Voice talents, both beginners and experts, are always looking for a good voice over coach.
What’s so special about a coach that it can turn your career as a voice actor around?
For starters, a voice over coach will make sure your technical voice acting skills (pronunciation and breathing techniques) are polished. A good voice coach (emphasis on good) will also push you to take more risks and make your acting skills more dynamic, more unique to you.
The very definition of a coach implies someone with the ability to teach a skill to others.
A voice instructor has knowledge and background in the voice-over industry, an ear that can detect common and uncommon mistakes, and the patience to deliver instructions in a way that promoted the understanding and growth of their students.
Bear in mind that you can’t learn a skill unless you put in the necessary effort into practicing what your voice coach tells you.
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Here are some responsibilities of a voice over coach:
To reinforce what you, as a voice actor, already know
Contrary to popular belief, a voice coach is not just supposed to teach you about new strategies and tricks in voice over. They should also coach your discipline to apply these strategies on a daily basis, and therefore, master them.
To give comprehensive feedback to voice talents
A good voice coach will not force their will on you. Instead, they should inspire you to make the change by explaining why your method doesn’t work and what you should instead.
To encourage your expertise
A coach shouldn’t shut down your ideas. Sure, it helps if they have more experience than you, but the best voice over coaches work hand in hand with the talents.
After all, the voice actors are ones enduring the daily struggles of the industry. As a voice actor, you sometimes have to make live decisions in the recording booth, adapt your style, and constantly put in the effort to get new and better clients.
Your coach won’t be there shouting at you as you record “…give me more excitement in your voice!”
So yes, you are the real expert.
But your voice coach is an expert too so work with them, understand each other’s visions and meet somewhere in the middle.
A good voice over coach should make you independent to the point that you don’t need them anymore.
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Do You Need a Voice Over Coach?
If you’re a beginner, you shouldn’t even be asking this question. Just go out and get as many voice coaches as you can and have them train you.
Seriously, even Morgan Freeman had a voice over instructor.
Trying to reinvent the wheel will only cost you. A voice over instructor is really an investment in your career as a voice actor, but it’s important to define their role before you hire one. This is so you know what you’ll be getting. The training sessions you conduct with your coach should feel different from the ones you do yourself.
Note that we said training sessions, not practice sessions. One implies doing the same things over and over again until you become an expert. The other implies getting out of your comfort zone and pushing your limits to discover what your voice is capable of.
While you need to practice just as much as you need to train, you should only be paying for the latter.
Even if you are a seasoned professional, you could always benefit from an instructor’s experience and unbiased feedback.
How To Spot A Good Voice Instructor
Experience matters, which is why the best coaches are:
Specialized voice actors with years of experience.
Voice casting directors, either practicing or retired, but should be familiar with the latest trends in voice over.
Voice talent agents.
There are plenty of other people that can train you, they don’t need to have voice acting experience. Casting directors and agents are especially suited to the role of voice over coach as they can offer insight from the perspective of an expert listener. These people have hired actors like you before and they know what clients expect.
You can spot a good voice over coach by asking these questions:
1. How long have you been coaching voice talents?
Experience is important. The longer they have been in the game, the better their voice coaching abilities should be, at least in an ideal world.
2. Do you have references?
Anyone can lie about how long they’ve been alive, that’s why we have ID.
3. What’s your specialty?
Although it’s great to have a specialty, don’t ignore the voice coaches with broader portfolios. But if you need to hone in on your commercial voice over skills, then going for a commercial voice coach is probably a good idea.
4. How many talents do you take on at a time?
“As many as I can fit in a day.”
Imagine receiving that answer. There’s nothing worse than a tired voice coach, they suck at listening, and they won’t give their best feedback. A good coach should recognize that each voice talent is unique and they need time and patience to develop their skills.
The ideal voice coach, therefore, will limit the number of students they take on at a time. If you cant get them to limit this number, then book your sessions in the morning when the coach just had their cup of coffee.
5. Do you produce or have any experience producing?
Maybe they can give you some pointers on how to improve your demos during and after recording. If they don’t produce their own demos, don’t worry, voice over coaches recommend good producers and agents all the time.
6. How much will all this cost, roughly?
You have to know, just to make sure you stay within budget. Cheap is not always good. Also, ask if there is a cancellation penalty if you decide to opt-out at the last minute. Circumstances change, you know.
Don’t Be Too Quick To Settle
What works for the thousands of voice actors out there might not work for you. The challenge is to not only find a voice over coach but to find one that is suitable for you.
Professional voice coaches offer either free or paid consultations sessions that allow voice talents a glimpse into what they’ll be getting.
Take advantage of this session, but even if you like the first coach you meet with, don’t settle just yet.
View three or four more portfolios, read online reviews, make a few jokes to make sure your personality matches with theirs.
You want the communication lines between you and your voice coach to be as clear and direct as possible. It helps to hire someone you feel comfortable, maybe even familiar with. A coach who will praise your good performance and constructively criticize your bad reads.
There needs to be chemistry between you and your chosen voice instructor. They should be able to adjust their method of teaching to suit your pace of learning.
Voice Teacher vs Voice Coach
A teacher comes in, teaches a class, and leaves until the next time. A coach used to mean the same thing, but a lot of professionals are redefining the meaning of the word voice over coach.
Now, it means a complete package instructor. They teach the basic voice over techniques, and also equip voice talents with necessary marketing and branding knowledge, hence propelling their careers forward.
A coach is interested in your journey and not theirs. They are not in it for the money; they genuinely want to help you get better.
Private vs Group Sessions?
It depends on your needs as a voice actor.
In a private voice coaching session, you’ll get to focus on your individual weaknesses and practice on recording and producing your demo.
In group sessions, you’ll learn by listening to other voice actors, and even gain the confidence to speak in front of an audience.
You can choose one or the other, or mix them up if you want.
But don’t just choose any group session. Go for professional-grade classes where you can be sure that all the students have the same priorities as you.
Voice-over Coaching Scams (and how to spot them)
A lot of fake voice over instructors are out to take your money. While scams are not always easy to spot, some coaches make it a little too obvious.
Watch out for these statements when hiring a voice instructor:
1. You will be ready for the demo after ‘this number’ of sessions
They don’t know you, or your acting abilities, and cannot promise that. The coaching program shouldn’t be too long either.
2. I guarantee you’ll get endless jobs/ stupid rich after we’re done.
3. I charge for this and that in addition to the normal fees
You probably won’t believe this, but some voice coaches charge for responding to your emails. A scam is always trying to get money from you at every possible turn.
There’s nothing wrong with extra fees, but do you really want a coach that charges you for a small inquiry just because it was outside your session?
4. I am offering a weekend crash course with a demo attached
Sounds too good to be true, because it is.
If you’re going to evaluate and improve your voice acting skills, take a few months of training to do it right. Make a strategic demo plan, and hire a coach who will give you everything you need to succeed as a voice over talent.
Finally, a professional voice over instructor will let their demos speak for them. High-pressure selling tactics are not necessary and you should watch out for coaches who push you to sign up with them before its too late.
You are hiring someone to make decisions for you. Yes, voice coaches will make a lot of recommendations that will allow you to focus more on what you do best and less on trying to find the best producer or hiring agent.
Suspiciously low prices are also a red flag.
As long as you know what to expect and you do your homework, hiring a voice over coach should be a piece of cake.