Say, are you getting started in the voice acting world? Or maybe you’ve got staff that you need to get ready for in-house production. Perhaps you’re thinking about taking the plunge into the voice acting world for a passion project? Then voice acting classes are just the thing you need!
There’s absolutely no shame in taking lessons; the voice acting profession is mostly unregulated and doesn’t require formal training, yes. That doesn’t mean that there’s not a lot to learn about!
Some people get the hang of things right away — natural talent, and all; some people find that they need a little prodding in the right direction. I can assure you that no matter which group you belong to, voice acting classes will up your game.
After all, I think we should always refresh this golden rule: you don’t know what you don’t know. Even if you’re a well-meaning enthusiast who’s sounding good and feeling good about their ability, wait!
There are many ways to mess up when doing voice acting that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll sound bad. You may have improper technique, or be doing voices in a way that’s not healthy and can cause problems in the future. There are also useful tips and tricks of the trade that crackerjack voice pros can undoubtedly give you!
Why, then, not try your hand at this and get even better results?
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This post has been updated in August 2021.
What is this all about?
So, what’s something a good voice acting curricula will provide? First, I would say, is information about the topic at hand. As you probably know, voice acting is the act of performing voice-overs to represent a character or inform the audience. Actors and actresses get into character and convey all the necessary information and character nuance through their voice alone. As you can probably tell, this takes some excellent expressive abilities!
A voice actor can be a jack-of-all-trades. Take the extreme example of Nolan North. Famous for doing the voice-over and motion capture for Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series, he’s a superstar. Now, in Uncharted he does an “aw-shucks”, affable hero voice, but he’s got an extremely deep bag of tricks! This veritable chameleon can disappear into character roles and bit parts at will!
North is, then, a perfect example of a voice actor’s versatility. He can narrate, do characters with an incredible variety of pitches, serious, comedic, quirky, you name it! I would say that he’s one of the closest we’ve come to having our own modern Mel Blanc. He’d probably think that’s way, way too high praise.
The idea still stands, though. Any voice acting classes should make you aware of your voice’s possibilities and abilities. Not just pitch, range, but control, rasp, technique. You don’t want to end up being a one-trick pony! Having a versatile, varied skillset can be the difference between landing jobs or not. Even more, if you’re not getting into the voice over business but are recording, this will still apply to you! Control of your vocal instrument is not an optional assignment, it’s THE assignment!
Voice Acting Classes: Technique
This is probably the central point of the issue. Proper vocal technique and control are as important as having a good voice — in fact, they’re synonymous! A voice that’s haggard, tired, lacks proper airflow and is not projected outward will sound outright bad. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen who claimed to have bad voices, but simply had poor technique!
This is not minor. Voice acting classes should endeavor to teach part of a shared skillset with singing. This will include, but not be limited to:
- Learning about the way our voice is produced.
- The vocal cords and the resonators.
- Airflow, breathing, calming yourself down.
- Proper Mic control and recording.
- Stamina, maintaining technique throughout.
Why are these not minor points? You could be failing at any or all of these and still sound OK to yourself. But to attentive or detail-oriented listeners could tell somethings off. Even worse, you could start wearing yourself down and hurting your voice during grueling recording sessions.
Let’s break it down a bit.
Voice production, vocal cords, and resonators
In essence, our body works like a giant resonance box. Think about the center of an acoustic guitar, for example, with its rich, warm, echoic quality. The diaphragm moves air through the vocal tract, making the vocal cords within the larynx vibrate. That vibration can resonate on the chest, mouth, head, or nose. Imagine using the bones in your body as a xylophone, and you’ll get the idea!
Moreover, the quality of the voice changes depending on the resonators used. That means that you won’t open up the true power of your voice without mastering their location and feel. And feel is really the operative word here; each resonator produces a unique, telltale feeling when you’re using it correctly. It takes a long time to get a proper hang of it. Basically, they’re crucial if you’re going for different tones and pitches. More info on them in this article.
A word of warning too! You’re just not speaking properly if you’re not using your resonators. This means that proper vocal placement is the key. This boils down to accurate breathing and knowledge of your resonators. Once you start producing the correct sound, you’ll know. This is difficult for many people to do without a coach, stressing the importance of voice acting classes.
Breathe and relax!
If you’re like everyone else, chances are you’re not properly breathing. That’s OK, it’s practically an unspoken epidemic, widespread across our society. Sad as it is, most people are not using their diaphragm to breathe correctly. That means their breath is trapped in their chest cavity, and they’re using about 1/3 of their breathing capabilities.
Don’t let this be you! There are many breathing courses out there. Even if you don’t take voice acting classes, learn about proper airflow control. Breathing properly is not just about technique, it’s an essential action for well-being! Its benefits include:
- Reduced stress.
- Reduced anxiety.
- Increased state of well-being.
A more positive, vibrant emotional state.
Any voice acting course worth anything is going to teach you how to breathe properly. You will learn how to relax the muscles in your stomach, and to let air gently fill up your lungs. Here’s an example to let you get a sense of it.
Grab a book. Nothing too heavy, it doesn’t have to be War and Peace! Now, lie down and place the book on top of your belly. As you breathe, gently try to direct the air to where the book is located. If you’re doing it correctly, the book should be going up and down with every inhalation and exhalation. You should strive to have the air flowing in a rhythmic, sea-like pattern. Just relax. This is part of the full-bodied breathing you should be going for.
There are many resources on the effects of air on your body. I recommend you check out Vice’s documentary on Wim Hof and his method, for example. You can also take up yoga, or any other practice that supercharges your breathing! Your voice acting will be better for it, and you’ll enjoy improved all-around health.
Technique and endurance
You’ll be in front of the microphone for long, grueling sessions. That’s not me trying to scare you, that’s a fact. That’s why you’ll need the above techniques, as sure as the sun will rise.
Having a proper understanding and control of breathing and vocal resonance comes first. Then, good voice acting classes will impart exercises that you can use to warm up your voice. I won’t go into this in much detail, as there’s a whole article about it for your perusal. Simply put, you won’t perform well if you don’t warm up, and it may lead to over-exertion and injury if you don’t.
Furthermore, having proper resonation and breathing is not just about sounding good. When you’re speaking through your resonators and your breathing is relaxed, you will notice an amazing thing; your voice comes out silky smooth, your throat is open, your body is loose, it’s as if you’re not exerting any effort! That’s the way star voice actors manage to keep recording for hours upon hours. Proper technique means that correctly-applied energy minimizes effort!
Voice acting or singing are not about gritting your teeth and going all-in. It may seem that way when you see some performers, but even screaming entails technique. If not, all those metal vocalists would be frying out their vocal cords after the first song. It’s not about effort, it’s about applied technique and tension management.
Recording and mic control
This is another important part of voice acting classes. You’ll need to have the proper gear and recording software. Once you do, you’ll have to maintain proper microphone etiquette. That means keeping your distance, avoiding popping sounds (maybe get a pop filter), etc. You’ll want to move away slightly from the mic if you’re doing louder sounds; It may overload the mic if not, leading to unpleasant sounds.
You’ll also have to get acquainted with your recording software. If you don’t have an editor, you’re going to be removing a lot of mouse clicks. This is also when all that breathing control from before starts to come into play even more. If you’re not breathing correctly, you’re just going to be interrupting your sentences to take in air. That could lead to having to do entire segments over!
Stay cool, breathe well, have proper gear, and get a hang of recording and editing. All of these should be front and center in voice-over classes.
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Summing up my thoughts about voice acting classes
So, how do you get started? I recommend checking out voice acting classes near you. Any good singing coach should also be able to train you on most of these techniques. I can assure you that any good singer also knows how to enunciate and speak correctly and strain-free.
If not, you can also go on Skillshare and check out the multitude of free courses available. They’ll share some of the same information I’ve given you, but with a more practical approach.
If you think this is too much for you right now, why not leave it in the hands of pros? Some people have taken voice acting classes so you don’t have to.
If you’re willing to take the plunge, though, I can assure you that there’s a long and fruitful career waiting for you!