywhere else for that matter, my real age. I feel as energetic as I did years ago, and in my mind I do not age those around me. But to help you place my age, I am old enough to have twins turning 17 this summer. Soooo… I am fortunate to sound younger than I am since millennial voices are highly sought after at the moment. My vocal age, then, differs greatly from my real age. How does this effect me? Greatly! I am sent, audition for, and book work that is NOT based on my real age but is booked on my vocal range.

Here are some examples, an adult voice:

A kid voice:

Auditioning

I pay close attention to the desired vocal range when auditioning. My sweet spot tents to be the 17-22 or 18-35 category. When they ask for the conversational, millennial read little fire works go off in my head as that is my sweet spot. When they want the girl-next-door who sounds like she is on the couch talking to her best friend, that is me. When they want someone with gravitas and rasp, that is not me.  Why does it matter that you know how you sound? Why waste the listeners time? And when you only have precious time to audition and submit, why not maximize your own time submitting for what you are most likely to book.  Although I can do a character granny voice, if there is a commercial casing wanting a senior female I would never submit. They are not looking for me and there are talented folks in the senior vocal range with a more mature voice who will offer the sound they want in those spots. In those moments I simply move on to the next read.

Demos

Your demos need to show your range within your age range. Your demos also need to be tagged in a user friendly way, especially on pay to plays, so that clients can find what they need. If you sound young, and your demo is comprised of demo spots, then make sure that you actually have spots that would hire someone in your vocal range. No one wants my voice selling adult diapers, hemorrhoid cream, or talking about retirement communities, right? There is a reason I do fitness campaigns and brands like Kind Bar and Dove. I sound young and upbeat, and I market myself directly for brands that want this kind of fun, sassy, playful sound. A funeral home is probably not looking for my happy, bright voice. Although, interestingly I did do a narration for a women’s shelter who wanted someone who sounded happy and reassuring.

Bookings

This blog actually came to mind because last week I booked a character job where I played both a mom and a kid in the same job. How? Well with training and years of practice I do a lot of work in kids practice. And the bottom of my voice, and yes I have a bottom, is my mom voice. So if you understand how to use your voice, you can offer this  kind of versatility to your clients. I have had this opportunity, as have many of my industry friends, where we are cast in multiple roles in the same job. It can happen in eLearning, commercials, video games, cartoons…And it is about understanding how to use your voice. It is also about understanding the role you are playing, the nuances of the role, and how the characters relate to each other.

Your vocal age is often not your chronological age. I do a lot of work for Pandora, and typically the range they send me is 17-22.  That is my natural range. When I work out of that range, I have to understand specifically what the client is looking for, and I have to be able to match it for pickups and revisions. It is much easier for me to sound older late in the day. When I book work, I typically note on the script and in my notes in my CRM when I recorded the job, so if there are changes later I am best able to accommodate the vocal age.

Conclusions

You need to understand your voice. You need  to understand how others perceive your voice. Without a strong vocal awareness you will be limited in what you book and what you can provide your clients. In character work you have a chance to shine and to play and to test your limits. While we are acting, to be sure, some genres lend themselves more to being creative and submitting outside the box. Be aware for the sake of your time and of others.’

The Audition is the Job

As a full-time, professional voice over actor, we all know that the audition is the job. Whether auditioning for an agent, for a pay to play, or directly for a client, booking is based entirely on how good our audition read is. Sure, people who have connections can get doors to open but, ultimately, voiceover is a tough industry with a lot of really talented actors and your auditions have to be really good to stand out against the crowd. Often, hundreds of people will even submit for jobs with minimal pay, so when you are going after the coveted commercial gigs, you really need to wow your clients.  It’s nice if you ask for feedback; but, ultimately, if the listener does not hear what they want in the first four seconds, you will not book that job. That’s it. As someone who has done more commercials than I can count, you need to nail your audition reads. You have to stand out in the beginning. If there is nothing unique about your read, yoo will not book. So here are some things that I think about for commercial reads:

Who is the Client?

Both the person casting and the end client matter. If the client is a well known luxury brand asking for a sophisticated voice and the person casting is an established ad agency with an abundance of options who has asked for a young adult voice, do not go in with your most sultry Kathleen Turner sound hoping to stand out. They want what they want. And when they want sophisticated luxury, don’t give them bubbly and upbeat. I also DO read the specs. I have had people tell me not to read them. Why on earth would you not read something that the person casting the job has spent time writing? I actually stopped working with a well-respected Los Angeles coach again after that person advised me no to do this. I thought it was not a good idea. In this scenario, they are the boss and we are the potential hire. Sometimes the clients ask for two reads and want very different takes in each read. If you don’t read the specs, you won’t know. Now, we all know that sometimes there is a great disparity between what books a job and the end result, so give them the read that books and do not worry about the end result until after you have booked.

Microphone Technique Matters SO MUCH!

There are so many good microphones, and most good microphones are very sensitive. I have a Neumann TLM 103, and the

In this pic you can really see the back side of my Neumann TLM 103, but the position in my booth matters so much! I cannot move it from that side to the other or the sound and audio quality completely changes. In my reads, proximity to the mic also matters a lot!

placement of my mic in my booth matters a lot. My proximity to the mic matters. I have learned that my proximity can be used to evoke very different moods and create a sense of closeness and intimacy. I also have learned that I have to be careful not to fidget during a read, because shifting from side to side will cause irregularities in sound and my mic with pic it all up! A good coach teaches this technique. A good talent listens to their work before they submit. Make sure you listen to your recording and you can hear these subtleties. It would be such a shame to nail the read but lose out because your audio quality is less than pristine. Audio quality is everything, and you are only as good as you sound in this business. If you want your commercial auditions to book, they must sound excellent.

Sometimes the client Just Wants Good Samples- SO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT!

Four times this week I was emailed for jobs that either wanted very specific demos or samples of work I had done in a specific genre. All were new clients. This is awesome! Either you paid to produce a demo that showcases your best abilities, or you booked a spot because you killed it! Either way it’s a win, so respond immediately before someone else does and show this new client exactly why you are the right one for the job! I keep a lot of such samples accessible via drop box, so that even if I am out and about, I can get them right to a client and they do not have to wait. More importantly, their end person does not have to wait!

Lastly, I want to broaden your thinking of what an audition is. Anytime you put yourself and your voice or samples in front of a client that is an audition opportunity! A phone call, and of course a cold call, gives a client a chance to hear you. A direct email to someone you have met with your demo likewise gives a client a chance to hear you. Meeting someone at a conference or a networking event and talking about why your service is different from that of other voice actors is an in-person audition: you have their undivided attention, they hear your voice, and you are speaking! An audition is not just a read with a script or a demo submitted. Always be prepared with you 30 second elevator shpiel and be proud of who you are and what you do. Sparkle!

The Sought After Sound….

Whether you are on the casting side or another professional voiceover talent yourself, you are likely aware that one of the hottest current trends asked for in casting specs is the “conversational, millennial read.”  I see it multiple times every day! Coming from rosters, talent agents, and on pay to plays, this read is asked for all the time! Does this mean that you have to be born in that period to voice a millennial spot. No, you just have to understand the direction and sound being sought. The tone, the pacing, the intonation- all of it needs to be both millennial and like you are chatting with a friend. The conversational, millennial read is my jam… so hear goes!

The Millennial, Conversational Voice

If a spec for a voiceover casting asks for a millennial, conversational voice, they really want you to sound like you are in an intimate conversation. To sound like you are talking to a friend should be pretty natural, right? I often prompt myself by saying,“So, Julie…” or “So, Judy” or “So, Liz.” You get the idea, and the person I imagine myself talking to very much depends on the copy I am reading. This can work across genres for commercials, youtube bumpers, narrations and so on. 

Is it easy? Well, we all know that depends on the copy. Some scripts are beautifully written and the conversational read just rolls of your tongue and is perfect. Other scripts are written like a “How to” explainer video and yet they want those to be conversational. That can be a lot trickier. Not impossible, just not intuitive.

You do need to sound young in a millennial read. If you sound like a gravelly grandma or a 50 something this will not pass either, even if you nail the conversational part. So, we all have a certain vocal type and you need to be well aware of that.

What not to do in Millennial reads

There are plenty of techniques that should be avoided at all costs when submitting for these reads. They may want you to sound conversational, and the script may even go as far as to say that they want someone who sounds natural and uncoached, but it is still a professional gig and you want to sound like an expert and not like you fell off the back of a turnip truck and landed in front of your microphone.  So, even if you do it in real life, avoid uptalk. This means that at the period your voice should be making a down turn. If you are making a statement, make a statement. Only questions end up. When I started out in voiceover, my first coach worked on this at length with me but once you are aware that you are doing it you need to stop!

Another major deal breaker that has somehow become a horrendous trend is vocal fry. For some odd reason, this seems to go hand in hand with the up talking. Perhaps it happens when we all want to sound sexy like Scarlett Johanson but we don’t, so we try to add this affect to give ourselves a false rasp. Instead we are just killing our vocal chords. You either have a raspy voice or you don’t. I don’t and I still book tons of work. Will I book if they are looking for a raspy voice? No, and that’s ok. Did you see the movie “In a World” by and starring Lake Bell? Well if you didn’t you should watch it, now! Here is a clip of her being interviewed on Conan and she talks about both of these issues!

NO Announcers Today

To book these millennial voiceover jobs, your technique should still be outstanding.  Yes, sometimes there is a character who is a news anchor or the specs specifically ask for an announcer read, but that request is happening less and less often. Instead you need to conquer the opposite of the announcer read!  You need to settle in and be confident and comfortable in who you are without sounding like Amy Robauch or Peter Jennings. You have to manage to be charming, relatable, captivating, and believable as if you are sitting on a sofa drinking coffee with your friends and talking about your like. For some reason some folks freeze up in front of the microphone and this other voice comes out. The essence of the millennial, conversational voice is someone who can really feel at home in front of the microphone. Once you can do that, once you can bring your friends into the booth with you, you’ll be just fine and you can really deliver!