The Business of Creating Demos


In honor of ds106 radio and thinking ahead to our session at Northern Voice 2011, this retro mic was suggested as a prop-- it is pretty much a plastic piece of junk- it does record audio, with noise, and it wont work at all streaming with Nicecast. But it does have a light on top.

The demos (your selection of several, separate vocal samples) you create to showcase it in all its glory are mission-critical to the advancement of your voiceover career. In fact, these recordings are as important as your choice of the right microphone and preamp. Approaching voiceover demo experts is a good way to get advice, tips, and to exchange ideas with other voiceover pros. Trust us: it’ll be worth the effort.

While we’ve gone to some lengths to point out the biggest mistakes aspiring voice-actors make when recording their demos, there are other issues to be aware of. Brand names, for example, could prove to be a problem—not because you’re promoting a particular brand, but because that brand may figure you’re making use of their name to promote you.

Furthermore, in this age of quick fixes, instant gratification, and social media, integrity, and transparency are invaluable. Although we suggested in a previous section that you should make recordings that ‘sound’ like they’ve been aired, we don’t mean you should mislead potential clients into thinking you’ve recorded branded commercials; it’s just important that they hear you can. To be safe, write your own scripts or make use of copyright-free material. There’s sure to be copy available online.

Keep in mind that the most distinctive thing about you as a voice talent is not just your voice, but also your type of voice. Your demos must both reveal and exploit timbre, scope, character and tone. Some examples of voice type are:

  • Child’s voice
  • Teenage girl’s voice
  • Middle-aged voice
  • Senior voice
  • Sophisticated voice

Then there are accents, for example:

  • American (Southern, Texan, New York Brooklyn, African American, etc.)
  • British (London, Cockney, Midlands, Received Pronunciation, etc.)
  • Caribbean
  • Ethnic (someone whose English reveals it’s not his or her mother tongue), and so on.
  • Characters/Impersonations (Imitate the voice and mannerisms of others)

Versatility is important. However, the main thing is to reveal the core fundamental of your voice: it’s unique personality. That should be cherished. Although coaching, instruction, and voice-acting can help you expand your vocal abilities, don’t ever sacrifice your voice’s uniqueness. Just imagine how boring life would be if we all sounded the same! Make sure your demo showcases all the different facets of you. You and the way you sound are the products of your life experiences and these add to your believability. Always be and sound natural; you’re a voice-actor, right?

Don’t be lazy! De-Breath…makes you sound like the pro you are. Take the time to listen to your audition….if you hate it redo it!

Ethan Gabriel

Voiceover work has its own rhythms, patterns, tricks, pacing, energy, moods, and characterizations. Learn them. Record samples that showcase your ability to record commercials, narration, or animation. Your delivery is going to be completely different for each genre.

When you are ready to get your demos created, it would probably be best to find someone who can help you record them—someone with experience and someone you trust. Work with someone who can bring out the best in you and direct you accordingly. Find someone who will facilitate your getting work—and make sure they’re professional; do your research carefully before you make your choice. There are a lot of scammers out there, and a lot of starry-eyed hopefuls getting scammed. Don’t be one of them!



  • 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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