How age affects our vocal instrument: neuroplasticity

July 21st, 2014

Vocal chords are vocal chords, whether we use them for singing or speaking (or shouting! :-) The voice is an instrument and good health and neuro plasticity can be across the board. 

Here is a good article we found recently, entitled:

“Singing and Neuroplasticity: 6 Tips for Ageless Singing”

By: Lisa Haupert, Ageless Grace Trainer and Shameless Singing Vocal Coach

 

Ageless Singing. Strong Singing. You singing.

There is a given with aging. Every year that you are alive, you are a year older. That’s all.

Most of the specifics about how we age are in large part, up to us. Yes, we can get a disease. Yes, gravity wins out on our skin and things might sag a bit. But for the most part, how we age is up to what habits we practice, and our mind-set.

When it comes to the voice, there are some specific givens about aging.

  • The cartilages that are a part of our singing and speaking mechanism begin to ossify – to turn to bone. However, this may not be a bad thing. This may actually allow stronger closure of the vocal folds and less variability in the voice system since bone is more rigid than cartilage…. Continue reading, for great tips to protect your voice as you age

 

 

 

Jammin’ July! Newsletter from Tara & Yuri

July 9th, 2014

Check out our latest newsletter, below. There’s a sign up button over on your right if you’d like to receive it!

Click here to read as a pdf: Jammin’ July newsletter, with Tara and Yuri, July, 2014

We just returned from our Australian adventures and it is back to work and back to summer! Thankfully Yuri and I have been working like mad in VO, comics and videos, and we are deep in post on Topsy McGee. Yuri has been writing a bunch and we are enjoying the long days and the warm nights!

I hope July is jammed full of as much fun as you and your inner childlike-wonderment-filled self can make it!!

Tara :) (&Yuri)

 

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!

Click here to read more: Newsletter: Jammin July with Tara & Yuri, July 2014

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How to Create Voice Over Copy For Practicing Purposes

June 22nd, 2014

tv cartoonThis exercise is to help you begin to compile your own practice copy for you to work on and then eventually use to create your commercial or animation demo reel.

For commercial copy, find magazines, see which ads visually pop out at you and write down the advertisement (or if the magazine is yours, pull the page out). Remember that print copy reads differently from commercial audio copy, so use the print as a starting point and then make slight adjustments to help the line flow.

To build animation copy, find an inanimate object in your house, then begin to write a monologue or conversation this object/character might have with you about its needs or hopes or dreams. Another wonderful way to create animation copy is to write down your favorite characters from animated shows, then rename them and make changes to what you know of their experiences, then try building a history or story for them that you find interesting.

Note which type of ad goes with the different types of commercial types (hard sell, soft sell, partner read, tag, etc.) also review your animation copy to see what types of characters you’re showing off and make sure you have some variety that works with your voice.

Put all your found (and massaged) copy into a binder, and practice randomly flipping to different pieces and reading and performing them as you would if you were in the booth.

Wonderful. You’ve had the chance to hone your unique vocal qualities and become more familiar with your natural voice. You’ve also probably gotten to see how your body reacts to a warm-up and how that can better prepare your voice for a session. You’ve read copy and made choices and have begun the process of building your own personal stack of practice copy that you can use as you move toward making your demo reel.

Voice-over isn’t like it used to be where only ‘certain’ voices worked, now there are voices of all kinds and varieties to make up the spice of life. Basically, if you are a solid actor, are professional and considerate and you have good mic technique there is no reason you can’t work in VO, of course, someone would have to hire you, so you’d need your demo reel ($$$$, time, energy) and most likely you will need to secure an agent to represent you and get you auditions (time/energy) as well as giving yourself as much as an edge as possible by taking classes, practicing your craft, knowing your voice and how to take care of it; so planning a career in voice-over is an investment.

The wonderful world of voice-over allows you to create amazing characters, to teach, to entertain, to offer new alternatives and to go on a whole new adventure. Remember, voice acting just “acting” without the bonus of using your facial expressions or body language to convey something visually, so your intention has to come across with just your voice helped by your imagination. And we all have one of those…

FEATURED VOICE OVER ARTIST: Steve Blum

June 2nd, 2014

One of the best ways to learn about the art of voiceover is to study the “masters.” One of the greats is Steve Blum. Steven Jay “Steve” Blum is an American voice artist known for his wonderful, deep voice. You’ve heard him on X-Men, and on many video games. He debuted in the early 90s in the animated series of Guyver, before which he had never done any acting. As he tells it, getting into voiceover work was an accident. He was discovered doing “crotchety” voices in a mailroom.

Steve was recently interviewed by Michael Worthan, of  ComicBookTherapy.com. You can check it out here:  READ MORE

“I KNOW THAT VOICE” An interview with Steve Blum!

by Michael Worthan

This is a short excerpt from, as Michael puts it,  ”…my very awesome interview with Steve Blum, a voice actor that has been in everything from Big-O as lead character Roger Smith to Wolverine and the X-Men as Wolverine himself. He has voiced more than 261 credited video game voices, and is the voice of Starscream in Transformers:

Question: “People always make assumptions about voice acting and what it really is, what is one thing you’d like the general public to know about your profession that they may not know already?     

Answer from Steve: “That most of our time is actually spent driving, auditioning and reading descriptions of characters we’re auditioning for. “

READ MORE

 

Also, here is Youtube video of Steve doing his thing! Such a talent…

 

 

Megaton May with Tara & Yuri

May 14th, 2014

Check out our latest newsletter, below. There’s a sign up button over on your right if you’d like to receive it!

 

Click here to read as a pdf: Megaton May newsletter, with Tara and Yuri, May, 2014

 

We are well into spring with May in full bloom. I hope you are finding love (of yourself, of life, of others) and generally enjoying the beautiful weather. You can even use hypnosis to help move you toward a more happy life! I have been fortunate to book several commercials, so let me know if I appear on a screen near you. Yuri has had a wonderful run of some new VO projects and been hard at work writing (he even won a few awards) and is working on a couple of scripts and we are headed to OZ on a summer convention adventure! May your May be bountiful and fun!

Tara :) (&Yuri)

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!

 

Click here to read more: Newsletter: MegatonMay with Tara & Yuri, May 2014

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Voice Actors: Practice People-Watching & People-Listening!

April 28th, 2014

lips One great way of getting your ear (and then your voice) attuned to a variety of voices, inflections, accents and qualities is to practice people watching and people-listening.

Find a fairly busy spot, like a mall, a zoo, a crowded lobby, café, etc, sit yourself down, and observe. Listen to how different people talk, take note of their pauses, inflections, their unique affectations and things you find interesting about them. Without appearing creepy, you might even pay attention to their mouths to see if there’s something specific they’re doing to create sounds.

If you think it might help, bring a note pad along so you can take notes on things you want to remember. Consider also bringing your quality check list with you so you can quantify for yourself the characteristics of the voices you’re hearing. In case you haven’t built a quality list yet, here are some examples to start with. Use them as a jumping-off point and add your own!

Calm      Pointed      Sincere      Flustered      Agitated      Loving

Hypnotic      Polite     Warm       Shrill       Distant       Brash

See how many different qualities a particular person’s voice might have: perhaps they have a calm, sincere, loving, polite voice, or maybe their voice is pointed and agitated. Mix and match to best describe the voice you are listening to, or add any qualities you become aware of that aren’t yet on your list.

Happy people listening!

Voiceover Actors: Try the Chewing Hum Exercise!

April 11th, 2014

lipsHere’s a helpful voiceover exercise:

We call it the “chewing hum.” It can warm up the different areas where your voice will resonate. Once again, when your voice resonates, it bounces around a certain area of your body, whether that’s up in your face, nose or head area, your throat, or your chest or belly.

Here’s what you do:

1. Keep your mouth and lips closed and begin to hum.
2. Start chewing, as if you were eating something tasty, as you keep humming.
3. Now use your hands to feel the vibration in the front of your face, your nose, your cheeks, and gently allow your hands to move to your neck and throat, and perhaps even onto your belly so that you can feel how your voice resonates in different areas of your body.

Now to begin to identify where your voice is resonating, let’s concentrate on specific sounds that tend to resonate in different areas. Certain sounds we create generally vibrate more toward the head, while others, because we use different muscles to make them, may vibrate lower, toward the belly.

If you can learn to control where you choose to place your voice, you can begin to use it in more powerful and interesting ways.

 

 

Reminder: Work on your mic technique!

March 31st, 2014

We are regularly asked about how to use a mic correctly, so here are our guidelines, again. Keep working on it, and soon it will be comfortable and second nature.

 

man an d mike cartooon

Tips for Microphone Technique

The mic can be rather daunting when you first start out in voice-over! Practicing at home with one will help to reduce the newness of it, and the distraction from it.

Here are some tips to get you started.

 

PROXIMITY

Find your own comfort zone, with regard to proximity. Many voice-over artists will angle slight to the right or left of the mic, for two reasons:

1) This can reduce or eliminate pops from plosive sounds like t, b, or p. When you’re in a session, engineers can help by putting a “pop shield,” a stocking device or foam shield, in front of the mic. But if you angle- speak slightly across the mic – you create a similar effect to a pop screen.

2) You will be able to see and read your copy off to the right or left, without the mic being right in front of it.

 

VOLUME

Well, the mic is there to amplify the sound, so you can be as soft or loud as the job requires, but you need to work with the mic to create this. If you are recording yourself, make sure you are getting a solid wave form, and if you are working with an engineer s/he will do this by first getting a good level of your planned volume before recording the take. You can’t speak softly while the engineer gets a good level, and then shout during your take!

Every different session will call for something different in the way of volume . For example, if you want low, deep sounds from your voice it can help to get very close to the to the mic, perhaps two to three inches. If you know you are going to really project, and speak louder, stand back, seven to nine inches from the mic, so your voice doesn’t distort.

Then trust the mic and your own voice and skill. If you need drama and a “dark” interpretation, you might try a whisper, or near-whisper. And if it is comedy, use a little more level and smile the whole time you are speaking. It is amazing that a smile can come right through the microphone to the listener!

 

LIGHTING

You must be able to see well, to read your copy! Make sure you are well prepared with contacts or reading glasses if you need them, and some artists even carry a small clip-on light, which runs on a battery, to attach to the stand holding your copy. Lighting must be ample to reduce the possibility of unnecessary errors when you read. In many studios you can ask to increase the level of light if it isn’t bright enough for you.

 

TECHNIQUE AND SKILL

Do your breathing exercises. Practice reading all kinds of different material at home in front of the mic. Try things and experiment at home to learn what your real strengths are. And stretch yourself to try new things. Try different pitches, different volumes, mimic cartoon characters or famous actors or comics. Read out loud in front of the mic and record it if you can, to listen back – you will learn so much from hearing your own work.

The more you develop and then employ your microphone technique and skill, the less the engineer and producer have to rely on enhancements in the studio. The less they work, the faster and easier the session, and the more likely you are to be re-hired! Plus, comfort and skill with the microphone shows your professionalism, getting the job done well and quickly, which is the producer’s goal!

 

 

 

Merry March Newsletter with Tara & Yuri

March 18th, 2014

Check out our latest newsletter, below. There’s a sign up button over on your right if you’d like to receive it!

Click here to read as a pdf: Merry March newsletter, with Tara and Yuri, March, 2014

I am so very excited that it is March, and not just ’cause that means a Happy Birthday to Sir Yuri, who I am just so happy was born and is in existence. Birthdays in general bring me joy! My own goal this year is to take more time for myself and practice meditation and yoga more frequently (which I am pleased to report I have been implementing). I am doing a personal 365 Project on self love and I even got all woo-woo and did a 10 day International EFT Summit, on energy meridians and moving emotions and limiting beliefs stuck in the body! Hooray for space in life to pursue self-care!

Tara :) (&Yuri)

Yuri Lowenthal & Tara Platt: Raise Your Voice (Acting)!

Click here to read more: Merry March newsletter, with Tara and Yuri, March, 2014

 

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Voice Over Actors: Network, Network, Network

March 5th, 2014

Voice Over Networking

handshakeMany people snidely call this schmooooozing, but the truth is, meeting people and developing relationships is how things get done in the entertainment business. Practicing good solid networking skills can help you move forward quickly and consciously toward the next level of your career.

Networking facilitates your being in the right place at the right time. This is part of the preparation + opportunity (right place at the right time) = success equation. Prepare yourself, and then put yourself in situations where you can mingle and meet people. Sometimes you can target the people you want to work with. But honestly, you never know where a job or an important friendship is going to come from. So don’t limit your interactions.

How do you go about schmoozing? Well, first off, let’s stop calling it that. Let’s opt for networking. The word schmoozing has always carried a negative connotation to us because it implies that you’re forcing yourself onto other people for the sole purpose of getting something from them; and that’s just kind of slimy. That’s probably why a lot of actors have trouble networking – because when it’s called schmoozing, they feel like they’re doing something gross. The less pressure you put on meeting people, the easier it’s going to be, and the better it’ll probably work out.

Where do you go to network? There are a variety of places to go and ways to make connections happen. Search for networking events and social gatherings specifically geared toward voice-over and voice acting or to entertainment in general. These events are often listed in entertainment trade papers and on Web sites, and will certainly be more plentiful in big cities like New York and Los Angeles.

Don’t look just for parties (which are sometimes hard to get into). Find out where the people that you would like to work with hang out, and go there. Get yourself in the same circles they’re in and see what happens. You don’t have to be in a big city to make this work. You can go out with friends who are also working in the business, and meet the people they know. If you don’t know anyone else who’s interested in voice acting or in what you want to be doing, then find them.

Put an ad in a local paper or post it on an online site, somewhere like craigslist, MeeptUp, or Facebook. Set up a gathering for people interested in the same things you’re interested in. Build a support group, if you will. Things happen much faster (and it’s usually more fun) if you’ve got a whole group working at it. Who knows, the group you assemble might end up producing a cartoon together.

If you network well, and don’t put pressure on a specific outcome, it won’t be perceived as schmoozy. Still it’s not always the easiest thing for some people to do. Networking might not come naturally for you, so pay attention to people who are good at it and learn from them. In the end, being yourself is the best thing you can do when you meet and socialize with people professionally. You don’t need to try to act cool so they’ll like you. Remember you have as much to offer them as they have to offer you.

Networking should never be about what you can get from others. Treat them as you would your friends, and be friendly and personable. You just may be someone they will want to befriend and (who knows?) maybe work with one day.

And don’t forget your cards! A networking event is a perfect opportunity to get your business cards into people’s hands. Think of this as sowing seeds.

You may have to plant a few seeds before anything starts growing. You never know which seed will grow and bear fruit, so sprinkle those seeds liberally. The more seeds – um, business cards – you hand out, the better your chances are. And if other people give you their cards, be sure to follow up and let them know that you enjoyed meeting them. Then file the cards away somewhere that you’ll be able to find them again, just in case you want to get in touch. You can use your new postcards to follow up with those new contacts you made while networking.

Enjoy it!

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Book nova plain

 

Check out our VoiceOverVoiceActor website for more tips and exercises. We post daily VO tips on Facebook and Twitter, and our book, Voice Over Voice Actor: What it’s like behind the mic includes a wealth of exercises to build your voice and keep it ready for a successful voice over career!