When it comes to the performing arts, voice acting attracts some of the most fiercely dedicated enthusiasts, despite the relative anonymity compared to acting on stage or on screen. In the old days, radio dramas were the most common inspiration for aspiring voice actors. Today, it’s animation.
The key component of voice acting, even more than secrecy and seclusion, is versatility. An in-demand voice actor may be called upon to provide the pipes for a cartoon rabbit in a kid’s show on Friday, a grizzled space marine in a video game on Saturday, and an overly-enthusiastic customer in a cheesy radio ad for a used car dealership on Sunday.
If jumping between mediums, moods, and characters appeals to you as an actor, then voice acting is a good fit. But how do you get started in such an isolated industry? Below are some voice acting books, documentaries, and resources to start with as you research the industry, learn how to record yourself, and understand how to take care of your voice.
Introduction to the Business
If you’re a fan who knows next to nothing about the world of voice acting, I Know That Voice is the best place to start. In this trailer for the documentary, you can see the names and faces behind some of the most famous animated characters.
Delve deeper into the world by reading Harlan Hogan’s essential text, VO: Tales and Techniques of a Voice-Over Actor. Like the subtitle suggests, it combines memoir with instruction. For a greater focus on the business aspect, you have a few options for voice acting books. How to Start and Build a Six-Figure Voice Over Business is a by-the-numbers introduction that reads less like a book and more like a transcript of a slightly repetitive talk. There’s Money Where Your Mouth Is and The Art of Voice Acting cover similar ground, with all serving as great primers. Flip through them at a bookstore (or check out the “Look Inside” previews on Amazon) and decide for yourself which author’s writing style appeals to you more.
Set Up Your Home Studio
In reading the extensive bios of the above authors, did you notice that all of them have experience on the other side of the studio glass as recorders and engineers? The ability to record yourself and others has gone from a “leg up” sort of skill to a must-have! Recording demo tapes (as they’re still called, despite having been on disc and online for well over a decade) and audio auditions are a key part of any VO artist’s career plan. Fortunately for you, this no longer requires costly studio rentals.
If you have a computer or laptop, you have the foundation of a perfectly adequate home studio. There are extensive resources online for building a studio on any budget. RecordingRevolution.com, for example, is a great place to start for any home recording, although it focuses mostly on music. The host, Graham Cochrane, also has a ton of videos on his YouTube channel where he focuses on the basics of recording.
For something completely focused on voice acting and in a form you can take to the beach, the Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home and On the Road is one of the best books available.
Taking Care of Your Voice
All of this theoretical and technical knowledge is for naught if your voice is weak and can’t handle marathon sessions in the studio. Voice acting can be even harder on your body than singing because you may be expected to move between SpongeBob and Darth Vader at the drop of a hat. You need to be able to add gravel to your voice as a character or make it velvety smooth as an announcer.
Despite being marketed mainly toward singers, The Voice Book (which includes a CD) and Raise Your Voice are two useful voice acting books about treating yourself like an athlete who needs proper exercise, conditioning, and protection.
Helping You Succeed in a Lonely World
The best voice acting books, videos, and equipment in the world exist only to capture one thing in voice acting—the human element. Unlike other forms of acting, voiceover work can feel lonely, with almost all performers recorded on a different day (or a different continent!) as opposed to working together.
To really set yourself up for a successful career, working with a dedicated, one-on-one vocal coach or acting teacher can be a huge help. An acting coach can teach you the techniques, as well as help you improve your confidence as a voice artist. This solo instruction replicates almost exactly the day-to-day life of a voice actor, where it’s just you and a director in a studio, working together to create a character with nothing but ink on a page and vibrations on your vocal cords. Good luck, and have fun with it!
Photo by Vincent Diamante