A voice artist is an essential part of a wide range of processes that require voice talent. Let’s take a look at their life and work, focusing on what they do, their skillset, auditioning process, risks, rewards, major current markets, and new possibilities.
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
What is a Voice Artist?
A voice artist is a person who creates content by using their voice.
Such content may include commercials, video games, audiobooks, trailers, jingles, television, film, dubbing of all kinds and corporate videos, amongst others. Even GPS and direct telephone prompts may use this sort of talent.
Voice over artists, voice actors, announcers or narrators, may all be classified under the general name of voice artists.
Skills of a Voice Artist
A voice artist is a performer and thus their performance must be believable, just like in other art forms and platforms. Says Joanna Ruiz, experienced voice artist: “I’ve just done one of those for Fife NHS on heart surgery about which I know nothing (…) Often I have no clue what I’m saying, but the trick is to sound as though I do, so I have to learn how to pronounce all these strange medical terms.”
Range and Versatility
Range is a particularly useful ability for a voice artist. The more parts they are able to play, the more auditions and work they may eventually get.
Being able to play disparate parts and imitating accents is also very useful. Such versatility in crafting characters and performances will generate opportunities as well.
An ability, often overlooked, but crucial for those who dub television or film content, is being able to lip-synch to the image on the screen. This is particularly useful for anime voice talent, who must dub this Japanese animation for Western audiences.
Training for a Voice Artist
Voice artists must look after their voice with the utmost care. This means refraining from things such as smoking, or having very hot or very cold drinks. Proper rest and nutrition are key factors too. Prevention of vocal injury is a must and will save talent from costly and risky procedures in the future.
A nasal voice sounds rather whiny, a mouth voice lacks potency, a chest voice is not too bad, but a diaphragm voice is the best of all.
To develop such a diaphragm voice, a voice artist must master deep breathing and begin by practicing sounds such as laughing or yawning which come directly from the diaphragm. Practice will eventually allow for a wider range of sound and thus a more potent voice.
Vocal exercises are often used for practice and for warming up. There are several exercises that may improve voice ability.
Scales of all sorts, even tongue twisters are useful. Something as simple as sitting down with a straight back and breathing properly, can radically improve the sound of a voice artist.
Although voice artists usually work at a recording studio, seemingly tucked away from the audience, their job still means that they have to perform. They are, first and foremost, actors.
In practical terms, this means that they should undergo acting training such as solid theater training. If formal training is not available, some forms of training may be found by watching YouTube videos, taking improv classes or by joining a choir.
A voice artist may also train by setting up a small mini-studio at home. The idea is to have a place to practice and, most importantly, record such sessions to be able to improve. A home studio must be soundproofed and have a basic setup, complete with a microphone, pop shield, mixer/interface, and computer.
The Auditioning Process
Auditioning is the day to day of a voice artist. There are several things they may do to prepare.
Demo Reel and CV
Voice artists must have a CV ready, but, most importantly, they must prepare a professional-level demo reel.
A good demo reel must be between 1-3 minutes long. Crucially, it must be something of good quality; they are wise to invest in such an important calling card.
Before the Audition
Getting auditions is a challenge for a voice artist, particularly at the start of their careers. They must learn to network. This means meeting people in the industry, agents and representatives of all kinds.
Technology is constantly advancing and it’s true that they may audition online too. Being in the right city though, may help immensely. There are specific cities which are particularly suited to some types of work. For the dubbing of anime, for example, Los Angeles, New York, and London are good places to be and network.
If auditioning is done online, they must learn how to use the technology first, before any auditions come up. This means practicing recording and sending files so that there is no last-minute fretting and worrying when it is time to work.
During the Audition
If auditions are online, a voice artist may be able to relax a bit more. This means preparing the lines carefully and submitting multiple takes, if appropriate.
If the audition is in person they must adapt their process. Occasionally, they will have to do a cold read of a material. This means being given a script and expected to voice act immediately. This skill may be practiced at home, by doing random cold reads to understand the process and learn some tricks to face such a situation in an audition setting.
After the Audition
The key for a voice artist is to continue auditioning for other jobs, without discouragement. Auditioning is, in many ways, their main job.
Constant promotion and use of social media are useful to generate exposure and job opportunities and further audition opportunities.
Anime Voice Artists
Anime is an industry where voice artists can find a lot of work. They may either voice original anime in Japan or dub such Japanese content for other markets.
Anime is big business in Japan. The industry reached revenues of $17.7 billion in 2016. Voice artists have a special status in Japan and popular anime voice artists may reach staggering levels of fame.
Voice actors in anime, called seiyuu in Japan, will usually attend some form of special training. There are over 50 academies catering to aspiring anime voice artists. Thereafter, they may start auditioning and looking for work in the industry.
Voice artists in the United States may achieve a certain level of fame and recognition, although not quite like that of their Japanese counterparts.
Some of the major anime companies licensing, distributing or dubbing anime in the United States are Sentai Filmworks, Funimation, Aniplex of America, Crunchyroll, Viz Media, Manga Entertainment, Discotek Media, AnimEigo and Media Blasters.
As more anime is dubbed in the United States, for Western audiences, more recognition of particular voice artists by fans of anime will follow.
Rewards for Voice Artists
In terms of financial rewards, there are a small minority of voice artists who may reap large salaries for their efforts. The voice artists of Family Guy are an example of such rewards. In Japan, rewards are very high for the most famous anime actors as well.
The majority of voice artists, of course, don’t reap such high salaries. Many of them may keep a side job too. Indeed, for most, the challenge is being able to do this work full-time.
New Markets for Voice Artists
Arguably the biggest new market for voice artists is the burgeoning video game industry.
The biggest challenge in video games is their sheer length and duration. Some have described video games as 100 hour long movies. A big role, for example, may very well mean 5000 lines of dialogue.
This brings about a tremendous exertion for voice artists, who must often scream, whisper, and exhibit tremendous stamina for hours and hours on end. Proper training, tailored to video game work, will probably become more important for talent seeking to join that industry.
There are a few things which may go awry for a voice artist. One major stumbling block is injury and another is poor auditioning skills.
Injury and Rehabilitation
Straining the voice and forcing it may lead to deterioration or vocal fatigue. Sometimes, vocal nodules may form. These are basically scarring of the vocal cords. Singers often get this sort of injury and voice artists are certainly at risk too.
In the event of injury, visiting a speech pathologist or medical professional is necessary. Occasionally, surgery may be needed, though it is risky. Singer Julie Andrews, for example, lost her singing voice due to such a medical procedure. A voice artist must always remember, however, that proper training and warm-ups will significantly lower the risk of injury.
Auditioning and not booking a job is perfectly normal. Occasionally though, a voice artist who is being rejected constantly may reflect on certain possibilities as to why this could be. Things such as assuming an incorrect style or tone, not following directions, not understanding the script, not being punctual or not being courteous may be the cause.
It is important for a voice artist to communicate confidently with the people holding the audition, and to understand their expectations before performing. Exhibiting a strong work ethic at all times is also vital.
A voice artist is a person who creates content by using their voice. This includes announcers or narrators, amongst others.
Their skillset should include a capacity for believability, range, and versatility. There is training available, featuring breathing, vocal exercises, safe use of the voice and acting techniques.
Financial rewards vary. Video games are a growing field which requires such talent. Avoiding injury and mastering the auditioning process are everlasting challenges.