Voice overs require more than just getting a microphone and talking. They are about transmitting a message and making the listener feel something.
Whether you're voicing a character or announcing the latest smartphone, the main goal of professional voice overs is to always get information across effectively, while bringing the listener in and making them feel comfortable with your voice.
In this blog, I will give you 20 tips to record professional voice overs, even from the comfort of your home. Let’s begin:
1. Warm Up Your Voice
Before grabbing your microphone and hitting the record button, there are certain things you can do to ensure your recordings will sound professional. I’d recommend you start with some vocal warm-up exercises.
Start with some breathing exercises, then sing musical scales. You can watch the tutorials that Eric Arceneaux has on YouTube. He's a vocal coach and has a very effective and simple way of explaining these warm-up exercises. Go check him out!
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2. The Script
It's a great piece of advice to familiarize yourself from the beginning with what you are about to record. Chances are, the producers will have a well-crafted script for you, but if you are working solo, you might have to be the one writing the script.
Talk to the client. What do they want to say? Do they have a script for you, or do you have to write it yourself? If you write it, make sure you send the script to the client for approval before hitting “record.” This will save you a lot of time rerecording your voice overs later on.
3. Get a Pop Filter
A pop filter, or pop shield, is used when tracking voices and it helps prevent the ‘popping’ sounds from getting into the recording.
Place your hand right in front of your mouth and say the word ‘Pop.’ Do you feel that air impact? When a microphone picks that up, it doesn’t sound pretty, so make sure you avoid this in your voice overs.
4. Watch the Video Several Times
As I mentioned before, the earlier you can start to get familiar with what you are about to record the better. Ask your client if you can see the video before getting to the studio. If you can’t, ask them for a few minutes to watch the video before you start recording.
This is a great time to start getting into character. Remember, doing voice overs is just like doing voice acting. This is also a good time to practice your script.
5. The Role of Your Voice - Your Tone
There are two types of tones you can use when doing voice overs; the ‘Conversational’ and the ‘Hard-sell Announcer.’ The conversational tone is more intimate, it speaks directly to the listener, and it is usually a relaxed, low-pitch voice.
The Hard-sell Announcer is more joyful, he is trying to convince you of something, and usually speaks at a faster pace and a higher pitch. Decide which approach you're going to take before you start recording.
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6. The Gear for Your Voice Overs
If you're lucky enough to record your voice overs at a professional studio, you don’t need to worry about the gear, as they probably have the best gear in the market. Yet, if you are like me, you are probably recording your voice overs in the closet!
Having decent recording gear at home is crucial if you want your voice overs to sound professional and to land more paid gigs. You’ll need a decent microphone. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can get a $50 Blue microphone or a $100 Shure SM58.
Also, you are going to need a software to record or, better known as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). If you can afford the professional ones like Logic Pro or Pro Tools, that is amazing, go get them now! But if you're looking for a free option, GarageBand (Mac) or Audacity (Windows) will work just fine.
Also, get yourself also a pop filter, XLR or USB cables, and headphones.
7. Take Care of Your Voice
Your voice is like your instrument so take good care of it. Avoid smoking at least three days before the recording day and make sure that your body is sufficiently hydrated so your voice doesn't crack.
8. Watch the Video While You Record
Make sure you can see the pre-shot video from your voice overs recording spot. This will allow you to follow the character in its voice inflections, physical movements, or to simply transmit the emotion that he is feeling at a certain part.
9. Always Record Standing Up
Your body has more capacity for unrestricted airflow when you are standing up, rather than sitting down. This body posture will help you project your voice better and it will come across in your voice overs.
10. Record in a Silent Environment
The last thing you want is the sound of a roaring airplane engine in your voice over recordings! So, think about your recording environment first. Of course, there are situations that you can control, with some isolation and acoustic treatment. Yet, if you live beside a train station, I recommend you go record your voice overs somewhere else.
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11. Speak “Larger Than life”
Imagine you are in a large room with a big crowd, and you have no microphone but you need to make sure the people on the back will hear your speech loud and clear. What would you do? You’d have to project your voice! That's exactly what's needed of you when recording voice overs.
Voice projection is a solution to not talking loud enough. Now, don’t get me wrong, projecting the voice is not the same as yelling! When you project your voice, you push the air out from your diaphragm creating a loud sound. This will make your voice overs sound awesome.
12. Less is More
Adding too many words to a video might kill the flow. Imagine an earth documentary where the narrator never stops. He might ruin the majestic takes over the Kilimanjaro. So, remember that less is more in your voice overs and keep your words to a minimum.
13. Try Multiple Line Readings and Voice Inflections
Don’t just stick to the first take you get, record again and add a variation. Maybe the second time try to add a pause or change the tone of your voice. See what results your get from experimenting.
14. Learn a Bit About Sound Engineering
If you learn how to play with Equalizers and effects you can get your voice to sound way better with a few tweaks here and there. Your voice overs will be in high demand and you'll certainly get repeat bookings.
15. Speak Clearly
No matter how fast you need to go, clarity is key if you want to get the message across. Also, make sure you have the right pronunciation for every word.
16. Be Confident – Mean What You Say
“Mmm hi, my name is George… Mmm, nice to meet you…” I’m sorry George, but no one is going to pay attention to you unless you start sounding more confident. Sounding confident in your voice overs is imperative, so if you don't feel confident, fake it till you make it!
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17. Be Humble
Surround yourself with great people and try to learn as much as you can from everyone and from every situation. If you get corrected by a producer, try not to take it personally. Instead, try to see their point and correct when needed. Constructive criticism is always useful when it comes to improving your voice overs.
18. Read Out Loud Every Day
This is a daily habit that will help you improve your voice overs and your speaking skills dramatically, so, get into the habit, as it will certainly pay off!
19. Enjoy It
Love what you do and enjoy as much as you can. After all, this is probably one of the coolest jobs in the world. Remember that not everyone gets to do what they love. Recording voice overs is fun, so remember to enjoy it!
Last but not least, the tip that you wouldn’t think will make a huge difference, but it does. To really measure the impact of a smile in your voice overs, try saying something into the microphone and record it. Then, say it again, but this time with a big smile on your face! Which recording sound more appealing? You let me know in the comments.