VOICE ACTING 101

How to Make a Voice-Over Demo (Without Killing your Career)

by Jason McCoy

Have you ever wondered how to make a voice over demo?

Well, the easiest way is to hire a demo producer.

Or you could make a voice over demo yourself.

WHAT, produce my own demo?? I know what you’re thinking:

It’s been said many times, “A voice actor should NEVER produce their own voice over demo”.

Why?

Because we may not get the results we’re hoping for.

But isn’t that the case for many things in life?

Companies should NEVER voice their own phone prompts, right?

But they do.

…We should NEVER do our own painting, right?

But we do.

No matter what the task is, hiring a professional to do it is probably going to give you the best outcome.

That goes for voice over, painting and pretty much everything.

hiring a professional

That doesn’t mean you CAN’T do it.

There is a time when producing your own demo may make sense.

That time is when you’re caught between not having a demo and having no work.

Is a self-made voice over demo the worst thing you can do?

Maybe – if your demo is done so poorly that it doesn’t do you voice or talent justice. Yes, that would be bad.

Except for that – what could be worse?

How about not having a demo at all?

That would prevent a career from ever taking off.

Unfortunately, no demo = no voice over jobs/income.

And no voice over jobs/income = no money to hire a voice over demo producer.

What about hurting your voice over career by sending out a bad demo?

First off, if it’s a bad demo you shouldn’t be using it. You must be the judge. But even if you’re an awful judge and do end up sending a bad (or even terrible) demo to a prospect, what are the odds they’ll remember you a month later?

Slim to none. People are busy. Which is probably why we forget 90% after 1 month.

That’s why we’re taught by marketing experts to stay in touch with clients.

Because even with a killer demo chances are a client will forget your name within a month.

Don’t get me wrong – Voice over demo production is an art in itself.

There are many extremely talented producers who can make you sound amazing.

And yes…

It’s always best to hire a voice over demo producer…

…but when you have more time available than money (and no jobs because you don’t have a demo), producing your own voice over demo can help get the cash flow ball rolling.

That’s why I’m going to show you how to make your own voice over demo (without killing your career).

Before we get into the details, keep this in mind:

Only you know if you’ve got what it takes to make your own voice over demo.

Effective self-criticism and good judgement are key to making your own voice over demo!

Let’s get started:


How to Make a Voice Over Demo in 5 Steps


Step 1: Find a Popular Voice


If you’ve spent any time auditioning you’ll notice artistic direction that mentions a specific actor or project.

This is HUGE clue!

voice over sound a like

The client is telling you exactly what they are looking for.

And odds are…

…if this client liked that spot or voice over delivery, there are probably hundreds or thousands more who want that same sound.

Which means having that popular style as a sample on your voice over demo could help you land those jobs even faster!

Using a popular voice as a reference for who’s getting hired, is a great starting point for your demo.

Find a voice actor who is popular and also similar to your own voice sound and style.

Here’s a few examples: Morgan Freeman. Tim Allen. Dennis Leary.

Sometimes it isn’t so much the actor but a certain project. You may not know who voiced the project but it’s the sound or feeling that the client is searching for.

For example, Apple commercials have a calm and conversational feeling that is often referenced by clients.

It doesn’t matter what voice over niche you’re producing your demo for, you can find samples on sites like YouTube, iSpot.tv, Vimeo, etc.

Once you find the voice over, you’ll use this as your inspiration.


Step 2: Study the Voice Over Example and Practice


Study the voice over and try to mimic that voice.

Wait, mimic? Aren’t we supposed to be unique and original as voice actors?

Yes, you do want to be unique and original as you grow.

But if you don’t have a demo, a known voice, or a brand for your voice yet, you can find voice over work quickly by studying what others are doing or have done.

If you’ve got a voice that can sound like Morgan Freeman, there’s a lot of voice over work you could be getting.

Remember, the goal of a voice over demo is to show clients what you’re capable of doing with your voice.

Analyze the voice over. Really pick it apart to figure out how it was done. Learn something from it.

As you listen to the voice over, pay extra close attention to these 2 things:

1 – How was it read? Consider things like volume, pace, inflections and pauses.

2 – The type music used. How would you describe the music?

Now transcribe the voice over into a script which you’ll use to study even more.

You can quickly transcribe a video by playing the audio on a site like Dictation.

I used this video as my example and Dictation quickly spit out the copy:

online dictation

Make sure you add your own notes (like commas for slight pauses or where emphasis was added) to help you understand why this voice over worked so well.

NOTE: I originally suggested the next step be to record your own version of this exact script. Several comments made good points about this being a copyright infringement. So to keep everything legal and on the up and up, it’s best to write your own script…

Now, take some time and write your own short script using the example voice over as your inspiration.


Step 3: Record Your Voice


By now you’ve listened and studied the example voice over multiple times, written your own script and now you’re ready to record.

Using your script (including your notes) and what you learned in Step 2, record your voice over with your audio software.

Remember, you want your read to match the style of the popular voice over you’re using as your example.

It should sound exactly the same:

Same mic proximity.

Same delivery style.

Same pacing.

Same emphasis.

Same inflection.

Same pauses.


Step 4: Add Music


Now that you’ve got your vocal track recorded, it’s time to add the music (assuming the popular voice over example had music).

This is where people make mistakes because it involves production.

Up until this point you’ve basically been doing the job of a voice actor. Now, it’s time to get into producing the demo.

Check out a royalty free music site like AudioJungle or PremiumBeat to find music that is similar to the music in your example.

Think back to Step 2 and how you described the music.

Just plop that adjective into the search box on the royalty free music site and BOOM!

audiojungle search

That brings up thousands of options to choose from.

If you don’t find many songs using your search, try using another word to describe the music or if the song reminds you of a band, try searching the band’s name.

Browse through the songs and select the one that best represents the music from your example.

You’ll need to purchase that song in order to use it on your voice over demo.

Once you purchase the song and download the MP3, you’ll just mix it together with your voice over (most audio recording programs have mixing capabilities).

Voice-Over Tip

 Sign up for AudioJungle’s newsletter and you’ll get a free music track every month:

Envato Market Free Music

When mixing the music with your voice over, remember to keep the music volume low so it doesn’t overpower your voice. Also, make sure your final mix down is in stereo.


Step 5: Repeat


Done! Now you’ve got a great sounding sample for your voice over demo (and your only expense was the cost of the music).

You’ll want to repeat this process a few times in order to build up a full demo showing your different styles.

Even though you probably recorded longer, only use about :10 worth of this sample in your demo.

Ideally you want your demo to be around 60 seconds and showcase about 6 different styles.


Conclusion


Now you know how to make a voice over demo.

Hopefully this self made demo will be good enough to score you work so you can eventually hire a professional voice over demo producer to do it for you.

Until then, just keep doing these steps:

Step 1: Find a really popular voice or project that is similar to your own style

Step 2: Study the voice over for clues and write a new script

Step 3: Follow your script and record a voice over

Step 4: Add music or effects to finish off the sample

Step 5: Do it over and over again until you’ve got a killer self made :60 voice over demo.

Remember the point of a voice over demo is to show prospects exactly what you’re capable of, which may include sounding similar to other popular voices and (as you grow and succeed) your own original style.

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