Tuesday, October 15, 2019

"I'm living on the air at WKRP in.....Mansfield, Ohio"

The start of my radio career wasn't exactly like the TV show "WKRP in Cincinnati," but it had quite a few wacky moments.

Upon graduating from high school in Strongsville, Ohio, I told my Dad I wanted to go to a broadcast school in Cleveland to become a radio deejay. He said, "Son, I don't know about that. It's a dog eat dog business." As usual, he was right. After considerable begging, he agreed and gave me a very reluctant nod of the head to enroll. The cool thing was that the instructors were deejays I heard on the radio in the Cleveland market. One of mine was "The Real Bob James." He was on WGAR, a very popular station at the time. Bob was very funny on air and would go on to co-found the American Comedy Network. It was a comedy service that radio deejays subscribed to for funny material they could use on their radio shows. I listened to Bob on the radio and held him in high regard. In short, I was thrilled to have him as one of my teachers. Upon graduation from the school, I started sending out my demo tape to radio stations around the country. Much to my surprise ( and my Mom and Dad's too), I got a phone call from a radio station in Mansfield, Ohio which was about 45 minutes south of where I grew up. It was a Mom and Pop AM/FM station called WCLW. They had a reputation for paying low wages and hiring guys like me who had zero on air experience but wanted to get in the radio business as a deejay. After a telephone interview, they hired me to do an afternoon show on their low wattage AM station. ("Hello. Is anyone out there?") My Mom and Dad had to have been in a mild state of shock. I actually got a job at a radio station!Thus began my very long and journeyed radio career. Even though at first I was awful on the air, I knew, with dedication, I could improve and work my way up to the better radio stations and actually make a living being on the radio. WCLW was owned by an elderly couple and their daughter Lynn ran it like a drill sergeant. One day, early into my employment there, she told me I was going to do a remote broadcast on an upcoming Sunday afternoon from a pet cemetery! The goal of the broadcast was to get people to buy a burial plot for their beloved pet. I'm thinking, 'What in the world am I going to say on air about a pet cemetery of all things?' It would be the very first of many awkward on air assignments she would give me that were very much a 'sink or swim' situation that eventually would make me a better broadcaster down the road. Other remote broadcasts would include a ladies clothing store in downtown Mansfield with a bubbly Julia Child- like owner on microphone with me talking about all the wonderful selections to buy. And at another broadcast chatting on air about the virtues of a waterbed with the inventor of the waterbed, Charlie Hall, who was doing a live appearance at "Aquarius" waterbed store. I had many on air assignments at that first radio station that would force me to ad-lib and be on my toes. It was all quite the crash course and it turned out to be a very good thing  in preparing me to work at much bigger stations in the years ahead.

WCLW will always have a special place in my heart. It gave me my start. For that I am truly grateful. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

My love affair with... (wait for it!)...You Tube

As an avid music lover, when I'm not recording voice overs or marketing my business, I'm often on You Tube playing songs I haven't heard in years. Songs you rarely hear on the radio anymore but may have been a big part of the soundtrack of your life. Todd Rundgren's "Hello It's Me" comes to mind. It's one of those songs that never gets old no matter how many times I have heard it. I also like to read the comments below the video post of the song. It's cool to see what people are thinking with their likes or dislikes comments.

But from a voice over standpoint,  I use You Tube to check proper names that may come up in scripts I'm recording. Or product names that are not necessarily running commercials on radio or TV. I learned early on to check multiple videos for pronunciations of the same word as relying on only one video may not give you the correct pronunciation. In other posts on this blog I have recommended Forvo.com and Howjsay.com as helpful for pronunciations. Often they will not have a pronunciation for a proper name that can be found by doing a search on You Tube. Using You Tube for pronunciations has saved me a lot of time. Just make sure you double check the pronunciation.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Pay to Play voice over sites

There certainly is a lot of discussion these days about the value, or lack of it, in being on a Pay to Play website to win voice over jobs. And in visiting voice over forums, I see there tends to be a good amount of differing opinions. So, I'll offer mine here and speak to my own experiences.
About 14 years ago when I was moving out of radio and into voice over full-time, I joined Voices.com. The subscription fee back then was reasonable and I won enough jobs to more than cover the cost of signing up. Fast forward to now. The amount of negative feedback Voices.com is getting is off the charts. And the couple that started the company got their hands caught in the cookie jar doing some really shady things to the voice talent and fees charged. (Insert "ripoff" here). There are many articles online about this written by voice actors, so I won't go there. (Just Google "Voices.com reviews"). A few years ago, I decided to no longer subscribe to their service. And just before I left them, unlike when I first joined, the good paying job auditions I received were few and far between. I also never liked how Voices.com does not allow the voice talent to directly interact with the client while the job is being done. Everything has to go through them. I've been on Voices123 and Bodalgo out of Germany and won jobs on both. But more and more, I'm seeing auditions submitted for a job are not even being listened to by the voice seeker. And it's not just me. It's what I'm reading from other voice talents on forums. So, while I am not a fan of Pay to Play sites, there are some voice talents who will tell you they make good money using them. Most of my business comes from repeat customers, word of mouth, and marketing emails I send out to video/media production companies with a link back to my website demos.  Things are changing quickly in the voice over industry. Tread carefully when considering joining a Pay to Play site. Sharks abound. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Perhaps my most favorite voice over job...ever

I was tipped off by a good client of many years that his company was filming at locations around the world for a new, inspirational TV show called "In Pursuit of Passion." And, much to my delight, the lady who was hosting the show (Tracy) was looking for someone to narrate it. So, I emailed her and told her of my interest. She agreed to email me a script for a short audition. I did not see any film of the show beforehand so I was a bit in the dark as to the energy needed on the narration. I went with a slightly upbeat take and emailed her a link to download the MP3 audition. She got back to me and said it was a bit too cheery and upbeat. With that direction in mind ( for which I was very grateful), I recorded a second audition and sent that to her. I was happy to receive an email from her saying the second take was solid and we would go with that. There  were a total of six episodes to be narrated from places like Africa and Greece. It was a fun but somewhat challenging narration as the scripts contained quite a few proper names. And of course, those needed to be said correctly. I was often able to go to Forvo.com for pronunciations. (One of my favorite sites). I was delighted when she sent me a link to see the completed episodes. The show airs in select markets here and abroad.

A funny aside. A brother of mine in Ohio called me on a weekend and said he and his lady friend were watching a show on TV and at the end in the credits my name "John Miles" came on screen. He asked if it was me.  I scratched my head and told him I didn't think so. After he described a few parts of the episode he watched, it dawned on me it was me! I had recorded the narrations for the episodes the prior year and had sort of forgotten about them. Here's a link to one of the episodes from Africa. I must say, this is in my top 5 of all-time favorite voice over jobs I have done...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvIt9sqIcCM&list=PLV56C9OZ6lwyLeUgJu5743OC4BkDxnz7p&index=4&t=0s

"Don't touch that microphone!"

Let me say up front that this post is for beginning voice over talents as more experienced ones will know this. There is a thing called "studio etiquette." It's sort of the "code of conduct" when you go outside your home studio to record.

When in the recording booth, never EVER touch or move in any way the microphone. That will get you a solid scolding from the audio engineer who is there to set up the session. It's the audio engineer's job to reposition the microphone, if necessary. While recording the script and being directed should you flub a word or sentence, don't whine on and on and beat yourself up verbally. That makes you look like a beginner. And you won't win any points with the director(s). Simply listen to the direction as to where they want you to do the re-take.  This is called a "pick up." Typically, you'll go back to the beginning of the sentence where you made the flub and read the line again.

After the recording session, come out of the booth, sign any necessary paper work, thank them, and LEAVE. Don't linger with endless chatter. These folks are busy and that's bound to be very annoying to them. It's all about carrying yourself like a pro. It'll go a long way in your voice over career. The business is tough enough as it is. Don't shoot yourself in the foot and look like an amateur.  

Monday, September 16, 2019

Magical Mornings

I totally enjoy getting out of bed early and getting at the day. I was raised in a small country house in Ohio with one bathroom. I have quite a few siblings (8) and mornings were very hectic. There was no such thing as "sleeping in." My Dad, who was a fantastic drywall and  plaster man, made sure that we got our outside chores done-raking the apple orchard, cleaning the barn stalls where we kept a few horses, weeding the garden, and so on. And yes, he made a list of chores in the morning before he left for work and would check to see how well we had done when he came home. He was a taskmaster for sure, and as a young boy, I sometimes resented it. Later in life, I came to realize it was a good thing as I was held accountable. My Dad's motto was the familiar refrain, "If you're gonna do something, do it right, or don't do it at all."

I learned to enjoy waking up early and starting the day. That motivation has stuck with me to this day. As mentioned in another post on this blog, Dad and I would often play early Sunday morning golf. As in, still kind of dark outside and dew on the grass.  My brother and I slept in a bunk bed. I remember Dad coming in early Sunday morning and shaking me and telling me to get up as we were going golfing. It was a special ritual.

And today, as I do voice overs from my home studio, I find mornings to be very special as there is the promise of a new day and the expectation of getting things done and accomplished. Not to mention, it's quiet. And every voice over artist who records can appreciate that. Some of my most productive work has occurred at 4 or 5 AM. But don't worry, if you hire me to do a voice over and you want to listen in as I record, we don't have to go with "crack of dawn" times. I realize early mornings aren't for everyone!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

"One man's sandwich is another man's..."

A number of years ago, I would leave my home studio to record in San Francisco. As mentioned on this blog, working alone from home can be very isolating. So, it was fun to get out and be around other voice talents as we recorded together at the wonderful Pyramind Studios.

I can hop on our rapid transit (BART) here in East Bay where I live and be in the heart of the city at Powell and Market Streets in about 30 minutes. Super convenient. The walk down to the studio is 10 minutes or so. Always the early bird, I landed in San Francisco with about half an hour to kill. I decided to buy a croissant ham and cheese sandwich  from a vendor at the Westfield Shopping Plaza. It was much larger than I anticipated. So, I finished half of it and wrapped the whole other half in the food wrapping paper it came in inside the bag. It was great that the lady used a knife to neatly halve it back where I bought it. The thought quickly occurred to me as I walked down the sidewalk to the recording session, I could give the food to one of the many homeless folks frequently seen. After a short while, I spotted a man down on the grass near a bus stop. I told him I had an untouched, half, fresh ham sandwich in the bag and he could have it. He immediately declined and said "I want money, not food." So, I bid him a good afternoon and continued down the street a bit where I saw another homeless man lounging on the grass. As I approached and told him I had free food for him, he jumped up excitedly and snatched the bag from my hand and put it in a backpack he had on.  He was thrilled. I told him to enjoy the sandwich and continued walking to the studio. Off in the distance he yelled at me, "Hey man, can I come with you?" I told him 'no, but thanks for asking.' I had work to get to. But the encounters left an impression on me. Money well spent on the sandwich and an  interesting study in human behaviour. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

To sit or stand. That is thee question

If you visit any of the many voice over forums online, you'll see conversations about whether to sit or stand as you are recording a voice over. We've all read articles about how unhealthy it is to sit for prolonged periods of time. But beyond that, I believe standing as you record has some solid advantages. However, as always, there are exceptions. If you are narrating an audio book or a lengthy e Learning module, you are more than likely going to sit. But for commercial work, I think standing is the way to go, especially if the copy is quite energized. Sitting while recording an uptempo car commercial would likely hamper you. You need to stand to put some motion into the read with your body. Lately, I've decided to stand in my booth. I do a lot of sitting editing the audio after recording.

 Bottom line-there is no right or wrong way. Whatever allows you to give your best performance.

Here's a link to a good article on CNN.com about standing desks.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/12/health/standing-desks-tips-myths-facts-wellness/index.html


Monday, July 8, 2019

"You want to be paid for your voice over? Don't be ridiculous!"

If you go to Craigslist and look under "Gigs" and then "Creative" category, you will often see
job leads for voice over work. I'm use to it now, but my jaw use to drop open when seeing highly
detailed specs for a voice over job with no pay. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If you do voice overs, it should make you cringe. You've paid good money to buy your recording equipment. You may well have taken voice over lessons which are far from free. Plus voice over seminars/webinars to stay sharp and current. You have ongoing business expenses. Your website updates and maintenance. Yearly taxes. And here is someone on Craigslist offering you nothing for your time, expertise, and skill set. You deserve to be paid! I just had a producer approach me on a Friday afternoon who had received one of my marketing emails and was in a rush frame of mind. He needed a 5 minute long voice over for a high tech, corporate video. I zipped him back a very fair quote to which he said "Sorry. That's too expensive for me. I can pay $100."$100 for 5 minutes of professional voice over for a corporate video is extremely low. Plus it's a high tech narration which will more than likely take extra time to record properly. I thanked him for the "opportunity" and passed on the job. Just out of curiosity, I went to Yelp to check his studio and customer comments. He had quite a few complaints about shoddy work and 1 star ratings. Not good. I'm sure he found someone who is desperate for work who recorded it. We all have choices. But sometimes it's OK to say 'Thanks. But no thanks.' Stay away from the bottom of the barrel jobs. Once word gets around you work for free or on the cheap, it will be very difficult for you to charge a fair rate. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

My 20 foot commute from bed to studio

No doubt, working from home has its advantages. Living in the Bay Area, the traffic can be beyond awful. Years ago, voice over talents needed to head out to recording studios to voice projects, now we can work from our home studios thanks to the Internet. So, sitting in traffic jams is a thing of the past. Plus, when clients/customers come calling with rush or urgent requests, we can quickly access our home studios and turn voice overs around in no time at all. If I had a dollar for every time a client or customer said they appreciated my very fast turnaround, I'd be a very wealthy man. For all its advantages, working from home has some caveats. There can be distractions. Working alone, it's important to "self police" your work before sending it out. Stay in the moment. Focus. Allow yourself some mini breaks if you're working on long projects such as e Learning or audio books.  Working from home means no more boring conference room meetings with a bunch of overly talkative sleepy heads. (I will give one former boss credit. He always ordered pizzas in during our meetings.) Rejoice in the fact that you're able to make a living from home and ditch the honking horns and road rage incidents. And water cooler talk was never really that interesting anyway.

 OK, time for another cup of coffee. Sugar and cream please!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Fame can be a fickle thing!

Mid 1980's. I'm hanging in the front reception area at country music station WIRK in West Palm Beach after my midday show. Rhonda was a fun, sassy, thirty something, African American receptionist who answered the phones and gave listeners their prizes when they came in. It's a blistering hot South Florida day when the door swings open and in come two dudes with tank tops on, flip flops, cut offs. One of them approaches Rhonda and says "I'm here to tape an interview with Terry Slane." Terry was our morning deejay and program director. I immediately notice it's country music superstar Roy Clark. And back then he was on TV... a lot. Hee Haw, commercials, TV concerts playing his electric guitar to perfection. So, Rhonda says, "Your name?" He says, "Roy Clark." She gets on her phone and calls Terry. "Hey Terry, there's a Roy... um... er... ahhh... I'm sorry sir, what's your last name again?" He pointedly says, "Clark." "Terry, a Roy Clark is here to see you." She then hangs up the phone and tells Roy that Terry is on his way up. Terry comes up and shakes Roy's hand and the other dude's hand and off they go. I chime in, "Rhonda, that's Roy Clark! How could you not recognize Roy Clark!?" She loudly says, '' I don't listen to this country music crap, John. I'm a Rhythm and Blues girl!" I fell down laughing. Later, I thought, no matter how famous you think you are, to some people you're not famous at all! The man with him was his brother in law and they were out fishing at Lake Okeechobee before coming in to do the interview.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

A question I never get asked

I've been doing voice overs for quite some time now. And like many, I tend to look at other voice over websites to hear demos, read information, and see how other talents are presenting themselves.

From time to time, I'll see a lengthy description about what gear they are using-microphone, pre-amp, etc. In all my years of doing voice over, I have never had a client/customer ask me what microphone I'm using. Or frankly, about ANY equipment I'm using. For the most part, they don't care! So when I see all the specifics about equipment on a voice over website, I consider it wasted space. Here's what clients/customers want and expect. A good, clean audio file with no background noise in the format of their choosing with no or very limited processing delivered on time. As a voice over talent, it is the client's decision as to how the audio will be processed in post production. Whether it be the amount of compression, volume, possible light reverb, de-essing or any other effect they desire. I have a Neumann TLM 103  and Sennheiser 416 in my studio. They are two of the most popular microphones for voice over work. They get the job done and satisfy my clients. But nobody ever asks about them. And I'm OK with that.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Who is that lady's voice you always hear in the airport?

If you travel domestically or abroad, you no doubt have heard her voice overhead making announcements to you and fellow travelers.  She records the countless messages from her home studio and her name is Carolyn Hopkins. She seems like a very nice person with a super cool job and infectious laugh. CBS news did a profile of her. What a gig!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8w5P_6pS9MI



Thursday, June 6, 2019

Make no apologies for being passionate

I believe, regardless of your profession, the one positive thing that will separate you from the pack is PASSION! Passion will elevate you from those down times you will have and get you back on your feet again. The voice over industry is very competitive. Make no mistake about it, you will have highs and lows. Sometimes, after a very busy period of work, you will have a slow period. That's just the nature of the business. But even through the slow goes, it's good ol' passion that will come to the rescue. Don't ever apologize for being passionate about your work . It's one of the most important ingredients if you want to succeed.

In my early radio career, I made very low wages. So much so that most people would have gone on to do something else. But I truly loved the radio biz and knew I could work my way up to the better paying radio jobs. Again, it was a passion for my work that kept me going.  Passionate people share common traits, including bounding out of bed early in the morning to get to work.
Some "negative nellies" may criticize your passion and enthusiasm. Ignore them. You're doing something you love while they are still lying in bed bemoaning the day ahead and dreading a 9 to 5 job they hate.

Passion. You either have it or you don't. It can't be bought. If you have passion for your work, you are truly blessed!


Monday, April 29, 2019

Cable cars and more (plus a handy tip)

If you're visiting San Francisco, Powell and Market Streets is a good location to drop by.
Here you have a  very popular cable car turnaround, some places to grab a quick bite, a major shopping mall (with public restrooms= hard to find in SF) and lots of  tourist activity. Often you'll see a street musician playing here or a highly energized, toe-tapping dancer entertaining the crowds waiting to hop on a cable car.

The lines at Powell and Market at the cable car turnaround can be very long. Tourists come to San Francisco and their vacation is not complete unless they ride on a cable car. Here's a tip from a local: If you walk up Powell a bit, you'll see some cable car street signs up the line where you can hop on. The operators of the cable car usually leave a little space for a few pickups along the way. It'll save you a very long wait in line back at Powell and Market streets.

A little bit further up Powell is Union Square. Almost always there's something going on at the plaza. In winter, an ice skating rink!

The city has installed some very contemporary benches along part of the Powell sidewalk where you can take a break and watch the cable cars come and go or people watch.

On a recent visit to have breakfast and walk, I spotted this new piece of artwork on Powell.



Friday, April 19, 2019

Sibilance. Ugh!

Without a doubt, sibilance is one of the most annoying things to deal with in the audio world.  In short, it's a harshness to the ear upon voice over playback. Most often it's a sizzling "s" sound. Or, an overly loud "ch" or "t" that stands out and distracts the listener. Of course, these are not wanted and need to be "tamed" either during recording or in editing afterward.  Some people's voice can naturally be more sibilant than others. And the position of the mouth to the microphone can cause excessive sibilance. Too close can cause problems. Instead of speaking directly into the mic, position it at a 45 degree angle from your mouth. Experiment a bit with different microphone positions. Also, be wary of very inexpensive (cheap) microphones that can cause lots of sibilance.

In post production, there are what are called de-essers. This is a type of compression application designed specifically to deal with sibilance. Almost every digital audio recording software has some form of de-esser under the effects category. Not all de-essers are created equal. WAVES has just come out with a plug-in called, not surprisingly, "Sibilance." It's gotten good reviews and is sometimes on sale on their website.

Another option to getting rid of annoying sibilance in a recording is to manually drop down the volume (around 4 to 6 db) of those sibilant sounds. When viewing the waveform zoomed in a bit in your audio editor, a sibilant "s" will often look like a small football shape. Just highlight that with your mouse and drop the volume down as mentioned above.

Bottom line, most everyone has some sibilance when they speak. There are ways to deal with it when editing that will greatly improve the quality of your voice overs.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The angry golfer (don't be one...please)

My Dad taught me to play golf at a very early age. He would always have golf on TV on Sundays after church. I thought it was dreadful and boring to watch. That is, until he invited me one weekend afternoon to join him to play my very first round of golf. I was very fidgety and nervous on the first tee as Dad showed me how to grip the club and stand toward the ball. (Commonly referred to as "addressing the ball" for you non-golfers). At my "big moment of truth," I swung the club back and then down toward the ball and I think it rolled maybe 20 yards or so off the tee and down the fairway- a major disappointment. The ball never became airborne. I "chopped" my way toward the golf green and quickly realized it is a very difficult game. But through it all, I got hooked, and would eventually go on to become a pretty accomplished junior golfer in high school. Dad taught me proper golf course etiquette such as not talking while someone is putting, or being ready to hit your ball when it's your turn, so as not to slow the pace of play. On my high school team, there were several golf club throwers and angry players when things didn't go right. I was never one of those. While I wanted to play well, it was never that big a deal to me. Even the best have their on or off days. Playing with an angry golfer can be quite annoying. When witnessing a temper tantrum over the years (some from my own relatives) I have often wanted to say, "I don't know why you're SO upset, you're not that good a golfer."  But then, sound judgement prevails. I keep my mouth shut. Golf clubs can serve as lethal weapons indeed. Especially in the hands of an angry golfer. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

A mighty Craigslist ad

Back when  I was moving from radio guy to voice over guy, I was planting "seeds" to find new business/clients. I have found that emailing people and companies who need voice over to be somewhat effective. Forget about spamming and just shooting out emails all over the place. Try to find a name on the website, so you can personalize the email. Keep it brief!

Years back, I wrote a short, free, classified ad on Craigslist about my services. A gentleman emailed me and said his company (an educational one) had a lot of voice over needs. He asked about my rates and turnaround time. That got the ball rolling. To this day, years later, I continue to get quite a bit of work from them, for which I am truly grateful. You never know where the work is going to come from. Once you get the work, be your very best. There's nothing quite like a satisfied client and repeat business, for which you do not have to audition.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Haters gonna hate and the Golden State Warriors

One thing's for sure, if you're living and breathing, you have people that will go negative towards you. For. No. Apparent. Reason. Sometimes supposed friends. A family member. Your jealous brother in-law "Tim". A person you hardly know. Haters. There's no shortage of them. They create false drama to make you look bad. Inside, they feel inferior and want to knock you down a peg or two. If you start to talk about your success stories or wins, they have fingers in their ears.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of the amazing Golden State Warriors. You don't have to visit too many online sports forums to see the depth of "haterism" for the team. Pretty simple to understand. They're just so darned good.  Not to mention Steph Curry as one of the greatest of all time. Psssst! I'm not a New England Patriots fan, but I'll give QB Tom Brady his due. He, like Steph, is undeniably talented in their respective sports.

So, when you're under attack from a hater, frenemy or enemy, remember the old saying, "The best revenge is massive success." (Frank Sinatra). It works wonders for your frame of mind.





   

Monday, February 18, 2019

So you want to do animation voice overs?

There are tons of folks teaching the various niches of voice over.  One of the most qualified is animation voice legend-Pat Fraley. He's in LA. Years ago, I ordered his cassette (remember those) course and was beyond impressed. Now, if you have a sincere desire to explore with Pat, you might be thinking, "But I live in Minneapolis and he's in LA!" Good news. He has home study courses as well as remote teaching/coaching over the Internet. Go to his website at patfraley.com to see all that he has to offer, which goes way beyond just animation. There's a "free stuff" section too. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

My Burt Reynolds interview

The recent passing of Burt Reynolds put me in a very reflective mood. 1985-1986 were especially exciting years for me as an on air talent. I was on WIRK, a heritage country music station doing a midday show. Burt's people at his ranch in Jupiter, Florida approached our management team with the idea of building a broadcast studio in his gift/souvenir store, and  relaying the signal back to our main station, and then out across the South Florida airwaves.  I was in the right place at the right time. My daily routine consisted of driving to the main radio station in the morning, picking up commercial and music logs for that day, then driving twenty some miles up the Florida turnpike to the ranch studio to do my show. I interviewed lots of recording artists as well as celebrities-many of them friends of Burt's. One time, he showed up at the studio to do an interview with me and you would never have known you were talking to a very big movie star.  He was very real and gracious with his time. Here's a postcard I held on to through the years from his gift store. R.I.P. Burt. And thanks for being so kind.


Dolly Parton and working 9 to 5

 It was great seeing one of my favorites being honored on the recent Grammy Awards. Dolly Parton was joined on stage with other singers who helped salute her amazing career. Naturally, part of the song medley included her mega-hit "9 to 5".  I told a relative of mine recently that when you work full-time (or close to it) in voice overs, if you're looking for a 9 to 5 job, this business isn't for you. You'll have rush requests at  all hours. Being available to record is key. Not to mention, with overseas clients, you're dealing with different time zones.

Dolly is such a smart business woman. A large amount of her wealth comes from successful enterprises, including her fun, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee amusement park-"Dollywood." And royalties from songs she has written like"I Will Always Love You." 

Back in my former life as a radio deejay, I played tons of Dolly's songs. Always good stuff.
An American treasure. Still going strong at 73.

Congratulations on your long, successful career Dolly! Bravo!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The importance of having a good recording space

For many voice over artists, especially new ones, dealing with unwanted sound reflections off of
walls and surfaces, as well as outside noise, is a common challenge. You can have an expensive microphone, but if you're not in a good recording environment, your voice overs are going to suffer. It's sad to see so many new voice over folks having their auditions or work rejected not necessarily because of how they voiced the copy, but because of negative sound related issues. You don't have to build an exceptional recording studio, but get into a space where you're not going to have your voice overs sound like they were recorded in an echoing cave. Foam, sound blankets, and baffles are just some things that can be used to improve the quality of your voice overs. Do some research on Google about this or go to You Tube and do a search about setting up a solid recording space before going out and spending a lot of money. And don't forget that large walk in closet that you might have would be a very good option to record in! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

San Francisco-a great place to be! (and play)

I consider myself very fortunate to live and voice here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Such diversity, things to do, wonderful weather (OK, it can be downright chilly in the city during the Summer so bring a jacket or a sweater), and I've met some fantastic folks at recording sessions who also do voice overs for a living-voice overs for a living, not a hobby. I'm up and at 'em every morning at 5AM PST and my day generally wraps at 2PM PST. But when it's time to close down the studio for the day, I'm out the door to enjoy all that this area has to offer. Golf is one of my favorite things to do and for the last nine months or so I've been coaching a twenty something, very talented basketball star. His natural ability has allowed him to quickly become a good golfer and I'm amazed how far he hits the ball. And the coaching aspect works wonders for me too at the end of a busy day.

As mentioned in another post, if you're planning on visiting San Francisco, make sure you get your tickets early for things like the Alcatraz tour. Showing up same day is no guarantee you'll be able to go.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

e Learning!

Newbies to the VO industry are often surprised to learn that around 90% of all voice over work is
non broadcast stuff-on hold messages, corporate video narration, audio book narration,
website audio, and learning voice overs. Much of my work consists of voicing learning projects. Many of the scripts that come to me are quite lengthy and detailed. After the recording comes the editing. In many cases, you'll be labeling and separating hundreds of files. I totally enjoy this segment of VO as I am helping others to learn.  And there's a large amount of learning narration work to be had. Online learning, mobile learning, and e Learning is exploding by the second.

While newcomers to this business may be attracted to the more "glamorous" jobs like TV and radio commercials, overlooking non broadcast voice over can be very costly. The key to voicing learning narrations is to speak naturally, clearly, understand key words or phrases to emphasize,
maintain a pace of speech that's not too fast nor overly slow throughout the learning modules and remembering that learners will need a bit of time to absorb what you're saying. Former radio deejays most often will find learning narrations to be challenging as everything in radio is generally said very fast. Slowing the pace of speech down, but not sounding robotic, takes some practice and self awareness. I aim for a fairly conversational tone.

It's been a while since I've posted on this blog. E learning narrations have been keeping me very busy!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Today's laughable job lead from Voices.com

Most of my voice over work comes through referrals, repeat clients, producers who found my demos on my website and once in a while through a job lead at Voices.com. Voice seekers go there to find voice talents for their projects. A good deal of their job leads are below budget considering the scope of the project. I pick and choose very carefully with the auditions that come to me through them.

This morning, this audition invite hit my in box from Voices.com.

Need to present client with a person who can NAIL (his caps-not  mine) a Morgan Freeman impression. Please only submit if you SOUND EXACTLY LIKE MORGAN FREEMAN. Or James Earl Jones.

Thank you.

Tom

No, thank you Tom for the laugh. I would pay good money to hear those submissions.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Award winning film I voiced

A few years back, I was called upon by producer Donald L. Vasicek to voice a very somber narration for "The Sand Creek Massacre." Don emailed me a few days ago telling me it had won numerous prestigious awards and is being distributed in North America and Asia. It has played at festivals in all states and recently was catalogued in the Smithsonian Institution. Needless to say, I was thrilled and very proud to be part of this. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Some videos I voiced for a German agency

The Internet has opened up many doorways for me and other voice talents. Going global with my voice overs has been very satisfying. I recently voiced a series of videos for Conrad Caine, a very large, international agency headquartered in Munich. Here's a link to one of the videos.

https://vimeo.com/47584260

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The 10 Most Irritating Phrases List

I'm posting this on a Sunday morning with "Meet the Press" on in the background. Once again, I cringe throughout the broadcast as politician after politician (and commentator) keeps saying "At the end of the day..." Is there some law that I missed that says on any nationally televised political show the phrase "At the end of the day" must be said at least 100 times? It got me to thinking, so I Googled "10 Most Irritating Phrases" and lo and behold, "At the end of the day"claimed the top spot according to an Oxford survey. Here's a link to the list.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Remembering my friend Ed McCarthy of CNN radio

What a shock I got the other day. Having some down time between voice over jobs, I Googled the name of a friend I use to work with at WIRK in West Palm Beach, Florida. Don't know why, but I had him on my mind and was curious if he was still in the business. Like me, Ed had traveled around the country from station to station and landed a great job at CNN radio in the mid 80's. Back when he worked at WIRK, he was our news director. But he was also more than that to me. He was my golfing buddy, one of the funniest people I've ever met, a darn good broadcaster, and every year he would invite his co-workers from the radio station to come by his apartment for out of this world corn beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. A real character with a huge laugh. When I did my Google search, it indicated he had passed away back in 2009 at a hospital in Georgia. We had not been in touch for a very long time-I continued my career in radio and then voice over, and he became a national radio correspondent at CNN Atlanta.

I'll always remember the great times we had and how I was with him on a par 3 golf course in Florida one afternoon when he made a hole in one and fell down on the grass, laughing his rear end off. He hit the world's biggest slice ball off the tee. And he used a fairway wood to make the hole in one on a VERY short hole. Most average golfers would have used a nine iron. The ball did its usual wicked slice routine and fell in the hole, much to our amazement.

R.I.P friend. Thanks for the laughs and cool memories.





Sunday, November 6, 2011

The free online talking dictionary of English pronunciation- Howjsay

Lately I've been voicing some very technical medical scripts. One of my favorite sites to go to for audio pronunciation is Howjsay. It's pretty thorough. Some of the words I've been voicing are:

Phenylacetylthiocyanate
Tetramethylazodicarboxamide
alkylisothioureas

These kinds of words can be challenging to even an experienced voice talent. Making them roll off the tongue smoothly is key and may require multiple takes until it sounds natural. Long medical words are often several words strung together so you have to kind of break the word down. Like the word "alkylisothioureas" above. (alkyl-isothioureas). Howjsay can be very helpful in actually hearing the word pronounced, or a word within the long word.  Check out the site here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Emphasis 101 for new voice over talents

One of the primary skills when doing voice over is knowing which words in a script to emphasize. (Or not emphasize).Of course, you'll have many choices. If you're being directed while in the booth, the director/producer may tell you exactly which words to emphasize.

Let's take this very simple sentence and see what the variables are for emphasis.

"Did you walk the dog today?"

If you emphasize the word "you" that would imply you're asking whether a said individual walked the dog as opposed to some other individual.

If you emphasize the word "dog" that would imply you're asking whether a particular person walked the dog as opposed to some other animal.

If you emphasize the word "today" that would imply you're asking whether the dog was walked today as opposed to yesterday.

You can click here to hear the audio for the sentence.

So, as you can see, a sentence meaning can be drastically changed with emphasis. Knowing which words to emphasize before even turning to the microphone is key.

There are many ways to emphasize a word when voicing. Many get slightly louder when they come to the key word. But you can also emphasize a word by getting softer, elongating the word ("It was h-o-t today!"), taking a very brief pause just before you say the word, and changing up your pitch as you say the word. Again, it's all about choices. Using a mixed bag can make the read much more interesting.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ugh! Mouth clicks and other gremlins of the VO world


With the hyper sensitivity of today's microphones, recording a voice over without lip smacks, mouth clicks and such can be a bit of a task. Being well hydrated with water before a recording session is a good foundation. Another tried and true trick is to eat a Granny Smith apple. That particular type of apple works wonders when it comes down to eliminating or minimizing mouth clicks. Not just any old apple-a Granny Smith apple, the green one shown here.

Of course, in post production, clicks between words can often be eliminated. However, some nasty clicks are layered right over the word or a syllable. So, it's best to eliminate them at the source-your mouth. Every voice over artist will tell you what type of mouth noise they battle from time to time. A case of "clickitis" can be particularly frustrating on long form narrations. For me, the water and the Granny Smith apples work wonders. Plus, they taste good.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Craigslist, voice over and the lure of "easy money"

Recently I received some interesting emails from voice talents in response to a post I put on Craigslist. Essentially, I was warning newbie, or simply inexperienced voice talents, to be very careful about responding to ads for voice over work. When someone puts in their ad that it's a quick and easy job, I can feel my blood pressure rising. If the craft of voice over is so easy, then why isn't everyone doing it? (Scroll down the blog in a bit and read "So you want to do voice overs?" for a humorous take.) Most of the ads for voice over work on Craigslist are way below industry standards regarding pay and some even offer no pay with the proverbial dangling carrot of possible future work, or copy and credit. Here's an actual ad posted on Craigslist casting for voice talent. Take a look. This was posted under New York Craigslist jobs. I've altered nothing including the misuse of capital letters.

"Director in search of Voice Over Actress for Great looking Short film tomorrow in mid town studio bet 3-5p. The Original actress is unavailable and we want to release this within the month. We are looking for a youthful ( mid 20's ) and sexy voice. We have a great post house ready to let us do a few hours ( which should be more then enough). The movie is 90% done. Only missing V.O and color correction. This is for credit and $50. Please respond with headshot, voice sample and contact info


it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
Compensation: $50"

Let's break this ad down and look at the specifics.

This voice seeker wants a quality voice but is offering a "whopping" $50 for two hours of time. Also, if all they need is a "youthful, mid 20's, sexy voice," why are they requesting a headshot? The ad says nothing about the actress also being on camera-it simply refers to a voice. BIG red flag. In addition, a nice looking 20 something female should be very wary about going to someone's studio alone. Bad news scenarios are rampant about Craigslist predators.

I understand that inexperienced voice talents might be desperate to land some work, but in my opinion, the majority of Craigslist ads for voice talent need to be reviewed very carefully. In the ad above, they promise "copy and credit." My question to them would be, what makes you think that your copy is something that's going to be so special that I would want to include it on my demo reel or VO resume? Another dangling carrot.

If you're an inexperienced voice talent or someone looking to explore this business, feel free to contact me for some solid input. I'll be happy to assist you. No charge.

In all fairness to Craigslist voice seekers, I have landed a few decent jobs from Craigslist, but those were few and far between.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Alcatraz audio tour


If you ever visit the San Francisco Bay Area, I highly recommend you take the ferry from Pier 33 and head out to the infamous Alcatraz. I was joined by my sister and brother in law from Ohio when they vacationed here and we went on the walking tour through the prison. The narration and sound effects you hear through the rented headset are really outstanding. The audio tour is optional but you'll be missing a lot if you decline. You'll get an amazing look and listen into the way things used to be for the inmates and guards. Travel tip: Get your tickets in advance as the tours book very quickly. Showing up at Pier 33 the day you want to go over to Alcatraz is no guarantee of being able to go that day. You can get ticket information here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vincent Price and Michael Jackson's Thriller

It has always fascinated me that Vincent Price supposedly recorded his haunting narration for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in just two takes. Not bad Vincent!

Having him on that recording was pure genius. Who better to do the narration than the late king of horror movies-Vincent Price?

Vincent apparently got paid a flat $20,000 to add his voice to this monster classic. But as an option he was offered a percentage of the album sales, which he turned down. Ouch! Read other fun facts about Vincent and the song here

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Practice doesn't make perfect

I'm a life long golfer and during my junior and senior high years played competitively against some very good golfers. My father taught me the game when I was very young. I did however receive a few structured lessons from teaching pros, always looking to elevate my game. I recall one golf pro telling me on the practice tee, "Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent." That always stuck with me, even well beyond my golf game. If you're practicing the wrong things with your golf swing, your muscle memory is going to groove those things, and instead of improving your game, you'll be ruining it. Of course, the same applies to so many things in life, not just golf. I always tell those who approach me wanting to get into voice over to get some solid instruction from a qualified voice over coach. These days there are many people teaching voice over, but not all are qualified, or they're simply looking to make a buck. Be selective. Do your research before you receive instruction. And remember, practice doesn't make perfect, it makes permanent. Make sure you're practicing the right things.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Have you voiced anything I would know?"

It happened again yesterday at my bank. I had a check come in from a first time client that I was not able to deposit at the ATM so I went inside. I was standing in a very long teller line at Bank of America, when a customer rep asked if anyone had just a direct deposit-no cash back transaction, which mine was. So, she pulled me out of line (Yippeeee!) and we went to a service station where she handled the details. I told her for whatever reason the check was not able to be processed at the outdoor ATM.

At one point, she asked me what I do for a living. I told her that I do voice overs for TV, some radio, but LOTS of non broadcast stuff for websites, corporate videos, e learning narrations and the like. She then asked me a question I usually get when folks find out what I do for a living- "Have you done anything that I would have heard, or that made you famous?" Of course, I always chuckle inside a bit when I get asked this as it's hard to know what people have heard. I told her that I had voiced four TV spots that aired nationally on the Game Show Network in support of a show called "Think Like a Cat" that she might have seen and heard. (I have one of the spots posted in the video section on this blog.) I went on to tell her that I voice many different genres of voice over, much of it non-broadcast stuff. People are sometimes surprised to hear that roughly 90% of all voice over work is non broadcast-it's a huge part of the VO pie. (Audio book narration has exploded). Those just learning the voice over craft tend to want to gravitate toward the more glamorous stuff like TV commercials and animation voice. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you ignore all the opportunities that abound in non broadcast work, you'll be missing out on a lot.

Another thing I get often is "Oh,that's cool!' "C'mon, do some voices!" I politely decline
and hand out a business card with my website address where my online demos can be heard. Hate to be a party pooper, but...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

So how much do voice actors really make?

So, I was enjoying my morning coffee and newspaper on a Sunday at one of my favorite restaurants here in Castro Valley when I came upon the Parade Magazine insert. This particular issue was billed as their annual "How much do they make ?"survey. I've sometimes had folks ask me if the money is good for doing what I do. My initial response is it depends how accomplished you are, what niche of voice over you excel in (or don't), whether you voice full time or treat it as a hobby, how you structure your rates, whether you're a union or non union voice actor, etc. As you can see, there are lots of variables.

With a natural curiosity to see if this issue of Parade had voice actors listed, I opened the pages to find they did in fact have a listing for voice actors. The voice actress they showed from New York, New York made a "whopping" $10,000! My immediate reaction was this must be a typo. No offense to this woman, but you have to try really hard not to make more than $10,000 per year if you have decent voice acting abilities. I know non union voice actors who are making six figures. And we're not talking about celebrities paid large amounts of money to voice a commercial. We're talking people whose names and faces you would never know. My next thought was, "OK, well this is what this particular voice actress makes per year, and she might be voicing part time, but it is not a true indicator of what the average income of most voice actors is."

So my answer to "How much do voice actors make?" is a lot... and sometimes, not a lot, depending upon many variables. How's that for a vague answer? Like any of these so called salary surveys, you have to take the information with a grain of salt.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Celebrities in TV ads (thumbs up or thumbs down?)


If you're like me, when you see a famous person doing a TV commercial for Wrangler Jeans or a brand new car, you might wonder to yourself just how much they got paid by the agency/company to appear on camera. In most cases-LOTS! But, there have been more than a few debates and studies within the advertising world about whether the amount paid to bring in a hot celebrity to be a part of a TV commercial is really worth it. Ad Age takes a detailed look into this topic. Personally, I don't think I've ever made a buying decision based on seeing a celebrity in a TV commercial. And sometimes, even though a TV ad may be funny, it's not particularly memorable, once I'm in a store. But that's a topic for another post.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Let's Get Physical!"

Some of us remember the old Olivia Newton John song, "Physical," from way back when. It was a song full of sexual tension and play. Here's the chorus line.

"Let's get physical, physical, I wanna get physical, let's get into physical. Let me hear your body talk, your body talk, let me hear your body talk" 


Why am I posting this on a voice over blog? Folks are often surprised to see all the physical movements that voice over artists use in the booth. Established Hollywood actors often find voice over quite challenging. That makes sense. Think about it. If you're on camera, you have both sound (your voice) and visual (body movement) coming into play. With voice over, visual is not a factor. So, there's that additional requirement of needing to convey the emotion through words alone. Not always an easy task.


Beginning voice over artists are often told by their coaches to go ahead and get physical. (Not the kind Olivia sang about but you get the idea.) Move those hands! Make those facial expressions as you voice! In other words, don't just stand at the microphone!  It all comes through in the recording. So it should come as no surprise to see expert voice over talents gesturing a lot in the recording booth. 


Here's an experiment. Grab some copy for an auto dealership ( or write a paragraph or two) where the direction is "High energy-over the top" with the delivery. You've no doubt heard these hard sell spots on your TV. (Yep, the loud, annoying ones). Now, put both your hands in your pocket and try voicing with that high energy direction in mind. I'm sure you'll find that the hands in your pocket will clamp you down considerably. It's much more productive to get those hands moving as you read. It's the same reason why many VO artists record standing up. Sitting down can cramp your style. Studies have shown there is a direct correlation between your vocal chords and body movement.

When I was in high school, I used to get teased for talking with my hands. When I entered the voice over world, I realized that talking with your hands can make you money. Not a bad trade.


So, go ahead, get physical when you voice that copy! 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A great audio pronunciation guide

For those of us who voice scripts for a living, there's a very handy website to bookmark. It's called Forvo.
All the words in the world. Pronounced
You'll find audio pronunciations of words from all over the world. Lately I've been voicing some Japanese to English corporate video scripts and this site has been helpful.

Check it out here .

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Levelator

A useful little application I sometimes use here in my studio is called The Levelator. You can drag and drop a WAV or AIFF file into it and it will "equal out" the overall volume of a file like magic. This is especially useful if you were to have multiple voices  at different volume levels.

I sometimes will use this when I'm speaking very softly at the microphone but want the volume of my recording to be elevated. The best way to see what it can do for you is to try it out. You can download it here. There's also a more detailed explanation as to what it does.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Voice over in a nutshell


I was doing some house cleaning on my computer and stumbled upon one of my favorite quotes I had saved years ago in a folder. It came from the late advertising legend, Bill Bernbach. (More about him below from Wikipedia.)
In one sentence, he managed to not only sum up the ad world of which he was such a large part, but he also described what voice overs are all about. Here's the quote.

"It's not just what you say that stirs people. It's the way that you say it." 

I would add that voice actors spend years learning the nuances of the craft.  Anyone who thinks that voice over is just about reading words off a page has missed Bill's insightful comment completely.

Here's a bit more about him from Wikipedia:
William (Bill) Bernbach (August 13, 1911, New York City - October 2, 1982, New York City) was an advertising creative director. He was one of the three founders in 1949 of the international advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). He directed many of the firm's breakthrough ad campaigns and had a lasting impact on the creative team structures now commonly used by ad agencies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bloopers ("Help! My tongue just got stuck!")

What was it that somebody once said about not taking yourself too seriously? Voice over retakes in the booth are the norm. When being directed, the producer may ask you to read the same line over and over until he/she hears what they feel is needed. Then there are days when your tongue gets wrapped around your teeth and you just can't say what you want. I was voicing some particularly challenging copy for a bait and tackle shop, and the copy had the craziest names for fishing lures you've ever heard. Not only that, but the sentence structure was a bit unusual. You can hear my blooper here with your media player. It's a very brief clip.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shifting gears

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges any voice over talent faces who works alone from a home project studio is being able to make the necessary adjustments throughout the day to give a particular piece of copy the read it needs. My day starts very early, 4-5 AM PST, as I have East Coast clients who come to me on an almost daily basis (Hello Comcast New York/New Jersey!). I tag a fair amount of TV spots and on air promos for them. So, they might come to me needing a very uptempo tag  for a  Monday Night Football sponsorship. Then I'll have something else hit my email that calls for a very deliberate read, such as e learning where the copy needs to be voiced rather slowly, so the learner can digest what's being said. After that, an audition comes in that requires a whole different pace and feel. So, it's important to take a breath between jobs and really try to refocus. It's part of effective self directing. All day long you're shifting vocal gears if you voice a wide variety of scripts. Sometimes just opening up the door and walking outside in between jobs for a moment helps to clear your head for the right read. When you're super busy, it's easy to forget to do this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Thanks for calling!"

When I lived in North Carolina a number of years ago, I use to drive over the border three times a week to Muzak headquarters in Ft. Mill, South Carolina and voice countless on hold messages. (Yes, Muzak does a lot more than just produce elevator music.) I was one of many voice talents who would drop in throughout the week to voice from a VO booth. We had an audio engineer down the hallway who would roll scripts on a monitor in front of us and capture the on hold messages for editing and formatting later. As voice talents, our role was to come in and voice as many two-three paragraph scripts as we could in an hour. This required very good "cold reading" ability. That is to say, we didn't have a chance to see the scripts before the session, so you had to be good at voicing on the fly. If you made a mistake, you'd simply revoice the line and move on-the fix would be done in editing. There was a HUGE premium put on voice talents who could whiz through the scripts and voice say, 35-45 separate messages in an hour.  We were paid a decent hourly rate and the work was relatively stress free with nominal direction. I did the math once and know with certainty that I have voiced literally thousands of on hold messages in my career.

Phrases like, "You're call  is important to us," "Thanks for holding...we'll be with you in a minute," and "While you're waiting, did you know...?" have been the norm for many years with little change. Of course, many folks hate to be put on hold or get caught up in an on hold hell of sorts as they feverishly push buttons to be connected to a live, breathing, human being.

I've had a few funny experiences over the years when calling businesses. Recently, here in California, I called an online auto parts supplier to follow up on an order I had placed through their website. It was very early morning and I received an hours of operation, on hold message. ("We're currently closed, but our hours of operation are from..."). I heard the voice and thought, "Boy, that guy sounds a lot like me," when it dawned on me it WAS me! Having voiced so many on hold messages it's easy to lose track and some can run for quite a while before needing to be updated.

Another time, a producer/client friend of mine emailed to tell me he was with friends in the middle of a California desert getting some gas when he heard my voice overhead at the gas pump beckoning customers to come in the convenience store to get a Slurpy or cup of freshly brewed coffee. He said it kind of freaked him out as my voice came out of nowhere and he told his friends, "Hey, that's John Miles. I hired him to voice for me." This type of messaging is what is known as "overhead." You hear these messages in stores all the time.

I still voice on hold messages for a Long Beach, California producer and a few others, but not to the extent I did while voicing at Muzak.  Many voice talents stay away from on hold work. I still enjoy it. Part of the challenge is to combine a conversational read with some enthusiasm without sounding cheesy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Loud commercials skating on thin ice

You know the situation. You're watching your favorite TV show and they go to a commercial break, when all of a sudden, your ear drums are assaulted by an extremely loud commercial. Complaints have been filed with the F.C.C. for years. It looks like something is finally going to be done about it. (Insert applause).You can read about it here.

It got me to thinking about what a loud world we live in. And it seems to some folks, the thought of complete silence sends shivers up their spines. There's a tendency to want to fill the perceived void of silence with something-chatter, music on the radio, or a TV on in the background.

I've been working for some time on trying to get my personal"noise factor" down a bit. I almost always drive with my radio off. Silence-priceless.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"The voice of Bart"

The voice of Bart Simpson-Nancy Cartwright
 
In the San Francisco Bay Area, if you were to ask someone who does the voice of Bart, he or she might ask you for clarification. Here, B.A.R.T. stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit. And as you wait on the platform for the train to come, you'll hear several voices announcing departure and arrival times. They're actually synthesized voices called, "George and Gracie." The history behind them is kind of fascinating. Read about them and hear a sample of their voices here.

Another suitable answer would be Nancy Cartwright. She's the voice of Bart Simpson. When the series first became a hit, many were surprised that Bart's voice was being done by a woman.

Years ago, Nancy took a big chance, packed up her beat up car in Dayton, Ohio, and headed to California. She was lucky enough to study under the legendary Daws Butler, a master of animation voices. He originated the voices of many famous cartoon characters, including Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. What an education she got from Mr. Butler. Not to mention landing  the gig of a lifetime. Her book, "My Life as a Ten Year Old Boy" is a fun and informative read.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"What the heck is VO imaging ? "

From time to time, someone will ask me what I mean by imaging, as it applies to the voice over world. The short answer is that it's the pre-recorded voice you hear promoting the upcoming newscast on your TV station ("Tonight at 10-find out where to buy the cheapest gas in your area!"). Or, the voice you hear between songs on your local radio station ("We play the most music! Star 104.7!"). It's what program directors use to "brand" their stations. There are many voice over talents who specialize in this type of work, and their voices are heard across the country on many stations or across networks. The money can be very good for exceptional talents in this niche of voice over.

One of the best  to ever come down the pike was Ernie Anderson. I grew up on the west side of Cleveland (Insert joke here) , and as a kid, use to watch Ernie on TV 8 as he hosted a scary/corny horror flick. He was "Hot in Cleveland" long before the current hit TV series with Betty White. Ernie went by the character name of Ghoulardi, and to say that his comedy bits were a bit strange and unpredictable is a huge understatement.

What's cool is, he used that local TV show as a springboard to launch an incredibly successful imaging career on national TV networks when he made the move to L.A. His voice would truly rattle your speakers. And believe it or not, some of his pre-recorded, generic, imaging liners are still being used by radio stations today, even though he died back in 1997. Many will remember him as the deep voiced "Love Boat" announcer.

Click on this link and then the other links you'll see to hear his amazing take on copy. Also, check out the video link you'll see to watch him and several other VO talents at work. The clip is very dated from an old L.A. TV magazine show, but still fun and interesting to watch.