Tech and Tech #3

by

Recorded October 2021 during the live Tech and Tech Bonus Class offered to
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Agents 

Is it okay to have more than one? I would like to have a local Agent and then look for one that’s out of state in another market.

Absolutely, but first, make sure that there’s an understanding between the agencies you hire. Who’s going to be your primary Agent? If two of the same pieces of copy come up on the same day, the primary agent should get it. It’s important to have open, honest conversations with the agencies that you’re interviewing with if this is what you want to do.

A lot of people are intimidated by agents, they can be intimidating people – that’s kind of what they do for a living! Just remember that they work for you. When you go in to interview with an agency, you’re interviewing them too. You need to make sure that they’re a good fit for you. Make sure they’re going to represent you and prioritize you.

Some of the bigger agencies also cater to celebrities, and you might get pushed aside. I got “bumped” many times by celebrities, especially in the early days. I had to prove myself, and that took time. You have to give yourself time to get to that place.

Regardless of how many Agents you end up with, their job is to get you out there in front of people. To get people to listen to you. That will happen if you have a good Agent. Just don’t expect a ton of copy at first. It’s going to take a while to build up to that.

Soundproofing

Sometimes we see a booth where every surface is covered with foam. Then we see strategic placings of foam to break up a wall. How much soundproofing is enough soundproofing?

It depends on the space that you’re in, your needs, who you’re working with, and even what you’re going to do on the mic.

I have a soundproof booth but I also have four inch foam on the outside. Typically you don’t need this much. I loaded it up because of the layout of my booth, which has two large windows. I scream a lot in my sessions and that creates a lot of slap-back so this is what works for me.

Some producers prefer a little more of an open tone than what I have (rather than a “dead” sound). I worked with a guy recently who wanted me to leave the door open and put a baffle behind. He didn’t like the slap-back (or sharp tone reflected) from the monitor, or the dead sound from the foam, and was more interested in the natural tone from the outside. We found a way to make it work. So it can depend on what the engineer is looking for.

You don’t have to go all out like I did in terms of a pro studio setup – especialy at first. If you have corners that are not treated you might get a little bit of slap back from there. You can put what they call “bass traps” up in the corners, and that will help. Put a piece of foam behind you as well, and maybe put a couple pieces on the sides.

They also make baffles that go behind the microphone. Here’s one I recommend. Carpet on the floor to absorb some of the sound is helpful too.

No matter what kind of space you have, you really have to play with the acoustics of your room, because every room is different.

AND….if you only have a closet space with clothes and just enough space to stand up and hook up a little system, that’s great too!

My friend Dee Bradley Baker has compiled a thorough list of ideas to help you with your home recording situation.  Here’s a link to this excellent resource: https://iwanttobeavoiceactor.com/home-studio-hardware-components/

Voices

When you’re exploring new character voices and ranges and your voice begins to get that “tickle” or “itch” do you stop and think “This is not something I should be doing?”. Or do you push past the sensation and keep going?

For me it’s more often the latter these days, because I’ve learned that there’s more than one way to get a voice out. In some cases, you can use different placements in the face and different ways of supporting the breath to achieve the same sound without hurting yourself.

Some years ago I was working with Frank Welker on Scooby Doo, recording creature voices for the show. I was doing this crazy voice using an exhale and it kinda hurt. He did the same sound with an inhale – and said it didn’t hurt. He showed me a simple adjustment in how I used my breath to get the same results, with less effort and far less risk of damage. I learned a lot about using the body and different placements from Frank. Your whole body is your instrument.  You need to take the time to experiment and see what works for you.

Dee Bradley Baker also talks about duplicating a sound using either an inhale or exhale, or using different placement. We did an amazing class with Dee where he showed how pushing on different parts of the face – manipulating the sinus cavities, can help to alter the characteristic of the sounds you create. If you’re a student you can check that class out in the archives.

I never give up on a voice immediately, because there’s lots of ways that you can approach it. If I’m in a session and I’m trying something and it hurts, yes, I’m going to stop. IF they have time I’ll say “Let me try it a couple different ways,” then if we land on something that doesn’t kill me and I can sustain it for the rest of the session, we’re good to go.

You’re capable of a lot more than you might realize and there are a lot of different ways to get there, but PLEASE… be careful.  If it hurts, stop.  Find another way that doesn’t hurt or just don’t do it.  One bad scream can damage your throat permanently.

Enunciation

What tips or suggestions do you have, besides reading out loud, to get better at enunciation?

Read it out loud but slow it way down. You can take one word and practice this, like the word “particularly.” Separate it out into all of its little pieces, there’re a lot of syllables there:

Par-tik-you-lar-lee

Overemphasize it, stretch it out, put in all the consonants, even the ones that might be silent when you normally pronounce the word. Get it in your head that there’s delineation between the syllables. Then, as you get more comfortable with it, put it back into an authentic way of speaking until it becomes a natural thing for you.

That said, there’s a lot of work that’s mushy-mouth these days. In a lot of animation some finished reads are getting really sloppy, because they want it to sound “green” or “unpolished.” That’s good news for people who don’t articulate very well. Many of us who spent years working on our enunciation actually struggle to make it sound raw and unprofessional.

If you’re going to be auditioning for animation, and newer animation especially, sometimes they’ll want someone who can mash the words together. Like how we speak when we’re comfortable around friends and family. This trend may change, so make sure you can speak clearly too!

If you’re going for commercial or industrial work, for most cinematic games, narration, or for animated characters who do enunciate, and you have to say words like “particularly,” you’ll have to do it particularly clearly, so make sure that ability is in your skill set!

Another good thing you can do is practice speed-reading. Take the speedy legal copy from commercials like “available for a limited time only at participating dealers, terms conditions and restrictions apply.” Break it down, slow it down, then do it over and over and over and over and over again. Repetition is the thing that’s going to help you get your lips and face around something like that.

Sometimes you’ll just get stuck on a word or phrase, we all do. Maybe even to the point where the writers have to rewrite it. Don’t get too frustrated if that happens, it happens to everybody! Just breathe, take your time and take direction if they give you a new one.  And please remember to have fun.  It’s supposed to be fun!

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