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Auditions Online: How To Win
More From Your Home Studio

By Marc Cashman
 
Auditioning protocol is changing, now that home studios are becoming ubiquitous.
 
When you go to a casting company or your agent, you’ll have two to three takes and then you’re done. In your home studio, though, you can do as many takes as you want until you feel you’ve nailed it.
 
But there’s no one to direct you at home. Auditioning there 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.
 
WARM UP, PLAN, REHEARSE
 
Warm up your voice before you record. Do whatever vocalization exercises you need to do before you enter the booth.
 
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 haven’t been talking for six to eight hours. Then proceed to the scripts in a higher key, and finally to any scripts that require a louder sound, or, say, a textured voice or gritty character.
 
As with any audition, go over directions, mark, rehearse and time your copy before you record.
 
Rehearse your copy standing up and speaking at the volume you’ll be voicing 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.
 
Have water in the booth at all times, and drink in between takes. Stay hydrated.
 
DID YOUR BEST?

Listen to your playback objectively. Do you believe the person you’re 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 you’re just not “getting it.” Don’t worry, though. There’ll be plenty of others down the road.
 
If you haven’t 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 don’t know, take your best guess.
 
Add your personality and individual “spin.”
 
FOLLOW DIRECTIONS
 
Read 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.
 
If it’s a 60-second script, submit one take. If it’s a 30-second, submit two. If it’s a 10- or 15-second spot, submit three. If it’s an animation audition, decide on your character’s voice and commit to it.
 
Slate your name clearly, and follow slating instructions carefully. You don’t need to give your life story. Keep the slate short and sweet, and get right to it.
 
Follow any labeling protocol to the letter. Be especially cognizant of details like upper and lower case, spacing, underscoring, hyphens, etc.
 
If there are no labeling instructions, ask your agent if there’s any particular way they’d 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 can’t follow simple written directions won’t be able to follow oral ones in a session.
 
RECORDING SPECS
 
Record your auditions at 128 kpbs (or 96 kpbs if it’s a particularly long audition), in mono. You don’t need a stereo file for an audition, and you want to limit the size of the file you’re emailing.
 
If the file is really big, arrange to upload it instead of trying to attach it to an email. You’ll know if the file’s too big when it bounces back with a “cannot be delivered” message.
 
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.
 
SOUND OK?

Send a sample recording to some audiophile (read: techno geek) friends and ask them if your sound file sounds okay. If not, get your recording system tweaked before you send out any more funky-sounding auditions.
 
Make sure you’re recording in a dead-sounding space, where the sound isn’t bouncing off hardwood floors or high ceilings.
 
You can do a lot to dampen the sound around your mic. Many times, if you have some basic soundproofing, your auditions will sound great, and can be used as a final track.
 
COVER IT
 
For auditions going to agents, a cover letter isn’t necessary. But you should always attach one to every audition that goes directly to a client. It should include:
  • your name
  • phone number
  • email address
  • what you’re auditioning for
  • the reasons you’re a great candidate for the job, and
  • where they can listen to other examples of your voice work
If they want you to submit a quote for your services, be as explicit as possible - given the job description - and address any ancillary costs such as studio time, phone-patch or ISDN charges, etc.
 
Marc Cashman heads Cashman Commercials, Stevenson Ranch, CA - one of the top radio production companies in the U.S. - winning over 150 advertising awards in the past 20 years, writing and producing copy and music for radio and TV commercials. He is also a voice-over instructor, offering beginner and master classes.
 
 
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