Making mistakes is part of learning and developing as a voice over artist. Although we don’t like to make them we can definitely learn from them and from those of others, but making them on your voice demo is a sure way to turn off any agent or potential client. Your demo is your calling card, get it wrong and no one will come calling. Get it right and you might just get the work you want.
We’ve been lucky enough to discover, train and produce voice demos for new emerging voices and seasoned pro’s for over 30 years and know that just having a good voice is not enough to succeed in todays VO Industry. You’ll need a demo that not only shows your vocal age, range, style and ability, but stands up to VO industry standards. If your demo is not produced professionally, all your training and planning will have been a waste of time and money.
Agents and clients listen to many demos daily and will give you 15-30 seconds before they decide to hire you or move on the the next voice. They have experienced industry ears and will instantly hear a badly produced demo no matter how good your voice is. They want it to sound like it is real work so they can hear your voice with their script.
The most important thing to identify before you consider recording your demo is your signature voice – The voice you’ll be asked to use the most on sessions. Your most natural, believable and confident vocal style.
When clients go casting they type in standard industry vocal descriptions for the voice they need for their project. They base their search on gender, nationality, age, quality & style. If the first thing they hear on a demo is different from their initial search criteria, they look elsewhere for the voice for their project. Understanding your signature voice and being able to describe it in industry terms is essential for casting purposes. Your first read must be your signature voice if you are to stand a chance of getting hired.
There are of course many other mistakes voices make on their demo/s and here in no particular order are some common ones to avoid.
Recording a demo that shows lack of training and voice over experience and sounds like you’ve simply turned up at the studios without any previous VO training or any script preparation and hoped the voice producer can pull a “magic demo” out of the bag for you. Recording a demo is an investment in your future voiceover career. Planning is everything. No new voice plans to fail – they simply fail to plan. Get the skills, find your scripts and prepare!
Recording a demo that’s too long. Clients & agents have a short attention span as they’re busy. They want short fast and punchy clips on a demo, showing your vocal variety and confidence as quickly as possible. Commercials should be no longer than 20 seconds and narrative clips a max of 30 seconds. Total demo time for each genre should be no longer than 90 seconds. (Excluding Audio Books) when clips should be 3-5 minutes to show you can hold a read.
Poor demo production. Your demo sounds home produced or recorded quickly on the cheap with a friend with little or no music and SFX that make for a more believable and professional presentation.
Choosing the wrong scripts for the age & style of your voice or writing your own scripts. The age of your voice dictates the style and content that goes on your demo. Get it wrong and we lose that believability factor. The same goes for writing your own scripts. Unless you are a professional copyrighter, leave it to the professionals.
Lack of conversational flow, melody, energy, drive and correct pace. Your demo sounds like your reading and not being spontaneous just like in every day conversation. In other words, we can hear you thinking and reading every word in every clip. That’s why training is so important. Learn the skills needed before you record.
No smile. This is so important to engage any listener and helps you lift the words off the page to sound more believable. The term “warm it up” is the most used term on a session and that means smile. However, it’s hard to smile on cue so the ability to think of an amusing moment in your life that makes you smile (not burst out laughing ) when asked is a great skill to have.
Acting, acting, acting… Unless you’re recording a Radio Drama demo or a Character/Games Animation reel, over projecting and sounding too BIG is a no, no. Remember it’s a Mic not a stage and less is more and you are only ever talking to one person. Learning how to be conversational and believable, just as in every day conversation is another skill you need in your tool-box.
Recording the wrong kind of narrative material on a demo. Drama, monologues, poems, audio books, sonnets, and Shakespeare reads belong on a Radio Drama demo and not a corporate narration reel. Agents and clients want to hear examples of a corporate, medical, technical, IVR or documentary read on a narrative demo. No acting.
Including accents on your commercial demo. Unless you have a native regional accent, don’t include them on your demo. Keep it to your own voice and show any vocal gymnastics on your animation/games demo. There are many voices out there and if a client wants a London, Welsh, Scottish, Irish or Northern voice, they’ll choose a native speaker and not someone one who can get close.
Dry production. No Music or FX to add believability, just the voice only. Although some online P2P sites ask for voice only demos, your average agent and client want to hear a full production. You need to make every clip on your demo sound like it has gone to “broadcast” and like it’s not a demo but real work you have done.
Singing on a Voiceover Demo – AAAhhh – Keep this to a singing or character demo please.
Dated material – over 2/3 years old.
Fake brand names. Please use real ones.
Not using a natural conversation voice and going into a Broadcast/Announcer voice or perceived voice over voice. Ok, there are times when that sound is needed, but as a “rule of thumb”, keep it natural, conversation, believable and you. Trust and use your own voice.
Your demo shows lack of variation in vocal melodic variety, tone, pitch, pace and style. In other words it’s all a bit monotone and sounds read. Conversational flow in any delivery is key. Training will help you achieve this.
Using well known ads from TV – Oops, we know it’s not you.
Over production that hides the vocal skills. DJ Radio Station Promo Production. POW! Keep it simple and so it reflects your current vocal skills. There’s no point spending money on an over produced demo style that you can’t reproduce on a job.
Lack of energy, confidence and drive on your demo. You need to sound like this is your only job and you read for a living every day. Sounding tentative on any read will make the listener question if you are any good or not. Learn the skills to deliver a confident read.
Your demo shows bad mic technique like pops, sibilance and those dreaded mouth noises. Great production and advice from experienced VO demo producers will help you record a great demo. Learning how to work the mic, lose those nerves, and squash those mouth noises before you arrive at the studios will make your demo session go smoothly and give you a product you are proud of and not one that you only play to friends and family at Xmas after a sherry. Learning the skills needed for VO & correct demo planning is the only way you will get work.
Oh did we mention lack of training before recording?