How To Ace Your First Session
In A Professional Recording Studio
By Maxine Dunn
Voice Actor & Solopreneur
One of the biggest milestones in your early voice over career will be working in a professional recording studio.
And having a session in a pro studio reveals one very important fact: You’re going about your business in the right way:
Congratulations! You’re on your way.
PREPARE FOR SESSION
Although every recording session has its own unique personality - and no experience will be identical to another, there are certain procedures and experiences that will be very similar in every session.
Being aware of what to expect, having guidelines of how to behave, and remaining flexible and cooperative will help your experiences in pro studios go much more smoothly.
So take a deep breath and let me walk you through a typical recording session. I’ll give you some tips along the way to help you get your bearings.
THE DAY BEFORE ...
Your preparation for your session will begin a day or two before you set foot in the studio.
Avoid foods and beverages that will “clog the pipes” and make your body produce more mucous for at least 24 hours before your session. These include:
THE NIGHT BEFORE ...
One of the best ways to assure that your voice is clear and strong is to get a good night’s sleep the night before you record.
THE MORNING OF ...
A few things to avoid when dressing / preparing for your session are:
Also be sure to have fresh breath!
HOW TO DRESS
I prefer to dress professionally or fashionably for voiceover sessions, as that’s what I feel most comfortable in.
However, the basic guideline for attire is business casual.
WHAT TO TAKE
I recommend taking the following items to your recording session:
On the day of your session, arrive at the studio 10-15 minutes early. (And that means being INSDIE the studio 10-15 minutes before your session time, not driving around the parking lot looking for a parking space!)
Make sure you have good directions and have the studio’s telephone number with you in case you need to call for any reason.
MAKING YOUR ENTRY
When you first arrive you’ll be greeted by the receptionist and may have to wait in the lobby if the client has not arrived yet.
If you didn’t receive the script the day before, you’ll most likely be given one now. Take advantage of being there early and review the script.
When the client arrives, you’ll be walked back to the control room and typically there will be a few minutes of consultation with the client and engineer about what your clients wants.
This is a great time to ask questions or get clarification on the script:
FOCUS ON SCRIPT & CLIENT
If this is the first time you’ve seen the script (and especially if it’s a long one), be sure to request a few minutes to look it over so you’re not “cold reading” it.
No client will object if you say, “Since this is the first time I’ve seen the script, I’d like to take a few minutes to look it over.”
If you’re feeling nervous at this point, remember to breathe! Just relax your belly and take slow deep breaths through your nose.
If you focus very clearly on your client and their needs, you’ll find you have less attention to focus on how you’re feeling.
INTO THE BOOTH
Next, the engineer will take you into the booth and get you situated in front of the microphone.
The booth might be a tiny closet-sized room or a cavernous suite with grand pianos and musical instruments in it.
Don’t worry - your only concern is the area directly in front of the microphone.
Don’t be intimidated by whatever surroundings you find yourself in. Bring your attention back to what you are going to create for your client, relax, and feel confident.
You’re there for a reason!
SIT OR STAND?
Be sure to let the engineer know whether you’d like to sit or stand – it’s up to you, so don’t be shy about stating your preference.
I prefer to stand, since I feel it allows me more room to move my arms and gesture, as well as allowing me to have better breath control.
You’ll also be given a set of headphones so you can hear direction and communicate with the client during the session.
RECORDING - PART 1
Once you’re properly situated in front of the mic, you’ll be asked to read some of the script for “a level check.”
This will allow the engineer to set the appropriate recording levels for the session. When reading to set the levels, read the script at exactly the volume you’ll be using when recording the session.
Note: Don’t touch the microphone. If you need something adjusted in the booth, ask the engineer to come and do it for you.
RECORDING - PART 2
Before you start to record, the client will most probably give you some last-minute direction:
TAKE ONE ... TWO ...
Then the engineer will let you know he’s recording – Take one. Take two. Sometimes Take 30!
Don’t be alarmed if you have to read a script many times in many different ways. That’s perfectly normal.
The director’s instructions are not criticism, so don’t take their words personally, just stay relaxed, creative, and cooperative and keep your energy up.
Some sessions will be a breeze and you’ll be finished in 20 minutes. Others will take much longer and require stamina and a great attitude.
Stay positive and keep your focus on what you’re creating for your client.
You may be required to wait for extended periods in the booth while the client and engineer confer and work with the audio and video.
I’ve sometimes waited in the booth for over 30 minutes, with no communication from the control room.
Just keep breathing deeply, move your body (while making sure you know your mic position) and be patient. (I’ve even done leg lifts or jumping jacks or yoga stretches to keep my blood moving around!)
They’ll let you know when they need your attention again.
Your client also may do script changes on-the-fly.
This is common when recording commercial copy, as many times there is too much copy for a :30 or :60 second commercial.
Be prepared to change your script (with a pencil, as they may also change it back) and be flexible with your read if the copy changes.
Remember, you’re an integral part of a creative process, and a recording session is a fluid, changeable medium.
Nothing is carved in stone. Stay loose.
WRAPPING UP ...
When the client is happy with the finished recording, the engineer will let you know that you’re finished and can come out of the booth.
There’s usually a congratulatory feeling all around and, for you, a great sense of relief and pride! You did it!
I always ask my clients for their business card and always give them one of mine and thank them heartily for the opportunity to work with them.
But don’t stay and chat too long, they have work to do!
If you’re working through an agent and have a voucher or a contract to be signed, make sure you get the paper work completed before you leave, either with the client, studio manager, or receptionist.
Always, always, send a thank-you note to your client! And it should be sent within one to three days after the job.
Just send a brief, sincere note of appreciation for the opportunity to work with them (and I always include another business card) and thank them for their business.
Then include them in your database and be sure to keep in touch with them throughout the year.
YOU DID IT
And you’re done! You’ve got your first pro studio job under your belt and there are many more before you. Congratulations!
Of course there are many more variables in a recording session. But this overview will help you feel more prepared when you head to your first professional recording studio voice over session.
ABOUT MAXINE ...
Maxine Dunn is a top voice over artist and on-camera spokesperson who has been seen and heard in hundreds of commercials, documentaries, corporate narrations, voice-mail systems and websites. She is a British native and her ability to also deliver a perfect American accent gives her business a wide range. She works with Fortune 100 companies, award-winning creative teams, and maintains an extensive clientele - locally, nationally, and internationally. Best known for her voice over and spokesperson expertise, she is also an avid writer who enjoys bringing stimulating and motivating material to her readers. Her free weekly e-zine, The Creative Business Advisor, is available at her website (below).
Complimentary newsletter sample: http://conta.cc/MaxineNL