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The Copy Might Suck ... But You Can't.
How To Fly Solo - Perform Voice Over Alone
October 17, 2014
Part 2 of
3 / See Part 1

(VOXtra) - Let's tap into the wisdom and trial-and-error experiences of an exceptionally successful voice actor: Harlan Hogan. It'll save us time and expense as we climb the ladders of our own VO careers.

Harlan has just released the second edition of his popular book, VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-Over Actor - a 200-plus page collection of humorous and lesson-filled stories and advice on voice acting, home audio studios, business and marketing.

VoiceOverXtra has permission to excerpt portions for you in this three-part series. Today, Harlan shares advice for voice acting alone, in your studio.
Note: Harlan has agreed to send an autographed copy of VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-Over Actor (second edition) to VoiceOverXtra readers who purchase the new book by clicking here (with free shipping in the 48-continguous U.S. states).
Flying Solo - Performing Alone
By Harlan Hogan

Excerpted with permission from Chapter 10 of VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-Over Actor, Second Edition, (c) Harlan Hogan


That’s all I have to say. Belief.

Listeners either hear your voice and believe what it is you are saying to them, or they don’t.

When you are flying solo, talking one-on-one, with no dynamic dialogue,or even necessarily catchy copy, it’s just you and the listener establishing belief, or disbelief.

As always, you have to ask yourself the requisite questions - who are you talking to, and who are you?

You’ll glance at the script and find out what you are trying to convince the listener to do or believe, and where you are physically. Your approach and voice level will certainly be different if your character is in a noisy restaurant, a car, or a quiet living room.


It’s smart to spend some moments figuring out, or making up, a backstory. What were you doing just prior to speaking? Blowing your nose, arguing with your significant other, or being tipped off about these new, lower prices?

Now, figure out how you are going to have a conversation with one individual listener for the next fifteen seconds or fifteen minutes. You won’t be "reading”or "announcing.” You’ll be telling them some kind of story, even if it’s as simple as the fact that there’s a sale going on, and they’d be smart to hurry on in.

It always helps to visualize a specific person’s face right where the microphone is. I’m often imagining that I’m talking to my wife or one of my kids.


Talking to a very specific - albeit imaginary - listener also serves as a great "bullshit meter” for me. Would the person I’ve conjured up actually believe me, or laugh at my egocentric nonsense? If they wouldn’t believe, then I’d better stop and re-approach this script and my character.

We all have friends who are born storytellers. We hang on their every word, even though they might just be describing the most mundane tale of trying to find a decent parking spot at the mall since, "... all the spaces in the same zip code were taken by these acne-ridden valet car hikers, stuffed in little red Santa helper vests ....”

Then there are those folks who’d read Fifty Shades of Grey with all the excitement of a bored substitute teacher drilling first-graders on the alphabet.

Strive to be the storyteller.


Performing alone can be, well, lonely. You are isolated in a sometimes claustrophobic space while people on the other side of the glass or phone line discuss your performance, eat lunch, or engage in marathon texting.

It’s hard not to imagine that they are contacting your agent to complain about your total and complete lack of talent.

On the other hand, you are the center of attention, the star of the session if only for a short time, so enjoy it.


Working alone can be fatiguing, and doing take after take can be tiresome. Regardless, it’s your job to make take twenty-five sound as fresh as take one, complete with all the direction and nuances you’ve been directed to add to your reading.

Besides, we voice-overs spend so much time, energy, and money looking for the opportunity to perform, why be in such a hurry to stop?

Flying solo is all about belief. Hard sell, soft sell, narrations, audio books, comedic copy, or serious - it’s all the same. You must establish a one-to-one rapport with listeners so they feel comfortable believing you.

We all know that sometimes the copy sucks, the product may suck, the whole concept may suck - but you can’t.

If you can bring order from the chaos, believe in what you’ve been given to say, and can get your listener to believe in you as well, then you’ve got "it,” and they’ll pay you well for it.

Believe me.
Harlan Hogan has been a voice actor for 35 years, and odds are you already know what he sounds like. His commercial voice overs include classic and contemporary ad slogans from "Raid. Kills bugs fast, kills bugs dead" and Life Cereal's "It's the cereal even Mikey likes" to "This PBS program is made possible by viewers like you." Twenty-six million online gamers hear him as the voice of Alistar in League of Legends, while filmgoers see and hear him in the feature-length film Dimension. He's equally at home narrating documentaries, voicing commercials for political candidates and much more. Harlan also created Voice Over Essentials, an online voice over equipment boutique.

Voice Over Essentials online store
VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-Over Actor

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Comments (3)
Cherie McClain
10/23/2014 at 1:59 PM
Awesome advice! Thanks for sharing, Harlan!
Dave Roberts
10/18/2014 at 10:58 PM
I totally agree with everything you've spoken about Harlan. But I have to say, there are now a bunch of "Millinial Producers" coming up through the ranks in advertising agencies all over America (let alone the world and frankly I'm going out on a branch here and will probably be chastised and hung from the rafters for it) They truly don't have a clue as to what they truly want in terms of voice over until they hear it. As a professional VO talent I can't tell you how many times I've had the pleasure of sitting in the booth with 4-7 young producers giving me direction. And then watching the sound engineer look directly into my eyes into the sound booth and slowly "roll his eyes into the back of his head." Such is life.
DC Goode
10/18/2014 at 4:18 PM
More EXCELLENT, unvarnished, Marvelous Truth and genius...Thanks Harlan and Mr Florian, for sharing.
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