The legendary Dr. Dave recently joined Benztown’s voice-over roster, and we couldn’t be more excited about it. We had the pleasure of visiting with him last week when he was in town for the AllAccess.com Worldwide Radio Summit. So, for your reading pleasure….here’s Dr. Dave!

Dr. Dave’s Links: Loose Cannon CommunicationsDr. Dave on Benztown

What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)? What are you up to presently (freelance/on-staff at a station)? I’ve been on in lots of markets over the last twenty years, many of which I still voice today- like WPGC Washington, Jamz Greensboro, WGCI Chicago, WUSL Philly,WLLD Tampa, KSFM Sacramento. I’ve done VO as a fulltime job since 2000 and currently on close to 90 stations in the US, Bermuda, England, Trinidad, Netherlands, Jamaica and more.

What do you love about working as a freelance VO talent? Being in control of my day from start to finish… well, most of the time at least.

How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? I was an on air personality on WPGC in the late 80s. Jerry Clifton was our consultant and he also voiced a lot of our imaging. When he wasn’t available, I would voice the imaging doing my best Clifton impersonation. It grew from there to me voicing a lot of his other client-stations by the early 90s.

Have you ever had a voice coach? Yes, and I wish I had found one much earlier in my career. It really is helpful, especially for TV work.

Who are your VO idols/mentors? Let’s see, there’s Dave Foxx, Malcom Ryker, and Pat Garrett to name a few. I wouldn’t say they’re mentors, but definitely guys who’s work I admire. I don’t focus on any one person or even know many voice actors by name- other than the ones in radio that I’ve had interaction with.

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Who influenced your work as a voice-over artist? Clifton certainly did back in the day, because he gave me my start, but more recently I think I would have to say Pat Garrett, because I’ve learned a lot by watching how multidimensional he’s become. That’s something I admire and strive to emulate.

What is your dream job? I’m living it right now. I visualized myself doing this when I was just a 12 year old kid listening to KCLV 1240-AM in Clovis, New Mexico. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s not a dream.

Where did you work before radio? I did my first radio internship at 13, and got my first paying radio job at 16. The only other work I’ve done were some short stints in construction and roofing in between radio jobs when I was a teen. I worked at Denny’s bussing tables for a few weeks, but that wasn’t for me. That’s too much like real work!

What would be your 3 main tips for the younger crowd trying to start a VO career?1-First, I’d say what Joe Kelly told me a few years ago: “Save your money”! 2- Don’t get complacent. 3- Never stop learning.

How do you schedule your work (priorities…..)? I keep a very disciplined schedule. You have to when you work for yourself. I’m in the studio every morning by 8am, and on call until around 5pm. In between VO sessions I’m doing banking/finance, exercising, reading, or tinkering in the studio with plugins and effects.

With such a large number of radio station clients, how do you keep them all happy? On busy days I try to keep the stress under control, and never let them see me sweat. My clients can be demanding sometimes, and I’ve spoiled them into expecting really fast turnaround. If I can’t get a read back to them in a timely manner, I communicate that to them to manage expectations.

How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? It varies. Some days there are no auditions at all, and others there are several, and the paying customers come first, so if I have to blow off a couple auditions during the week, I’ll take a Saturday morning and do them just to work on delivery and pacing.

How do you market your services to potential clients? The talent agency does some of that, and I use trades to promote new demos, as well as press releases.But I need to get better at marketing myself this year. I’m guilty myself of becoming complacent at times, and I can do better.

You’ve been voicing radio stations for over 20 years. How do you keep current to stay in demand for new clients? That’s the biggest challenge- evolving my sound to stay relevant. I’ve actually had people tell me that I sound younger now than I did ten years ago. Some of that is a healthier life style, but some is competitive nature too. The fear of failure is a great motivator!

What gear do you use (microphone, pre-amp, booth, …)? I use a Synnheiser shotgun mic running through a Symetrix 528. I love the vintage rack units like Aphex 661, but they’re getting harder and harder to find. The last one I bough on Ebay was so damaged it had to go back. Most of the VO processing happens in post with either Waves plugins or Adobe Audition effects.

How has new technology changed the way you work? I was doing this back when I had to schlep to Fedex every night and send VO out on reel to reel, then it was DAT, ISDN, and now digital has sped the process up immensely. I can get copy by email, voice it and load it to my ftp in a matter of minutes.

When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? Well, plugins for one. You don’t have to have a rack unit anymore, which makes it much easier to work on the go. My portable fits in the overhead compartment of a plane, and I’m sure with technology moving so quickly it will get smaller and smaller. Maybe we’ll have personalized virtual studios soon using cloud technology. Technology can be bad too though. I think that down the road VO could be completely automated with each voice being a simulation. Staying ahead of the tech curve is going to be the key to staying in business.

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And now, wise words from the Sennheiser Sensei himself…Harry Legg!

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If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance that you are doing or hope to do imaging VO work.  Imaging VO is my primary bread and butter and I feel fortunate to have a piece of that niche in the overall VO world.  I know many of our Benztown VO talents are in the same boat.  Whenever I voice a commercial, trailer, corporate narration and so on – it’s all extra cash that wasn’t expected. There is a temptation to take any of this work that comes along.

Recently, I have been offered a couple of nice paying projects for products that just struck me wrong.  I won’t rip on any in particular – but to give you the general idea – they were a type of male supplement pills.  These are the types of spots that run ad nauseam on AM talk stations.  One of the projects was also for a TV infomercial for a similar product.  It would have paid sizeable money.  However, I had to stop and think – Do I want to be the voice that becomes an irritant in hawking these products on radio and TV?  How will this affect the stations in which I’m the imaging voice.  It can’t be a positive thing.  In order to not have Program Directors irritated that their station voice is also the voice of XYZ supplement pills, I decided to turn down thousands of dollars – even though contractually, I am free to voice these projects.  I feel completely the same about political ads – regardless of which side of the aisle they are on.  As the imaging voice of not only music stations but also News/Talk radio stations and TV stations, I totally avoid this problem area.  If you are an imaging voice or want to be a station imaging voice, I believe these issues are far more important to consider than if you are only doing commercial, narration and the other VO categories.

Protect your voice and only lend it to projects that work well with everything else you do.

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What VO work have you done in the past? Let’s just say we’ve been around the radio and tv “block” a few times… Including some VO’s on ELLEN DeGeneres, Fox, Tyra Banks, CNN and some of my favorite TV and radio stations in the US and abroad.

What are you up to presently? Currently I am the national voice of Steve Harvey’s Daytime Talk show, CBS’s New Monday Night Comedy MOM, ESPN College Basketball along with several radio and tv affiliates all over the world.

What do you love about working as a freelance VO talent?  1st , Spending more time with my new baby girl, Vivian.  She’ll be voicing scripts very soon, I promise. 2nd, having the opportunity to work with some of the biggest clients in the world all from my house while in boxers and slippers!  And, no one would ever know.  It’s crazy!

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How did you get started as a VO actor? After working my way through the ranks at every possible radio job out there…I really grabbed on to the “Radio Image” side of things as a producer at WGIR in Manchester, NH.  Commercials were fun but it was the station image voice and sound that really just inspired and directed me to great things.  I just couldn’t get enough of station imaging from anywhere and everywhere.   Thank you FMQB for your music CD’s featuring station imaging over the years.   Thing’s finally stuck for me in the VO world when I made it to Hartford, CT. I was a William Morris “Voices the CD” talent and served as the Creative Services Director for Clear Channel.

What was your first gig? 1st radio gig that started it all was an internship at the world famous WXKS/Kiss 108 in Boston. Made a tape and was given my 1st chance on air and production at WJYY in Concord NH.  Small market radio is the BEST place to get your chops wet and that is exactly what I did.

Have you ever had a voice coach? Yes. I have worked with a few including a former agent of mine from Atlas Talent in NYC David Lyerly who is the KING!  David knows how to “KICK THE RADIO READ” out of you and master your inner voice.  It’s amazing how far I’ve come thanks to a little guidance and practice.

What is your dream job? I’d like to say I’m doing it now but since this is a “dream” I would say, professional movie watcher with a podcast!

Where did you work before radio? I’ve been in radio since I was in diapers so I can’t recall anything before that! Actually I worked for a music record store called Strawberries Records.  It was pretty cool.

What would be your 3 main tips for a youngster trying to start a VO career?  1: Don’t quit your day job. You’ll need a “real” solid income to continue to pay your bills for a while. 2: Be patient and ask for as much help and advice as you can 3: Cold Call and audition like crazy. If you think you’ve auditioned too much…you haven’t!  Keep doing it.

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About Your Work:

How do you schedule your work (priorities…..)? I start with whatever pre-booked session I have and in between those I work from a 1st come 1st serve basis. I pride myself of great friendly service and fast turnaround so there is never a dull moment.

How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? A LOT!  When you work 100% on freelance you need to keep a pay-check coming in. Sure, you’ll book stuff from a great demo.  But you’ll book more with a killer audition.  I spend a lot of time auditioning…it’s the nature of the beast!

How do you market your services to potential clients?  I am a marketing mad-man when it comes to www.ChadErickson.com  I will cold-call and harass PD’s and new business clients like crazy.  If I don’t do it someone else is right behind me who will.  Remember, this is your business and it needs to be treated like a business and not a hobby.

How has new technology changed the way you work? It has opened up many more opportunities with the ability to work from virtually anywhere. I can be on vacation and work can still be delivered from wherever I am at.

Which production system do you use and why? Because I’m solely using it to record and quick edit VO.. it’s AU Adobe Audition.

What are your favorite plugins (including screenshots)? I like to keep things a’la natural. For radio I add a little filter but my settings can easily be made with a few small adjustments.

What gear do you use (microphone, pre-amp, booth, …)? I’m rocking a Sennheiser 416 mic, Avalon 737sp, Focusrite Liquid Channel, Telos Zephyr Xstream and Mackie 1402-VLZ3.

What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique anybody should know?  Keep it as clean as possible.

When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? Hummm…I have just started using HighTail.com through webmail to distribute my VO’s via a link to a cloud.  SAVES a ton of time and email space.

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Here’s the man, the myth, the legend! Thanks to our readers for submitting your questions to “ASK THE VOICECAT.” If you have any specific VO questions and wish to be advised by the ever knowledgeable Mr. Cashman, you can email him at cashcomm@earthlink.net!

More good questions came in this month from Now Casting/Actors Ink readers asking about the voiceover industry. This month’s article contains answers to queries about auditions, ISDN and VO demos.

Q:   I’m recording in my home studio and doing the editing myself.  In that situation does it make sense that the recording should be a bit over the actual time of the script?  I’m still quite new to all this, so I appreciate all the input I can get.  Thanks very much.  –Deb C., W. Hollywood, CA
A:  You should try to aim for as close as you can time-wise to what they specify in the specs, Deb.  If it says :30, :60, or anywhere in between, chances are that the copywriters have timed it out and know exactly how long the piece should be.  That said, there are times when the copy comes out way longer or shorter than what they’ve asked for.  In those cases, unless you’re reading really fast or too slow, the writers haven’t timed their script before they sent it out.  In that case, give them a read that doesn’t sound too rushed or drawn out—something that sounds good.

Q:  I recently signed up for a pay-to-play site.  I really like it…even though I haven’t gotten any work from it yet.  But it’s fun to try and I’m going to keep at it. Anyway, this morning I was looking at a job posting.  Here is a line from the description:   “Fee must include high quality ISDN source studio”.  Does this mean they want to do a phone patch from a professional studio?  Later on in the description, it says they will do the recording at a specific date and time, so I’m assuming that is the approach they are going to take.  If that is the case, how do you figure that into the rate?  The description also says that they will pay $250 per actor.  My “professional studio” consists of a microphone and audacity on my computer.  Since I haven’t gotten a call back yet from any of these employers, I’m wondering how many of them are going to want to do a studio session versus just having me send them an MP3 file. Any thoughts?  –Rick L, Los Angeles, CA
A:   They want ISDN service but don’t want to pay for it.  And some studios don’t have ISDN–just analog phone-patch capabilities. So if you don’t have the specs they’re looking for, but they like your audition, you’ll have to pony up the $$ to cover those additional costs, which can range from as low as $75/hr up to $350/hr., depending on the studio you choose.

Q:  In listening to the many VOV (VoiceOver Virtual—the first virtual voiceover convention) presenters I have come away with the following approach – find a coach, practice, create a demo, brand, create website, market and (hopefully) get work.  My dilemma is as I do not feel that commercials are my strength, rather narration and e-learning, Should I work towards and  have a commercial demo?  Is it better to target my perceived strengths or is a commercial demo a “required” calling card?
 A:  A commercial demo IS a required “calling card” in order to garner an agent (or multiple agents) and to show prospective clients that you’re adept at commercial copy.  I liken your commercial demo to an undergraduate degree in commercial copy.  It showcases your signature voice and shows your versatility.  If, however, you don’t feel that that’s your strong suit, you can produce a Narration and e-Learning demo and not concern yourself about representation, as agents primarily concentrate on the areas of commercials, promos and trailers.
Secondly, do you feel that the style, friend/slice of life, of commercial reads are changing?
VO delivery style is always evolving, and I see the trend as getting more and more real person/believable.  In the age of YouTube, authenticity is key, and therefore reads have got to sound completely natural, not read and low key, not announcer-y.
Thirdly, when you coach do you focus on other genres other than commercial?
Any and all other genres you’re interested in: narration, e-Learning, promos, trailers, audiobooks and more.
Lastly, I have been contemplating on where to record in my home and have discerned that the quietest place is my basement – possibly creating a booth under the stairs.  In my research I came across The Voice Over Audio blog that mentioned that you have had that arrangement prior to your current studio.   Any info that proved successful that you may provide would be greatly appreciated (what was on the walls, floor, ceiling?  Did you face the tall wall when recording (stairs behind you)?  Was the space adequate acoustically?  I have “read” that too small of a space leads to problems – even small whisper rooms do not sound well (?).  –Roxana C., Los Angeles, CA
If you check out the November column of “Ask The VoiceCat,” you’ll find all the answers this question.

I’ll have more questions for you next month.

Marc Cashman © 2014 

MARC CASHMAN, President and Creative Director of Cashman Commercials/L.A., creates and produces copy and music advertising for radio and television. Winner of over 150 advertising awards, he’s a guest speaker at Ad Clubs and Broadcasters Associations throughout the U.S. and has been interviewed in trade magazines, newspapers and on radio and television programs. As a voice actor, Marc was named one of the “Best Voices of the Year”—three times—by AudioFile Magazine. He also teaches voiceover at California Institute of the Arts, through seminars at NowCasting’s iActing Studios and instructs all levels of voice acting through his classes, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques in Los Angeles, CA, as well as world-wide tele-coaching. Marc has been the Keynote Speaker and Master Class instructor at VOICE 2008, 2010 and 2012, the only international convention for voice actors. He’ll be presenting again at VOICE 2014 in August. He can be contacted at 661-222-9300, cashcomm@earthlink.net or through his website, www.cashmancommercials.com.

The latest installment of “The Harry Truth,” written by VO/Imaging/Kung Fu master Harry Legg! Take it away, Harry!

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It can probably be safely said that I’m preaching to the choir here…but maybe passing this article on to your PD, Sales Manager or even GM might help gain some understanding and help with regards to protecting your station’s signature voice.  What am I talking about you ask?  Having your image voice read either long sponsorship messages in promos or worse yet – reading a full commercial.

Your station’s image voice is something that should be special.  When he/she is on a sweeper or promo – you really want your listeners to pay attention (as much as we can expect listeners to ever pay attention).  However, if your image voice is constantly droning on about things that are tune-outs “Brought to you by Blah, Blah, Blah Car Dealer – where you get the best value and the best service with a staff that is second to none – call today… “    No, No, No!  Saying a sponsor name is totally cool – “B100 and Verizon Present” – but taking it much further than that and doing it on a regular basis causes your station voice to become like every other commercial voice and thus, a tune-out.  This is prostituting your station’s voice.  Then we have the situations where “a client requested you.”  First, an image voice is typically contracted to read imaging and not commercials – so, the answer should be a flat out no from a contractual standpoint.  But we all want to make the life of the PD easier and try to help when needed.  Several times this past year I have been asked to read commercials and I immediately explained to the PD why this was not cool on several levels.  The response is typically – “Just help me out this one time – they’re on my ass.”  I get it – but it’s flat out wrong.  Once you open that door to your image voice reading a client’s spot – then another client and another client may want the same, too.  Just don’t allow it.  Plus, it sounds awful hearing your image voice read a spot and then a piece of imaging out of the stopset.  As far as sponsor mentions in a promo, I must say I love the way my clients in Australia at the Southern Cross Austereo stations handle it.  The Image Voice does the promo and a secondary voice is tagged onto the end…this makes the client happy and prevents your station voice from droning on and becoming a tune-out.

I’m very interested to hear back from other VO talents on how they handle this as well as from Image Director’s and PD’s who have to fight the battle to retain integrity in the programming and imaging of their stations.

Thank you all for your time! Harry Legg

Marc Cashman “The Voice Cat” brought us a heavy hitter this month: Engineer and Dominator of Studio Construction George Whittam! Huge thanks to both Marc and George for sharing with us!

I’ve had lots of great questions come in asking about the voiceover industry from Now Casting/Actors Ink readers this past month. This month’s article contains Part II of George Whittam’s advice on where to place your home studio. Last month George talked about setting up a studio in a rental apartment.  This month, he covers info about installing a V-O booth in a condo or house.

George Whittam, now with Edge Studio, is one of the top V-O techies in the U.S., and I’m proud to say he’s also a friend and colleague.  He co-hosts the East-West Audio Body Shop with cohort Dan Lenard each Sunday evening on the Web. For any home studio questions, you can reach George at: george.whittam@edgestudios.com.

Q: Where in my home should I place my VO studio, and what problems should I expect?

A:  When it comes time to start recording from your home, the first question you need to answer for yourself is perhaps one of the toughest. What is the best place in your home for your VO studio? Depending on the size of your home, this may be a very easy decision, but each home is unique and poses its own challenges and advantages. I’ll also cover some basic solutions to deal with the noise and acoustic issues in each situation. I’ll break it down by three main types of homes: Apartment, Condo, and House.

The Condo

Here we will assume that you are the owner of your unit and that modifications to doors or windows are possible and may add equity to the home. Many of the same concepts as stated in the apartment section prior certainly will apply here as well, but now you can take things a step further in dealing with noise. If the primary source of noise in the room of choice is exterior through a window, start there first. You do a temporary window plug as mentioned above, or you can improve the window itself. There exist kits that can be used to add a layer of acrylic or glass over the existing window. The panel can be removed to allow access to the window for cleaning or just opening for fresh air. Look for a Magnetseal kit online for more information.

You could retrofit a 2nd window over the existing window to create a double window, or if your existing windows are in need of replacement have the window replaced completely with a modern, well insulated version. If noise from the rest of the home is disruptive, you can improve the door that encloses the room or closet. If you are lucky enough to have a solid core door (rare for interiors), you may only need to seal the perimeter with a sealing kit. Take it to the max with an “automatic door bottom” which rests a seal down on the floor when the door is shut. If the door is hollow, you can improve it or replace it. Either method can be a challenge, so if you aren’t comfortable with this you’ll want to hire a skilled handy person. Improving means adding layer(s) of heavy/dense material, such as “mass loaded vinyl” or MDF, a very heavy manufactured wood used often in furniture and cabinets. Replace the door with a solid core door blank that can be cut and drilled to fit the opening, or replace the entire door frame with pre-hung exterior grade fire door that has weather seals built in. If ventilation noise is an issue, in most cases the most reasonable solution is to turn off the system while recording. But those who record long-form narration or audio books may not have this luxury. A baffle can be assembled to mount over the air vent to quiet the flow of air, the air vent location can be relocated, enlarged to slow the flow of air, or in cases where that just isn’t practical, the air vent can be sealed off completely. Keep in mind that if the room has two vents and you close off one, the air will be forced through the other at even higher speed, making even MORE noise. Other noisy appliances in the home, such as a refrigerator, can be connected to a remote power switch for convenient powering down during a session.

The House 

Houses can be townhouses, duplexes, or freestanding single dwelling buildings. They can be single story, multi-story, have basements, attics, garages, or as is often is the case in Los Angeles, none of the above! If you rent your house like I do, you are likely limited to much of what I outlined for apartment renters. But if you own your home, the sky or budget is the limit. We covered closets and bedrooms, now let’s compare basements, ground floor, and upper story rooms. If you’re lucky enough to have a basement with a concrete floor that is dry and has at least a 7’ ceiling, this may be a primary candidate. As most are below ground, they maintain cooler temperatures year round, mitigating the need for air conditioning. But basements can be noisy places. My parent’s home, for example, has the blower for the heating system, the water pump, and the laundry room. You can build a sound isolating wall to divide off the nosiest area, or enclose a room for your studio to deal with those noise sources pretty effectively. What is the most difficult to deal with is the sound of foot traffic, known as “foot fall”, from above. If you don’t live alone, you’ll need to deal with it. If you record short sessions and your house-mates are very well trained to stop walking when your “RECORDING” sign lights up in the hallway, you may be able to just work around the issue. If you have kids like I do, good luck with that.

Isolating the noise from above from your studio is very challenging to do well. It requires the floor boards above to be silenced to stop squeaks, drywall applied to the bottom of the sub-floor, insulation between the floor joists, a separate ceiling joist for your studio, more insulation, more layers of drywall with a product such as GreenGlue, and an air-tight seal at every seam. Your ceiling may end up much lower than you anticipated, so be forewarned. If after reading that last bit you realize the basement is out of the question, should you choose a ground floor or upper story room? If your home is in a noisy area, especially with aircraft, a ground floor may be the best choice. You’ll have the entire upper story to act as a noise barrier. But as is the case with the basement, you may have to deal with foot-fall from above. If you are in a relatively quiet neighborhood far from flight patterns, then you may go with the second or top story. There you don’t need to isolate the ceiling from foot-fall. In some cases your noise issue may be from the room below, so choose carefully. Pick the room over the living room before the kid’s room, for example.

Own a house in Los Angeles anywhere near Burbank or LAX? You may need to apply every technique, and then some. City folk may find a prefabricated isolation booth the most cost effective and palatable solution, such as those from WhisperRoom, Vocalbooth, GretchKen, or StudioBricks. They are also very popular for the apartment renters, as well. In the end, you really need to decide if your career as at a stage where you need to make a minimal, moderate, or heavy investment to continue on to the next level. Before you contact anyone to help you with the project, figure out your budget and stick to it. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll treat this project as a smart business owner should. I’ll have more questions for you next month.  Hope your Thanksgiving holiday is happy and healthy.

Marc Cashman © 2013

MARC CASHMAN, President and Creative Director of Cashman Commercials/L.A., creates and produces copy and music advertising for radio and television. Winner of over 150 advertising awards, he’s a guest speaker at Ad Clubs and Broadcasters Associations throughout the U.S. and has been interviewed in trade magazines, newspapers and on radio and television programs. As a voice actor, Marc was named one of the “Best Voices of the Year”—three times—by AudioFile Magazine. He also teaches voiceover at California Institute of the Arts, through seminars at NowCasting’s iActing Studios and instructs all levels of voice acting through his classes, The Cashman Cache of Voice-Acting Techniques in Los Angeles, CA, as well as world-wide tele-coaching. Marc has been the Keynote Speaker and Master Class instructor at VOICE 2008, 2010 and 2012, the only international convention for voice actors. He recently presented at VO2013 ATLANTA (http://vo2013atlanta.com).   He can be contacted at 661-222-9300, cashcomm@earthlink.net or through his website, www.cashmancommercials.com.

 

I found this question in the Radio Production group on LinkedIn today (posted awhile back by Lance Graham in Washington DC), and thought it would be perfect for our readers to chime in.

For those of us who may not have the money for a “Neumann u87” What mics do you find good for your Voice-Over work? I’ve used and like: AKG C 4000, EV RE20, Shure SM7 and my fav. Sennheiser MD421!

Feel free to leave your answers as a comment below, or answer Lance directly on LinkedIn here: http://lnkd.in/hTi_Wq

Justin Case and I were recently lucky enough to catch up with Diana Steele backstage before a taping of The Arsenio Hall Show, where she is the live announcer. We can’t thank you enough for the opportunity, Diana!!! Readers…..enjoy! [Woof woof woof woof]

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How did you get the opportunity to audition for the Arsenio Hall Show? Arsenio and I met years ago when I worked at KKBT – The Beat, in LA. We remained friends and he approached me to audition for the announcer role on his current talk show. He wanted to do something different than the other late night shows and btw is the first to utilize a female voice in the announcer role! What was the audition process like? I sat in with the band and rolled out the script -very intimidating with the caliber of talent in that room! I got the call a couple months later that we were good to go! When did you find out you got the gig/what was your reaction? Arsenio called me himself and I literally had to let it sink in! I don’t think I honestly believed it was real until that first show on September 9th! What has been your experience on the show so far? I have a daily call time and not only provide announcer audio but am able to use some of my other vo creative for comedic pieces on the show. I’m also the stand-in for Arsenio in rehearsal. What type of VO work do you prefer? I love hi-sell spots, character roles(cartoons and video games), commercial and narrative reads are also challenging.  What do you love about working as a freelance VO talent? I love the creativity it gives me! I can redo and redo to get just the sound I think the client wants and needs to get the most exposure for their product and the best sound for their project. Plus, with technology the way it is today – you don’t have to have an agent and you can do your auditions from home.

Justin-Chris_Arsenio_backstage

How did you get started as a voice actor? I started voicing commercials when I began in radio in my teens. Clients for various stations would request me to voice their spots and I moved forward from there. Breaking out of the “radio announcer” sound was vital, and I was able to really hear what I was doing with coursework at Kalmenson and Kalmenson in Burbank, CA. The direction they provided on all aspects of the voice over world was priceless! What was your first gig? Working as an intern doing traffic reports from the 94th floor of the Hancock Building for Chicago radio stations. VO? In my early 20’s, I did regular reads for housing developments, car dealers, and phone on-hold (IVR) projects. Have you ever had a voice coach? At Kalmenson and Kalmenson I was able to fine tune my voice style. Who are your VO idols/mentors? Because my interest in VO is so vast – from commercial to narrative to character, I haven’t really followed anyone else. However, some talents I truly appreciate and have influenced my style and sound, depending on the project, are Julie Kavner, the late Marcia Wallace, Tim Curry and the late Don Lafontaine. Tell us a bit about the voice-over work you’ve done for radio…past and present. Currently on at Jammin 99.5 in Palm Springs and Jammin 1015 in Denver. Previously On Air at The Sound – LA, V100 – LA, Hot92 Jamz – LA, The BEAT – LA, KMEL- San Francisco, 95.7 – San Francisco, and K-101 – San Francisco. Also, news/traffic/weather for WLS Chicago. Currently I also provide Imaging to WGN-Chicago, KFI-LA, The Avenue – Appleton/Green Bay WI, WHTT – NY. In addition to that! (lol) I do commercial/narrative/character VO work for many clients nationwide. I voice the main character of Auggie for the book, Wonder, by RJ Palacio (a New York Times best seller) in 2013. What is your dream job? I would like to say I am currently doing my dream job! Working with someone I love (Arsenio Hall) and with a staff of people that know the blessing we have been given to be a part of the show. Next up I plan to use my VO talents in an animation or motion picture film project. Where did you work before radio? I went to college with an intent to be an entertainment attorney, and graduated with a double major in Poli Sci and Speech Communications, but got bit by the broadcasting bug at 17 and never looked back! What would be your 3 main tips for a youngster trying to start a VO career? Take classes! Get to know what your vocal talents are – where you would be best suited. Tear out magazine ads and record yourself doing commercials and other types of reads. Be observant, be open to criticism, be a perfectionist about your work as well, and practice. Also, have a good demo and a website. How do you schedule/prioritize your work? I record radio shows either at night or in the mornings and keep my days for the Arsenio show. In between, I make sure to take care of my VO clients –  current and new –  with no more than a 24 hour turnaround time. How much time do you spend auditioning for new work? Minimum an hour a day – more so on days off from the Arsenio show.

How do you market your services to potential clients? I have a website but also utilized voice123.com. Maintaining relationships with past clients is equally important and also making sure your equipment and demos are up to date is vital as well. Which production system do you use and why? For radio shows, I have different remote systems – Scott Studios and Simmeon that we use. For VO work – most is done from my home studio and some with my portable which utilized an Audition editing program and Yeti Blue Microphone. What is the best voice processing trick or voice-over technique anybody should know? Compander! Take your voice and play with it on your editing system. Learn how to bring out the best in your sound. If you’re like me and are somewhat hard of hearing after so many years of blastin audio in my ears, a great sound engineer can be your best friend! When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? The fastest, cheapest and most effective way to get going is to download a good editing system (that is easy enough for you to use), a Yeti Blue mic ($120 at guitar center) preamp inside the mic and it’s a USB connect! Soundproofed area (buy sheets of the stuff and cover your recording area), and sign on with a good online company like voice123.com or voices.com – both sites allow you to get feedback from potential clients on your style/sound. And last but not least – HUSTLE! You can never have enough VO work!

Thank you to the wonderful Valerie Smaldone for sharing your wisdom & experiences with us and our readers! For more about Valerie, please visit valeriesmaldone.com, or check her out at benztown.com.

Clinton Global Initiative, CGI

Valerie Smaldone and President Bill Clinton. Valerie was Mr. Clinton’s Voice of God at the prestigious Clinton Global Initiative in NYC. Gary (right) was on security detail.

When it comes to VO work, studio & gear, what are your most ingenious methods/discoveries for saving time and cash? I work in my home studio in New York City…in midtown Manhattan, and no matter what you do, there is bound to be some kind of sound leakage in this noisy city. I learned to record during lunch hour (when construction hammering and drilling knocks off as the work people are out to lunch) or early in the morning or late at night.

Generally, my studio  works just fine, but if the President is in town and traffic is crazy, I can move my mic into my walk in closet, or throw a blanket over my head and create a tent over the mic. It may suffocate me just a tad…but it works!

I have an RE-20 mic in my NYC studio, but I also have a mobile recording set up for when I am on the road. Then I use a USB mic (Apogee) and it works just fine.

Your success has really opened the doors for many women in the broadcasting/VO field, are you able to recognize the impact you have made? How does it make you feel? Honestly, I was just around at the right time. Women were really starting to become much more a part of the fabric of the industry, and roles that were previously set were beginning to change. When I went from over night weekends to evenings at Lite-Fm within 4 weeks, I was beyond thrilled. During those 5 years when I was the night time host,  I was often given the opportunity to do morning or afternoon drive. Ultimately, I became the mid-day personality, a time slot where I stayed put for a very long time. I was always one to ask the questions about why certain “rules” were what they were. Nobody ever seemed to have a very good answer, but they all agreed it  (whatever the tradition was) was just the way it was  always done, and that never was a satisfying answer for me. Still isn’t!

You’ve devoted a lot of your time and passion into projects that focus on breaking through the glass ceiling, did you ever face any struggles during your career because you are a woman? If so how did you overcome them? What did you learn? I was pretty lucky. I never really felt this struggle, and always enjoyed working with men.

What advice do you have for women trying to make it big in the broadcasting/VO field?

  • Be your own business.
  • Differentiate yourself from everyone else.
  • Find out what makes you unique.
  • Be an expert in some area.
  • Have someone you know interview you about you to discover something that may be terribly un-interesting to you, but fascinating to someone else and use that to your advantage.
  • In terms of VO, I always tell my students and clients, a demo tape is not the end of the story. It is just the beginning. Do your research to find how, who, where voices are used. People generally want to rely on agents, but you have to participate in the effort to find work as well.
Right to left: Cort Casady, Joe Cipriano, Ellen K, Rudy Gaskins, Valerie Smaldone, Dave Fennoy, Cedering Fox, Sylvia Villagran

Panelists from “That’s Voice-Over” Los Angeles 2013; (left to right) Sylvia Villagran, Cedering Fox, Dave Fennoy, Valerie Smaldone, Rudy Gaskins, Ellen K, Joe Cipriano, Cort Casady

Did you have any mentors? I have had a few mentors who I call my angels.

What radio VO work have you done in the past (stations/markets)?  Most recently, I was an announcer on WOR-NY and did some liners for a station in Japan. Of course, I hosted a mid-day show on 106.7 Lite-FM (WLTW) for a couple of decades.

What kind of VO work are you doing presently? My main voice -over work actually was in television. I have voiced promos for NBC, CBS, HBO, Cinemax, Lifetime and many more networks. I can be heard as narrator on the series “Fatal Encounters” on Investigation Discovery.

What do you love about working as a freelance VO talent? I love the variety and the ability to stretch as a performer…from doing a “sports-type” voice to a “newsy” voice, to a “true crime” voice, to a “sultry” voice to a “nurturing” voice…it is the best part of the field.

How did you get started as a VO actor? What was your first gig? I started working in radio at the age of 17.  I walked into the 50,000 watt student run radio station at Fordham University in New York and asked “how does this work?” I was trained by students (upper class)  and went on the air and learned and learned.

When I was 19, there was a note on the bulletin board at the station asking for a voice to record a brief narration. I applied and got the job. I was paid $25 and I thought it was the coolest way to earn money. I still do.

What is your dream job? I love interviewing and hosting in an entertaining and authentic manner. I would love to have the opportunity to do a show  or podcast focusing on conversations with fascinating people to find out what makes them get up in the morning and keep going, no matter what befalls them. We are all just trying to figure that out, after all, aren’t we?

02_0Where did you work before radio? I began working in local radio while still in my teens, but before that, I worked in a contact lens fitting office. It was a rather big company at the time, and I had my own spiffy white uniform to wear to work. The doctors liked me and wanted me to quit college to come work for them full time and run the office. If I had taken them  up on their offer, I probably would have been an optometrist today.

What would be your 3 main tips for a youngster trying to start a VO career?

  1. Determine what area of voice over you are naturally attracted to (audio books?, narration?, commercial?, promos?). We generally are attracted to what we like because we feel comfortable doing it.
  2. When picking up copy, look at it like a mini film or play, with a story line. Figure out where you (as the voice) fit in to the copy.
  3. It’s not about the sound of your voice. It’s about what you do with it. Too many people think they should be in voice overs because they have a nice voice. That is a great attribute for sure, but the main point is how you use it.
  4. Don’t eat anything creamy, salty, buttery before doing a voice-over. It will truly inhibit the action of your mouth..and watch out for the kind of lipstick you use too! (Nothing glossy or heavy in emollients!)

Grabbed this from the YouTube channel of  voice-over talent Ross Huguet. It’s a pretty rare glimpse into one of the great voice actors of all time.

Check out @ 19:20 – Radio DJ’s trying to get into voice-over.

Video  —  Posted: October 14, 2013 by chrisjohansing in Interviews, Videos
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