Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Copy Reading - Some Tips and Thoughts

In a creative industry, there are no 'absolutes', yet the one thing that seems to have changed very little over the last 20 years is 'how to read copy', even with all the technology out there, which changed the way business is done.

Back in the 90's, I read the book 'Word of Mouth', by Susan Blu & Molly Ann Mullin. When it comes to copy reading, I still refer to tips in this book. Of course, the way we do business has changed with online casting, in that it is now more 'do-it-yourself'. So, as someone, who listens day to day to demos and auditions on Voice123, I would like to share some thoughts and tips about copy reading, a main component of booking voice over work.
  • Know who you are talking to, always, while you read copy
    Each script has an audience. It is important to sound as if you are addressing someone while you speak. I have always believed that 'if you talk to someone specifically, you talk to everyone at the same time', and if you are listening to a voice over, the voice that stops the audience in their tracks is one that sounds as if it was directed at one person.
  • Do not try to sound like anyone else. Be yourself
    In a business with so many talents, you have to sell a product, that being your voice, and there is no other person out there like you. Trying to sound like what you perceive voice over artists to sound like, actually makes you sound inexperienced.
  • Creativity & originality is a must, BUT know the basic rules first
    I live by the motto, 'You can only break rules, once you know the rules.' That said, true creativity and originality can be implemented when you know what is being done, and should not be done. For example... Announcing in an audition that you are 'Trying something new here...', actually scares people into thinking you do not know what you are doing. Why? Because true creativity and originality that holds the listener's attention requires no explanation, before or after. Just do what you think is best, based on what you know. If you are having a creative block, just change up the cadence, and try inflections on words, even if they make no sense. Remember though... do this when you practice, so that when you audition, it is second nature to you. On this point as well, all creativity you have may be lost if your recording quality is poor.
  • Repetition and practice is key
    The best way to learn a new skill is through repetition of educated steps. The best way to learn how to read copy is to practice reading it consistently. Doing this in classes and with coaches is better than trying it for the first time when auditioning. You want scripts and copy to become a new language for you. Practice also helps your diction, and also gets you 'out of your head', almost so that you are not thinking so much about how you sound, but more so whether or not you are accomplishing the goal that the script has set before you.
I still remember the day I felt like something clicked inside me while reading copy... I was reading something, and I knew while I was reading it, that I was not getting the point across, I was speaking too fast, and that my NYC accent slipped in there by mistake, and it was out of place and not asked for in the script. It was very much an 'in the zone' feeling that came after many months of working diligently with a coach, and classes on what types of voice overs I sell best. I also remember that when I auditioned on Voice123 as a talent, I read the script almost 20 times before recording, just to make sure I knew what the script was really trying to do, backwards forwards.

I hope this insight helps. You can always share your opinions or ask for Demo Advice on Voice123's Premium Forums. Opinions may vary, but you can never forget practice, and dedication.

Voice123 - The Voice Marketplace
Steven Lowell
Public Relations Manager
My Blog
Twitter: @stevenNYC123


Valerie said...

Steven --

A great resource for study and practice is:
"Voice-Over : Beyond the Words" by the late, great Kirk Johnson of Audio One in Chicago.

I studied with Kirk in the 1990s and he was, without a doubt, the greatest coach ever -- his method helped hundreds of students release their natural voices and get into that "zone."

Look for the book at:

Anonymous said...

I am looking for work to do Commercials & Ad & Print.

I speak very well & pronounce each word with clarity.

Please let me know where to apply for this type of work.

diward said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
diward said...

Great Tips.

jOE said...

I agree with your comments and have used the text you mentioned in teaching my professional voice over classes. The key to being a great voice over artist is to learn the fundamentals and then appy those techniques to the characters you potray, or if it calls for your own narrative voice learn to know all aspects of your voice. We can create marvelous things with our imaginations and our gift the "VOICE"

Nicoma said...

Thank you...this is helpful.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much!! These tips are really usefull!
Greetings from Buenos Aires , Argentina...
Fernando Iannello
Voice over talent

kellie said...

Steven -
Hugely helpful - I am in the infant stages of figuring this all out, and your wisdom in "knowing your audience" and practice, practice, practice are so spot on!

I look forward to taking this advice as I prepare for my next auditions - thanks for, in part, shaping me to be a better voice talent.