Frank Klepacki Blog Series: Getting Into Voice Acting

Frank_AT5040This is the 16th installment in guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production. Today Frank talks about getting into voice acting. If you missed Frank’s previous post, you can read it here.

Voice acting is a quirky thing. People often ask me how does one get into that?

Voice acting differs from screen acting in the sense that you don’t get to be visual, or be in make-up and costume. You show up to the recording studio in your casual outfit of the day, and you get the emotion across that you need to just with your voice alone. The visual might be an animated cartoon, a video game, a film or ad that you simply narrate over. It could be an audio book. And if someone is going to listen to you for any length of time, you need to sound interesting and act as a storyteller.

Much like playing an instrument, you start by learning other people’s material. Imitate everything you hear spoken. TV commercials, the way actors speak their lines in movies, different characters, different accents, tweaking around with your voice to sound cartoonish, young, old, sick, schizo, happy go lucky, like a monster, whatever. Impersonate celebrities and figure out which ones you sound the most like. You never know when someone will hire for that kind of thing.
Narration and commercials are probably the most commonly booked form of voice acting, and typically you’d want to contact ad agencies in your area and ask them if you can be considered for their commercial work. You’ll want to put a reel together of the different types of voices you do well and be able to send it to people.

“Age” is also a common trait that people look for when casting. Not how old you are, but how old you sound. Can you manipulate your voice to sound 10 years younger?  10-20 years older?  You need to sound convincing as the targeted age, so practicing until you find where your capability is strongest. It’s ok if you’re only good at a couple of different things as long as you know you do those extremely well.

There are “union” and “non-union” jobs. Union meaning that you belong to an organization like SAG/AFTRA and set scale rates are already in place that you would charge for a job that is using union actors. Most union actors are signed with talent agencies, and the central hubs for the majority of working union guys are LA and New York. This is why you probably hear a lot of the same actors used in cartoons and video games.

For people who are non-union, their rates tend to be much cheaper / competitive to what union guys charge.

There are indie Voice acting websites you can join and put up a profile and audio samples of yourself at, such as Voice123.com. Anyone can find you, hear you, see what your immediate skills are, ask you to audition their sample scripts, contact and hire you for whatever gig they may have. Having your own soundproofed vocal room, good quality microphone, and interface to do your own recordings is also essential.

For example, I found it useful as a casting director, because for one project I needed a bunch of non-union people with specific accents. So I visited all the profiles based on my unique search requirements of them being native from the country of origin, and hand-picked each one to audition my sample script based on my first impression of hearing their demos / sound of their voices on their profile pages. They all had their own pro vocal booths, and could record in the format I wanted, and send it to me via digital delivery method. I directed them via skype and coordinated based on the time difference between countries. Gotta love the internet.

Finally, there is an excellent documentary on Netflix right now called “I know that voice!”  I highly recommend watching it.

–       Frank Klepacki

Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer for video games and television for such titles as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. He resides as audio director for Petroglyph, in addition to being a recording artist, touring performer, and producer. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com.

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Audio-Technica

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