Things I’ve Learned in 2018

So I spent more time working as a VO artist in the past year than I ever had previously and I wanted to sit back and take stock of the things I’ve learned over the past year with an eye towards the future and continuing to improve in this field – and I thought it might be helpful for those who are also starting out on this path, to read the lessons I’ve learned, rather than have to learn them themselves.

  1. Tape your space. Seems obvious to audiobook narrators, but if you record short spots it isn’t *all* that important. However I moved into audiobooks this year and quickly (not as quickly as I’d have liked) became aware of how an inch or two difference in space from your mouth to the mic can really change your sound and make your edits either more or less noticeable, depending on how you manage it. I taped my desk, my chair, the mic stand (feet and body) and approximately where over the desk the mic should be sitting. There is no better feeling than having your edits sit perfectly within the text you’ve already recorded. *contented sigh*
  2. Warm Up. Yet again – may seem obvious but it’s sooo easy to say “eh, I feel warm” and head into the studio feeling like a boss…amanda tanen catwalk GIF by HULU
    …only to hate every sound coming out of your mouth that day.
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    I’ve been going back to the Freeing the Natural Voice work I did in school, and when crafting characters, having that extra range that a good warmup provides is indispensable.
  3. Proper headphones. I don’t know why I resisted buying the Sony MDR-7506 in favor of the Bose QC. I edit in an imperfect environment and had an early experience of realizing I couldn’t hear the problems with my audio with subpar headphones, so I went…*ahem*…a bit overboard. (Like $200 overboard.) And they’re lovely headphones! But not ideal for this work as the eq in the headphones was interfering with the eq I was putting on my audio. And the Sonys do a great job at sound isolation provided your environment is reasonably quiet.
  4. It is possible to over-engineer your sound. Particularly in audiobooks. I’m mildly obsessed with editing out every dang click (and breath) and frankly, unless they’re really obtrusive, it is just not necessary and adding hours to your workload. After listening to a few audiobooks and hearing stuff I would have wanted to edit out, I’m trying to grapple with the possibility that I’m too sensitive and doing myself a disservice in the end.
  5. RELAX. (Related: don’t drink too much coffee.) I was having trouble with regulating my breath for a while. They were loud and gasping and just obtrusive. When I’m acting a character I have trouble still, as the characters are usually emotionally excited, but for general narration or commercial copy it is really distracting. Then I saw this video and the difference between someone breathing relaxedly and not just became so crystal clear. Humans are meant to pick up on far more than just the words coming out of our mouths. Inflection, speed of speech, the tightness or looseness of the voice box or the chest, if someone is breathing deeply or shallowly – we pick up on ALL of that. And an audience is so much more willing to relax and let you take them on a journey if you’re leading them with confidence and relaxation. I suggest meditation or putting up signs to remind yourself to check in with your breathing until it’s habit to breathe naturally and let your breath guide you through the text. As for coffee…well the jitters will do nothing good for your breath or voice – not to mention it dries you out, which leads me to my next point:
  6. Water. Don’t skimp.
  7. Sick Days. There are a million things you can do when you’re sick to further your career that don’t involve auditioning. Submitting to publishers or agents, writing a blog post, stare fourth wall GIF
    …researching and reading more about audio editing or storytelling, beefing up your demos with recently completed projects and updating your online presence and profiles on ALL THE WEBSITES, studying a new accent, or doing prep work for an upcoming book. I’m sure there are a million more things I didn’t even mention.
  8. Random audio editing stuff I’ve loved this year: SWS Snapshots, downward expanders, Booth Junkie videos, Reaper, RX6.

That’s all I got for now! If you’ve got any other things you learned this year in VO or anything that really helped you or your workflow – let me know!