ASK MARC #6:
Auditioning From Your Home Studio:
16 Tips, From Warm Up To Cover Letter
By Marc Cashman
Voice Actor & Coach
© Marc Cashman 2012
This is a Q&A column on VoiceOverXtra where I answer a veritable smorgasbord of voice over questions. If you'd like to pop a question to me, please see my contact info below.
Q: Iíve just installed a little home studio to submit auditions with my computer, and boy, itís quite different than going in to my agentís office. Any tips on how to approach this? - Valerie C., Hollywood, CA
Valerie, auditioning protocol is changing, now that home studios are becoming ubiquitous.
When you go to a casting company or your agent, youíll have two to three takes and then youíre done.
In your home studio, you can do as many takes as you want until you feel youíve nailed it. But thereís no one to direct you - this is a totally self-directed exercise, with no feedback.
So here are a few things to keep in mind, and a number of things to do to prepare yourself, both physically and emotionally, for this process:
1. Warm Up. Warm up your voice before you record. Do whatever vocalization exercises you need to do before you enter the booth.
2. Start Low. If you have a number of different auditions to record, first record the ones that are on the low end of the scale, i.e., the deepest ones.
Your voice is most resonant first thing in the morning, because you havenít been talking for six to eight hours. Then proceed to the scripts in a higher key, then finally to any scripts that require a louder sound, or, say, a textured voice or gritty character.
3. Review Script, Rehearse. As with any audition, go over any directions, mark, rehearse and time your copy before you record.
4. Stand or Sit? Rehearse your copy standing up and speaking at the volume youíll be speaking in the booth. If the spot requires a lot of energy, read standing up. But if the spot asks for a relaxed, laid back read, consider sitting on a stool.
5. Evaluate Playback. Listen to your playback objectively. Do you believe the person youíre hearing? Be honest. If not, record it again. And again, if necessary. If you capture a convincing performance, send it on. If not, pass on it. It means youíre just not "getting it.Ē
Donít worry, though. Thereíll be plenty of others down the road.
6. Pronounce Correctly. If you havenít been given the proper pronunciation of the product or service, try looking it up online to see (or hear) how the name is pronounced. If you still donít know, take your best guess.
7. Be YOU. As with any audition, add your personality and individual "spin.Ē
8. The Right Read. Read any directions carefully, and give the client at least one take the way they want it. Then give a second take the way you think it should be.
9. Slate Properly. Slate your name clearly, and follow any slating instructions carefully. You donít need to give your life story. Keep the slate short and sweet, and get right to it.
10. Hydrate. Have water in the booth at all times and drink in between takes. Stay hydrated.
11. Label Right. Follow any labeling protocol to the letter when given. Be especially cognizant of details like upper and lower case, spacing, underscoring, hyphens, etc.
If there are no labeling instructions, ask your agent if thereís any particular way theyíd like the file labeled. If not, label your files generically: YourName - Product.mp3.
Some agents or clients will not even listen to or consider mislabeled auditions, on the assumption that anyone who canít follow simple written directions wonít be able to follow oral ones in a session.
12. Set Settings. Record your auditions at 128 kpbs (or 96 kpbs if itís a particularly long audition) in mono. You donít need a stereo file for an audition, and you want to try to limit the size of the file youíre emailing. If the file is really big, arrange to upload it instead of trying to attach it to an email. Youíll know if the fileís too big when it bounces back with a "cannot be deliveredĒ message.
13. How Many Takes? If the script is a :60, submit one take. If itís a :30, submit two if you have two viable alternatives. If itís a :10 or :15, submit three (again, if you can give them three distinctly different approaches). If itís an animation audition, decide on your characterís voice and commit to it.
14. Review Settings. Check, double check and triple check your recording settings. Make sure your recording is like Goldilocks: not too soft, not too loud (no distortion), but just right. Send a sample recording to some audiophile (read: techno geeks) friends and ask them if your sound file sounds okay. If not, get your recording system tweaked before you send out any more "funky-soundingĒ auditions.
15. Check Acoustics. Make sure youíre recording in a dead-sounding space, where the sound isnít bouncing off hardwood floors or high ceilings. You can do a lot to dampen the sound around your microphone. Many times, if you have some basic soundproofing, your auditions will sound great, and can be used as a final track.
16. Cover It. For auditions going to agents, a cover letter isnít necessary. But you should always attach one to every audition that goes directly to a client.
The cover letter should not only have all the necessary information, like your name, phone number and email address, but also clearly state:
Marc Cashman creates and produces copy and music advertising for radio and television. Winner of over 150 advertising awards, he also instructs voice acting of all levels through his classes, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques in Los Angeles.
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