Six Audition Tips for Voice Over Actors

Six Audition Tips for Voice Over Actors


By John Kovacevich

Oct 12, 2017

(meet John next Monday at our upcoming Professional Invitational, 11/18/19 - 6:30-9:30pm)

Several years back, I wrote some audition tips for my on-camera actor friends. (Here and here.) As a creative director in the advertising business, I’ve watched and listened to a LOT of commercial auditions, including thousands of VO recordings. Here are a few tips.

Everything that follows is, of course, just one man’s opinion. (BTW, I am that man.) But it can be helpful to know what’s happening on the other side of the casting process.

1. Slate in character

Your audition can be over before you read the first word of the script. This may not be fair, but it’s just the way it is.

Your slate is the first thing we hear so if your slate voice is very different from what we’re looking for, I have to immediately overcome my first impression of you and then evaluate how you read the script “in character.” (Harsh truth: I don’t care about the “real” you, I just want to know if you’re what I want/need for the commercial.)

When casting, I may have several hundred VO auditions to listen to in a single evening. There’s usually no time to listen to every audition all the way through. You get a gut impression of somebody right away. If you like what you hear, you listen to more.

2. Study the casting spec and script

For VO work, auditions are usually first reviewed by the copywriter that wrote the script. That writer also writes the casting spec so it is your best window into his/her brain and what he/she is looking for.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written “not announcer-y” … and got auditions that sound like they were right off the nightly newscast.

There are almost always clues in the script too.

What’s the tone of the spot? More naturalistic or over the top? Sales-y or slice-of-life? Is it a character piece or an “everyman” sort of thing? There are a million different flavors of “mom,” what is the context for this one. Is she the heroine of the spot or a supporting player?

Finally, if you want to take a “different spin” on it than the casting spec, my advice is to save that for a second or third take.

Review the spec. Study the script. Give yourself the best chance to deliver what we’re looking for.

3. Say the words right

If you don’t know how to pronounce something, ask. Or look it up. Especially the product name. Get that wrong, and it’s unlikely your audition will ever make it in front of a client.

Names of cities and countries are often mispronounced. Street names or businesses or areas of town (especially for spots in a region where you do not live) often get mangled. Spend a few minutes looking them up if you are unsure.

Beyond pronunciation, look for performance clues in the script itself.

If words are italicized or underlined or bolded or capitalized…the writer may be trying to tell you to put a little mustard on ’em. Be smart.

And finally, read the spot as close to time as possible. If you take 31 seconds for a 30-second spot, it’s not the end of the world. But if you take 45 seconds? Then you’re not doing it at the pace it will need to be done and you’re not going to book it.

4. Lay down two takes

Honestly, 95 percent of auditions, I don’t make it through the first take much less the second.

But if you ARE on the short-list and I like your voice, I may be looking for some performance variations to help sell you to the client. If there’s a second take that’s a slight variation (but not in a wildly different voice) I have something to play with.

If I’ve only got one take, I may not have the options I need to cut your voice together for the scratch track. (For example, you may have read something a split-second faster on the second take and that’s what I need for timing purposes.)

There are many, many cases of “demo love” where an audition track gets put on a rough cut and that actor eventually books the job. Give me some options so that if I like you, I can cut the best audition performance together.

5. Record it well

You don’t have to record your audition in a professional studio, but it needs to be good enough so that the producer and ad creatives who are listening to the audition can’t tell the difference.

The threshold is, “can I send this recording to the clients will they be able to imagine it on their spot?”

Yes, I’ve put iPhone auditions on picture as scratch tracks before, but they were very clean, not something recorded in an airport. (Yes, I’ve gotten those too.)

If the quality is such that I can’t put it against picture and send it to a client, then don’t send it. I have plenty of other options that ARE that quality. Make sure yours is the same.

6. Do your best and let it go

We hear a ton of people. Many are great, but only one books the job.

Once you “get past” the ad agency copywriter, then you go on a short-list that’s reviewed by a creative director who thins the field even further.

From there, a few selects are usually put against picture (in the case of TV, film, games, etc.) or perhaps cut together with some effects (in the case of radio.)

Ultimately, a few options (more than one, less than five) are shared with the client who makes the final selection. There are often multiple people on the client side that have to review and approve your audition.

In other words, there are a whole bunch of different people who have to agree that you are “the one” before you’re offered a part.

Of course, there’s absolutely NOTHING you can do about all this, so there’s really no reason to worry about it. Do your audition and let it go. If you’re the right person for the job, the creative team will fight for you and work to make sure you’re the one hired.

Break a leg, friends. Book it!

Like what you just read? Join John next Monday at our upcoming Professional Invitational, 11/18/19 - 6:30-9:30pm

Read Next

Voice One Verve Articles

News

OUR DECEMBER NEWSLETTER HAS ARRIVED!

Happy Holidays! Our December 2019 newsletter has arrived, and is chock full of exciting announcements and offers!

December 5, 2019
Read More
Promotion

Exclusive Cyber Monday Offers

We had such a great response to our Black Friday sale, we've extended it to Cyber Monday!

November 30, 2019
Read More
Classes

Finish Strong!

Here's a look at what's coming to Voice One between now and the end of the year. End the year with a strong finish as you continue to hone your craft!

November 21, 2019
Read More
Article

Six Audition Tips for Voice Over Actors

An article from our upcoming Professional Invitational guest, John Kovacevich

November 14, 2019
Read More
Classes

Our Next Special Guest Has Been Revealed!!!

We are excited to announce our special guest for the final Professional Invitational class of 2019!

November 6, 2019
Read More
Article

Let me hear you!

Sally's first public rant

November 5, 2019
Read More
Classes

Check out our NEW classes!

Take a look at our ten brand new classes coming to Voice One in 2020!

November 3, 2019
Read More
Promotion

All of our Business & Marketing Classes are on sale!

Now through Monday 11/4 at 5pm, take advantage of our discounted pricing for these classes

November 2, 2019
Read More
News

Spring Schedule Has Launched

See what Voice One has in store for 2020, including some exciting new classes!

November 1, 2019
Read More
Event

Meet the "VOmad" - Special Pop-Up Lecture

Join us this Sunday to meet the "VO-mad" as he speaks about his career as a world traveler

October 30, 2019
Read More
Article

25 Quotes About Improv

From Robin Williams to Tina Fey, here are 25 reasons why improv not only make you a better actor, but change your life!

October 19, 2019
Read More
News

Go for launch!

The Voice One Training Vocal Booth is available to rent in San Francisco! Here's how you can use it...

October 17, 2019
Read More
Classes

Voice Follows Choice

What is the meaning of this mantra? Take "Script Analysis" with Sally and find out!

October 16, 2019
Read More
Article

Improv is more than just a tool for Actors

Sally muses on a recent article from Second City's Kim Greene Hiller on how improv builds resiliency, listening, team-building, and creativity.

October 7, 2019
Read More
Classes

VO For Kids is Back!

Another VO for Kids (ages 10-17) is just around the corner. Help spread the word to any youngsters you know who are itching to get behind the mic!

October 4, 2019
Read More
Classes

What makes "Copy Intensive" so INTENSE?

Find out why Copy Intensive is some students' favorite class at Voice One

September 19, 2019
Read More
Article

Don't let bad diction or lack of clarity be your downfall!

Be understood no matter the circumstance using clear diction

September 18, 2019
Read More
News

Voice One Student & Alumni News - September 2019

The latest bookings, signings, and other news from your peers!

September 18, 2019
Read More
Article

Fan Girl Gushing over Hamilton!

Sally reflects after her recent showing of Hamilton

September 17, 2019
Read More
Classes

Don't miss these incredible classes!

We've got some great classes headed your way next week and there are a handful of spaces available in each of them! Take a look...

September 13, 2019
Read More
Promotion

Labor Day Sale 2019

Guess who's back?! That's right! Lil' Dino has returned to usher in the fall with a Labor Day Weekend Flash Sale!

August 30, 2019
Read More
Interview

Getting Vocal about Vocal Health with Julia Norton

Inspired by the three-week intensive some of our students recently completed, Danny spoke with Voice One Vocal Health instructor Julia Norton who has over 25 years of experience teaching people how to have a free and healthy voice.

August 13, 2019
Read More
Stories

Summer Fast Track Is Complete

It started on July 20th. 23 days and 138 hours later, our Summer Fast Track is complete. I watched these students grow and flourish over these three weeks, and here’s what I came away with:

August 12, 2019
Read More
Classes

Hey Voice One Parents!

Wanna know a great way to end your kids' summer vacation? With Voice Over, of course!

July 29, 2019
Read More
Classes

Speaking of Voices...

Your Voice as an Instrument returns!

July 24, 2019
Read More
Interview

What Does a Casting Director Do?

Danny spoke with Voice One Founder Elaine Clark, who has over 30 years experience as a casting director in video games, anime, toys, corporate narration, documentaries, and commercials, about what it means to be a casting director.

July 17, 2019
Read More
News

Another Exciting Announcement

Our new vocal booth has arrived!

July 12, 2019
Read More
Interview

Vocal Courage

Courage to what? Speak, fight back, be heard, perform voice over, recite poetry, sing, rap, record, and amplify your authority.

July 3, 2019
Read More
Interview

Learning to Shift Your Voice Can Up Your Bookability

An Interview with Top Dialect Coach Doug Honorof

June 12, 2019
Read More
Stories

Play the Scene

Sally shares a bit of wisdom she heard from a former coach that has helped boost her confidence during auditions.

June 10, 2019
Read More
Classes

Audition Like You Booked It

An upcoming class to practice "inhabiting an audition"

June 3, 2019
Read More
Classes

Making Connections

Having the backing of talent agents can be critical to our success!

May 16, 2019
Read More
Stories

The Union & Me

Sally reflects on her early resistance to the union in her prior work, and how important the actors' union is to her.

May 7, 2019
Read More
Event

The Union & You

Please join us for an upcoming event featuring our local SAG-AFTRA union rep!

April 15, 2019
Read More
Stories

The Adventures of Actor Girl

Sally takes us back to her early days of voice acting and the origins of her cleverly crafted persona, Actor Girl.

April 2, 2019
Read More
Classes

You Booked the Job, Now What?

Do you know what to do once you book a job?

March 29, 2019
Read More
Classes

Be seen. Be heard.

Why every voice actor needs personal branding and self-promotion.

March 28, 2019
Read More
Classes

Those "Other" Classes

The importance of those "additional skills" - A little more about our Business & Marketing, Advanced Marketing, and Home Recording classes

March 15, 2019
Read More
Classes

Introducing: Post-Production Polishing

We are thrilled that the incredible Amanda Rose Smith will be here at Voice One for a three-hour audio editing workshop.

February 25, 2019
Read More
Classes

Explore. Try. Diversify.

The Daytime Conservatory takes you and a small group of peers on a ten-week tour of the core, expanding your range by immersing you in scripts from across the VO-spectrum.

February 22, 2019
Read More
Stories

Embracing the Real Me

Sally recounts a pivotal moment in her voice over training

February 21, 2019
Read More
Article

Our Take-Aways from the Super Bowl

We sent out a Super Bowl scavenger hunt to aide you in watching the year's biggest commercials with a critical eye. Many of you sent us your answers, and we wanted to share some of our biggest take-aways.

February 8, 2019
Read More
Classes

Say YES to Improv!

Voice One offers a beginning improv class that takes you through the the basic rules of improv (believe it or not, there are rules!) through games and scenes. Laura Derry creates a fun and safe space for you to succeed and fail and you'll laugh and learn a lot!

February 5, 2019
Read More
Article

Are You Watching the Super Bowl?

A guide for watching the Super Bowl commercials with the critical eye of a professional voice over actor.

February 2, 2019
Read More
Classes

Find Your Storyteller

We are premiering a new class called Storytelling in VO. The class takes place over two Thursdays: January 31st and February 7th from 6:30pm-9:30pm taught by Sally. The class will cover the short story format, with scripts from commercials, corporate narration, literature, and children’s books.

January 25, 2019
Read More
Stories

Telling Our Stories

Sally tells her own voice over story - how she went from dancer to voice actor.

January 24, 2019
Read More