6 Easy ways to blow a recorded audition
May 08 2015
Use to be, you could fail an in-person audition by talking too much, wasting the audition team’s time. Or by signing in before you’ve read the script and are ready to be called. Or by making too many flubs (and saying “sorry” after each), or even inadvertently insulting the copywriter. Now that the vast majority of your auditions are probably online or sent in as recordings, a lot of those errors don’t apply.
But there are still some simple ways to blow it. The good news is that, once aware, it’s pretty easy to recognize and avoid these pitfalls, so you can concentrate on putting your best foot forward. Not in your mouth.
1. Poor volume level.
Opinions and situations vary as to what optimal volume is. But there’s a point where everyone would agree it’s too soft, when compared with the other auditions you’re competing with.
Your approach to setting volume levels matters. You probably learned in your first recording lesson that your volume should not go above (louder) than 0 dB. We won’t try to give a full technical how-to in the space of this paragraph.
Suffice it to say that here we’re not talking here about your recording volume. You might keep that fairly low, and then bring it up to a “normal” level later. We’re talking now about your finished volume, in the file you submit for the audition. We sometimes get auditions (and Weekly Script Reading Contest submissions) that are barely audible … quieter than -10 or even -20 dB.
You know what some audition screeners (although not necessarily ours) do in that case? Adjusting their volume might be inconvenient. If they then forget to change it back, the next recording booms out. And do they want to hire someone who can’t send them a recording at the proper volume? So instead, they might just click the “Next” button.
2. Slating incorrectly.
This, too, has changed over the years. In a client’s recording booth, a “standard” slate would be to slate your name, the name of the product, and the take number. Now there are so many various situations that Edge Studio has published an entire Slating Manual. For example, if you’re auditioning in an automated site such as Voices.com or Voice123, no slate is needed. Your identity appears on the client’s audition control panel, and unlike an email, there’s no attachment to get misfiled. The reviewing client might consider slating as a waste of their time and concentration, and it also signals that you’re probably “new to this.”
But the worst faux pas? It’s failing to slate when explicitly requested, or slating when told not to, or not slating following the slating instructions. Who wants a talent who can’t take direction or handle details?
3. Slating badly.
This is your first impression. State your name with clarity, confidence and pride. Inflect downward. It’s okay – even good — to sound friendly or informal, but not overly so. And stick to your name. Even “Hi this is…” might be considered overly chatty. Not “uptalk” (an upward inflection). Not a question. No mumbling. Not at a different volume from the script. (And hopefully not sonically different in other respects, either.) If your name is not easily pronounced, make it especially clear – so that even if they don’t won’t know how to spell it, they will know and remember how to say it.
4. Reading too fast.
This is among the most common faults heard from talent who are just beginning. Some genres, such as many forms of Narration, call for an almost “deliberate” speed, a speed that allows the viewer to absorb and follow the video. It’s also important not to sound lethargic, but usually the mistake is in rushing.
5. Rushing the first word(s).
This is your other first impression. Even if your audition is overall at a correct pace, that does you little good if the reviewer gets the wrong impression from your opening words. Or if they can’t understand them.
6. Pausing after the first word or two.
Many people do this. Sometimes there’s punctuation that calls for a pause. (“Paris – City of Light.”) But often there’s no reason to pause, yet many people do anyway. (“Paris has been called The City of Light for centuries.”) Why not do it? For one, it tends to make the read choppy, can lose the listener’s interest rather than garner it, and can detract from the ultimate point of the sentence. (In our example, the point is that Paris has been called that for a surprisingly long time.)
Maybe people pause to mentally “set the scene.” If so, that’s a reasonable, uh, reason. But probably more often, people pause as a matter of habit. Or it’s how they’ve heard others start scripts, many, many times. In an audition, that may be the biggest reason not to pause unnecessarily after the first word – because most of your competitors will.
We could add more points to this list, and you might quibble over which should be in the top half dozen. But hopefully you get the point, which is that winning auditions includes attention to such little things. Make it a habit to heed them, so you can then put them behind you, and focus on the truly distinctive positive qualities you bring to the party.