Which Voiceover Training Programs Are Best?
“Pros sound like non-actors. Non-actors sound like bad actors.“
–Casting Agent Saying
“You need all this technique—but it has to be invisible.”
– Director Ross Young
“Skill without understanding is a recipe for disaster.”
– 78th Voice Acting Expo
“Be in the moment. Period. Just be there. Whatever you do is ok, just be truthful, honest, real, and that’s all you can ask for.”
––Robert De Niro
Voiceover training must:
- Teach you to direct yourself when no coach is there.
- Be customized to you—learning styles and initial acting ability vary greatly.
- Test and measure your performance, or sessions will only reinforce bad habits—you’ll only “get better at being bad”.
- Not include costly things you don’t need.
Understanding is inexpensive to provide, so too many training companies focus on more expensive, profitable sessions and demo production instead of teaching and testing for understanding. Good coaching also must plant seeds of understanding that grow with experience.
- VO Performance skill #1: Sound like a real person, not an actor.
- VO Performance skill #2: Real person in a scenario of heightened intensity.
- VO Performance skill #3: Low-effort, high intensity, fast read with slow feel.
Beginners need understanding first, skill-building second. They don’t yet know what makes one audition win vs. another—or what most of the possible problems are. Beginners sacrifice authenticity—skill #1—trying to “sound more ____” (warm, serious, whatever). But trying to sound like anything is two mistakes:
- Stop “trying”: Effort creates tension, destroying authenticity. Stop analyzing, stressing and pushing. Acting is a toolbox to manage conversation and flow state, not “choosing and troubleshooting vocal tone”. It’s a non-forcing process.
- Stop listening to how you sound. A race car driver knows if they look at the wall when a tire blows out, they’re are more likely to hit it. They concentrate on where they want to go, not where they don’t—the solution, not the problem.
New voice actors try to alter outputs (“it doesn’t sound right”), pros alter inputs (“acting as if agreeing with my friend”). Acting skill is not changing how you sound, it’s changing how and why you feel—you must “feel first” in order to act authentically. Examples of authentic vs inauthentic Bad vs (Good):
Punch (Highlight instead) • List (Chunk instead) • Push (Linger instead) • Announce (Discover instead) • Sell (Share instead) • Punctate (Shift Breath)
Agents joke that new actors lose their talent when they get an agent because they stop following a process due to being “trained”. Actors follow a process, they know that even “practicing” can just cement bad habits if they don’t follow a personalized process.
Insist on being taught to coach yourself so you can work from home—if you only know how to receive coaching, you can’t produce yourself effectively.
When people realize they aren’t getting results working by themselves after taking some training, they make it worse at first by trying various ideas that they were NOT taught, commonly reading a script over and over and over, listening back, and trying to make it “sound better”. Trying to force a “sound that you can hear” just makes you faker and faker—you break two things you don’t notice every time you try to force fix one thing you do notice.
The 9 Core Competencies:
Well-trained performers provide a presence that feels unconsciously human and authentic to listeners while achieving other performance objectives.
Poorly-trained performers lose natural speech quality when attempting other performance objectives.
Poorly-trained performers sound like someone “reading a sales announcement to a demographic” rather than having a conversation with a friend. They tend to impersonate low-skilled, low-paid (“bad”) voice over performances they have heard.
We provide T.A.S.K. standards for competence assessment: To test, measure and certify performers in each of these core competencies. Becoming certified requires demonstrating proficiency and understanding in an area of competency.
Certification standards exist for Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Professional levels.
Demonstrating a competency at any level is all that is required to be certified in that competency at that level. In areas where a student demonstrates natural aptitude and awareness, less training, knowledge, skill and technique is needed.
Because casting professionals quickly reject performances that violate key standards for authentic and natural speech regardless of other factors, the primary competency of Acting and Voice is authentic speech.
Some training programs may follow or integrate these competencies, such as this one.