The Best Voice Over Coach is… Your Ears!

13 June 2011
Comments: 16

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

home studioThe Best Voice Over Coach is… Your Ears!

By Dan Friedman

Recently there was a post on the Voice Artists United Facebook page that discussed coaches. The talent (who I do not know) wrote that he was discouraged by some comments that his most recent coach had made. At the time I write this, the post has 48 comments with some very popular names in the industry weighing in.

Don’t let the title of this article fool you. Getting some VO coaching is critical to your career. At a minimum, good coaches teach breathing, script construction, industry terminology, how to take direction and the mechanics of different styles and deliveries. They should also be teaching microphone technique, basic equipment needs and (hopefully) studio etiquette. Many coaches offer additional instruction on other topics related to voice over such as marketing, basic audio recording and audio editing. Coaches provide encouragement, direction and might even be able to get you a gig or two.

Voice coaches can be many things and their role and importance in your career can change as your career grows and progresses. The most important job of the coach is to be completely honest when evaluating your abilities and offering feedback. This feedback is important. But, at some point, you have to learn to hear “it” for yourself. The truth of the matter is, you have the best coach with you at all times… your ears.

Voice over coaches are indirectly trying to get every student to open their ears and truly listen. Learning to hear the differences and nuances in attitude, style, pacing, inflection, emphasis, amount of smile, etc. is, in my opinion, the real secret to doing voice over well. Almost anyone can learn to do these things with their voice if they are aware of what to do and practice doing it. However, being able to hear the subtle nuances of your delivery is what enables you to stop simply playing with words and allows you to become the communicator that every serious voice talent should work toward becoming.

Coaching deliberately teaches the techniques that get the brain, mouth and voice working together to physically do what needs to be done. But many voice talent fall short by failing to truly engage their ears. This is one reason why so many voiceovers are pieced together line by line by the engineers, whose job it is to use their ears everyday. While this is common in today’s world of fast digital editing and even clients have gotten comfortable working this way, this is not exactly how it is meant to be.

You have two ears and one mouth to remind you to use your ears twice as much. Record, read, playback, listen, adjust accordingly and do it over and over again. Learn to use your ears, use them purposefully and over time you will learn to trust them. You will know immediately what is working and what isn’t. You will learn to fine tune and self-correct. While you may still want to get professional voiceover coaching from time to time, for the most part, you will be your own coach. You will no longer need to feel discouraged by harsh critiques, or pay someone to give them to you. Instead you will get paid to take direction and be proud of the great work you’ve done for your clients.

16 responses on “The Best Voice Over Coach is… Your Ears!

  1. Asking us to become our own best critic or coach is a tall, if not impossible order. Biology has made us partially blind and deaf when it comes to evaluating our own performance. And even if we were to know what needs to be corrected, it doesn’t mean we have the skills or the experience to correct ourselves.

    By definition, we are confined to our own limitations and ideas of what we might be capable of. That’s where teachers come in. That’s why actors need directors and writers need editors.

    We are our own, biggest blind spot:

    • Dan says:


      There is no question that teachers, editors, directors, writers, etc. are all important to your career and throughout your career. We do need them. Biology has made it difficult to hear your own voice the way others hear it. Think of the first time you ever heard your voice recorded, it is shocking for almost everyone. However, you most definitely can evaluate your performance and self-correct when something comes out wrong. I do it, and many of the voice artists I work with do it all of the time. I suspect that you do it also. It is a matter of experience, training, listening and finally trusting what you are hearing. Thank you for commenting!


  2. Dane Reid says:

    Dan you are so right on with this. Every talent has to learn when to trust themselves and what they are hearing. Coaching is so important but listening trumps everything.

  3. […] Posted June 13, 2011 by Bob I’ve mentioned voiceover coaches here a number of times, but today I’d like to point you to a blog post by my friend Dan Friedman that makes a very good point about “The best voiceover coach.” […]

  4. There’s no doubt that we have the ability to self correct to a certain extent. Unfortunately, we will only go as far as our knowledge, skill level and experience will take us.

    As I said in my article: How much can you realistically learn from someone who knows just as much as you do? We usually get up to the level of our own incompetence and stay there, unless we dare to admit our limitations and are open to feedback and willing to learn.

  5. Zak Miller says:

    Great article Dan!
    To the point you bring Paul, you kind of touched on one of the most important key elements in being successful in a career as a voice actor. Ego. Our ego does not let us grow to our potential. It takes a bit of ego to get behind the mic. However, ego is one of the biggest hurdles to cross as a voice talent. If we can take our ego out of the picture, then we can grow by listening and accepting our limitations behind the mic.

    Actors do need directors, however in this industry we are seeing a trend where voice talent are their own engineer, director and copy editor. It is at that point when the voice actor needs to let the ego stay outside of the studio and listen with a directors ear.

    No one likes to be put under the microscope, however a voice actor should be their own harshest critic and their own best teacher. Also, being lazy lends itself to not learning more in this craft. (Yeah, that part of the read didn’t flow, but no one will notice. OR, I don’t have time to re read that audition, this will do.)

    Teachers have their place in the voice over industry for sure, and there are a ton out there that do a great job bringing out what a talent did not know they had in their bag of tricks. They can also become a crutch.

    As a voice actor if we expose ourselves to the resources on the internet, books, and just by listening to the national spots on radio and TV, we can add to our bag of tricks by emulating what is making money.

    We all have a unique style and feel to our voices. There is no mathematical equation that explains how or why we land auditions. Voice over is subject to a casting directors internal likes and dislikes. The job of a voice actor is to put their best work forward at all times. This is where we as voice actors become our own teacher. -example- Voice actor reads and sends their audition. The next week the voice actor hears the spot on TV or radio. What should the voice actor do? Most will shrug it off to a non landed audition. Some will think that the client made the wrong choice in casting and let the cancer start to grow from negative reactions.

    What the voice actor should do is pull up the audition and listen back to it and try to figure out why the other voice actor landed the gig rather than the perfect read they submitted. Was the read more real person feeling, did the actor attack the copy in a different manor, from the direction on the audition did the file I sent in have any of the same qualities in the read. This is where the self teaching begins.

    Tiger woods hits over 1,000 golf balls a day. Dirk spent 20 minutes in warm ups the other night at the top of the key working on a turn around fade away that he used in the game a short time after warm ups. Herschel Walker never lifted a weight in his career, he did calisthenics at home. These are people that are and were at the top of their game. One common thread is that they had coaches, however they took it upon themselves to rise to the top.

  6. […] While it is always helpful to have a second set of ears on auditions, the voice talent will have to trust their own ears today (or even better, have another colleague listen). We’ll notify our clients via email that it […]

  7. […] recently wrote a blog post entitled: The Best Voiceover Coach is Your Ears. Well, yesterday another one of the best voiceover coaches, Nancy Wolfson,  shared this on […]

  8. […] every skill involved in a voiceover career takes time to develop and cultivate. Learning to use your ears and apply the knowledge gained from listening… takes years of listening. Learning to […]

  9. […] let your own ego or impatience stand in the way of your success. Other than your voice and your ears, coaches and colleagues are your greatest asset in this industry. They are the people who will […]

  10. […] work, don’t kill your career before it even gets started. Get training, practice, be patient, use your ears, practice more and build credibility and trust before unleashing yourself on the world. You can not […]

  11. […] technical assistance… like… NOW! What if you’ve been thinking about working with a voiceover coach, but don’t know who to choose, or want to experience more than one person’s direction, […]

  12. […] some time. In other words, you should have been practicing. How long do you need to practice? Only your ears and the ears of others can tell you when you are […]

  13. […] not only use your eyes to edit portions of a waveform that you are able to see, but that you also use your ears to ensure that your edited audio sounds cohesive and that it flows naturally. The end result […]

  14. […] this the sort of thing that a voiceover coach should be teaching? Do acting coaches teach that it is okay to forget a line or miss a mark because […]

  15. […] the Sound4VO mobile app! Sure, you can use it to hear my demos, book me for a voiceover or coaching session and even buy a copy of Sound Advice – Voiceover From an Audio Engineer’s […]

Want to Hear Dan's Voice?

Listen to Demos