Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rest Your Mind and Your Voice

Countless nutritionists, physicians, sleep experts and various other medical professionals are always touting the numerous reasons why sleep is SO important to your health. I am here to offer you one more reason, your VOICE.

You rarely hear about a voiceover artist bragging about practicing habits that are obviously detrimental to their voice (such as drinking excessively or voicing a long script when they are stricken with something such as laryngitis), yet you often hear people trading war stories about their lack of sleep. They wear these stories almost as if a badge of pride, talking about how late they stayed awake to work on an audition just to wake up only a few hours later to voice a job for a repeat client. I'm always surprised to see these stories, considering how much sleep impacts vocal performance.

By now you probably know the effect that sleep has on your voice without even realizing it. Does your voice sound different in the morning, afternoon and evening? Chances are that your voice sounds it's deepest in the morning, when your vocal chords are the most rested. Some of our students claim that their optimal voice is 2-3 hours after waking up and others say that their voice is at it's best immediately when they roll out of bed. Depending on the type of script you are reading, you may choose to voice different jobs at varying times of the day.

There have been studies that link a lack of sleep to the constriction of your vocal chords. After a restless night, you will find that your voice may have difficulty reaching or sustaining notes in a higher octave and it almost seems as if your vocal chords are sore. So unless you're going for that 'I've spent all night in a smoky bar' sound, make sure that you get a full night's rest!

If your short evenings of rest become habitual, you must be very careful not to continue to put stress on your vocal chords when they are at a less than optimal performance level. Although most vocal strain is reversible, you can develop nodules on your vocal chords if you keep repeating this action over a long period of time. Although nodules can typically be removed surgically, you run the risk of missing out on income generated by voiceover jobs while recovering from surgery, if not changing your voice itself permanently.

Don't forget that a lack of sleep also puts a damper on your energy level. This can be extremely detrimental if you're voicing a script that needs a high-energy level or a reading that is particularly lengthy. Your audience may never have a chance to see what your body does behind the mic, but it is still imperative that your energy level comes across appropriately in your voice. Sometimes the best auditions are achieved by physically moving your body to up the energy level of a read. This can seem like quite a large task if you're exhausted.

The amount of sleep that you need can vary greatly. It can be anywhere between 5-9 hours (or more). Recent studies have shown that 8.25 hours of sleep is the optimal amount for our bodies and that anything less can decrease cognitive functions. Unfortunately, there aren't many people out there that are able to get the full 8.25 hours of sleep each night, so instead of focusing on the number of hours that you sleep, focus on the quality of those hours. If you have a fitful 9 hours of sleep, it will obviously be less restful than a solid 6 hours.

To ensure that you're getting a quality night's rest, make sure that you're in a dark, quiet room. You also shouldn't consume any alcohol or caffeine close to bed time, you should make sure that you don't eat a late dinner or exercise right before you lay down and try to keep your mind as stress-free as possible in the time leading up to your rest. Also remember that your bedroom should be thought of as your room of rest. Outside stimulus such as a television or a computer has been shown to interrupt the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which directly affects your quality of sleep.

I've found that my personal sleep requirements tend to vary depending on quite a few factors. My physical health, recent physical activity and stress levels are three examples of variables that change my sleep requirements on a daily basis. In general, just try to listen to your body and rest when you feel tired. Your body will do a wonderful job of telling you when you need to rest, all you have to do is listen!

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Talent of the Month: An Interview with Kim McKay (AFTRA, Voice Over Artist, Print Model and Actress)

"I have already landed a national radio AFTRA voiceover for McDonalds!"

Kim's performing (and voiceover) career started long before she began her training with Such A Voice. "I've been an AFTRA (union) performer for years. I had voiced two jobs long before I had even thought of pursuing the voiceover industry full throttle." Kim had kept busy doing soap operas and primetime cop shows, so she didn't have too much time to consider pursuing another avenue of performing, despite many people telling her that she should venture into voiceovers more seriously. Kim enjoyed her past experience in the voiceover industry so much that she decided to pursue it further by getting the proper training.

Kim had the pleasure of attending an introductory class on the voiceover industry held by Such A Voice President, Dan Levine. From there, she researched her options and concluded that coaching with Such A Voice would give her everything that she needed to seriously launch her voiceover career. "The Such A Voice training included many valuable training sessions. I really enjoyed the bi-weekly live training series, which included subjects such as 'How To Market Yourself', 'How To Self-Direct', 'What Not To Do Before An Audition' and many more topics."

Being that Kim is already an AFTRA (union) performer, she mainly wanted to pursue training for voiceovers to add another dynamic to her resume. Kim found that her acting background helped with her voiceover career quite a bit. "When you audition for roles, you have to be focused, trust your instincts and become that role. Fortunately I have the ability to take direction very well and really listen to my producers/directors when making changes. All of this experience I had previously gained from acting was easily transferred to the voiceover industry." Kim also uses her acting background when going after a new job. "I used to worry too much about 'getting the part'. Now I handle this by going to each audition by just repeating to myself 'I am this character, in this moment, in this time'. It really calms my nerves and helps me to deliver the best audition that I can!"

Since Kim's training concluded, she has sent out approximately 225 emails of the demo that Such A Voice put together for her. Kim has been picked up by two agencies that have sent her on countless auditions. The first job that she landed after her core training had concluded with Such A Voice, was a national radio AFTRA VO for McDonald's. "I gave them everything that they asked for in the original audition and it was that simple!" Kim also takes the time to remind me that due to her being in the union (and being marketed by an agent) that "sometimes it takes a little longer" to book jobs.

Kim is certainly no stranger to persistence, so I don't even bat an eyelash when she gives me her advice for people interested in the voiceover industry. "Keep on persisting. Keep up with the bi-weekly live training sessions. I kept a notebook on everything that I learned from Such A Voice and I'd highly recommend that every student do the same. This way you can refer back to it often whenever you have questions, concerns or start to doubt yourself."

Congratulations, Kim. We can't wait to see what you accomplish next!

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

Monday, February 27, 2012

Meet Our Staff: Bill Sleeper

Once a month, Such A Voice will be highlighting a member of our staff to give you a little insight into who they are & what they do here at Such A Voice to help you get to know the people behind-the-scenes!

Meet Bill Sleeper. Bill was born in Michigan but moved to California shortly after. Most of his life was spent on the San Francisco Peninsula in Palo Alto (home to Stanford University). Bill now resides with his wife and two daughters in Oregon, just south of Portland. "What's not to love about Oregon? I could talk about recreation such as bicycling, hiking, beaches, skiing or the fabulous craft beer and local farm to fork philosophy of one of the best foodie areas in the country. I can easily sum my love of Oregon by saying that when you're driving around and you put your turn signal on, people always let you in…always! That's the kind of place I love to call home."

Bill is one of our introductory voiceover instructors. He educates people who are interested in possibly having a career in voiceovers.. He is also a voiceover coach with Such A Voice, so he has the opportunity to work with students one-on-one to teach them the intricacies of the voiceover craft. Bill also produces demos for our students in his local area.

His professional history has been largely based in a trainer/coach/mentor capacity, so linking that with his passion for voiceovers is a perfect fit. "I love to get to share in their discovery of this beautiful craft", he states. Bill enjoys the creative aspect of voiceovers and loves the fact that "voiceovers bring everything to life".

Bill is very active in the voiceover community and he's currently voicing a huge eLearning project on the drilling industry. His favorite job was voicing a Lt. Col. William Barrett Travis diary entry for the audio tour for The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.

We were excited to learn more about Bill!

What are a few of your passions? I've been a singer/songwriter/musician for close to 30 years now. This creative outlet is what actually led me to voiceovers. So I love anything that has to do with that facet of art. I'm an avid bicycle tourist, I love having a sense of place and the memories of how I came to get there. I'm also completely immersed in the environment, I live in a state that's very nature-centric so it comes very naturally!

Where is your favorite vacation spot? I've visited Hawaii for 7 weeks of my life and have seen 5 islands. If I didn't choose Hawaii, I'd have to choose Sunriver in Central Oregon. It's a family friendly place with more activities to keep someone busy than you could ever imagine. I've visited there twenty times and I still haven't seen or done everything that they have to offer!

What is one food you absolutely love? Does beer count? I live in a state that prides itself on microbreweries and beer variety. I love the options that Oregon has to offer!

What/Who is on your playlist right now? I think that my musical selection really celebrates my roots as a musician. Jason Mraz continues to blow my mind along with other musicians such as Mumford & Sons, Adele & Joss Stone.

Do you have any advice for aspiring voiceover artists? It's not about the voice, but what you do with it. Stop performing and let your unique voice and everything about you shine through!

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Talent of the Month: An Interview with Mike Slemmer

"My first paying job came only 3 months after getting my demos!"

Growing up making films since he was a child, Mike Slemmer has always had a creative side to him. He always had this regret that he didn't pursue an education in the entertainment business. He is very happy that voiceover work enables him to realize his passion for making a mark in entertainment. In fact, since he graduated from the Such A Voice program, he even managed to book on-camera work!

Mike began his journey into voiceovers in the 1980's in Dallas. Although he loved it from the very beginning, he had to put it on the back burner once his software sales career took off. He always knew that he would want to come back to voiceovers at some point, but didn't know when he would find the time to perfect his talent. After many years and hearing many people tell him what a great voice he had over and over again, Mike decided to give voiceovers another shot.

The fact that Such A Voice taught the BUSINESS of the voiceover industry is what Mike appreciated the most. While realizing that the technique coaching and the demo recording were crucial to launching his voiceover career, Mike feels that he learned the most in the marketing aspect of his training. "The marketing material provided by SuchA Voice on how to market yourself and build a business in this industry is critical to voiceover success. Between the materials in the Members Only Area, the live bi-weekly training series, the coaching sessions and my own sales & marketing experience, I have many great ideas for making my voiceover brand (The Voice of Authority) stand out in this industry!" Mike also received in-depth guidance on the technical side of voiceovers by signing up for Pro Tools training with Such A Voice. "The post-production department's ongoing support and willingness to help with my recording questions has been super!"

Mike's strong, resonant voice is definitely his biggest strength. He has a wonderful range and vocal variety. Top that off with strong business management (specifically a sales and marketing background) and you have a wonderful recipe for success. He has constructed a marketing plan and diligently works on that plan to refine and adjust it as necessary to push himself further every day. He realizes that his voice is his career, therefore making sure that he is always working on refining his talent. "My range isn't where it ultimately needs to be if I'm going to get the big jobs I'm looking for. I'm focusing on vocal variety, phrasing and generally just learning to let go a bit more. I have taken a voice acting class, individual coaching and I'm also reading a variety of books on voice acting to help give me the competitive edge in the industry."

Since graduating from the Such A Voice program in November of 2010, Mike has booked quite a few jobs. The first job he landed was recording a book for a colleague of his, Bev Flaxington. The title of the book is "Understanding OtherPeople: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior." Mike was nice enough to offer a discount to Such A Voice students or followers by clicking the title above to place your order! Although Mike wasn't paid for this job, it helped him practice recording, editing and completing all of the post-production for an audiobook. A blind buyer called to say it was the best audiobook read he'd ever heard. On top of all of that, it ended up leading to paying jobs! Concurrently with working on the audiobook, he was cast to read a book trailer for an internet promotion of the book. "I booked the job by cold calling the president of Trailer to the Stars (which does trailers for TV, movies and books). They had email solicited Beverly to do a trailer on her book, which she forwarded to me. I called the president and asked if she kept a file of VO demos, which she did. I sent over my demo and a few hours later I got a call from her letting me know that she loved my voice and had a script for me!"

Mike was most impressed with the fact that he received a complete education about all things voiceover related while working with Such A Voice. He encourages aspiring voiceover artists to remember the 3 legs of the stool to success "#1-VO practice and submitting auditions. Remember, you cannot win if you do not play. I recommend becoming a premium member of at least one of the voiceover sites (Mike's personal preference is Even if I don't get the gig, it's still great practice to record a script, completing the editing and submitting the audition. #2-Marketing and selling. Cold calling creative directors at production companies and advertisers has worked well for me. I make sure I always follow up. Of course I also advise using all social media avenues and have personally found prospects through social media. I launched a podcast for the business, which is gaining subscribers and lets me showcase my voice work. #3-Technical knowledge. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Have your equipment, learn how to use it and be efficient in doing so." Mike goes on to add another leg to the stool of success "#4-Always be learning. Look for books, classes and additional training. One last thing, don't think you're going to be a huge success overnight simply because someone said you have a fantastic voice. Constant learning and improvement, as well as learning how to be a voice actor is the critical component to your success."

Cheers to you, Mike. We can't wait to hear what you book next!

Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director

Meet Our Staff: Charlie Nardozzi

Once a month, Such A Voice will be highlighting a member of our staff to give you a little insight into who they & what they do here at Such A Voice to help you get to know the people behind-the-scenes!
Meet Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie was raised in Connecticut, but moved to the gorgeous Green Mountain State of Vermont in 1977 to attend school. "Vermont is such a beautiful state and I love the fact that they have such great community and cultural values. Other than the three year period when I was in the Peace Corps, I've never left".
Charlie is one of the people that goes into local communities to teach people the basic information about the voiceover industry that are interested in possibly having a career in voiceovers. He also gets the opportunity to evaluate their talent and give his advice on whether or not they are ready to pursue voiceovers as a career. His favorite part about teaching these classes is seeing the enthusiasm people have to learn more about the voiceover industry. "I get very excited about voiceovers since it's such a fun industry to be a part of and I think it rubs off on my students. It's easy to be so passionate when you love what you do!"
He is very well known in the Vermont voiceover scene. He has worked with companies such as the National Gardening Association, Gardener's Supply Company, Vermont Public Radio and other various local radio stations. He loves that his schedule can be flexible with voiceovers. "I have the freedom to do voiceovers when I want, where I want. You can't say that about many jobs out there!"
We were excited to sit down with Charlie!
What are a few of your passions? I'm lucky that I live in such a wonderful state that compliments my choice of hobbies so well. I enjoy yoga, meditation and anything outdoors (gardening, biking, swimming, hiking). I really enjoy biking around Middlebury, which is a wonderful small town with a great downtown area. Three of my favorite local hiking spots are Snake Mountain, Mt. Abraham and the Adirondack High Peaks. I love the peace and quiet of being outdoors in the sun and weather.
Where is your favorite vacation spot? I've visited California many, many times and I will never get sick of their gorgeous weather and the assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables available year round. I love the Big Sur area. Hiking along the coastal range and walking the beach are both very peaceful activities. Also, my stepson lives in San Francisco and it's fun visiting him there.
What is one food you absolutely love? I'm a vegetarian and I'd have to say that Indian food is by far my favorite cuisine. I love to make my own Indian food at home. My favorite recipes include Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), various Dals and Mataar Paneer (vegetables and Indian cheese).
What/Who is on your playlist right now? Grace Potter and Sara Bareilles are two of my favorite artists right now. My wife and I both fell in love with Sara's down-to-earth personality while watching the first season of "The Sing-Off".
Do you have any advice for aspiring voiceover artists? Start slow, take your time, make sure you practice and never give up!
Written by: Bethany Baker Such A Voice Marketing Director

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cardiovascular Fitness and your VO Career!

Year after year, the number one New Years Resolution people make is to get in shape or lose weight. If you are one of these people, I'm here to provide another reason for you to get in shape (or stay in shape) to keep you motivated!

All of us in the voiceover industry can agree that breath control is very important when working on a job. Breath control can make or break auditions and makes all the difference in the flow of a script. You work so hard on all the other aspects of your career, it's easy to forget how much of an impact physical fitness has on your voice!

Do you notice yourself editing out noisy or forced sounding breaths from your script reads? Those breaths actually introduce tension into your voice, which means that you are tense during a reading. Sometimes as voiceover artists we find ourselves trying to take short, quick breaths in fear of making the script sound choppy or uneven. The problem is that once you take one quick, short breath you then have to figure out how to make sure you have enough breath for the next sentence. Before you know it you take a deep breath mid-sentence (or rushing through a sentence before you run out of breath) and then you find yourself starting your recording all over again. Of course, all of this can be edited out in the end, but learning to control your breathing from the beginning will help you cut down on editing time and be more efficient submitting auditions, not to mention sound better overall. Having breathing issues is an even larger problem when booking jobs with a long script, or even audiobooks. Make sure that you take the necessary time and learn how to breathe well in the correct areas.

Working out is a great way to increase your lung capacity, which in turn helps you have more control over your breathing. Exercise is a good idea in general for a healthy lifestyle, not just for your voiceover career. Getting your heart pumping is great for many reasons since exercise increases endorphins, which helps to increase energy levels. Physical fitness also helps boost your immune system, which means that you're less likely to contract illnesses than those who lead a sedentary lifestyle. The fewer sick days you have to take, the more jobs you can book!

It seems obvious that cardiovascular exercises would be the most beneficial to a voiceover artist, as they focus on increasing your lung capacity (and therefore helping your voice the most). I personally think that if you can manage to work exercise into your daily routine at all it's a step in the right direction. If you are moving your body more than you were previously, it's building toward healthy patterns.

When it comes to what specific activities you should participate in, opinions vary greatly. Some people swear that swimming is the best exercise for voiceover artists (because it is invigorating as well as relaxing to your vocal chords and that they perform at their best soon after a swim session). Others say that taking yoga or meditation classes really helps them focus on their breathing patterns. I say that you should just focus on something you truly enjoy as exercise. The more you enjoy it, the more likely you are to stick with it and be motivated to keep up the good work!

Make sure that when you're exercising to keep a good breathing pattern and don't overexert the muscle groups around your head and shoulders. The last thing that you want is to tense the muscles in this area and have a hard time using your voice in certain ways. Sometimes if you pull a muscle in your neck it can make it painful to enunciate certain words you might need to for an audition.

Above all else, remember that your voice is your instrument and your money maker. You wouldn't expect a guitar player to walk out on stage with a broken string, you would expect them to keep their instrument in top working performance. Treat your voice the same way by giving it the best treatment and doing everything that you can to make it the best that it can be! 

 Written by:
Bethany Baker
Such A Voice Marketing Director