Dis-couraging the discouragement

Yeah, that’s a weird title, but I hope the hyphen clarifies what I meant – taking hold of that feeling of discouragement, and taking away its comfort level by giving it a dose of itself, in order to move it far, far away from our consciousness.

A few months ago I found this funny (but painfully accurate) voiceover meme:

(If the image is difficult to see, its premise is that our friends and family may think of us voiceover artists as all being wildly successful icons like Don Lafontaine, while the reality for many (like me) seems at times like the last image of a struggling artist pleading for the phone to ring).

That meme has been especially accurate of late, as I have gone the last 4 months without winning any jobs on Voice123.com.  Along with auditions, I have kept myself busy each weekday practicing my reads, weather forecasting, marketing, updating this blog,  volunteering with VoiceCorps, and picking up other paid work that has come my way.  But the lack of any successful auditions on V123 bothered me.

You see, I had landed my first job last year on Voice123 on my 20th audition, and then again on my 40th.   It was another 2 months before I was successful a third time – and then the long drought.

I was discussing this with my wife last week, and she asked me if I was discouraged.  I felt like saying yes, but then I realized if I did, I would be admitting defeat.  So I said, “No – but I am disappointed.  I thought I would be doing better by now.”  And right then I felt better as a voice actor.  That may sound counter-intuitive, but it solidified my motivation as to why I chose to pursue voiceover – because I like it, and because I know there are clients out there who will eventually hire me if I’m hungry enough and want it bad enough.

Coincidentally, during our last two monthly Meet-Ups for Central Ohio voice actors, the subject of dealing with non-success and strategies to strive for improvement no matter what were discussed heavily – and just when I needed it the most.  My fellow group members are some of the best resources available, and they are happy to share their thoughts and suggestions when asked.

I guess all those things made me buckle down by doing a few auditions this past Saturday, when I would normally not work.  One project was a very small part, just two lines – and with a foreign accent.  I hadn’t auditioned with that accent before, but I thought I could do it pretty well, and I sent it in and forgot about it.

Three days later, while going out for lunch, I got the notification I’d been selected, and my jaw dropped when I saw which spot it was. I came back home, re-recorded and polished it, and thanked the client for the business.

Interestingly, my successful jobs have been using voices that are, in my opinion, NOT in my wheelhouse:  a read that has “rookie” written all over it with over-enunciation, one with a “young adult male” voice (I’m 58 and I was proud of that one!), one with a plain flat voice with no inflection reading testimonial letters, and now one with an accent.

Then again, maybe my strengths are somehow in my weaknesses?  I’ll have to think about that one.

In any case, that little guy that calls himself “discouragement” has left the building for now.  He may try to hang out with me again someday, but for now I’m too busy, and may need to put on my sunglasses, a la Timbuk 3.

How about you readers out there?  Any anecdotes you’d like to share on how you deal with discouragement and disappointment, especially as a voice actor?  I’d love to hear from you, just click on “Leave A Reply” in the top right of this message.  (No spam or solicitations, please – those WILL be terminated with extreme prejudice).

That’s all for now.  Until next time, keep your best voice forward, and give yourself a mental shot of courage to dis-courage that discouragement.  Take care.





Social media? Danger, Will Robinson!

I remember the first time I saw the downside of social medial.  Around 2003 a fellow high school classmate built an alumni forum website for our school, and invited me to join.  I wasn’t sure how it worked, so I logged on and watched for a few days before I dared post my thoughts.

It was immensely fun, and I enjoyed the potential for seeing people register who I hadn’t seen or heard from in years.

But all good things gotta come to an end.  The downside started the next year as the 2004 presidential election campaigns ramped up and folks started to overshare about what everyone else was saying.  At first I thought the hard feelings were being exaggerated, until one member contacted me personally to say they were leaving because someone had actually threatened them in a private message – over a political disagreement!

Mind you, we’d had some healthy detailed discussions that were on a mature level, where we’d disagree with someone else without disparaging them, just explaining carefully why our thoughts differed.  Nevertheless, I was beginning to see the wisdom in the old adage “Never discuss politics at the dinner table”, or any other place for that matter.

After being on Facebook for ten years and then starting my voiceover business, I had a second epiphany:  if I was going to have an online business presence, I would have to consider how my personal opinions on politics, religion and anything else might impact whether a potential customer might or might not choose to do business with me.  While I’m the biggest supporter of one’s right to express an opinion, I chose discretion over valor and decided I would forego direct political commentary online from now on.

On the delta side, it does stifle some of my creativity, because I’ve always enjoyed articulating my thoughts on paper and creating a clear coherent message about my opinions.  But that is easily cancelled out by having fewer emotional roller coaster rides caused by someone posting something that is, in my humble opinion, really idiotic – and who is just itching to be taken down a peg or two!

LOL, indeed.  Time is short, and social media is now my tool to promote myself to potential clients – not a soapbox for me to vent just so I can feel good about my baser instincts for a few minutes each day.

How about you readers out there?  What other have you experienced with social media?  Any tips or horror stories you’d like to share?  Just click on “Leave A Reply” in the upper right.  I’d love to hear from you (Please – no spam or sales message, those WILL be deleted).

That’s all for this week.  I’m going to take some Alleve and try to ease the muscle soreness I’ve been having the last week.  My wife and I started working out at the gym two weeks ago, and my body is still not accustomed to it even though I’ve been trying to ramp up slowly.  Guess I’ll have to slow it down some more and stay at one level for a month before starting to push harder – I’m not in my twenties any more.

For now keep your best voice forward, and remember that clients aren’t always impressed by oversharing.  Take care.


My VO secret sauce

Obviously there are a number of audio editing software apps to choose from, but it is the sheer number of options within each app that can be intimidating to the new voice actor. 

Today I thought I’d share with you my workflow when recording voiceovers, particularly the processing steps I take.  For any of you who are considering voiceover, you may find this useful as a guide.  It is not the be-all and end-all of VO processing technique, but this procedure is easy to follow,  gives consistent results, and results in a baseline to use when experimenting with settings and techniques.  The beauty of it is that you don’t have to understand the physics and properties of sound to do this, although it is beneficial to learn at some point.

Currently I’m using Adobe Audition 3.0 running on a PC with Windows 10.  I use Audition for the simple reason that my instructor used it during my training.   He taught me to use a simple 3-step procedure that generates consistent results, and very likely also for many others.  I’ve made a few small adjustments to that which works for me in my particular environment.

Once you set up your editing app, you’ll want to choose default recording settings.  Voice123.com gives instructions to set bit rate to 44.1K, 16-bit resolution, and 96 or 128 kb/sec, which are probably close the industry standard.  They also recommend normalizing the audio to -3 dB.   My app default settings are the same, and I use the 96 kb/sec value.

So, what happens when you’ve recorded your audio, assuming you have proofed it, cleaned up the errors, mouth noises, and digital glitches?  My instructor would tell me, “save the file!” (Ctrl-S on the PC), then follow these steps:

– Normalize the file to -3 dB

– Hard Limit to -3 dB

– Compander the file 

Those three steps give a lot more depth and resolution to your voice, but also make it easier to hear on a “low-fi” platform while still faithfully reproducing your resonance and range.  But what did I add to this equation?  I use the Automatic Click Remover (standard) and Hiss Reduction (normal).  At first I was using the Click/Pop Eliminator, but that tended to create more “warbling” glitches than it was worth.  The Click Remover doesn’t remove as many clicks, but it’s safer and doesn’t distort.

So now my workflow after initial clean-up is:

– Normalize

– Hard Limit

– Automatic Click Remover

– Hiss Reduction

– Compander 

Now from start to finish, it looks like this:

– Record

– Clean up breaths, gaps, fluffs

– If you leave a small header and footer of silence, say, at least 0.5 second at the beginning and end, highlight it and reduce the volume by -40 dB.  This makes a clean transition before the voice playback starts and after it ends – I tend to breathe out noticeably when finishing a read, so this part is mandatory if I do that.  If you are submitting an audition with two takes, do the same thing in between the takes.

– Normalize – Hard Limit – Compander

– Use time compression if necessary to make audio the correct length

– Spectral Analyzer to check for any digital ghosts that the processing steps may have created


Again, this doesn’t mean my workflow is the absolute best or the one everyone should use, but it’s a good starting point for someone new to the business.  What IS important is finding the sequence of steps that works for you, and maximizing your efficiency executing them

I joined the RadioForecastNetwork.com team almost three months ago.  Ron Allan advised me that it would be excellent training to streamline my reading, editing and processing skills, and he was right.  My first attempt at doing a 30-second broadcast for ten stations (five which needed music beds and mixing) took me almost 3.5 hours. 

After two months I was down to 90 minutes, but three weeks ago I buckled down and found I could do them in one hour exactly, averaging six minutes per station.  The key was to focus, focus, focus on that workflow, and not worry or stop to analyze all aspects of the finished VO.   So I asked for 10 more stations, and have been doing them in 2 hours and 20 minutes, with lots of room to become even more efficient.

I timed myself today, and found at one point I was doing some stations in 3 minutes each (average 30 second spot) – 4 or 5 minutes if I had to mix a music bed.  I did stop to take a mental break in the middle, but at that rate, I estimate I could possibly do 20 stations in one hour and 20 minutes.  Of course I would have to block out everything and focus on the process, not how great I thought I sounded.  But it can be done.  That gave me a whole new respect for Rod Tanner, the RFN operations guy who fills in when a station isn’t covered, and probably does at least 200 forecasts each day himself!

As an added bonus, I found my auditioning technique has improved in the last month.  I’m able to review a file and process it for sending much quicker, and know it’s error-free. 

Due to the nature of RFN’s current business model, I don’t see myself staying there a long time – if they change, then I could easily change my mind – but I will say it has been a great learning experience and I’ve benefitted personally as voice artist from that experience.

What about you readers out there?  What tips, techniques, or workflows do you use when recording voiceovers that you’re comfortable sharing with others?  I’d love to hear from you, just click on Leave A Comment at the upper right of this post.  (Please, no spam or sales pitches, those WILL be deleted)

Okay, that’s all for now.  My wife and I signed up at a community workout center last week and we’re schedule to go on an exercise date when she gets home in the next 90 minutes.  Wish me luck!  Until next time, keep your best voice forward, and pass the sauce.


Staying in the mic

Seven months after first setting up my studio equipment, I’m still learning the nuances of how to use it properly, particularly the microphone itself.   My current (and thus far, only) mic is the Harlan Hogan VO-1.  While I understand there are a plethora of opinions, preferences, and experiences about various mics, and that mics respond differently to different voice types, I’m perfectly happy with the Hogan for now.

My instructor Ron Allan has a Hogan mic installed in a studio booth he uses for students, and which I used during my training to record  exercises and projects, but also to voice actual commercials for him as intern work where he thought I would be a good fit for the spot.  Ron suggested I go to a dealer and compare mics, so I went on a Saturday to Sam Ash, where they had such a comparison display with 12 different mics you could do a test run on.

When it came time to building my studio, I went with a local computer technician who is a voice artist himself, Danny Betz of Redemption Computers LLC.  Danny’s “pro” studio package came with the Harlan Hogan mic, as he found it is a very good starter which will respond well to a broad variety of voices.

NOTE:  I would be remiss if I did not give Danny Betz a plug here.  Danny is a crackerjack computer technician and knows what equipment a voice actor needs.   I found him to be very knowledgeable, trustworthy, and the Pro package I ordered from him did not disappoint.  Everything was top quality, from the custom-built PC designed for voice artists with huge amounts of audio files, to the studio monitors, down to the huge screen monitor that allows me to read copy without eye strain.  Danny spent an hour carefully setting everything up and testing it out, and another hour training me on its use.

For more info on his business, go to www.RedemptionComputers.com.  You can reach Danny by email at   Danny@RedemptionComputers.com

In my case, with my resonant (ahem) baritone, I feel the Hogan responds well in reproducing it digitally, and I’m pleased with it.  However, I did have to learn to use it properly to maximize the sound.   Ron felt I sounded best up close (4”-5” away), with the diaphragm pointing slightly away from me at 45 degrees, and with my mouth aiming an inch or two off-axis.  I have experimented some in the last few months, moving farther away, changing the diaphragm angle and mouth position, but in general, I’d say Ron’s positioning for me seems to work best.

There are some added benefits to that technique.  First, even though I relocated my computer outside my studio, it still makes a detectable hum.  However, angling the diaphragm away from that location reduces the noise floor a dB or two, down to -65.

Second, staying up closes  allows me to keep the input gain low and not pick up more noise floor, while getting the benefits of “proximity effect” – enhancing the bass tones in my voice for greatest effect.

And third, being slightly off-axis means I’m not covering my pop filter with saliva every few seconds.  I’m using a curved metal pop filter by Blue, I like it for the double layer of mesh for durability.

All in all, I’m reasonably happy for now.  What would be on my shopping list for the future?  Oh, I wouldn’t mind trying the Sennheiser MK416 shotgun mic.  I like the idea of the uni-directional pick-up pattern only picking up sound in a very tight cone behind you (as well as your voice), and reducing the noise floor further.  I did actually test the Neumann U87 and the Neumann TLM103 at Guitar Center one day.  Both fantastic mics; the difference to me was minuscule, but probably very noticeable for those at the top echelon in the industry.

How about you readers out there?  What microphone is your favorite for voice acting, and what experiences have you had using different ones?  Click on “Leave A Comment” on the upper right and feel free to share your thoughts.  (NOTE:  no spam or solicitation messages, those WILL be deleted)

That’s all for now.  Until next time, keep your best voice forward and watch those plosives.  Take care.