Demo Creation

For this section, I remembered what it was like when I had my very first demo done back in the 90’s, which was completely awful. I made the mistake of not doing research into demos the person had produced in the past. When I did finally get the demo that seemed perfect to me, luckily I was hired to validate it, even if the job was very small. It was a start. I asked voice coaches of various generations and cultures of experience to offer any advice possible for those looking to get demos created. I have respect for voice coaches because they do help, but there are some rotten apples that give others a bad name. I asked people I know and talk to quite often for advice, and you will see how each of them have their own take on what should be done. As such, getting a demo created is a bit of a journey in education, hearing all points of view, so that you may find the right person for you to work with:

Gary Terzza explains:

One of the biggest mistakes aspiring voice talents make when recording their demos is using brand names. There are two very good reason why should not do this; first there could be copyright issues – Nike or Pepsi might not want their names used to promote your voice. Secondly it misleads the listener who may wonder whether you actually did get booked to do those commercials. So play safe, write your own material or use royalty free scripts.

Bettye Zoller shares:

One of the most distinctive things about you is your TYPE of voice. For many years, I have been aware of the vital need to have a talent’s voice over CD demo showcase this, the person’s persona, character, type as reflected in the sound of his or her voice. Some examples of voice type are:

  • Teenage girl voice
  • Child voice
  • Elderly voice
  • Cowboy voice (Texas)
  • Southern belle voice
  • New York Brooklyn voice
  • Sophisticated voice
  • British voice
  • African American (Black English Vernacular) Voice
  • Ethnic voice (a person speaking English as a foreign language, not a ‘mother tongue’)

This is not to say that a person should have only ONE voice. Variations and shadings are possible and should be developed for versatility. But the main unique attitude, the core sound of the voice, usually remains as the “center,” the person’s “personality voice.” This should be cherished. Speech instruction and voice acting can help a person achieve more variations on that “core sound” but should never take it away. If someone tries to do this to you, run, don’t walk away. Keep your unique YOU. Show it on your demo! Cookie cutter demos are terrible as sales tools. Make sure your demo shows off the real you!

Your unique YOU (the sound of your voice and how you use it) is molded by many factors: Some of these factors are: Where you grew up geographically; your educational level; your parents’ influences on your speech; caregivers’ influences on your speech; influences from your schooling, your friends; and also, your professional speech (a physician speaks differently than a rapper). There are physical and emotional considerations on your speech. You and your speech are the product of your life experiences.

Do you know who you are as a voice? You should! Get help in discovering your niche, your unique voice, and then, go with it. Capitalize on this strength and stop trying to be what your voice isn’t! It’s you we want, your natural you. Study to expand on this natural you. That’s the secret of your unique voice. That’s why we call it ‘voice acting.’

Ben Bledsoe shares:

It’s your voice.  Be Heard. In an industry without a face, it is incredibly important to put your best foot forward at all times.  That starts with training and your demo.  Benjamin Franklin said “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  In other words: Be prepared.  The Voice-Over industry is a business like any other.  I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t have to pay out the nose to get into the industry, but I also believe that you should settle for no less than the best of yourself, your personal business skills, your demo, and your career.

At 44th Floor Productions, we work with both veterans and beginners alike.  Everyone can benefit from coaching in order to help gauge where they are, what they can work on, and what bad habits they may have fallen into.  Also, each area of voice-over has it’s own individual rhythms, patterns, tricks, pacing, energy, moods, characters, etc., and if you are not used to working in those areas, professional coaching is imperative for smoothly crossing over.  When you’re recording a Commercial Demo, Animation Demo, or Narration Demo you are able use several of the same tools to establish who “you” are, what mood you’re in, who you’re talking to, and what it is that you’re teaching the audience, but your delivery is going to be completely different for each genre.

When establishing your character, it is important to get into all the details.  “Who are you?” is a loaded question to begin with.  Then establish who you are talking to and in what type of surrounding.  What is your relationship is to the person you’re talking to?  Are you cold?  Anxious?  Sexy?  In an ice-chest or out in the desert?  Really imagine all of this.  It is far more important than you would think and it all comes out in the read.  We, as an audience, want to connect with the voice on the TV or radio in some way.  So if it is easily recognizable as someone that I could relate to my mother, grandfather, or best friend from high school, then I am more apt to listen, care, relate to, and retain the information.  And most importantly… if you do the work, you are much more likely to book the jobs.

At 44th Floor Productions, we focus on getting voice talent prepared to work on any major job in the industry, market themselves professionally, hone their technical skills, and take charge of their career.  All while loaded with the best demos available in the industry at a price that is almost half of what the other guys charge.  The industry is changing, and it is now possible for anyone who is truly driven to become a successful voice actor.  Just ask our clients.

Why ask these three coaches? I wanted to illustrate a point on demo creation. Gary, Bettye, and Ben come from three different parts of the world, and different generations of experience, yet they all work in the same industry, and all of them get work. When you are ready to get your demo created, make sure you do your research into the person’s background. See if they think like you, see if they work, and see if they can bring you to a higher level of professionalism for your demo. You are not insulting anyone by asking questions, and by no means should you work with someone that you fear you will insult every time you share an opinion. You are a business as a voice talent. Work with those who will help you get work, and it may just be someone others have complained about, which only proves that “they” did not work well together. Study your success. Do not study other people’s failures. I say this because coaches are great people to work with to get demos created, and like any business, it is an investment in your career.

You should approach getting a demo created, only after you have taken acting classes and or copy reading classes. You may even find out during those classes, that this is not the career for you. I have seen it many times before, and it is not the end of the world to find out you do not want to do something. In addition, I have seen a direct relation between voice talent success and how well they got along with the coach helping them to produce it. How you feel about what you are doing , and the coach, can spill over into the sound of your voice over demo.

NEXT: GETTING IT DONE

3 Comments

  • Maya Kuper (@mix4pix)

    November 15, 2011 at 6:50 am Reply

    Hi Steven! Wow, Betty’s advice seems spot-on. Ben’s advice is, too.

    But I’m scratching my head over Gary’s advice. Gary is saying that using real scripts and brand names “misleads the listener who may wonder whether you actually did get booked to do those commercials.” Good! Traditionally, the point of the demo is to show a talent agent (and their voice-seeking clients) that you can pull off a national TV campaign. If that agent thinks it sounds “real,” then you’ve done your job correctly! Voice coach Kate McClanaghan called it “stump the host,” and I think (coach and former agent) Nancy Wolfson would use the phrase “top-market ears.” Wouldn’t the same be true for an online casting source like Voice123?

    I’ve always been taught that a commercial VO demo is meant to sound like real spots…and that real commercial scripts (complete with real brand names and taglines) and convincing commercial production are something to strive for, not avoid.

  • AndrewCharlton

    October 7, 2016 at 12:18 am Reply

    Yeah Great article about voice over self promotion. Its really great topic to discussion. I also want to be a great self voice over promotion. Thanks to your providing this information.. It will be helpful to me..

  • Terri Raulerson

    October 12, 2016 at 6:10 pm Reply

    Hi I’m very interested in gettin into this business . I welcome all advice and help you can and/or give !! Thanx & Peace be with you !

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