How to Become a Voice Actor?
Voice Acting Tips for Aspiring Commercial Voice Over Actors
This year (2022) was my second year professionally speaking and coaching voice acting at the One Voice Conference USA in Dallas, TX. This was a great opportunity to share some of my most important voice acting tips and help aspiring students on their journey to learning how to become a voice actor (and more specifically: how to become a voice over for commercials).
You can view the entirety of my voice over presentation & workshop below, but I also want to use this post to expand on some of these voice acting tips, especially for those that have already started their VO journey and are looking for tips on how to improve their commercial voice over skills.
2022 One Voice Conference – Presentation & Voice Over Workshop by Kabir Singh
Be sure to watch my voice over workshop starting at 17:30, where I ask volunteers to try different commercial reads with and without music tracks.
Starting your commercial voice over career
If you’re only just getting started, then I recommend checking out the voice acting tips in my previous blog post on How to Become a Voice Actor.
That post provides some of the initial steps to consider as you launch your new career in voice acting, including how to find your first VO jobs, how to build your website and so on.
As I mentioned at One Voice, I entered this industry with no prior experience and with no idea what I was doing. So I made a lot of mistakes along the way. But after putting in a lot of work, and constantly growing my knowledge and skills, I’m fortunate to now be recognized among the top male voice actors in the industry, having worked for amazing companies like Mazda, Amazon, T-Mobile, the NBA and others.
That being said, the “game” is constantly changing, so I encourage you to check out my essential voice over tips for beginners and use the resources throughout this post to take your career to the next level.
What makes a strong commercial voice over? EMOTION
This is one of the most important commercial voice acting tips I can provide to aspiring voice actors: being able to understand the emotion behind the script and then tap into the depth of human emotions to bring the words to life.
When we think of commercial voice acting, I want to emphasize that human emotions become a critical vessel to the performance. Whether you are a male voice actor or a female voiceover artist, all human emotions transcend the human experience.
If you’ve spent time with the script, then you may already have a basic idea of the emotional intent. Your client or producer will usually also have some basic guidance. But to identify the right emotions on a deeper level, a great tool that I use is the Junto Institute Wheel of Emotions. For example, you might start with a universal emotion like JOY. But you can go deeper than that. Maybe the real emotion is TRIUMPH or ENTHUSIASM or PEACEFUL TRANQUILITY. The Junto Wheel is great for identifying those deeper emotions.
Leverage music tracks to tap into the right emotion
One of the best ways to quickly and efficiently tap into a human emotion during a commercial voice over session is with the utilization of a music bed or track. Often times, commercial voice over scripts are written to the cadence of a specific music bed.
The music can tell you a lot of things, so it’s important to ask for these tracks when you’re doing commercial reads. For me, I always ask for a music reference. The video reference is not enough to pull emotion. I vibe with the music. It tells you the pace, the rhythm, the attitude, the state of mind … all of this contributes to the emotion you express in the commercial voice over.
Voice over examples
Taking the points above into consideration, let’s look at a few quick voice over examples to illustrate how this range of emotions can vary significantly between each commercial.
- In my Mazda commercial voice over, it was clear from the get-go that the client didn’t want the voice over to sound like a traditional, sales-y sounding “car guy.” They wanted the sound to be cool, composed and confident, with a little intellectual curiosity thrown in too. Just listen to the music track – it sets the mood and emotion perfectly. Check out my blog post here for more on this commercial.
- This voice over for Amazon Prime Day couldn’t be more different from the Mazda example. The vibe here is excitement, anticipation, motivation and action. The emotion is optimistic and eager. Thousands of people auditioned for this commercial voice over. Why did Amazon choose me? Check out my thoughts.
- In this voice over for the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s all about hype. This commercial aired after the Chiefs won the AFC championship game to build anticipation before the Super Bowl. So the voice had to be bold, confident, upbeat and energetic. Just listen to that music track. It tells you everything you need to know about the mood of the ad. For more on this commercial VO, check out my blog post here.
Finding the right balance
I can’t stress this enough. A commercial voice over actor must work on their fluidity, emotions, authenticity and pace.
Nowadays, voice over commercials come in many different forms, including 6-second spots, 10-second spots and 60-second spots. Each one requires a commercial voice talent to find the right balance of emotion and authenticity by delivering a message within a very specific time frame. The VO talent must be able to adapt and change up their technique to fit the needs of each commercial.
Being an unrelentless professional
Importance of having a voice over demo
On the business side of becoming a commercial voice over actor and getting a commercial voice over agent, a professional voice talent must have a professionally produced commercial voice over demo. This is usually about 60 seconds long and showcases various human emotions ranging from intimate to motivational to intense, high-energy spots. The goal of your demo is to highlight your commercial voice print and style. It should show the range of your vocal ability and talents.
Getting commercial voice over jobs
There are many ways to get commercial voice over auditions and jobs. The traditional method is to build relationships with commercial voice over agents and casting directors. LinkedIn is a great resource to do so. But you also want to be constantly building your portfolio and VO business to make it easier for clients to find you. This ties back into the importance of building a website, which is one of your most powerful assets. And, with marketing strategies like SEO, you can make it easier for your website to be found in search results when clients are looking for commercial voice over actors.
Online voice over casting
Online casting is also critical for a commercial voice actor to build his or her career efficiently. Sites such as voices.com and Voice123.com are popular options for finding voice over jobs, but there are many others.
Voice acting tips for commercial reads & long-term success
When it comes to commercial reads, there are several things you can do to improve the quality of your delivery while also showing the client that you are a true professional.
Remember: being an Unrelentless Professional is the key to long-term success in this industry. This means communicating effectively, investing in a professional home studio, expanding your website and—this is underrated but very important—being likeable, kind and courteous with everyone you interact with in this industry.
Some additional voice acting tips for commercial reads include:
- Provide A,B,C’s on lines that are important to the client. This means saying the same lines in 2 to 3 different ways, allowing you to showcase a range of options for post-edit.
- Focus on the attitude and message that the client would like to portray in the spot. Attitude is everything.
- Commercials usually mean big brands. Know your business and the potential conflicts. Honor Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and all other legal agreements.
Expanding your work beyond commercial voice overs
For those looking to expand their voiceover careers in different genres of voice acting, you can become a voiceover actor doing many different types of work.
Some of the options include: promo voice acting, commercial voice acting, animation voice over, dubbing, ADR, eLearning, corporate narrations, etc.
Each specific field requires its own training to help you understand the conceptual building blocks of the scripts and the messages behind them. Auditions play a critical role in the practice of each genre. Use the online casting sites mentioned above to guide you in that practice.
Once you find a genre you fall in love with, create a professional voice over demo for it. Continuous education is vital to your success in pursuing your career on how to become a voice actor. Everything from attending professional Voice Over conferences to private coaching and webinars.
- My presentation at the 2022 One Voice Conference
- Previous One Voice presentation (2020)
- Junto Emotion Wheel: This is a great communication tool I used in the presentation at the One Voice conference in Dallas, Texas. The emotion wheel is used to dig deeper into one’s reflection of their emotions when giving a speech or participating in voiceover. I use this during voiceover auditions to help me get into certain emotions during reads. This emotion wheel can be used in every setting including corporate environments and team building.
- Voice Over Coaching: This website is devoted entirely to aspiring voice over actors. It provides coaching and guidance for anyone who wants to continue to grow their voice over their careers.
- Previous blog post & video on how to become a voice actor: This post touches on some of the voice acting tips above but provides more information on defining your goals as a voice actor, identifying your brand, marketing yourself and more.