Sound Advice
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Sound Advice
Voiceover from an Audio Engineer's Perspective
Published:
9/3/2010
Format:
Perfect Bound Softcover
Pages:
84
Size:
8.5x11
ISBN:
978-1-45203-790-5
Print Type:
Color

I've written this book to give you a sound engineer's perspective on your career as a voiceover talent.

In this book I've tried to provide you with basic information about audio and equipment that is taught in recording schools. Hopefully, this information will provide a foundation for you to get to know your equipment better and understand how it works. Understanding your audio equipment is critical to helping you sound your best as well as helping you effectively communicate with those trying to help you when problems occur. I've also tried to address proper studio etiquette and many of the bad practices I've seen, heard and experienced from voiceover talents over the years. My intention is not to scold or criticize, but simply to provide those of you who are new to the business with information you may not know, and also to shed light on some mistakes that many of you, who have been in the business for awhile, may not know you are making.

This book is not about how to read scripts or how to be a successful voiceover artist. This book complements the many books that have been written about those topics. You may find it helpful to sit in front of your equipment as you read through some of the sections. Follow the procedures I describe and learn what the microphone, knobs, faders and other various elements in your studio can do. Most importantly, open your ears and really listen. Listen to how you sound and learn what you can do to bring out the best in your voice.

I am passionate about what I do and I know most of you are too. This is a great business.

Thank you for reading my book, I hope you find it helpful and enjoyable.

Choose Your Microphone

Now that you know about some of the different types of microphones and their characteristics you will need to go through the process of choosing one. A good place to start is by getting advice from other voiceover talents, engineers and pro-audio sales people, but do not go on their recommendations alone. YOU MUST LISTEN AND COMPARE FOR YOURSELF. The advice of others is always helpful (as a starting point), but how good something sounds to one person may not be the same for someone else.

Another good place to begin is by looking through music store catalogs. Thick catalogs with descriptions are the best. Read through the descriptions of microphones in your price range. If you are serious about your career, you will not limit yourself to just the cheap ones. But make no mistake, among inexpensive microphones there are some great values available and therefore they are well worth trying and one may even be right for you. In the catalog descriptions, look for words and phrases such as: high signal-to-noise ratio or low noise, capable of withstanding high sound pressure levels or SPL, wide dynamic range, sonic clarity and transparent signal. Note whether a particular model is generally used for vocals or instruments. Also pay attention to what accessories may be included in the price. I strongly suggest using a shockmount. A shockmount is a “basket” that holds a microphone. It is designed to help eliminate vibrations that can reach the microphone through the microphone stand. Some microphones include a shockmount, for others it must be purchased separately.

There are a number of website forums for voiceover. Websites and forums are great for introducing you to product names that you may not see in catalogs. Not all microphones are sold in all stores and people who have already done some research on them will often post information about their findings on forums. Keep in mind that any product recommended on these sites should be held to the same scrutiny as products found in stores or in catalogs. If you decide to buy a “boutique“ microphone, preamp or any other audio equipment, make certain the sellers are reputable and have reasonable return policies. It is still important that you try the equipment on your voice and in your situation to know if it is right for you. If it is not, you'll want to be able to return it easily. Another thing to be aware of when reading the forums is that a great deal of misinformation and uninformed opinions can be found there. If you read something about a piece of equipment that intrigues you, be sure to ask an engineer you trust if he or she is familiar with whatever piece it is and/or its manufacturer.

After you've done your research, have made a list of microphones (and any other equipment) that interests you and fits your budget, it is time to visit a music store with a pro audio department. Even if the nearest one is far away, it would be worth making the trip. This is your sound and your career we are talking about! Bring along at least three scripts. Bring a high energy script that requires you to push your voice a bit, bring a script that matches the style you perform the most and bring a script that requires a close and intimate read. You may also consider bringing a script that contains several hard consonants such as “t” or “p.” When you get to the store let a salesperson know that you would like to test and compare some microphones. You will need to be set up with a mixer, a microphone cable and some headphones. Of course if you already have headphones, bring them. If you can find a quiet area within the store, it would be best if you can use that space for your tests.

Ask for one of the industry standard microphones. It should be used as a benchmark and therefore you will want to keep it around to return to for reference as you try others. Using the same exact audio chain and settings, begin testing your reads through each of the microphones on your list. For this test you will want to have your headphones reasonably loud, but not so much that they damage your ears. The idea is to listen closely to the nuances in the microphone. Do not worry about your read.

Listen to the high end. Is it crisp and clean or is it smeared? A “smeared” high end has the sound of being distorted, where “s” seems harsh, brittle and possibly almost painful. It sounds as though there is just too much of it and the sound doesn't end cleanly. Is there not enough in the high end? Does your “s” seem to disappear or sound dull? Listen to the midrange. Is your voice coming through clearly as you know it, or does it sound affected? Does it sound a bit like it is coming through a telephone or a megaphone? Is the midrange seemingly harsh or is it seemingly dull or distant? Ideally, it should sound…the way you really sound. Listen to the low end. Particularly if you are a deep baritone, pay attention to how the deepest part of your voice is translating. The low end can be distorted in much the same way “s” can be distorted in the highs, except the lows will sound too thick or “muddy.”

How are the “t” and “p” consonants coming out? Is the microphone popping easily on these consonants? How does the microphone react when you change your proximity to it? Listen closely for all of the details and ask yourself each of those questions. Compare your favorites to each other and to the standards (remember that it is perfectly fine if one of the standards is your favorite). Ask a friend or someone in the store for their thoughts on the sound. Choose the one that sounds best.

I have been an audio engineer since 1994. I started in live sound, working in clubs with bands and musicians. Simultaneously, I got engineering jobs in radio and in a recording studio. After a few years I discovered the world of voiceover and realized it complemented some of my other strengths, having been a journalism major (essential to copy editing) as well as a bartender and hospitality major (essential to providing great customer service). I've been working as a voiceover talent since 2005 with a continuously growing list of clients and several respectable radio and television campaigns to my credit.

My goal in writing this book is to help you become a better voiceover talent, by learning how to be one of the engineer's favorite talents -the talent who: has a great sound, great technique, requires minimal editing, and has a great attitude. Even though engineers will be critical to your career, another goal is to help you engineer yourself as your responsibilities expand. As the voiceover industry rapidly changes, more and more voiceover talent are being expected to do their own production work, including their own recording, editing and some mixing. This is especially true for auditions. Those who can skillfully perform these engineering functions will be more valuable to those needing their productions quickly and more cost effectively. Being able to provide these services also allows you to generate additional income by using your studio for more than just your voice.

Lastly, I hope to inspire you to think more about how you actually sound, not just how well you deliver the words. Communicating is a voiceover talent's primary job and your delivery of the words is important. But by using your ears even more than your mouth, you will find that the delivery becomes easier, the message comes through better, communicating becomes more effective and your number of clients and paychecks will continue to grow.

If not for your writing this topic could be very convoluted and obqliue.
Melly 
I can't imagine who would pay $30.00- $35.00 for an 84 page book, unless you were a rank amateur. You would sell more if you released "Sound Advice" as an e-book. At least that way you can update the book as time goes by.
Anon 
A top notch book for anyone getting started in voiceovers, or for those already practicing who need some tips about the technical side of VO.
I just purchased an autographed copy at the 2015 VO Mastery Summit in Fort Myers Florida, where Dan was a guest presenter and coach.
Dan Friedman is highly qualified to write this book because of his years of experience on both sides of the studio glass.
After reading it on the plane, I have decided to start handing these out to my new voiceover students when they enter my coaching curriculum. Straight talk, excellent insights, and a simple "how to" approach for anyone wanting to get started on the right foot by learning how to setup their home studio correctly.
Plus, he provides some priceless insights on being a true professional during a session. -BRAVO Dan!!!-
Bobby Sheldon 
 
 


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