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Sunday, August 09, 2015

Who Needs a Voice Over Coach? How To Get Training For Free!

Voice Over lessons can be expensive, but there are cheaper alternatives.

Now this may seem an odd topic coming from a voice over coach who makes his living out of training beginners  - you may even consider it nothing short of career suicide as I give away coaching secrets, but I don't see it that way. Let's face it, not everyone can afford to embark on an expensive course.  

That said, you cannot get away from the fact voice overs require talent, hard work and tenacity. There are no short cuts. It is highly unlikely a newbie will be able to phone an agent, the BBC or a production company and say "I'm available Wednesday morning at 10am for your next voice over project" and for them to reply "great a complete novice, untrained and with absolutely no experience ... just want we want, see you then."

Voice overs look easy because the pros make them sound easy. To succeed you have to develop your performance skills, learn your craft, record a showreel and market your voice.

This all takes time and.... money.  Or does it?

Well, yes it is possible to break into the industry without spending too muchbut you will certainly need to invest plenty of effort - there is simply no getting around this.

However, that said here are some steps you can take to help you learn the art of the voice actor... and they won't cost you anything except your time.

 Join a drama group

There is a large overlap between acting and voice overs, although personally I do not subscribe to the view that you have to be an actor to be a successful VO. My own stage experience is limited to a couple of school plays and a short pantomime season playing Wishee-Washee in Aladdin (some of you may conclude I was simply I was just playing to type!) 

That said, if you are on a shoestring joining an amateur drama group will help you -

1. Develop performance skills and character voices
          2.  Interpret a script's meaning
          3.  Become more confident in your vocal delivery
Above all, you will have great fun.

Here is the link to the UK Drama Groups database that you should find useful. You may also find some free improv groups in your local area, so well worth doing a Google search.

  Use videos

There are lots of free voice over training videos on YouTube. American voice actor +Frank James Bailey has recently written a pithy Google Plus post on this very issue and you will find helpful luminaries included such as Bill DeWees and Terry Daniel, plus other experts in the field. Frank also adds his own insightful vids for good measure.

As this is my blog I hope you don't mind me mentioning my free training on YouTube too. Of course my advice is from a British perspective, but elements are still relevant globally.

These instructional tools deal with everything from recording at home and finding work to vocal care and performance tips. The great thing is, unlike a coach you might see on a weekly basis, you can simply pause and rewind when you want to hear the instruction again.

Whoever you choose to watch, and it is worth dipping into all these guys, they are great teaching resources... gratis.

  Radio training

If there is a proving ground for future voice over artists, it has to be radio. The sheer intimacy and directness of the medium means the voice has to engage with the listener. Broadcasting will help you learn the art of talking to one person - an essential attribute in voice overs.

However, trying to get into radio is tough. 

Thank goodness for community, student and hospital stations. 

Many of these not-for-profit broadcasters are crying out for volunteers and even though you will be starting at the bottom (which after all is the best place to start) you will learn everything on the way up from microphone technique to recording and live presentation.  You may even end up doing news reading or sports commentary.


Here are some helpful resources (Great Britain and Northern Ireland only): 

  Business and marketing advice

It is very important to run your voice over career (even if part-time) as a business. You are selling your vocal services to producers, authors, video game developers, training providers and companies so you need to be professional.

There is plenty of marketing advice online, but you may want something more hands on where an expert can provide guidance, support and recommendations. One of your first points of contact should be your local Chamber of Commerce.

Many of these have business venture support teams which not only provide free consultations for startups, but can also show you how to access cheap loans, which you may need to help with recording equipment and advertising (yep, even if your training is free you are still going to need to make investments to move your voice over business forward).

If you are aged between 18 and 30, unemployed or working fewer than 16 hours a week, then an excellent source of free business training courses, mentoring and funding is The Prince's Trust which is a charity set up by Charles The Prince Of Wales.

But what about more mature people?

Realising that it gets harder to begin a new venture as we become older, Prince Charles has recently turned his attention to the over 50s. He has set up The Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise  a charity whose aim is to support people who have been made redundant or are at risk of redundancy and provide them with first class help in becoming successful entrepreneurs.

If you are over 50 and out of work (or about to be) then this organisation will be able to give you the guidance you need in setting up and promoting your voice over business. 

What about the showreel?

I have deliberately left out voice demo production, because in this article I wanted to concentrate purely on the training aspects, but if you want to make suggestions as to how you would produce a voice-reel at no cost then please enter them in the comments below.

That is also the place for further advice on achieving free coaching - all ideas welcome.

For those on a tight budget, I hope the above links point you in the right direction  - good luck!

Gary Terzza runs VoMasterClass a voice over coaching programme for beginners

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